'Death Race' looks to run down 'Thunder'

Remake could break out among openers in slow frame

Boxoffice grosses will start to fade this weekend as inevitably as a summer tan.

The comparable frame from last summer rung up less than $109 million, the second-smallest tally of the boxoffice season. A similarly underwhelming industry performance is likely this weekend, despite four new titles hitting the marketplace in wide release.

Still, one of the market entrants is well-positioned to capture the boxoffice flag of the summer's penultimate session, thanks to relatively weak competition from new releases and holdovers alike. "Death Race," Universal's remake of the 1975 thriller "Death Race 2000," will try to go for the gold -- supported primarily by young male moviegoers -- with a bow in the mid- to high-teen millions.

DreamWorks/Paramount's R-rated comedy "Tropic Thunder" could drop as much as 50% or so from its chart-topping opening session. That could mean its fetching less than $13 million this weekend while still potentially competing for second place.

But Sony's PG-13 comedy "The House Bunny," starring Anna Faris ("Scary Movie"), also looks likely for the low-teen millions and could outpace "Tropic" if it grosses into the midteens, mostly on interest from young females.

Warner Bros.' boxoffice behemoth "The Dark Knight" likely will finish third or fourth during its sixth frame, with $10 million or so. But two additional wide openers look unlikely to make it out of the single-digit millions.

Rated PG, the Ice Cube-Keke Palmer starrer "The Longshots" -- a family football tale from MGM and Dimension directed by rocker-turned-helmer Fred Durst -- hasn't shown much strength in prerelease tracking. But the topliner usually can deliver at least middle-single-digit millions from his core fan base alone, so a late surge of interest in the film could see it climb just a bit higher during its opening frame.

Fox's PG-13 comedy "The Rocker" might need five days to climb into a similar range. Having earned some positive early buzz, The Rainn Wilson starrer unspooled Wednesday to stimulate additional word-of-mouth, but its first-day tally was just $600,000.

The R-rated "Death Race" stars Jason Statham, who tends to be popular with the ladies, and tracking also shows good appeal among prospective urban moviegoers. So depending on how many females and older men pad support from the film's young-male target demo, "Death Race" could represent the frame's best hope for a breakout performance.

Notable limited releases this weekend include exclusive engagements for Focus Features' comedy "Hamlet 2." The gambit aims to stimulate positive word-of-mouth before the Steve Coogan-Catherine Keener starrer's wide expansion over the long Labor Day frame.