'Step Up 3D,' 'Other Guys' eye distinct crowds

"Step Up 3D" and "The Other Guys"

VIDEO: Openers also expected to split audiences by age

Coming to a movie theater near you this weekend: gender bias.

Sony's buddy-cops lark "The Other Guys" will go gunning for the guys, and Disney's "Step Up 3D" will step lightly with the gals at domestic multiplexes starting Friday.

The dueling wide openers also should split audiences by age. Starring Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell, the action comedy "Guys" likely will do best with older moviegoers, but the dance-musical threequel's surest footing seems to be with tweens and teens.

Both pics are rated PG-13. Judging from tracking surveys, "Guys" appears the much stronger pic headed into the weekend and should open at No. 1.

"Will Ferrell is in his zone in this movie, and the chemistry with Mark Wahlberg is great," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said. "So comedy should be king this weekend."

Produced for an estimated $85 million, the Adam McKay-helmed "Guys" is set for more than 3,650 theaters and should fetch upward of $35 million through Sunday.

Directed by "Step Up 2: The Streets" director Jon Chu, the second sequel to 2006's "Step Up" cost less than $40 million to produce, with Summit contributing 50% and distributing overseas. The hip-hop-heavy pic boasts more than 1,800 3D locations among a total of more than 2,400 playdates.

The original "Step Up" opened with $20.7 million and grossed $65.3 million overall domestically. The first sequel -- like its predecessor, a 2D-only affair -- opened in February 2008 with $18.9 million and registered a total of $58 million.

The downtick in loot from the first pic to the second makes it clear the third installment was greenlighted primarily on anticipated enthusiasm for youthful gyrations in 3D.

"The music is terrific, and the 3D technology is just terrific," Disney distribution boss Chuck Viane said. "It just jumps off the screen. We're expecting to be in the area of the first two with the opening."

If tracking is to be believed, the threequel should open a bit higher than the first "Step" and grab one of the top rungs in the boxoffice pecking order. Last weekend's No. 1 pic -- Warner Bros.' leggy Leonardo DiCaprio starrer "Inception" -- also should finish in a medal position during its fourth frame, adding to its impressive $210 million in cumulative coin.

Among the weekend's limited openers, Warners unspools Rob Reiner's period romantic drama "Flipped" in 45 locations. The book-based pic begins an unusual platform campaign in 22 Los Angeles locations, along with 15 in Sacramento and eight in Austin.

Sony Pictures Classics bows the war drama "Lebanon" on two New York screens.

Industrywide, the weekend will be compared with a $147 million session last year topped by the $54.7 million debut of Paramount's "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra."

Year to date, industry boxoffice is up almost 5% compared with 2009 at $6.72 billion.