Weekend has date for the 'Prom'

But horror outing could get stood up if teens opt for 'Kings'

Either "Prom" or "King" could rule the domestic boxoffice this weekend.

Fox Searchlight's cop drama "Street Kings" and Sony's horror film "Prom Night" have the most playdates among the three wide openers as well as the most identifiable target audiences. Miramax's comedy "Smart People" — unspooling in about half as many locations — will try to capture the date-night set but appears unlikely to climb out of the single-digit millions during the frame.

"Prom" and "Kings" will both shoot for the teen millions, but the R-rated "Kings" is more restricted in its potential audience reach than the PG-13 "Prom."

A remake of the 1980 Jamie Lee Curtis starrer about a vengeful killer, "Prom" will play best with younger moviegoers and horror fans.

If things go smoothly, "Prom" should open north of "Kings," but much depends on whether famously fickle youthful moviegoers decide that they are back in the mood for the recently slack horror genre. That's difficult to gauge from tracking data, as teens tend to make last-minute movie choices.

"It's been tough for some of the (recent horror) pictures that have preceded us," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said. "But we feel good about the picture. Prom night is a common sort of experience, and our marketing materials seem to be resonating with moviegoers."

Teen girls tend to be the best draw for horror films. So it could prove a complementary market coupling with "Kings," which is tracking best among younger males in prerelease data.

Keanu Reeves plays a Los Angeles cop faced with havoc in his life and career in "Kings," whose ensemble cast includes Forest Whitaker, Hugh Laurie and Chris Evans. The film is based on an original screenplay by crime novelist James Ellroy, whose literary yarns have been spun into noir films including "L.A. Confidential" (1997) and "The Black Dahlia" (2006).

"We're feeling quite good about it," Searchlight distribution president Steve Gilula said.

Fox is lending a hand with the release as it has with Searchlight's previous wide openers, including "The Banger Sisters" (2002), "The Ringer" (2005), "The Hills Have Eyes 2" (2007) and a few others.

"Smart People" marks the feature debut of commercial director Noam Murro and represents a first-time film credit for scribe Mark Poirier.

Starring Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Haden Church and Ellen Page, the R-rated "People" is a genre hybrid — playing as part romantic comedy and part family drama. Perhaps because of that neither-fish-nor-fowl dilemma, prerelease tracking data has been inauspicious.

Among this session's holdover films, Sony hopes its lucky streak with the young-skewing Las Vegas drama "21" continues into a third frame. But there's scant chance of a threepeat at finishing No. 1.

Universal's George Clooney starrer "Leatherheads" also bears watching following the period pigskin drama's soft opening last weekend. Older moviegoers dominated opening audiences, and older-skewing films occasionally take a couple frames to find their legs.

Meanwhile, industry figures hope for an end to a recent market malaise that has seen seven of the past eight weekends underperform grosses from the year-ago boxoffice frames. The sluggishness has started to take its toll on the year-to-date boxoffice, which now is off 1% compared with the same portion of 2007.
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