'I Am Number Four' Likely to Rank No. 1 at Box Office This Weekend
"Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son" and "Unknown" also open wide against strong-performing holdovers including "Just Go With It," "Gnomeo & Juliet" and "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never."
Steven Spielberg and Stacey Snider's DreamWorks Studios re-emerges at the box office this weekend with a likely winner -- I Am Number Four, the teen sci-fi adventure starring Alex Pettyfer, Dianna Agron and Teresa Palmer.
Number Four is the first DreamWorks title to be released by Disney's Touchstone Pictures under the distribution and marketing deal struck between the companies after DreamWorks' split with Paramount.
DreamWorks, bolstered by new financing, including funds from India's Reliance Big Entertainment, has five more 2011 titles waiting in the wings after Number Four.
Directed by D.J. Caruso, Number Four tells the story of an alien teenager hiding out on Earth from the ruthless species that killed his family.
The film is based on the young adult book by Pittacus Lore, the nom de plume of James Frey and Jobie Hughes. Additional novels are planned in the series, meaning this is a possible franchise for DreamWorks.
Number Four, produced by Michael Bay, is tracking particularly well among younger females and males, demos that have been missing from the multiplex in recent weeks. Box-office observers say the film could do in the low 20s for the four days.
But it isn't the only new title poised to do well over the long holiday weekend, sparking hope in Hollywood that the downturn at the domestic box office will begin to reverse itself.
Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, from Fox and New Regency, also has good traction. The threequel returns Martin Lawrence in the lead role while introducing a younger character played by Brandon T. Jackson.
Big Mommas will play heavily to African-American audiences, including families. The franchise also has historically done well with younger males of all races.
The third new movie opening nationwide over Presidents Day weekend is Warner Bros. and Dark Castle's Liam Neeson action-thriller Unknown, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. The film goes after older moviegoers and hopes to replicate the success of Neeson's Taken, released three winters ago in the U.S. by Fox.
Unknown, which cost roughly $30 million, was fully financed by Joel Silver's Dark Castle. Silver's company has had a tough time at the box office recently, so Unknown -- also starring Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aidan Quinn and Frank Langella -- needs to do well.
The film's performance also is important for Collet-Serra, who is being pursued for other projects.
Number Four, Big Mommas and Unknown will have to compete with Sony's Adam Sandler-Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy Just Go With It, which could stay up high on the box-office chart in its second weekend. The movie's gross through Wednesday was $40.7 million.
Disney's Gnomeo & Juliet also should have a good second frame, particularly on Monday, which is a holiday. The toon's cume through Wednesday was $30 million.
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, from Paramount, is expected to take a big drop in its second weekend, but no one is willing to bet against the teen icon entirely. Its cume through Wednesday was $33.9 million.