"District 9" touches down

Thu Aug 13, 2009 10:01pm EDT
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By Carl DiOrio

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Five wide releases hitting theaters in mid-August smack of inventory-clearing, yet one of the pictures could become a late-summer sleeper hit and another could reap solid counter-programing business.

A well-received promo event at Comic-Con stoked prerelease buzz on the sci-fi actioner "District 9," and early reviews for the Peter Jackson-produced film have been fervid.

Directed by Neill Blomkamp -- a South African commercials veteran getting his first feature credit -- Sony's R-rated pic is tracking best with male youngsters, and a debut north of $25 million looks likely.

"It's a picture that will open well and then can continue to broaden," Sony distribution president Rory Bruer said. "It's got a lot of facets to it. On the surface it's a science fiction picture, but it's more. The movie has a lot of heart."

Based on Blomkamp's film short "Alive in Joburg," "District 9" was shot in Johannesburg and tells the story of extraterrestrials who become refugees in South Africa.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. bows the literary adaptation "The Time Traveler's Wife," starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana, with the intent of capturing women out to avoid "District 9."

Tracking shows strong interest in the romantic fantasy among younger and older women alike, thanks to Audrey Niffenegger's best-selling novel of the same name.

"That's what sets it apart," Warners distribution president Dan Fellman said.   Continued...

<p>A scene from TriStar Pictures' sci-fi thriller DISTRICT 9. REUTERS/Courtesy of TriStar Pictures/Handout</p>