'Knowing' only a third of the battle

Cage sci-fi pic must compete for top spot with fellow wide openers 'Man' and 'Duplicity'

Oh for a clearer crystal ball. Three wide openers look like they should do some decent boxoffice this weekend, but calling a favorite to finish atop the domestic rankings is tougher than usual.

Some say Summit Entertainment's sci-fi yarn "Knowing," starring Nicolas Cage and Rose Byrne, will unspool at No. 1 with well more than $20 million through Sunday. Support is strongest among older males, but older females and younger males also express good prerelease interest.

Still, considering it is younger demos who tend to drive openings, it's perhaps unfortunate for Summt that its wide-release competition includes Paramount's R-rated comedy "I Love You, Man."

Toplined by Paul Rudd and Jason Segel — who also paired in last year's "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" — "Man" appears a lock for at least the teen millions. And if "Man" peels off too many younger moviegoers, "Knowing" could find itself in a battle for the top spot.

"We're good for $20 million or more for the weekend," Summit distribution topper Richie Fay said. "Whether that wins the weekend, only time will tell."

Meanwhile, if "Knowing" and "Man" end up bruising each other, that would represent an opening for Universal's spy thriller "Duplicity," starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen. More likely, though, the pecking order through Sunday will turn out to be "Knowing," "Man" and "Duplicity."

"Knowing" was directed by Alex Proyas ("I, Robot"), who also gets an adaptation credit on the long-gestating project originated by novelist Ryne Douglas Pearson. "Man" was helmed and co-written by John Hamburg ("Along Came Polly"), and "Duplicity" was written and directed by Tony Gilroy ("Michael Clayton").

"Knowing" is a time-warp thriller of the sort Cage tends to topline — think "National Treasure" meets "The Wicker Man," though execs will hope for an opening more like the former's.

A big "Man" bow would be well-timed for its topliners, whose career trajectories seem in the ascendancy. And "Duplicity" will bear watching for whether it can pull broader audience demos than suggested in prerelease tracking dominated by older women.

Also this weekend, Disney's family adventure "Race to Witch Mountain" and Warner Bros.' comics adaptation "Watchmen" will be watched closely in their respective second and third frames for whether the holdovers display market playability. "Mountain" has continued to outpace "Watchmen" in midweek tallies, boding well for "Mountain" but not so well for "Watchmen" after its big sophomore-session drop.

Among the frame's notable expansions, Overture's Amy Adams-Emily Blunt starrer "Sunshine Cleaning" makes an important move into 15 additional markets. "Cleaning" cleaned up last weekend in New York and Los Angeles exclusives. (partialdiff)