Calm before the summer storm

'Next,' 'Invisible' lead quartet of pre-'Spidey 3' wide openers

With Sony Pictures' "Spider-Man 3" looming on the horizon -- the superhero extravaganza opens next Friday -- this weekend's boxoffice is likely to take another hit as a lot of moviegoers ignore the new arrivals in anticipation of next weekend's festivities.

Nicolas Cage has the unenviable task of trying to excite moviegoers who already are fixated on "Spider-Man." Cage stars in "Next," a Paramount Pictures release of the latest Revolution Studios picture, which could take the top spot away from Paramount and DreamWorks' "Disturbia." But if it does, it is not expected to set off many fireworks in the process.

Also entering the fray are Buena Vista's teenage mystery "The Invisible," starring Justin Chatwin; Lionsgate's actioner "The Condemned," starring "Stone Cold" Steve Austin; and Yari Film Group's "Kickin' It Old Skool," starring Jamie Kennedy.

The PG-13 "Next," directed by Lee Tamahori ("Die Another Day"), offers Cage as a Las Vegas magician enlisted by government agent Julianne Moore to ward off a terrorist attack. Jessica Biel also stars as Cage's love interest, a schoolteacher. The movie's tagline, "If you can see the future, you can save it," almost sounds like a spinoff from NBC's "Heroes."

When it comes to opening movies, Cage's track record veers wildly, but he posts his best numbers with action fare. Most recently, he propelled Sony's "Ghost Rider" to a $45.4 million opening in February. In 2005, "Lord of War" bowed to $9.4 million, while the previous year's "National Treasure" enjoyed a $35.1 million bow. "Next," though, isn't looking as if it's anywhere in that territory and will probably score a minor victory if it crosses the $10 million million mark as it debuts in 2,725 theaters.

The question of whether "Next," "Invisible" or "Condemned" can elbow aside the third weekend of "Disturbia" appears up for grabs. The PG-13 "Invisible" stars Chatwin -- who played Tom Cruise's son in "War of the Worlds" -- as a seemingly dead teen who must solve the mystery of his demise: It's like he's a dead guy who can see living people. Directed by David S. Goyer -- a fan favorite for his work as a writer on the "Blade" and "Batman" franchises -- the film could yet surprise as "Disturbia" did and surge ahead, particularly if it inherits some of the "Disturbia" teen crowd. But right now, with a bow in 2,019 theaters, it appears to be aiming for $10 million at the high end.

The R-rated "Condemned" should have a lock on World Wrestling Entertainment fans as they cheer on Austin, playing a prisoner dropped off on a desert island where he must fight for his life against nine other condemned inmates -- think "Survivor" with real consequences. Playing in 2,310 theaters, it, too, will be aiming for that $10 million mark if all goes well.

In "Skool," Kennedy plays an '80s breakdancer who awakes from a 20-year coma to confront the modern world. Harvey Glazer makes his directorial debut with the PG-13 comedy. Kennedy starred in "Malibu's Most Wanted," which opened to $12.6 million in 2003, but that movie debuted in 2,503 theaters, while "Skool" will be in session in 1,813 theaters. So that pretty much consigns it to the lower range of the single-digit millions.

Among the exclusive openings, Sony Pictures Classics will raise the curtain on Ray Lawrence's "Jindabyne," an Australian film inspired by the Raymond Carver short story "So Much Water So Close to Home," which also provided one of the story threads for Robert Altman's "Short Cuts."

ThinkFilm is offering Robinson Devor's R-rated "Zoo," his documentary about a Seattle man who had what proved to be a fatal attraction to horses.
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