There's no chill pill for thrillers

'Fracture' and 'Vacancy' keep adrenaline going in theaters

Another weekend, another couple of thrillers.

As the domestic boxoffice catches its breath before plunging into the summer tentpole season, New Line Cinema fields "Fracture" and Sony Pictures releases "Vacancy" from its Screen Gems unit. And in a bid to lure female moviegoers who aren't in a mood for more thrills, Warner Bros. Pictures will offer the femme-centric dramedy "In the Land of Women."

None of this weekend's contenders seems positioned to post the $20.2 million opening that Sony Pictures' spooker "Silent Hill" did last year to win the top spot. The challenge for the newcomers is to win over a marketplace that might be suffering from thriller overload.

Last weekend, Paramount Pictures' release of DreamWorks' "Disturbia" beat expectations and the odds by capturing the top spot with a $22.2 million tally. To get there, it vaulted over Warners' competing "Perfect Stranger," which ended up in fourth place. A 40%-50% drop for "Disturbia" would see the teenage suspenser pull in $11 million-$14 million, and that might just set the bar for the new entries to beat.

Certainly, the R-rated "Fracture" boasts the best genes. A tale of a young district attorney (Oscar nominee Ryan Gosling) who matches wits with a wily murderer (Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins), the drama is written by Daniel Pyne ("The Manchurian Candidate") and Glenn Gers and directed by Gregory Hoblit, who mined similar territory in "Primal Fear." Trailers that pit Hopkins against Gosling even summon up echoes of "The Silence of the Lambs." Still, the movie, which is aiming for older moviegoers, has its work cut out for it if it hopes for the $15 million mark as it bows in 2,443 theaters.

"Fracture" is sure to encounter competition in the R-rated "Vacancy," in which a married couple (Kate Beckinsale, Luke Wilson) find themselves stranded in an out-of-the-way motel where hidden video cameras track their every move. Nimrod Antal, best known for the Hungarian murder mystery "Kontroll," is helming his first American feature, launching in 2,551 theaters. Sony does have a knack for turning its Screen Gems product into gold, so "Vacancy" will be shooting for the same $10 million-$15 million territory as "Fracture."

If it hopes to challenge either of the two new thrillers, "Women" will have to peel young girls away from "Disturbia" and its newly minted star, Shia LaBeouf. "Women's" best hope for doing that lies in the appeal of lead actor Adam Brody, who made his name on Fox's "The O.C." In the PG-13 film, Brody plays a young man whose girlfriend breaks up with him in Los Angeles, and he goes to visit his grandmother in Detroit, where he finds himself surrounded by a neighboring family that includes mother Meg Ryan and daughter Kristen Stewart. The film represents the directorial debut of Jonathan Kasdan, son of Lawrence Kasdan and brother of "The TV Set's" Jake Kasdan. It's setting up shop in 2,155 theaters but could be hard-pressed to top the $10 million mark.

The film that looks as if it is generating the most fan excitement is the British cop comedy "Hot Fuzz" from Focus Features. Edgar Wright, who gained cred with the zombie comedy "Shaun of the Dead," directs Simon Pegg and Martin Freeman as mismatched partners. Bill Nighy appears as a police chief. However, the R-rated film is bowing in only 825 theaters, so while it should break into the top 10, it won't overtake the board leaders.

In limited engagements, ReelSource will screen "The Tripper," a horror film about hippies who encounter a maniacal killer with a Ronald Reagan fixation — the killer's dog is named Nancy. The R-rated movie starring Lukas Haas and Thomas Jane marks the directorial debut of David Arquette, who enlisted his wife, Courteney Cox, to play a role.

For fans of more genteel comedy, Sony Pictures Classics will open "The Valet," from veteran French farceur Frances Weber, in Los Angeles and New York.
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