Boxoffice won't stand still this weekend

'Earth' remake opens in 3,559 theaters Friday

Hollywood is still waiting to unwrap most of its Christmas offerings, but the boxoffice should get an early holiday present this weekend as Fox launches the sci-fi-themed "The Day the Earth Stood Still" in 3,559 theaters, including 123 Imax screens.

The PG-13 remake, directed by Scott Derrickson ("The Exorcism of Emily Rose"), combines a classic title -- the original 1951 movie -- with civilization-threatening special effects that suggest images from such previous Fox hits as "Independence Day" and "The Day After Tomorrow."

Keanu Reeves plays the otherworldly visitor Klaatu, embodied by Michael Rennie in the original, as the actor returns to the sci-fi arena that served him well with the "Matrix" movies and "Constantine." As an added attraction to further entice fanboys to rush the multiplexes, Fox has attached a first-look trailer for "X-Men Origins: Wolverine."

If "Earth" were a summer movie, it probably would enjoy a gangbusters weekend. But the pre-Christmas frame is another matter, though with "Quantum of Solace" heading into its fifth weekend, there's room for a new action movie.

Last year in the comparable frame, the dystopian "I Am Legend" opened to a stellar $77.2 million, but that movie starred Will Smith, who is considered a boxoffice phenom unto himself. The conservative bets see "Earth" opening somewhere in the mid-$20 million range. But other prognosticators foresee it moving into the $30 million-$40 million territory.

Overture Films will use the weekend to introduce the Latin-flavored "Nothing Like the Holidays" in 1,671 theaters. Directed by Alfredo De Villa, the PG-13 comedy-drama visits a Puerto Rican clan as they assemble for one last Christmas together in the family home in Chicago. John Leguizamo stars as the son who brings along his high-maintenance wife (Debra Messing); Elizabeth Pena and Alfred Molina appear as the battling parents; and the rest of the cast includes Freddy Rodriguez, Luis Guzman and Vanessa Ferlito.

The film is shaping up as a nice niche play that could score a $5 million-$6 million opening, which could boost it into the fourth or fifth slot.

While Disney's "Bolt," in its fourth weekend, should continue to reach out to the family audience, Freestyle Releasing will attempt to find traction for another CG-animated movie, "Delgo," a PG-rated fantasy-adventure from Atlanta-based Fathom Studios. It's probably fated, though, for an opening in the lower single-digit millions.

That all means that, once they cede the top spot to "Earth," last weekend's top five probably will just all move down a notch or two, as "Four Christmases" moves to the second slot, followed by "Twilight" and "Bolt."

There will be lots of activity on the specialty front.

Three awards hopefuls -- Miramax's "Doubt," the Weinstein Co.'s "The Reader" and Warner Bros.' "Gran Torino" -- make their debuts, while "Milk," "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Frost/Nixon" will be adding screens. The Weinstein Co.'s "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," armed with its four Golden Globe noms, returns to 25 screens in the U.S. in the top 20 markets and three screens in Canada. And the epic "Che," from IFC Films, will slip into theaters in New York and Los Angeles for a one-week Academy-qualifying run.
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