Box Office Guru Preview: Chihuahua to Overtake Multiplexes

A plethora of other films will compete for the weekend box office crown.

Hollywood kicks off the fourth quarter with a stampede of new releases that will test the elasticity of the marketplace. Ambulances are already on standby to rush the high number of casualties off to local video stores. Seven films open or expand into 800 or more theaters each while an eighth picture debuts in more than 500 locations still hoping to reach moviegoers from coast to coast. Leading the way and likely to post solid results are Disney's family comedy Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Sony's teen saga Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. The rest of the menu will struggle to pick up the remaining scraps during a time when overall box office is not too busy to begin with.

The canine comedy Beverly Hills Chihuahua looks to dominate the multiplexes this weekend with Disney generating plenty of interest with kids and parents. The PG-rated tale of a pampered dog lost on the mean streets of Mexico features voices from Drew Barrymore, Andy Garcia, George Lopez, and Cheech Marin. Piper Perabo and Jamie Lee Curtis take up the human roles. A classic fish-out-of-water story coupled with the always bankable talking-animal formula means plenty of dough will be rolling in for this one. Competition is minimal with Igor in its third session being the only other choice for families right now. In fact there hasn't been a hit comedy for children since June's WALL?E so demand is intense. The top kidpic openings during the September-October corridor over the last three years have been $19.1M for Corpse Bride in 2005, $23.6M for Open Season in 2006, and $23M for The Game Plan in 2007. Opening in 3,215 theaters, Beverly Hills Chihuahua should exceed those films. A debut of about $26M could result this weekend.


Piper Perabo, Jamie Lee Curtis and friend in Beverly Hills Chihuahua

Set to attract a fair share of teens this weekend is the romantic comedy Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist starring Michael Cera and Kat Dennings. Cera's stock price skyrocketed last year with Superbad and Juno which grossed a combined $265M. Here he safely is back in his zone which should register well with teens and young adults. Shia LaBeouf's got the only other major film for the under-25 set so direct competition will be light. That puts Nick in a position to make it into the top three this weekend and post a solid average. Sony's marketing push has been commendable and the trailer is exciting the target audience. Plus the PG-13 rating opens the door to younger teens. As the frame's second widest opener, Nick and Norah bows in about 2,300 locations and might gross around $13M this weekend.


Michael Cera and Kat Dennings in Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

Backed by lukewarm reviews, Miramax's Blindness hits theaters with some buzz but will still face an uphill battle. The R-rated film about an epidemic that takes away a victim's sight stars Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, and Danny Glover with Brazil's Fernando Meirelles directing. The opening night selection at this year's Cannes now enters the North American commercial market in search of serious adults looking for arthouse thrills. The lack of enthusiasm from critics will hurt the prospects for Blindness as will the abundance of options for the 30-plus crowd. An intriguing concept and the presence of indie film heavyweights will help, but pulling in business will still not be easy. Opening in 1,690 theaters, Blindness might debut with roughly $6M.


Julianne Moore and Alice Braga in Blindness

A British celebrity journalist enters the world of high society at a New York magazine in the new comedy How to Lose Friends and Alienate People. Simon Pegg, Kirsten Dunst, Megan Fox, and Jeff Bridges star in the R-rated MGM release. Pegg has built up a small cult following on this side of the pond with films like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, but his starpower has not reached the heights where tons of ticket buyers come running to his next role. Fox's return to the big screen after last year's smash Transformers could score some points with young men though. Reviews have been mixed and a wide assortment of competing comedies will split the audience. Landing in 1,750 sites, a debut of about $5M could result.


Simon Pegg in How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

The year has been light on biopics but Greg Kinnear plans to change that with Flash of Genius, the true story of the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper and his long battle with the automotive industry for recognition of his work. The PG-13 film will target adults looking for an underdog story, however starpower is lacking and the subject matter is a tough sell. Reviews have been good but not glowing. Universal is not going very wide so the film's potential will be curtailed but its average may be respectable. Debuting in roughly 1,000 playdates, Flash of Genius could collect about $3M this weekend.


Greg Kinnear in Flash of Genius

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