Date-night dilemma at movies: musical or mayhem?

Thu Oct 23, 2008 7:39pm EDT
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By Carl DiOrio

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - This weekend's boxoffice showdown between a Disney kids musical and an R-rated gorefest might seem like someone's idea of a sick joke, except for one simple fact: Both films likely will make out like bandits.

The musical is "High School Musical 3: Senior Year," the first big-screen adaptation of the Disney Channel's hit "High School Musical" franchise. And the blood-spattered horror film is Lionsgate's "Saw V," which bows exactly a year after "Saw IV" opened with $32 million in vivid proof that the franchise still had plenty of, uh, life left in it.

Both films aim for youthful moviegoers, but their target audiences couldn't be more different in what studio executives like to call their "psychographics." Together, their market impact amounts to a double-barreled blast of box office bang as the industry seeks to mark a fifth straight session of weekend-over-weekend upticks.

"HSM3," starring Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens, looks to ring up more than $35 million in a likely chart-topping performance that could prove to be the biggest musical opening of all time. Online ticketer Fandango said that 86% of its recent sales were for the Disney release, with "Saw V" accounting for 7%.

"We have a very avid fan base, and it's pretty wide," Disney distribution president Chuck Viane said. "So anything is possible."

Kenny Ortega, director of the franchise's 2006 and 2007 TV movies, also helmed "HSM3."

Universal's film adaptation of the stage musical "Mamma Mia!" set a genre record in July with a first-weekend haul of $27.8 million en route to $120 million overall domestically. Miramax's "Chicago" remains the top domestic grosser following its $171 million theatrical run in 2002-03.

The latest "Saw" installment, starring Tobin Bell and Julie Benz, stands a good chance of matching its franchise predecessor's bow, and an opening of at least $25 million is considered a lock. Factors including World Series competition could prove telling, but executives aren't concerned that youth magnet "HSM3" will pull prospective moviegoers away from "Saw   Continued...

<p>Cast member Ashley Tisdale poses at the premiere of the movie "High School Musical 3: Senior Year" at Galen Center in Los Angeles October 16, 2008. The movie opens in the U.S. on October 24. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>