By the Numbers: Sept. 7

So, Marky Mark, you wanna be a rock ‘n’ roll star?

Sporting a shaggy mane, a nipple ring and an extremely tight pair of leather pants, former rapper Mark Wahlberg cranks up the Marshall amps to 11 this weekend with Rock Star.

Expect a loud debut for this rag-to-riches-to-rags rock epic–destined to knock down surprise No. 1 champ Jeepers Creepers–that capitalizes on Wahlberg’s success in Planet of the ApesThree Kings and The Perfect Storm. It’s not much of a stretch for Wahlberg to convincingly portray a wide-eyed dreamer who succumbs to a lifestyle based on sex, drugs and heavy metal. That’s pretty much what happened to him as Dirk Diggler, Boogie Nights‘s porn star and aspiring (but untalented) rocker.

A cautionary tale very much in the vein of VH1’s Behind the Music series, Rock Star owes its roots, somewhat loosely, to the stranger-than-fiction rise to fame of Judas Priest singer Tim “Ripper” Owens. In 1996, Owens went from singing in a Judas Priest tribute band to replacing original singer Rob Halford. The members of Judas Priest have distanced themselves from Rock Star, no doubt because it depicts its would-be metal god as nothing more than a pawn unable to find his own voice.

Though hardly as poignant as last year’s Almost Famous, Rock Star should outperform director Cameron Crowe‘s semi-autobiographical account of his teenage foray into rock journalism. Almost Famous made only $32.5 million, despite universal good reviews. Rock Star also should hit higher notes than the last major music-themed autobiography, Selena, which opened with $11.6 million in 1997 and eventually made $35.3 million.

In an ironic twist, director Stephen Herek‘s Rock Star opens against yet another adaptation of The Three Musketeers. Herek directed his own version of the Alexandre Dumas-penned swashbuckling adventure in 1993, starring Chris O’Donnell as D’Artagnan with Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland and Oliver Platt declaring all one and one for all. In director Peter Hyams‘s The Musketeer, former model Justin Chambers unsheathes his sword as D’Artagnan to face Wahlberg’s Planet of the Apes adversary, Tim Roth.

The need for another Musketeer— even one flaunting choreographed, stunt-heavy sword fights–remains a mystery. Also, Hyams didn’t exactly light up the box office with his most recent efforts, End of Days and Sudden Death. Accordingly, The Musketeer is unlikely to challenge the $53.4 million that Herek’s The Three Musketeers captured.

Aimed squarely at black audiences, Two Can Play That Game should enjoy the same attention enjoyed by similar previous romantic comedies starring Morris Chestnut and Vivica A Fox. Chestnut’s The Brothers smooth-talked its way to $27.4 million earlier this year. Fox’s Booty Call rang up $20 million in 1997. But Two Can Play That Game seems to lack the mainstream appeal that made Fox’s 1998 Soul Food a $43.4 million hit and inspired a Showtime series.

Unlikely to show much in the way of endurance is Soul Survivors, given its competition. The teen horror yarn–on the shelf for one year, then delayed from the end of summer while cut to secure a PG-13 rating, then released in only 600-plus theaters–goes head to head against Jeepers Creepers and The Others. Soul Survivors could serve as nothing more than a footnote in the promising careers of stars Wes Bentley (American Beauty) and Eliza Dushku (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back).

Not that Jeepers Creepers looks set to enjoy a second lucrative weekend. Executive produced by Francis Ford Coppola, of all people, this rote bloodbath set a Labor Day weekend-opening record of $15.8 million. That’s almost twice that of the $8.1 million taken in 1996 by The Crow: City of Angels.

Those looking for a good scare most likely turned out last weekend for Jeepers Creepers–as is the norm for low-budget horror flicks–and will sample Soul Survivors or return to see Nicole Kidman‘s cerebral chiller,The Others this weekend. Still, expect the Creeper to rear his ugly head again, given that the film’s $17.5 million gross through Wednesday justifies a sequel.

After dominating the August box office, Rush Hour 2, American Pie 2, The Princess Diaries and The Others should start to wind down their runs.

On Wednesday, Rush Hour 2 became the third film this year to make $200 million–$200.1 million, to be exact–and should surpass The Mummy Returns‘ $201.5 million this weekend. That would make Rush Hour 2 the year’s second-highest grossing film, behind Shrek.

American Pie 2–cooling, but still a tasty proposition–has earned $126 million through Wednesday, $25 million than its predecessor. At $93.4 million, The Princess Diaries is the summer’s biggest non-action sleeper and stands to make $100 million by next weekend. The Others continues its impressive run, having garnered $61 million through Wednesday.

With much to choose from this weekend, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back ($22.9 million), “O” ($7.7 million) and Summer Catch ($14.8 million) look set to take sharp tumbles.

The oft-delayed “O”, in particular, failed to connect. Perhaps audiences who were perhaps longing for another accessible racially tinged romance, a la Save the Last Dance, shied away after discovering that this controversial drama is an almost faithful interpretation of Othello, just set in a prep school.