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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - "Body of Lies," a terrorism thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, will likely take the No. 1 spot at the weekend box office in North America, ending a run of bad luck for action movies dealing with the Iraq war.
Director Ridley Scott's Warner Bros. release should fetch up to $20 million during the three days beginning Friday. Also new in theaters is "The Express," which will score in the mid-teen-millions. The Dennis Quaid football drama will vie for second place with last weekend's champ, "Beverly Hills Chihuahua."
One big unknown: How the downbeat news on the economy will affect moviegoers' film choices. Neither "Body" nor "Express" is escapist fare on the order of Disney's "Chihuahua," which opened to $29 million last weekend.
Produced for less than $70 million, "Body of Lies" stars DiCaprio as a CIA agent in the Middle East, and Crowe as his slippery boss back in the States. Despite the star power, the film must try to distance itself from such unsuccessful releases as "Rendition," "Redacted," and "In the Valley of Elah."
Prerelease tracking indicates that must-see interest is almost as strong among females as among males, with the title likely to skew just a bit toward older audiences.
Warners is supporting "Body" with an aggressive media campaign amid promising early reviews, prompting the studio'sdistribution president Dan Fellman to confide he's "looking forward to a victory at the boxoffice this weekend."
Directed by Gary Fleder ("Runaway Jury"), Universal's "Express" is tracking best with older males and should draw well in most black demographics. Production costs are estimated at less than $40 million, but executives still will be hoping that last weekend's lightly attended sneak previews of "Express" were simply a product of an unusually competitive session marked by six wide bows.
Elsewhere among wide openers, Sony bows its thriller "Quarantine," which could creep into the low-teen millions. Starring Jennifer Carpenter (Showtime's "Dexter"), "Quarantine" was produced for about $12 million.
Walden Media's Fox-distributed sci-fi adventure "City of Ember" might be limited to an even lesser range, unfortunate for a film toting negative costs of about $38 million. The film, which stars Bill Murray and Tim Robbins, has failed to register with its targeted family audience.