Three films look to topple 'Inception'

"Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore," "Dinner for Schmucks," "Charlie St. Cloud" and "Inception"

VIDEO: 'Cats & Dogs,' 'Dinner' and 'Charlie' open wide

Those monitoring the vital signs of 3D cinema will be on call this weekend when an extra-dimensional family comedy shoves its wet nose into a threesome of openers that also features a broadly targeted comedy and a youth-seeking dramatic fantasy.

Warner Bros. unleashes the 3D sequel "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore" in 3,705 domestic theaters. Also Friday, Paramount debuts the PG-13 comedy "Dinner for Schmucks" with at least 2,900 playdates, and Universal floats the Zac Efron starrer "Charlie St. Cloud" into more than 2,700 theaters.

But likely as not, Warners' Leonardo DiCaprio starrer "Inception" will threepeat atop the weekend boxoffice with $25 million-$30 million from its third session. The Christopher Nolan-helmed fantasy thriller boasts more than $167 million in domestic coin entering the weekend.

Brad Peyton gets a first feature-directing credit with "Kitty Galore." Produced for an estimated $85 million with Village Roadshow co-financing, the live-action pic features talking animals voiced by James Marsden, Nick Nolte, Christina Applegate, Roger Moore, Neil Patrick Harris and Sean Hayes, with additional cast including Chris O'Donnell.

"It's great summer fare, and I'm looking for us to be No. 1 and 2 this weekend," Warners distribution boss Dan Fellman said.

Recent 3D releases have struggled to secure enough extra-dimensional screens, causing a related downturn in the 3D share of some movies. But "Kitty Galore" will bow in an impressive 2,130 locations featuring at least one 3D screen, or nearly 50% more 3D penetration than that mustered by Universal's "Despicable Me" and a couple hundred more than Paramount secured for the opening of "The Last Airbender."

"Cats & Dogs" bowed in July 2001 with $21.7 million, fetching $38 million in its first five days after unspooling ahead of the Independence Day weekend and $93.4 million overall domestically. Expect "Kitty Galore" to open a bit higher but just below the weekend tally for "Inception."

"Schmucks" is the stronger of the session's 2D wide openers. Starring Steve Carell and Paul Rudd, it's helmed by comedy king Jay Roach and should do best with younger males while topping $20 million through Sunday.

The question is: Top by how much?

"From a demo standpoint, that's our sweet spot," Paramount executive vp distribution Don Harris said. "But it's hard to project the overall gross."

Co-produced by Par, DreamWorks and Spyglass Entertainment, "Schmucks" totes an estimated $55 million negative cost.

Directed by Burr Steers (Efron's "17 Again"), "St. Cloud" is rated PG-13 and co-stars Amanda Crew ("The Haunting in Connecticut") in the story of a young man (Efron) who can still see his dead younger brother, a complication hampering his pursuit of the girl of his dreams. Interest is strongest among younger females.

"It's first choice over any other film in the marketplace in that category," Universal distribution chief Nikki Rocco said. "I think that bodes well."

Produced for an estimated $44 million with Relativity on board as a co-financier, "St. Cloud" could woo as much as the midteen millions through Sunday.

In a limited bow, Sony Pictures Classics' period dramedy "Get Low" -- starring Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek and Lucas Black -- unspools Friday in two New York locations and two in Los Angeles.

In a notable expansion, Focus Features' dramedy "The Kids Are All Right" hits wide distribution for the first time, stretching to 847 theaters from a recent 201.

Focus had planned to broaden "Kids" to at least 500 locations but upped its expansion plans amid continued high screen averages. The film boasts a $6 million cume.

Industrywide, the weekend will be compared with a $128 million session last year topped by a $22.7 million bow by Sony's "Funny People."

Year-to-date, Rentrak data show industry boxoffice is pacing 4% ahead of 2009, at $6.48 billion.