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Bets on animated penguin pic to nudge out Bond in 'Casino'

Animated penguins will fight a new James Bond this weekend, and though it's expected to be a close match, Warner Bros. Pictures' "Happy Feet" is likely to win the frame. Director George Miller's PG-rated animated odyssey has been marketed to the hilt, with children all over the country ready to beg their parents for admittance into the world of emperor penguins, reminiscent of last year's Sundance Film Festival hit "March of the Penguins."

But Sony Pictures' "Casino Royale," a co-production with MGM, will put up a decent fight. Armed with strong reviews and a debonair new Bond in British actor Daniel Craig, the PG-13 film should fare well but is likely to earn a strong second place for the weekend.

Universal Pictures' "Let's Go to Prison," starring Will Arnett and Dax Shepard, is unlikely to debut with much muscle. The R-rated film from Marc Abraham's Strike Entertainment is not expected to cross the $5 million mark because of its limited 1,495 playdates and a male target audience that likely will be in the Bond theaters.

Meanwhile, "Happy Feet" is set to open in 3,804 theaters. From Australian helmer Miller ("Babe") in his first effort in CG animation, the film features the voices of Robin Williams, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman and Elijah Wood.

With strong comedic timing from Williams — who takes on two roles in the film set in the Antarctic wilderness — and choreographed musical numbers, the movie is looking to draw a larger audience than just children and their parents; some think it will be the date movie of the weekend. "Happy Feet" is likely to bow to about $40 million, but with strong tracking across all four quadrants, it could reach $50 million. Sure to boost "Happy Feet's" gross will be the 79 Imax theaters in North America that will bow the film.

The newest Bond film also is looking to open in the $40 million range. From director Martin Campbell, who ushered Pierce Brosnan into his first 007 role in 1995's "GoldenEye," "Casino" marks Craig's debut as Bond. Considering there hasn't been a big, glossy action movie in a long time, "Casino" is looking to land in the sweet spot for Sony. The film has received positive early reviews — much stronger than the most recent Bond films. "Die Another Day" opened in 2002 to $47 million and featured Halle Berry in the Bond girl role. This time, relative unknown Eva Green plays 007's love interest, Vesper Lynd.

A slew of films open in limited release. Warner Independent Pictures launches Christopher Guest's latest improv-heavy comedy "For Your Consideration." The PG-13 film stars such Guest regulars as Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara. This time, Guest's target is Hollywood and the absurd race for Oscar glory. The film will open in 23 theaters.

After Dark Films presents "Horror Fest: 8 Films to Die For" this weekend in 488 theaters. Complete with celebrity appearances, signings and giveaways, the fest is expected to be a boon for horror fans.

Fox Searchlight will unveil Richard Linklater's "Fast Food Nation," a fictionalized account of the book by Eric Schlosser. The R-rated drama starring Greg Kinnear and Bruce Willis examines the toxic relationships among the meatpacking industry, fast-food franchises and obesity in the U.S. It opens in 321 theaters.

MGM opens the Weinstein Co.'s "Bobby" on two screens in Los Angeles and New York. The R-rated political drama from director Emilio Estevez features a cast including Anthony Hopkins, Lindsay Lohan, William H. Macy, Demi Moore, Sharon Stone and Wood.