Will 'Sex' sequel surpass original at boxoffice?

"Sex and the City 2," left, and "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time"

VIDEO: Film tracking closely with first; 'Persia' also opens

Warner Bros. is hoping its latest Memorial Day tryst with female moviegoers is as satisfying as the one two years ago.

The studio unspools "Sex and the City 2" on Thursday ahead of the four-day U.S. holiday weekend. The original adaptation of corporate kin HBO's one-time series bowed on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend in 2008 with $57 million en route to wooing $152.6 million domestically.

Opening-weekend comparisons will be difficult, with "Sex 2" scooping some boxoffice cream off the top Thursday. But prerelease interest and advance ticketing again are high -- Warners estimated $2 million in presales by Wednesday -- and the ensemble romancer should ring up more than $60 million during its first five days.

Unlike some big-screen adaptations of U.S. television shows, the New Line-produced "Sex" also was popular overseas, registering $262.6 million in foreign coin. So Warners has scheduled a big simultaneous opening for the sequel this weekend in the U.K. and 19 other international territories.

"The pent-up demand was out of sight for the first picture," Warners domestic distribution president Dan Fellman said. "The second one is tracking very closely to the first, but the original was so front-loaded that it's hard to say what we can do."

Reconvening the franchise's gal-pal posse for the R-rated sequel are Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon and Kristin Davis. Multihyphenate Michael Patrick King again directs.

Meanwhile, though its nearly all-female fan base might suggest a counterprogramming play during the lucrative holiday frame, "Sex 2" looks likely to leave another tentpole in the dust. On Friday, Disney debuts the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced adventure fantasy "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time," with tracking data suggesting a four-day bow north of $35 million.

Rated PG-13, "Persia" casts Jake Gyllenhaal in the title role, with Gemma Arterton ("Clash of the Titans") playing the mysterious princess to his rogue prince. Co-stars in the video game adaptation and putative franchise-starter include Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina.

Disney opened "Persia" in many markets the previous weekend to maximize pre-World Cup playtime and will add most others this session.

Most notably among this weekend's domestic holdovers, "Shrek Forever After" from DreamWorks Animation and Paramount will seek a solid sophomore session after its disappointing bow. The frame's extra day should limit the family comedy's weekend-over-weekend drop, with a 40% decline reaping $42 million through Monday and perhaps the session's silver medal, barring an outsized opening by "Persia."

"Whatever the rankings this weekend, the public is being served by three completely different kinds of movies," Disney distribution boss Chuck Viane said. "That's definitely in the interest of our moviegoing public."

Among limited openers, Sony Pictures Classics will bow Jean-Pierre Jeunet's "Micmacs" in two New York locations Friday ahead of a scheduled expansion June 4.

Industrywide, the weekend will be compared with the frame following Memorial Day 2009, meaning it shouldn't be tough to outpace the $166 million session, which was topped by the $68.1 million bow of Disney's "Up."

Year to date, industry boxoffice is outpacing last year by 6%, at $4.05 billion.
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