Weekend is high on the 'Hogs'

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With Buena Vista Pictures bowing its general-audience comedy "Wild Hogs," which features big stars John Travolta and Tim Allen, against two edgy, R-rated pictures this weekend, there is little question that the PG-13 road-trip comedy will debut in the No. 1 spot to what could be a big number.

What is less clear is how Paramount Pictures' two new releases will fare. Both "Zodiac" and "Black Snake Moan" are earning strong reviews, and because there isn't much cutting-edge fare in the marketplace, the films could surprise both industry trackers and the studios.

"Hogs" stars Travolta, Allen, William H. Macy and Martin Lawrence as middle-aged suburbanites who take their motor-cycles on a road trip in an effort to reclaim their youth. The film from Tollin/Robbins Prods., "Hogs" will open in 3,287 theaters. With a script by TV writer-producer Brad Copeland, the movie is directed by Walt Becker. Ray Liotta and Marisa Tomei co-star.

Drawing interest primarily from the over-25 crowd, "Hogs" should win the weekend far and away. Trackers peg the movie in the $20 million range for the three-day frame, but never sell Buena Vista's marketing efforts short; the film could get into the mid-$20 millions.

Meanwhile, Paramount is introducing its two wide releases from different divisions.

Paramount Pictures' "Zodiac," from director David Fincher, opens in 2,362 theaters. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo, the co-production with Warner Bros. Pictures revolves around men who become obsessed with the Bay Area's Zodiac Killer. Based on a book by Robert Graysmith and a screenplay by James Vanderbilt, "Zodiac" is Fincher's highly anticipated follow-up to 2002's "Panic Room," which bowed to an astounding $30 million in its opening frame.

The well-reviewed drama more likely will open in the low- to midteen millions, comparable to the director's "Seven," which debuted to $13.9 million in 1995. With such strong reviews, "Zodiac" likely will play in theaters for some time.

One thing for sure is Jim Carrey's "The Number 23" will take a big hit its sophomore session because of "Zodiac," which targets a similar audience and has received stronger reviews. "23" is likely to plummet close to 60% in its second weekend.

From Paramount Vantage, "Moan," which was greenlighted under the previous Paramount Classics regime, also is likely to take a bite out of "23." The

R-rated film from "Hustle & Flow" writer-director Craig Brewer stars Christina Ricci and Samuel L. Jackson. The pulpy, B-style movie centers on a Southern preacher (Jackson) who chains a woman of ill repute (Ricci) to a radiator in the hopes of redeeming her soul.

Premiering to strong reviews at this year's Sundance Film Festival, "Moan" is bowing in 1,252 theaters. The John Singleton- and Stephanie Allain-produced film is unlikely to top $10 million for the frame.

In limited release, New Line bows "Full of It" in 15 theaters. The PG-13 teen comedy stars Ryan Pinkston as an outcast who wakes up one morning to discover that all of his lies have come true. It is unlikely to do much business this frame. From director Christian Charles, the film was produced by Atmosphere Entertainment and Relativity Management.

MGM opens "Two Weeks" in 12 theaters. Acquired in October at the Hamptons International Film Festival and opened in December for an awards-season qualifying run, the film returns for a more extended release. It revolves around a dysfunctional family that reunites for their mother's final days, only to be stuck together for two weeks as she hangs on longer than expected.
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