"Chihuahua" has paws on the box-office prize

Fri Oct 3, 2008 5:52am EDT
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By Carl DiOrio

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - It's looking like a dog of a weekend at the box office. Disney's dog, to be exact, as the Burbank studio unspools its PG comedy "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" amid expectations that the live-action with talking dogs feature could fetch up to $30 million during its opening weekend.

The film's canines are voiced by Drew Barrymore, Jamie Lee Curtis, Andy Garcia and George Lopez.

Family patrons form the target audience, but Disney executives hope the young-at-heart crowd also will come along for the four-legged romp.

"In all the screenings we've done, we have gotten nothing but wonderful marks from all the audiences who were on hand," Disney distribution president Chuck Viane said. "So there's no question that this is a commercial, family film, but I believe we can expand on that audience."

With "Chihuahua" sure to bow at No. 1, last weekend's top dog -- DreamWorks/Paramount's "Eagle Eye" -- could grab second place, if the Shia LaBeouf/Michelle Monaghan thriller rings up half its $29.2 million opening gross during its sophomore session.

But Sony's young-skewing PG-13 comedy "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" also will compete for the silver-medal position. The musically driven romantic comedy starring Michael Cera ("Superbad") and Kat Dennings ("The 40-Year-Old Virgin") appears safe to open in the teen millions, and a particularly robust weekend could help it soar a bit higher than "Eagle."

Whatever the precise pecking order of the top films, their combined grosses should power the industry to a second consecutive year-over-year weekend uptick after a sluggish start to the fall box-office season. Less than $85 million was registered during the comparable year-ago frame, whose biggest opener was the disappointing $14 million bow by a remake of "The Heartbreak Kid."

This weekend's four other wide openers look likely to max out in the upper single-digit millions.   Continued...