'Body' count should top 'Express'

DiCaprio-Crowe thriller lines up against period football drama and that pampered dog

Warner Bros. should truly dominate the domestic boxoffice this weekend with "Body of Lies," a Ridley Scott-helmed thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe.

That's should — as in may not exactly dominate. Although laden with talent normally identified with sure-fire hits, "Body" is a Middle East terrorist tale that follows in the wake of several unsuccessful theatrical runs by films with similar profiles including "Rendition," "Redacted," "In the Valley of Elah" and others.

Still, "Body" should at least compete for the top spot this session, along with one of the frame's other wide openers, Universal's football drama "The Express," starring Dennis Quaid and Rob Brown ("Stop-Loss"). The most bullish projections show "Body" fetching up to $20 million, and there is some consensus that "Body" and "Express" will gross at least into the low- to middle-teen millions.

One big unknown is how the downbeat economic climate will affect moviegoers' film choices.

Neither "Body" nor "Express" is escapist fare on the order of "Beverly Hills Chihuahua," last weekend's boxoffice champ. A PG-rated comedy, Disney's "Chihuahua" should ring up in the mid-teen millions this weekend and finish either second or third in its sophomore session.

Produced for less than $70 million, "Body" probably is the most broadly appealing of the new films, if prerelease tracking is to be believed. Must-see interest is almost as strong among females as males, with the title likely to skew a bit toward older audiences.

Warners is supporting "Body" with an aggressive media campaign amid promising early reviews, prompting distribution president Dan Fellman to confide that he's "looking forward to a victory at the boxoffice this weekend."

Directed by Gary Fleder ("Runaway Jury"), "Express" is tracking best with older males and should draw well in most black demographics. Production costs are estimated at less than $40 million, but executives still will be hoping that last weekend's lightly attended sneak previews of "Express" were simply a product of an unusually competitive session marked by six wide bows.

Elsewhere among wide openers, Sony bows its thriller "Quarantine," which could creep into the low-teen millions. Starring Jennifer Carpenter (Showtime's "Dexter"), "Quarantine" was produced for about $12 million.

Walden Media's Fox-distributed sci-fi adventure "City of Ember" might be limited to an even lesser range, unfortunate for a film toting negative costs of about $38 million. The PG-rated release starring Bill Murray and Tim Robbins has failed to register with its targeted family audience.

Meanwhile, though the frame's four wide openers could make for another overcrowded session, there is one saving grace: Nielsen EDI and other data trackers treat the frame as a three-day boxoffice weekend, but many students and some workers will have off for Columbus Day on Monday — which should bolster Sunday's grosses. (partialdiff)