Foster has a gun and a grudge

'Brave' seeks revenge on weak last frame; 'Woodcock' helps

If last weekend's boxoffice represented a wide yawn by the collective moviegoing public, studio distributors will take solace that few outright raspberries were audible.

This frame, three wide openers attempt to stir prospective patrons from their theatrical ennui. Leading the pack is "The Brave One," opening in 2,755 theaters and featuring the solid marquee star power of Jodie Foster as a brutalized woman seeking justice and revenge in equal measures.

Produced by Joel Silver with Village Roadshow Pictures and distributor Warner Bros. Pictures co-financing, the thriller looks likely to fetch at least $15 million and probably cop the weekend crown.

An even braver performance would see "Brave One" drawing from other demographics in addition to its core base of women 25 and older. Tracking data also shows good interest among older males.

"The tracking has been getting better and better, so we're very pleased," Warners distribution president Dan Fellman said.

The New Line Cinema comedy "Mr. Woodcock," which casts Billy Bob Thornton as a hard-boiled gym teacher, could reach the double-digit millions as it unspools in 2,231 locations. Distribution executives see younger moviegoers as the key but hope the "Woodcock" premise holds broad appeal.

"I think everybody has had a gym teacher in high school who is like this guy," New Line distribution chief David Tuckerman said.

"Woodcock" also stars Susan Sarandon as Thornton's intended bride and the mother of his appalled former student (Seann William Scott).

"Dragon Wars," produced by Korea-based Younggu-Art Movies and distributed by Freestyle Releasing, is the weekend wild card. "Dragon" bows in 2,275 U.S. theaters, and Freestyle — whose recent releases include last year's "An American Haunting" for After Dark Films and "The Illusionist" for Yari Film Group — plans later Canadian playdates.

A Korean production, the English-language film boasts a Western cast and was shot partly in Los Angeles. The city is beset by dragons in the effects-heavy film.

"I'm cautiously optimistic," Freestyle co-president Mark Borde said.

Observers figure "Dragon's" boxoffice will be limited to the single-digit millions, with genre interest likely to be keenest in home entertainment windows.

Among the coming frame's holdovers, Lionsgate/Relativity Media's "3:10 to Yuma," a remake of the classic 1957 Western, should produce a decent sophomore outing after ringing up $14 million last weekend.

Westerns tend to skew toward older moviegoers, who often take time to rally. "Yuma" looks to load up on as much loot as possible before the Sept. 21 arrival of Warners' "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," which stars Brad Pitt as the iconic train robber.

New Line will try to stop the pain with a respectable second outing following the bloody bow for "Shoot 'Em Up." The campy Clive Owen actioner grossed just $5.7 million last weekend.

Meanwhile, another batch of intriguing limited releases also enters the market.

David Cronenberg's "Eastern Promises," a thriller about the Russian mob in London that is drawing rave early reviews, debuts on single screens in Los Angeles, New York and several other U.S. markets as well as in Toronto and Vancouver. Distributor Focus Features' unusual strategy in scheduling only single venues even in the top markets aims at building a platformed campaign based on early buzz.

"(Cronenberg's) 'A History of Violence' still resonates with a lot of people, and it will get word off the ground," Focus distribution boss Jack Foley said. "When the reviews come out in the various markets, not only will fans come out, (but) there will be a lot of very positive world-of-mouth."

Plans call for "Promises" to expand to about 1,400 runs within a week.