Megaplex heavyweights spar for title

Carrey's broad comedy in tight race with Smith's romantic drama; ani mouse eyes scraps

It's Will Smith vs. Jim Carrey in a boxoffice smackdown this weekend, while a misfit mouse tries to avoid getting squished in the clash of A-listers.

Smith has been marquee magic for years, so Sony expects his romantic drama "Seven Pounds" to weigh in with a heavyweight performance during its opening frame. But Carrey certainly can pack his own marketplace mojo when hitched to a commercial vehicle, and Warner Bros.' "Yes Man" looks like one slick boxoffice ride — maybe to the top of the domestic heap.

"We're in very good shape," Warners distribution president Dan Fellman said. "I think both movies will find their audiences. There's plenty of capacity in the marketplace to handle both."

Prerelease tracking shows "Yes Man" as likely to draw a bit better among younger males. That could give it a leg up in the competition, but both pics could open with $30 million or more.

"As soon as you get into the 21-plus range, we're doing very well," Sony distribution chief Rory Bruer said. "So we're in very good shape with the adult audience, with both men and women."

The somewhat serious tone of "Pounds" has drawn comparisons with Smith's "The Pursuit of Happyness," which bowed in December 2006 with $26.5 million en route to ringing up $164 million domestically. "Pounds" director Gabriele Muccino also helmed "Happyness."

Meanwhile, Universal unspools the animated feature "The Tale of Despereaux," a yarn about quirky rodents voiced by Matthew Broderick and Dustin Hoffman. The family fantasy is based on a novel by Kate DeCamillo.

Tracking is solid in family demos and suggests that "Despereaux" should creep into the teen millions. That should be plenty to successfully open a movie that cost only $60 million to produce.

London-based Framestore handled animation chores on "Despereaux."

Among this weekend's key holdover pics, Fox's sci-fi remake "The Day the Earth Stood Still" will be gunning for a solid second session after topping the domestic boxoffice last weekend with $30.5 million.

This frame also features yet another hot awards-consideration title debuting in limited release as Fox Searchlight unspools Mickey Rourke starrer "The Wrestler," already the object of considerable affection among critics. If the recent openings of other prestige art films offer any guidance, "Wrestler" should attract plenty of adult moviegoers.

Two platforming films mount key expansions after outsized grosses from limited engagements: the Miramax drama "Doubt," starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep, and the Clint Eastwood-helmed and -toplined "Gran Torino" from Warners. Fox Searchlight's Indian game show drama "Slumdog Millionaire" is set to reach wide distribution with 600-plus playdates starting today. (partialdiff)
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