Four new films look to dethrone '17 Again'

Weekend's wide openers include 'Obsessed,' 'The Soloist'

'The Soloist' review
'The Fighting' review

The final weekend of the spring boxoffice season boasts four new pics in wide release.

Combined with anticipated decent business by last week's No. 1 opener -- Warner Bros.' Zac Efron starrer "17 Again" -- the industry should blow away the session's year-earlier comparison. Theatrical releases collectively registered a modest $91 million domestically over the 2008 season's final frame, which was topped by the $17 million bow by Universal's "Baby Mama."

As for picking a winner this weekend, lots of luck. But it does seem certain "17" will relinquish the boxoffice crown.

If "17" rings up, say, 50% less than its opening coin, that would yield a sophomore session of $12 million or so. It's considered likely that at least one or more of the new pics will register a bit more than that.

But which one will finish first? That's much less clear.

Sony Screen Gem's PG-13 thriller "Obsessed" looks capable of attracting at least mid-teen millions through Sunday, though its ultimate haul hinges greatly on how it draws outside of core urban demos. The cast includes Beyonce Knowles ("Dreamgirls"), Idris Elba ("28 Weeks Later") and Ali Larter ("Resident Evil: Extinction").

"It has a very solid cast, and Beyonce has an all-audience appeal," Sony distribution boss Rory Bruer said.

Director Steven Shill gets his first feature credit with "Obsessed."

Paramount's DreamWorks-produced "The Soloist" -- a $40 million-plus production helmed by Joe Wright ("Atonement") and starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx -- is probably the highest-profile pic hitting multiplexes today. But the delayed winter release has drawn mixed reviews, so teen millions are certainly doable but not quite guaranteed for this PG-13 pic.

"Fighting," Universal's drama about bare-knuckle brawling that stars Terrence Howard and Channing Tatum, has been tracking in similar terrain as "Soloist." Rated PG-13 and directed by Dito Montielcq ("A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints"), "Fighting" is likely to prove heavily male-dominated, while "Soloist" should skew female.

The frame's final wide release is rather anomalous.

Disney unspooled its James Earl Jones-narrated documentary "Earth" on Wednesday, which was the national eco-holiday Earth Day. The inaugural entry in a planned series of nature documentaries to be branded as Disney Nature releases, "Earth" boasts almost 1,800 playdates but uncertain boxoffice prospects.

"It's a labor of love, and we'll see," Disney distribution topper Chuck Viane mused. "The idea is to bring out something different and try to grow the business."

A previous version of the G-rated pic narrated by Patrick Stewart rang up more than $80 million internationally.

Meantime, Universal will be hoping for strong second session for Russell Crowe starrer "State of Play," which bowed softly last weekend with $14.1 million. The $60 million adaptation of a British miniseries, "Play" also has an important U.K. opening this weekend.

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