"Potter" prepared to fend off trio of newcomers

Thu Jul 23, 2009 10:07pm EDT
 
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By Carl DiOrio

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" is on course to be crowned king of the domestic box office again this weekend.

With $200 million in its cauldron at the start of just its second weekend, Warner Bros.' "Prince" could fall 60 percent from its first-frame tally and still produce a $31 million sophomore session. Bolstering the film's prospects is its expansion from four high-grossing Imax venues to 162.

Although three films opening in wide release Friday are expected to do solid business, none is likely to compete for the weekend title.

Sony's romantic comedy "The Ugly Truth," helmed by Robert Luketic ("21") and starring Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler, might be the strongest of the new pictures, with prerelease tracking surveys showing prospects for an opening north of $20 million.

Produced for less than $40 million, "Truth" carries an R rating but is likely to draw best among older females, who executives hope will rope in a few guys for a date-night outing. Sony offered 160 sneak previews of "Truth" last weekend and attracted 90 percent capacity audiences.

Meanwhile, Disney's Jerry Bruckheimer-produced family action-comedy "G-Force," featuring a mix of CGI and live action, also is looking good amid signs that its hefty marketing campaign is taking hold.

Helmed by effects supervisor-turned-director Hoyt Yeatman, "G-Force" also could top $20 million this weekend. Premium ticket prices in more than 1,600 3D auditoriums will help the cause. The studio's May release of Pixar's "Up" boasted 1,540 3D locations.

But there's little doubt the still-strong interest in the Potter pic will affect "G-Force," which carries the same PG rating. The question is whether the impact will be minimum or severe. "Prince" and "G-Force" target a similar audience, but the latter plays much younger.   Continued...

 
<p>Actors James (L) and Oliver Phelps pose during a photocall to promote the film "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" in Madrid July 12, 2009. REUTERS/Juan Medina</p>