Three releases ready for boxoffice battle

'Knowing,' 'I Love You, Man,' 'Duplicity' all open wide

"Knowing" review
"I Love You, Man" review
"Duplicity" review

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 the younger demos who tend to drive openings, it's perhaps unfortunate for Summit as 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 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 trajectory seems 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 closely watched in their second and third frames, respectively, for whether the holdovers display market playability. "Mountain" has continued to outpace "Watchmen" in midweek tallies, boding well for "Mountain" but and not so well for "Watchmen" after its big sophomore-session drop the previous weekend.

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