Rookie army no match for '300'

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LAS VEGAS -- The fact that several new films are opening today at the North American boxoffice is almost irrelevant. All eyes will be on the instant juggernaut that is Warner Bros. Pictures' "300."

After its record-setting $70.9 million opening last week, the Zack Snyder-directed film seems to have captured the zeitgeist and didn't lose any steam during the week, boasting midweek numbers unheard of for this time of year. It's likely that the film will drop only 40%-50% during its second weekend as its audience broadens to include older moviegoers and more women.

The R-rated, hyperstylized adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel is the first March bow to close in on $100 million in one week of release.

"300's" unexpected reign might even benefit other studios, as success with one film often ignites moviegoers' passions for other Hollywood fare.

Sony Pictures tests that theory with the debut of Mennan Yapo's "Premonition," the Sandra Bullock thriller from the German-Turkish filmmaker that is set to bow in 2,831 theaters. The film stars Bullock as a Midwestern housewife who loses her husband in a car crash only to have him appear in her bed alive the next morning.

Julian McMahon ("Fantastic Four") plays her husband, and Amber Valletta and Nia Long co-star. The PG-13 film is likely to bow in the low- to midteen millions -- a similar opening to Bullock's most recent wide release, Warners' "The Lake House," which opened to $13.6 million.

Fox Searchlight's "I Think I Love My Wife" also will fight for a midteen-millions opening. Based on Eric Rohmer's French comedy "Chloe in the Afternoon," the Chris Rock project debuts in 1,776 theaters.

Marking the comedian's second turn in the director's chair, "Wife" centers on a married man whose fidelity to his wife (Gina Torres) is tested when a hot young thing (Kerry Washington) comes on to him. The film is likely to bow in the same range as Rock's previous directorial effort, 2003's "Head of State," from DreamWorks Pictures, which debuted to $13.5 million.

Universal Pictures bows the horror film "Dead Silence," from "Saw" creators James Wan and Leigh Whannell. Starring Donnie Wahlberg, Valletta and Ryan Kwanten, the story centers on a young widower (Kwanten) who returns home to investigate his wife's murder, only to find his town riddled with corpses. Wan directed the film based on a script by Whannell. The film bows in 1,803 theaters and is likely to open to less than $10 million.

In limited release, IFC First Take opens "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" in nine theaters. From director Ken Loach, "Wind" -- which won the Palme d'Or at May's Festival de Cannes -- focuses on two brothers conflicted during Ireland's bid for independence from Great Britain.

Starring Cillian Murphy ("Batman Begins"), Padraic Delaney and Liam Cunningham, the unrated "Wind" has been called anti-British. As part of IFC's First Take program, the film also will be available as a pay cable offering.

Anchor Bay Entertainment opens the comedic horror film "Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon" in 73 theaters. The R-rated film, from writer-director Scott Glosserman, centers on a psychotic horror slasher who gives a documentary film crew access to his life as he plans his reign of terror over a sleepy town.

The Weinstein Co. bows "Nomad: The Warrior" in 30 theaters. The R-rated film from Eastern European directors Sergei Bodrov and Ivan Passer centers on 18th century Kazakhstan and its effort to defend the country from invaders. Viewed as Central Asia's first event movie, "Nomad" was a low-cost acquisition for Weinstein after the film performed solidly in Asia.
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