Foursome puts in for holiday pay

'Alpha Dog' leads newcomers, award seekers into 4-day frame

With four wide releases bowing today and many award contenders already in the marketplace, the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend should outgross last year's comparable frame.

Universal Pictures unveils the long-awaited "Alpha Dog" from Nick Cassavetes. Sony Pictures releases Sylvain White's take on the stepping phenomenon, "Stomp the Yard." Buena Vista moved up its release of the R-rated crocodile thriller "Primeval" to this weekend, and MGM unveils Luc Besson's animated family film "Arthur and the Invisibles," from the Weinstein Co., after issuing it in limited release two weekends ago for an Oscar-qualifying run.

Universal debuts the R-rated "Alpha," which fictionalizes the story of Jesse James Hollywood, a San Fernando Valley drug dealer who is accused of having the brother of a rival kidnapped and killed after he and his friends partied with the teenager for two days. The film bows in 1,286 theaters.

The fictionalized character of Hollywood, Johnny Truelove, is played by Emile Hirsch, and Justin Timberlake plays his best friend. The release of the film was delayed because Hollywood is awaiting trial on charges of kidnapping and murder. A federal judge recently ruled that releasing the film would not sway the jury pool. The gritty drama should get into the $10 million-$12 million range for the four-day period.

Sony opens "Stomp" in 2,051 theaters. The PG-13 musical drama starring choreographer-dancer Columbus Short, Meagan Good and Ne-Yo centers on a troubled kid (Short) who avoids a juvenile hall sentence by enrolling at an Atlanta university. There, he becomes involved with the national step show competition. Last year's dance movie "Step Up" performed well with audiences, bowing to $20 million and grossing $65 million, and 20th Century Fox's "Drumline" opened to $12.6 million in 2002. "Stomp's" tally is expected to fall between those films. Prognosticators say it could get into the high-teen-millions range this frame, especially considering how well it's tracking with black audiences.

Buena Vista moved up its release of "Primeval" to get ahead of the Weinstein Co.'s crocodile film "Rogue," set to bow next month. The R-rated horror film is based on the true story of a news team that was dispatched to South Africa to track down a legendary 30-foot crocodile. Directed by Michael Katleman in his feature film debut, "Primeval" stars Orlando Jones, Dominic Purcell and Brooke Langton and bows in 2,444 theaters. Industry prognosticators put the R-rated film in the $5 million-$7 million range for the four-day frame.

MGM expands "Invisibles" to 2,247 theaters. The movie centers on a 10-year-old boy (Freddie Highmore) who, in a bid to save his grandfather's house from being demolished, looks for a fabled hidden treasure in the miniature land of the Minimoys. Mia Farrow co-stars along with voice talent from Madonna and Robert De Niro.

Paramount Pictures expands "Dreamgirls" to 1,900 theaters this weekend. The Golden Globe-nominated musical has reaped $56 million since it bowed Christmas Day in 852 theaters. How it performs overall is likely to be affected by the Globes ceremony Monday night. MGM also expands the Weinstein Co.'s "Miss Potter," starring Renee Zellweger, to 29 theaters this frame.

Universal expands "Children of Men" to 1,510 theaters. The film has grossed $13.5 million since it bowed Christmas Day.

Picturehouse widens its release of Guillermo del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth" to 194 theaters nationwide. Newmarket Films opens the Lost Boys of Sudan documentary "God Grew Tired of Us" in Los Angeles and New York. Magnolia Pictures opens the Thai action comedy "Tears of the Black Tiger."
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