'Expendables' to fend off 'Nanny,' 'Vampires'

"The Expendables," "Nanny McPhee Returns," "The Switch," "Piranha 3D," "Lottery Ticket" and "Vampires Suck"

VIDEO: 'The Switch,' 'Piranha 3D' and 'Lottery' out Friday

All eyes will be on the theatrical legs of a bunch of aging tough guys this weekend.

"The Expendables," Sylvester Stallone's ensemble actioner about a group of mercenaries hired to overthrow a South American bad guy, will have to slay a mob of five wide openers to repeat atop the domestic heap.

The Working Title-produced family sequel "Nanny McPhee Returns" from Universal could prove to be the strongest of the new pics, with prospects of low-teen millions, though Fox's release of the horror spoof "Vampires Suck," a Regency production, should fetch a similar three-day sum.

"Vampires" bowed Wednesday with an unexpectedly strong $4.1 million, so prospects are good for a five-day haul in the high-teen millions.

Warner Bros.' urban comedy "Lottery Ticket" appears ticketed for the lower-double-digit millions, but Dimension's "Piranha 3D" will fight to reach similar b.o. waters, and the Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy "The Switch," from Miramax and Maple Releasing, is on course for even lower depths.

Lionsgate's "Expendables" rang up $34.8 million in its first frame, so even a modestly severe sophomore-session drop of 55% would yield almost $16 million. That would give it more than a fighting chance to top the weekend rankings.

The original "McPhee" opened with $14.5 million in January 2006 and registered $47.1 million overall domestically. Topliner Emma Thompson returns for the sequel, with Maggie Gyllenhaal and Ewan McGregor in supporting roles and TV helmer Susanna White getting a first feature-directing credit.

"It's tracking very well with kids and parents, which is the core audience for this film," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said.

The PG-rated "McPhee" is set for 2,782 U.S. and Canadian playdates. Acknowledging the franchise's British base, the sequel unspooled in the U.K. and many other international territories in the spring, collecting $62.6 million.

Stalking 2,979 locations the past two days, "Vampires" stretches to 3,232 engagements Friday. The PG-13 spoof should play best with younger females who flock to other fanged films.

"They just can't get enough of those vampires," Fox senior vp distribution Chris Aronson quipped.

"Ticket" is stamped for almost 2,000 theaters; ditto "Switch," Miramax's first release since the specialty unit's sale by Disney, which is acting as a distributor-for-hire. Both films are rated PG-13.

Dimension's horror pic "Piranha 3D" will play on 3D screens in 2,194 of its 2,457 locations. The R-rated pic's limp prerelease tracking follows Dimension's failure to secure a screening of the movie at Comic-Con, whose organizers cited excessive gore.

Limited openers set for Friday include Samuel Goldwyn/IDP's "Mao's Last Dancer," a biopic about international ballet star and one-time Chinese defector Li Cunxin.

Industrywide, the weekend will be compared with a $127 million session last year that was topped by the $38.1 million bow for the Weinstein Co.'s "Inglourious Basterds."

Year-to-date, industry boxoffice is outpacing last year by 4%, at $7.15 billion.
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