'Chihuahua' has paws on the prize

Disney comedy leads crowded field of new releases

It's looking like a dog of a weekend at the boxoffice.

Disney's dog, to be exact, as the Burbank studio unspools its PG comedy "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" amid expectations that the live-action-with-talking-dogs laugher could fetch up to $30 million during its opening frame. The film's canines are voiced by Drew Barrymore, Jamie Lee Curtis, Andy Garcia and George Lopez.

Family patrons form the target audience, but Disney executives hope the young-at-heart crowd also will come along for the four-legged romp.

"In all the screenings we've done, we have gotten nothing but wonderful marks from all the audiences who were on hand," Disney distribution president Chuck Viane said. "So there's no question that this is a commercial, family film, but I believe we can expand on that audience."

With "Chihuahua" sure to bow at No. 1, last weekend's top dog -- DreamWorks/Paramount's "Eagle Eye," which proved anything but a boxoffice beagle -- could grab second place, if the Shia LaBeouf-Michelle Monaghan thriller rings up half of its $29.2 million opening gross during its sophomore session.

But Sony's young-skewing PG-13 comedy "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" also will compete for the silver-medal position. The musically driven romantic comedy starring Michael Cera ("Superbad") and Kat Dennings ("The 40-Year-Old Virgin") appears safe to open in the teen millions, and a particularly robust weekend could help it soar a bit higher than "Eagle."

"Teens and young adults are perfect for it," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said.

Whatever the precise pecking order of the top films, their combined grosses should power the industry to a second consecutive year-over-year weekend uptick after a sluggish start to the fall boxoffice season. Less than $85 million was registered during the comparable year-ago frame, whose biggest opener was the disappointing $14 million bow by a remake of "The Heartbreak Kid."

This weekend's four other wide openers look likely to max out in the upper single-digit millions.

Miramax's "Blindness" -- starring Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo and Gael Garcia Bernal and directed by Fernando Meirelles -- is getting a wide bow, but the atmospheric thriller likely will need positive word-of-mouth from its first frame to fuel a leggy run toward commercial success. MGM and After Dark's R-rated comedy "How to Lose Friends & Alienate People," starring Simon Pegg ("Hot Fuzz"), should skew a bit older than "Playlist" and gross much lower.

Vivendi's political spoof "An American Carol" skewers liberal sensitivities and is likely to play best with even older audiences. "Carol" represents the first film release for Vivendi, whose next scheduled film is the Mariah Carey starrer "Tennessee" in December.

Spyglass Entertainment's Universal-distributed drama "Flash of Genius" stars Greg Kinnear but has barely registered in prerelease tracking surveys. Based on the true story of Robert Kearns, inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper, the true road to decent returns on "Genius" might be in the DVD market.

Universal this weekend also will offer 750 sneak previews of its Oct. 10 pigskin film "The Express," starring Dennis Quaid and Rob Brown.
comments powered by Disqus