It's cheerleaders vs. immortals this weekend, and insiders are betting the beauties will beat the beasts.
Universal's "Bring It On" could wind up topping the chart with a relatively modest four-day gross of $12-14 million. Last Labor Day weekend saw Buena Vista/Touchstone's blockbuster "The Sixth Sense" in first place with a hefty $29.3 million.
Typically, Hollywood doesn't expect the box office to sizzle over the four-day Labor Day weekend. The holiday marks the end of summer and a return to school for youngsters and hasn't been seen over the years by the industry as a great time to go after moviegoers with high-profile, big-budget openings.
"Even people who don't have kids are kind of in a frame of mind of getting back to work and buckling down," explains one executive.
After kicking off last weekend with a chart-topping $17.4 million, Universal and Beacon Pictures' PG-13-rated dark comedy "Bring It On" is positioned well to keep its first place cheerleading letter.
With its cume at about $21.5 million going into its second weekend, the good news for Universal is that "Bring" has already grossed more than twice the roughly $10 million investment the studio has in the production.
Directed by Peyton Reed, it stars Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dusku, Jesse Bradford and Gabrielle Union.
Dimension Films' R-rated fantasy action adventure sequel "Highlander: Endgame," opening at about 1,500 theaters, should come in on the pom-pom girls' heels in second place with $8-10 million.
Directed by Douglas Aarniokoski, "Highlander" stars Adrian Paul and Christopher Lambert.
"It's going to be a crummy weekend," observes an insider looking at the low projected grosses.
Warner Bros.' "The Art of War" will battle New Line's "The Cell" for third place.
"The tradition has been to drop around 20 percent from four days to four days," a distributor explains, speculating about how holdovers in the marketplace will fare. "The four days (last weekend plus last Monday) for 'Art of War' were about $11.3 million, so 80 percent of that would be $9 million. 'The Cell' did about $10.7 million for four days. If it drops 25 percent, it will do about $8 million. 'Bring It On' did about $18.9 million for four days. Even if it drops 30 percent, it'll be $13 million. So there could be a tight race for the second, third and fourth position."
"You've got to figure 'The Art of War' and 'The Cell' are, maybe, $7-9 million for four days," another distribution executive notes. "Depending how 'The Art of War' holds up, it and 'The Cell' could be pretty close."
"War," an R-rated martial arts drama from Warner Bros., opened in second place last weekend to $10.4 million.
Directed by Christian Duguay, "War" stars Wesley Snipes, Anne Archer and Donald Sutherland.
"Cell," an R-rated serial killer thriller, was third last weekend with $9.7 million.
Directed by Tarsem, "Cell" stars Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughn and Vincent D'Onofrio.
Warner Bros. PG-13 sci-fi action adventure "Space Cowboys" should round out the top five in its fifth weekend. Last weekend it placed fourth with $6.5 million.
"It did about $7 million for four days last week and could be around $5-6 million this weekend," a source predicts.
Directed by Clint Eastwood, "Space" stars Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner and Donald Sutherland.
"Based on the way it's been holding, 'Space Cowboys' could do $6 million for four days, and that could be more than 'Whipped' does," says another executive.
"Whipped," an R-rated sex comedy opening at over 1,500 theaters via Destination Films, should finish sixth.
"'Whipped' is whipped," snaps one unimpressed observer who can't resist beating up on the inexpensive indie production.
Written, produced and directed by Peter M. Cohen, "Whipped" stars Amanda Peet and Brian Van Holt.
Filling out lower rungs this weekend: "The Original Kings of Comedy," "What Lies Beneath," "The Replacements" and "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps".
On this weekend's expansion front: Fine Line Features' R-rated comedy "Saving Grace" continues to widen in its fifth weekend.
Directed by Nigel Cole, it stars Brenda Blethyn and Craig Ferguson.
Looking ahead, one insider points out, "The Olympics are going to make for a very poor September (providing major televised competition from Sept. 15 through Oct. 1). We're going to be going through the doldrums here. And, of course, you've got all these exhibition companies going bankrupt or barely hanging on. That doesn't have a direct effect on box office. But the box office is soft, and they're down to the point where they need every buck they can get."