'Hannah Montana' heads new trio at boxoffice

Miley Cyrus movie faces off against Seth Rogen comedy

'Fast & Furious' review
'Hannah Montana: The Movie' review
'Observe and Report' review

Three new wide releases will face off against "Fast & Furious" in this weekend's boxoffice drag race, but even if "Fast" downshifts into second gear, the Universal action pic should cross the finish line once again in first place.

That's what happens when a movie opens with more than $70 million in its first weekend. Repeating at No. 1 in its second weekend is almost a given.

That's "almost" as in: Even if "Fast" drops a big 60%, it will still take in more than $28 million in its sophomore session. If its hold is stronger than that, it will top the $30 million mark, and none of the three new contenders -- "Hannah Montana: The Movie," "Observe and Report" and "Dragonball Evolution" -- looks likely to ring up a bigger figure.

Ceding the top spot to "Fast," "Hannah," "Observe" and the third weekend of DreamWorks Animation's "Monsters vs. Aliens" look to be jostling for second place.

"I think it's going to be a very strong Easter weekend," Disney distribution chief Chuck Viane said. "I think three of us are all competing in a close horse race for second place, and as competitive as I am, I hope we come out second."

Disney's "Hannah Montana: The Movie" -- let's just call it "HMTM" for short -- could well have the edge. Since the "Hannah Montana" TV series hit the Disney Channel in 2006, its star Miley Cyrus has become a tween idol for her dual role as a regular Malibu girl who moonlights as a pop singer.

The G-rated "HMTM," directed by Peter Chelsom ("Shall We Dance?"), spins off from the series as Miley/Hannah is dragged back to her hometown in Tennessee by her dear old dad, played by Cyrus' real life pere, Billy Ray Cyrus.

It also comes in the wake of last year's 3-D concert pic, "Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour." "Worlds" opened to $31.1 million from just 683 theaters and grossed $65.3 million overall in its domestic theatrical run, which was comprised entirely of 3-D playdates.

But while "HMTM" will enjoy more than three times the number of playdates than its 3-D predecessor, it will be hard-pressed to surpass "Worlds." That movie benefited froman orchestrated rush of fans to the boxoffice -- where they paid premium ticket prices -- since Disney initially announced that it had booked the movie into theaters for one week only. Ultimately, Disney extended the theatrical run by several weeks to meet what it claimed was an unexpectedly outsized fan response.

At the moment, "HMTM" is expected to open in the high teens-$20 million range. But if girl power flexes its muscle, the newest Cyrus vehicle could surge higher than that.

The Warners/Legendary Pictures "Observe and Report" faces a different challenge. Written and directed by Jody Hill, the dark comedy stars Seth Rogen as a mall cop, but he's no Paul Blart. While the PG-rated "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," one of the surprise hits of the season, opened to $32 million in January, the R-rated "Observe" is not a broad comedy but rather a portrait of a self-styled vigilante. Its rating and unpredictable approach make "Observe" a trickier sell, and so it will probably register between $15 million-$20 million.

Rounding out the new arrivals, Fox's "Dragonball Evolution" is the latest incarnation of a Japan-based franchise that began with manga and morphed into anime TV series, animated feature films, video games and merchandising. This PG, live-action version, directed by James Wong and starring Justin Chatwin as Goku, a young warrior who must collect a set of magic orbs to save the world, will aim for younger boys and anime aficionados. Initial returns will probably check in at something inside $10 million.

And while both "HMTM" and "Dragonball" will compete with the third weekend of "Monsters," the 3-D extravaganza should produce another solid outing. When the dust settles, it will be securely in the middle of the top-five pack.