War is hell on Batman's drive for five

Comedy 'Tropic Thunder' and toon 'Clone' likely to relegate 'Dark Knight' to bronze

There's likely to be a bit of mayhem both on movie screens and in the boxoffice rankings this weekend.

"Tropic Thunder," an R-rated comedy from DreamWorks/Paramount, unspooled Wednesday to maximize late-summer playtime. But it did so with just a smattering of midnight showtimes, compared with the hundreds of witching-hour screenings that helped Sony's "Pineapple Express" to a $12 million-plus first day a week ago.

So "Tropic" grossed about $6.5 million in its first day, but executives claim that the Ben Stiller starrer remains capable of a five-day opening close to the $41 million haul by "Pineapple" and suggested that more of its first-week gross will come during the weekend than with the Sony release. DreamWorks/Paramount insiders project "Tropic" — a farcically violent war movie-within-a-comedy — will post a Friday-Sunday gross of about $25 million, compared with "Pineapple's" $23 million first-weekend take.

Such a performance likely would knock Warner Bros.' "The Dark Knight" from its four-week roost atop the domestic boxoffice. The Batman sequel is expected to fall 40%-45% from last weekend's $26 million tally to ring up $14 million or more this session, a performance likely to deliver only a bronze medal for the frame.

Another new film — Warners' animated feature "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" — could reach north of $20 million on support from the franchise's fan base and smaller-fry patrons accompanied by parents. Such a performance likely would be good enough for the weekend's silver medal.

Fox/New Regency's Kiefer Sutherland-starring horror film "Mirrors" should open in the double-digit millions and likely will grab the fourth rung in weekend rankings.

"Pineapple" should pick up another $12 million or more during the frame, shaping a sophomore ranking of fifth place or so.

Yet another weekend debutant — Woody Allen's well-reviewed "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," from MGM and the Weinstein Co. — unspools in more than 700 locations and likely will reach well into the single-digit millions.

Summit Entertainment's 3-D animated feature "Fly Me to the Moon" opens with 452 playdates — all involving 3-D venues. Although likely to skew younger than "Clone Wars," "Moon" will bear watching for possible audience overlap with that other animated space flick.

"Moon's" theater count was limited by a leggier-than-anticipated run by Warners' 3-D adventure release "Journey to the Center of the Earth." But the distributor is compensating in part by utilizing more than a dozen Imax institutional venues in addition to many Imax commercial sites and hundreds of RealD digital auditoriums.

Overture's drama "Henry Poole Is Here" bows in as many as 500 theaters this weekend, but the Luke Wilson starrer appears less certain than the Summit release to reach even the single-digit millions. (partialdiff)
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