'Harry Potter' set to fend off new trio


Expect Warner Bros.' "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" to be crowned king of the domestic boxoffice again this weekend.

With $200 million in its cauldron at the start of just its second weekend, "Prince" could fall 60% from its first-frame tally and still produce a $31 million soph session. So though three films opening in wide release Friday are expected to do solid business, none is likely to compete for the weekend title.

Sony's romantic comedy "The Ugly Truth," helmed by Robert Luketic ("21") and starring Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler, might be the strongest of the new pics, with prerelease tracking surveys showing prospects for an opening north of $20 million.

Produced for less than $40 million, "Truth" carries an R rating but is likely to draw best among older females, who execs hope will rope in a few guys for a date-night outing. Sony offered 160 sneak previews of "Truth" last weekend and attracted 90% capacity audiences.

"The sneaks went really well, but the core strength is definitely female," Sony distribution topper Rory Bruer said.

Meanwhile, Disney's Jerry Bruckheimer-produced family action-comedy "G-Force," featuring a mix of a CGI and live action, also is looking good amid signs that its hefty marketing campaign is taking hold.

Helmed by effects super-turned-director Hoyt Yeatman, "G-Force" also could top $20 million this weekend. Premium ticket prices in more than 1,600 3D auditoriums will help the cause.

"That's a bit more 3D screens than we had for 'Up,' so we're pleased," Disney distribution president Chuck Viane said. "It's good to know people are still rolling out 3D screens."

May opener "Up" boasted 1,540 3D locations.

Less helpfully, there's little doubt the still-strong interest in the Potter pic will affect "G-Force," which carries the same PG rating. The question is whether the impact will be minimum or severe. "Prince" and "G-Force" target a similar audience, but the latter plays much younger.

Set for a total 3,693 playdates, "G-Force" totes a negative cost of roughly $80 million-plus.

Warners' R-rated horror film "Orphan," produced by Joel Silver's Dark Castle, should do midteen millions this weekend, with solid interest evident among younger moviegoers. Thematically more of a female-oriented movie -- about a demon-seed orphan on a tear -- one question is whether gals will be turned off by the film's restricted rating, a tag seen more often on slasher pics.

"Orphan" was directed by Jaume Collet-Serra ("Goal II: Living the Dream").

"Our research and press screenings have gone really well, and I'm looking forward to a solid weekend," Warners distribution boss Dan Fellman said.

As for his boxoffice behemoth of a Potter pic, Fellman noted that "Prince" will be bolstered Wednesday by an expansion from four high-grossing Imax venues to 162.