'Blart': King of the mall, megaplex

Young males fuel Sony comedy as 'Notorious,' 'Valentine,' 'Hotel' look to top 'Torino'

Four films open wide today, each shopping for a distinct segment of moviegoers during the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. session, but Sony's comedy "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" should capture the most business.

Starring Kevin James, "Blart" is touted as a family film and has been tracking particularly well among young males.

"It's a picture that plays to a very broad audience," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said.

The Happy Madison-produced PG pic has been backed by a heavy marketing campaign, and an opening north of $25 million appears likely through the Monday holiday.

Fox Searchlight unspools the R-rated hip-hop biopic "Notorious," with newcomer Jamal Woodard in the title role of slain rapper Christopher Wallace, aka the Notorious B.I.G. Strong urban appeal and the holiday frame are likely to combine for a solid bow in the upper-teen millions.

Lionsgate's horror film "My Bloody Valentine 3-D" debuts in 2,534 locations, including 1,033 3-D venues — the most to date for such a release thanks to an expanding installed base of 3-D auditoriums. Also rated R and likely to skew male, "Valentine" should draw less narrowly than "Notorious" and attract an older audience than "Blart" for an opening in the mid- to high-teen millions.

DreamWorks/Paramount's family comedy "Hotel for Dogs" is getting a saturation release with more than 3,200 playdates. The modestly budgeted production boasts a cast including Emma Roberts ("Nancy Drew") and Don Cheadle, and the midteen- millions range is quite doable during the four-day span.

Clint Eastwood's Warner Bros. release "Gran Torino" will be the most closely watched holdover. The urban drama topped the domestic boxoffice last weekend with a surprisingly strong $29.4 million during its fifth frame of release and first session in wide distribution.

If "Torino" manages a weekend-over-weekend hold of 50% or better through Sunday, then Monday grosses could lift the Eastwood-helmed and -toplined pic north of $20 million on the frame and again place the platform release on the medal stand.

Films marking notable expansions this weekend include the Holocaust drama "Defiance." Paramount Vantage is expanding the Daniel Craig starrer from a pair of venues to more than 1,700.

Also, Overture is expanding its Dustin Hoffman-Emma Thompson starrer "Last Chance Harvey" wide to 1,054 venues after three weeks in limited release. (partialdiff)