'Wild Things' eyes $25 million weekend

Spike Jonze's film poised to top 'Citizen,' 'Stepfather'

Overture Films has jumped into the fall season with both feet.

The domestic boxoffice was mere spectator sport for the fledgling mini-major for most of the summer. But Overture unspools its third wide release in a month today as the Jamie Foxx-Gerard Butler starrer "Law Abiding Citizen" bows in about 2,800 theaters.

Distributing the crime thriller for producer the Film Department, Overture looks likely to open "Citizen" in the low-teen millions during a crowded theatrical session that includes two other wide openers: Warner Bros.' "Where the Wild Things Are" and Screen Gems' "The Stepfather." Directed by F. Gary Gray ("The Italian Job"), the R-rated "Citizen" should draw its most solid support from y-chromosomers.

"We're tracking really strong and predominantly male," said Kyle Davies, who as exec vp distribution amounts to Overture's Mr. October. "But there is solid interest among all quadrants."

The "Citizen" debut follows Overture's expansion of Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story" two weeks ago and before that its wide release of the Dennis Quaid starrer "Pandorum." On Nov. 6, Overture will unspool military comedy "The Men Who Stare at Goats," starring George Clooney and Jeff Bridges.

Overture's heavy fall slotting of pics targeting niche audiences mimics a strategy used by such distributors as mini-major Lionsgate and Sony's genre unit Screen Gems.

"Not only is fall underutilized, but it's a time of year when films get a little more breathing room," Overture topper Chris McGurk said. "That's a big part of our strategy and makes for a good opportunity for the kind of films we release, which are not big, expensive tentpoles of the sort that can suck on the air out of a market at other times of the year."

Meanwhile, the heavily marketed "Where the Wild Things Are," co-financed by Legendary Pictures, is likely to fetch more than $25 million and capture the weekend. The horror thriller "Stepfather" could be confined to the teen millions because of audience overlap with Paramount's first big expansion of the buzz title "Paranormal Activity."

The R-rated "Paranormal" scared up an amazing $7.9 million from 160 playdates the previous weekend, with a $9.1 million cume including earlier midnight-only engagements. Paramount will expand the film to more than 800 locations, and it appears on track for the teen millions this weekend, ahead of a likely expansion north of 2,000 runs this month.

Produced for an estimated $19 million, "Stepfather" is a remake of the 1987 film and yields a first feature-helming credit for TV director Nelson McCormick. Rated PG-13, it should fetch $15 million or more through Sunday.

Prerelease tracking data on the Spike Jonze-helmed "Wild Things" appears good if not stellar, but the PG-rated children's-book adaptation is expected to draw equally well among single adults and family moviegoers, and family-film openings are notoriously difficult to forecast.

"The movie is reaching all four quadrants, and the reviews have been brilliant," Warners distribution topper Dan Fellman said. "So we really should reach audiences right across the board."

A whimsical mix of creature effects, CGI and conventional live action, "Wild Things" boasts an ensemble cast including Catherine Keener and Mark Ruffalo and voice performances by James Gandolfini, Forest Whitaker, Catherine O'Hara and others.

Among key holdovers, Universal will hope for a lucrative sophomore session for "Couples Retreat" following the ensemble comedy's surprisingly robust opening a week ago. The defending boxoffice champ hits the weekend approaching a $50 million cume.

Also, Disney has extended the theatrical run of its double-feature release of 3D versions of "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2." Originally planned as a two-week run, solid business and continued exhibitor interest persuaded distribution president Chuck Viane to keep the extra-dimensional twin bill in theaters.

"It's such a unique thing to have a double feature that you never knew how it would work," Viane said. "But it's worked beautifully, and we've decided to hold on to what we can."

The "Toy Story" rereleases registered more than $25 million through their two weeks in theaters, when they played in more than l,700 3D-only locations. The double feature will continue to play in more than 1,300 sites this weekend but likely shed venues the following frame.

Collectively, the weekend's boxoffice grosses will be compared with a $100 million frame a year ago topped by a $17 million bow by Fox's actioner "Max Payne."