March 20, 2009 / 1:01 AM / 10 years ago

Three star-powered films prep for box-office battle

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Three wide-release movies look likely to generate decent business this weekend, making for a tough battle for the domestic box-office crown.

Paul Rudd poses at the premiere of the movie "I Love You, Man" at the Mann's Village theatre in Los Angeles March 17, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Some film industry observers say Summit Entertainment’s sci-fi yarn “Knowing,” starring Nicolas Cage and Rose Byrne, will unspool at No. 1 with well more than $20 million through Sunday. Support is strongest among older males, but older females and younger males also express good prerelease interest.

But considering that younger filmgoers tend to be the driving force of movie openings, Paramount’s R-rated comedy “I Love You, Man” is a strong contender.

Toplined by Paul Rudd and Jason Segel — who also paired in last year’s “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” — “Man” appears a lock for at least a teen-millions gross. With enough younger moviegoers flocking to “Man,” “Knowing” could find itself in a battle for the top spot.

“We’re good for $20 million or more for the weekend,” Summit distribution chief Richie Fay said. “Whether that wins the weekend, only time will tell.”

If “Knowing” and “Man” end up bruising each other, that would represent an opening for Universal’s spy thriller “Duplicity,” starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen. More likely, though, the pecking order through Sunday will turn out to be “Knowing,” “Man” and “Duplicity.”

“Knowing” was directed by Alex Proyas (“I, Robot”), who also gets an adaptation credit on the long-gestating project, originated by novelist Ryne Pearson. “Man” was directed and co-written by John Hamburg (“Along Came Polly”), and “Duplicity” was written and directed by Tony Gilroy (“Michael Clayton”).

“Knowing” is a time-warp thriller of the sort Cage tends to topline — think “National Treasure” meets “The Wicker Man,” though studio executives will hope for an opening more like the former’s.

A big bow for “Man” would be well timed for its stars, whose career trajectories are in ascendancy. And “Duplicity” will bear watching for whether it can pull broader audience demographics than suggested by prerelease tracking, in which older women dominated.

Disney’s family adventure “Race to Witch Mountain” and Warner Bros.’ comics adaptation “Watchmen” will be closely watched in their second and third frames, respectively, for holdover performance. “Mountain” has continued to outpace “Watchmen” in midweek tallies.

Among the weekend’s notable expansions, Overture’s Amy Adams/Emily Blunt-starring “Sunshine Cleaning” will move into 15 additional markets. “Cleaning” cleaned up last weekend in New York and Los Angeles exclusives.

Editing by Sheri Linden at Reuters

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