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'The Roommate' Poised to Win Box Office During Super Bowl Weekend

Screen Gems' new thriller The Roommate, starring Minka Kelly and Leighton Meester, should draw enough females to win the Super Bowl weekend box-office crown.

Universal's underwater cave adventure-thriller Sanctum 3D, exec produced by James Cameron, isn't looking as strong. The R-rated Australian film is underwhelming in tracking and will have to compete with Sunday's game for males.

There's also the weather. Distributors hope the Midwest and parts of the Northeast will have recovered enough from this week's crippling Groundhog Blizzard to allow safe access to the multiplex.

But neither Mother Nature nor the Super Bowl can be blamed for what's expected to be another tepid frame at the domestic box office.

The Roommate is expected to open in the low to mid-teens, compared with a $30.5 million opening a year ago for Screen Gems' romantic drama Dear John, starring Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum (distributors have long used Super Bowl weekend to bow female-skewing fare).

Universal is predicting a $6 million to $8 million opening for Sanctum, although rival distributors say it should do a bit better. Universal and Relativity Media picked up distribution rights for $12 million, meaning the film needs to ultimately gross $25 million-$30 million.

Among holdovers, Paramount's No Strings Attached should stay high in the mix in its third weekend. The film's gross through Wednesday was $42.4 million. That's true too for the Weinstein Co.'s The King's Speech, which has grossed $74.9 million domestically.

King's Speech and other Oscar front-runners, including Paramount and Skydance Prods.' True Grit and Fox Searchlight's Black Swan, continue their expansion overseas. Speech launches in France, True Grit bows in Mexico and New Zealand, and Swan opens in 12 new markets, including Brazil and Holland.

In the U.S., Sony Pictures Classics expands Mike Leigh's Another Year, nominated for an Oscar for best original screenplay, into a total of 236 theaters.

Sanctum goes out in 2,789 theaters, including more than 2,000 3D runs and 178 Imax theaters. Universal also is opening Sanctum day and date in Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. The film opens in Japan on April 22.

NEXT PAGE: JAMES CAMERON'S INVOLVEMENT WITH SANCTUM

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Cameron has been involved with Sanctum from the start, providing guidance, technical support and even marketing suggestions.

Cameron collaborator Andrew Wight, an underwater cave explorer and producer, penned the script for Sanctum based on a real-life experience. Cameron liked the idea and brought in Alister Grierson to direct.

Set on the Cold Goast of Queensland, Australia, Sanctum tells the story of a group of explorers who get trapped in a complex network of underwater caves when there's a hurricane. The film's budget was $30 million.

Sanctum is new territory for Wight, who has worked almost exclusively on documentaries, including Cameron's Ghosts of the Abyss and Aliens of the Deep.

Universal has heavily promoted Cameron's involvement in the project as well as the fact that Grierson used the same 3D camera system developed for Avatar, but overall awareness is soft, according to tracking. Males are the most interested.

Among similar films, The Descent opened to $8.9 million on its way to grossing $26 million domestically, and Open Water debuted to $11.4 million en route to $30.6 million.

The Super Bowl generally takes a hefty bite out of the box office across the board. Revenue can be down as much as 50 percent from Saturday, a much bigger drop than usual, although Saturday can be busier than usual on Super Bowl weekend.

The Roommate will be more immune to game fever than Sanctum and is showing strong interest among younger females, followed by older. The pic cost a modest $16 million to produce.

Directed by Christian E. Christiansen from a script by Sonny Mallhi, Roommate is about a college student assigned to share a room with a stranger. Things take a disturbing turn when the roommate becomes obsessed with the student.

Kelly stars in Sony's upcoming Adam Sandler-Jennifer Aniston comedy Just Go With It, while Meester is still in theaters with Country Strong. She'll also star in the summer Fox pic Monte Carlo.