'Proposal,' 'Year One' do battle at boxoffice

Both comedies should draw around $20 mil this weekend

Hollywood has a shot at getting back into the win column this weekend.

A pair of wide openers are set to do solid boxoffice, and the frame will be compared with a soft year-earlier session.

Disney's romantic comedy "The Proposal," starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, has drawn positive early reviews and keen interest among younger and older females. That alone should get "Proposal" a $20 million-plus bow without even popping the question over possible date-night biz.

Disney's 817 sneak previews last weekend drew audiences comprising 78% of moviegoers attending as couples. If that translates into a broad range of demos for its opening, "Proposal" has the best shot at preventing Warner Bros.' comedy behemoth "The Hangover" from three-peating atop the domestic boxoffice.

An opening in the range projected for "Proposal" also would rep a personal best for Bullock, whose high came with the $17.6 million debut for "Premonition" in March 2007.

Elsewhere this weekend, Sony sends out its "Year One," a comedy set in biblical times. Jack Black and Michael Cera star as two hunter-gatherers banished from their primitive village.

"It's a funny concept -- the very first road trip," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said.

Harold Ramis ("Analyze That") directed "Year One," with Ramis and Judd Apatow producing. Rated PG-13, "Year One" is tracking best among young males and could open with $20 million or so.

Collectively, the session's three-day gross receipts will be compared with a $143 million year-ago frame topped by the $38.7 million opening of Warners' "Get Smart." Paramount's "Love Guru" also bowed during the 2008 session but contributed less than $14 million.

So the combined boxoffice from this weekend's wide openers could well match that from the year-earlier debutantes. But it's the latest frame's strong holdovers that could carry the industry to its first year-over-year weekend uptick in four sessions.

Warners' R-rated "Hangover" dropped a skimpy 27% last weekend and is likely to ring up another $20 million or more. Figure on a similar contribution from Disney/Pixar's "Up" during the animated feature's fourth frame.

It will bear watching how Sony's remake of the hijacking thriller "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3" holds up over its soph session. But the Denzel Washington-John Travolta starrer ought to be able to leg it north of $10 million in any event and round out the weekend top five in solid fashion.

"It's looking to be another hard-fought weekend," Disney distribution chief Chuck Viane said.

Among this session's limited openers, Sony Pictures Classics sends out the Woody Allen-helmed comedy "Whatever Works," starring Larry David and Evan Rachel Wood, in nine theaters in New York and Los Angeles.

Also this weekend, Fox will offer sneak previews Sunday of its upcoming "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" in 325 locations.

Flat business since the summer season kicked off May 1 has diminished a once-strong improvement in year-to-date boxoffice to less than 6% through last weekend, according to Nielsen EDI. The uptick is a bit more modest than it might otherwise be, as the current year boasts one fewer weekend as the result of seasonal calendar fluctuations.
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