Woolly bully beats up all comers

'10,000' will club competition; 'Road Trip' gets some mileage

If it's March, then it's time for a good woolly mammoth movie. In years past, Fox heated up the late-winter boxoffice twice with its animated "Ice Age" films, in which Ray Romano voiced Manny the Mammoth.

This year, Warner Bros. is taking a different tack as it unleashes Roland Emmerich's "10,000 BC," a prehistoric action movie in which Steven Strait stars as an early man who shares the planet with woolly mammoths, saber-toothed tigers and a lost civilization that has conducted a raid on his tribe.

Boasting Emmerich's credits as the director of such VFX spectacles as "Independence Day" and "The Day After Tomorrow," "10,000" bows during the frame that last year saw "300" roar to life last year with a $70.9 million opening weekend.

"10,000" does have a less restrictive PG-13 than the R-rated "300," and Warners has been heavily promoting the movie to younger males. But despite its promise of fearsome beasts and exotic locales, it's not expected to match "300's" numbers. Instead, the movie, bowing in more than 3,400 theaters, should easily capture the weekend's top spot by scoring in the $30 million range, possibly edging into $40 million territory.

Aiming for an entirely different demographic, Disney rolls out "College Road Trip," about a dad (Martin Lawrence) who takes his daughter (Raven-Symone) on a road trip to visit prospective colleges. The setup might sound reminiscent of Tony Soprano's famous detour to murder while escorting daughter Meadow on a college scouting trip, but rest assured that this is an entirely G-rated affair.

Lawrence gets top billing in director Roger Kumble's comedy because he has the track record. Last month, he starred in Universal's "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins," which opened to $16.2 million. But it's Raven-Symone who's probably the real draw. A mainstay of successful Disney Channel series like "That's So Raven," she'll attract younger girls, who should ensure that the film — opening in 2,706 theaters — grosses in the midteen-millions range and possibly pushes toward the $20 million neighborhood.

Meanwhile, Lionsgate is fielding a heist movie, "The Bank Job," based on the take-down of a London bank in the early 1970s. Although generically titled, the R-rated film directed by Roger Donaldson has picked up appreciative early reviews. It stars Jason Statham, who has proved himself with such recent Lionsgate releases as "War" and "Crank." Debuting in 1,603 theaters, it's aiming to take in something north of $6 million.

Focus Features is taking an even more limited release route with its London-set period comedy-drama "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day." Directed by Bharat Nalluri, who helmed "Tsunami: The Aftermath" for HBO Films, "Pettigrew" stars Frances McDormand as an out-of-work governess who gets the makeover treatment when she goes to work for an American actress (Amy Adams). The PG-13 film is setting up shop in 535 theaters.

After four weekends in which the boxoffice couldn't match the comparable weekend in 2007, overall business should see a return to life given the mix of movies in play. But without the punch of a "300," the frame probably won't be able to match last year's weekend for sheer heft.

On the limited front, Sony Pictures Classics bows two films: Director-actor Stephen Chow's "CJ7" on 19 screens and Ira Sachs' "Married Life" on nine.

IFC Films introduces "Paranoid Park," Warner Independent Pictures raises the curtain on "Snow Angels" and writer-director-actor Neil Mandt offers his "Last Stop for Paul" in two theaters in Los Angeles and Santa Monica.
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