'G.I. Joe' storms boxoffice

Lack of reviews won't hurt action film's bow

Two of this weekend's three wide openers have stimulated good prerelease interest, so perhaps the industry will jump back into the win column after four weeks of year-over-year boxoffice declines.

Or not.

The $23 million bow by Sony's R-rated comedy "Pineapple Express" topped a $122 million frame a year ago. But that session also benefited from robust boxoffice for July holdover "The Dark Knight" and week-earlier opener "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon King."

This time, it's likely that the pressure will be more squarely on a couple of market debutants if the industry is to notch a year-over-year weekend uptick.

This much we know: Paramount's "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra," the first pure action release in several weeks, will open at No. 1 this weekend and do so without a single mainstream review of the film.

In an unusual gambit generally reserved for obvious stinkers, Par decided that critics likely would bash the film and perhaps dent moviegoers' must-see interest. Yet prerelease tracking is strong, and "Joe" seems headed for an opening of $45 million-$50 million.

Its core support will come from young males, with some questioning whether any pic can play given the waning interest in moviegoing of late.

"The industry should have grossed more than we did just by people wandering into the theater," an industry wag groused after the most recent boxoffice frame. " 'G.I. Joe' is tracking well, so maybe it will get people interested in going back to the movies. But right now, the interest is pretty low."

Sony's Nora Ephron-directed "Julie & Julia" -- a film about famed TV chef Julia Childs (Meryl Streep) and a woman (Amy Adams) who blogs about preparing her recipes -- is also tracking well with a narrow swath of prospective patrons; older females should make a $20 million debut reachable.

But the weekend's third wide opener is tracking much more softly.

Universal will distribute "A Perfect Getaway," which Relativity acquired for its Rogue Pictures. The R-rated horror thriller might away with $5 million-$7 million through Sunday.

The most-scrutinized holdover performance this week will be Uni-distributed "Funny People."

Starring Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen, the R-rated comedy from Judd Apatow also numbers Sony and Relativity among its financiers, so recently snakebitten Uni won't be left holding the bag on its own if the film's soph-session drop proves precipitous. Similarly, a decent marketplace hold will help "Funny" leg it into profitability but likely won't result in major payout for Uni or other participants.

A 50% drop from last weekend would see "People" ring up about $11 million and potentially nab the weekend's bronze medal.

Meanwhile, the industry's year-to-date boxoffice performance has taken a battering from the recent weekend downticks -- the result of comparisons with year-ago frames stuffed fat with "Dark Knight" boxoffice.

Just three weeks ago, 2009 was pacing ahead of the same portion of last year by a healthy 6%, putting admissions on course for an annual uptick as boxoffice exceeded the roughly 4% increase in average ticket prices. After the latest year-over-year decline -- which last session off a whopping 25% from the year-earlier tally -- domestic boxoffice now is up only 4% at $6.13 billion, according to Nielsen EDI.