B.O. FORECAST: Taking the ‘Bait’

This weekend, the nation will get hooked on “Bait.”

And for no better reason than a lack of more appealing choices.

As the weekend’s only major opener, the Jamie Foxx comedy will likely take the box office crown, but it won’t set new records.

In the limited release area are Cameron Crowe’s rock ballad “Almost Famous” and Gwyneth Paltrow’s “Duets.” The two films will probably make the Top 10, thanks to a super slow weekend at the movies plus the opening of the Olympics games.

So the choice is yours. And here’s the lowdown on the three films.

The Skinny: A groovy film about rock ‘n’ roll — with the requisite rock star (Billy Crudup), long-legged groupie (Kate Hudson) and a teenage rock critic (Patrick Fugit) working for Rolling Stone magazine. The Upside: Directed by “Jerry Maguire” guy Cameron Crowe. It’s gotten great word of mouth and rave reviews. The Downside: “People could mistake it for one of those VH1 rock pic things,” Brandon Gray from Boxofficemojo.com tells us. And also, the film is opening in a mere 131 theaters this weekend. Even so, Gray still thinks that the film will crack the Top 10.

The Skinny: As the “bait” in question, Jamie Foxx does his comedy routine while trying to catch a criminal. The Upside: It’s the only wide release this weekend. “I don’t think how it couldn’t be the No. 1,” says Gray. “It’s a very slow weekend. It’ll probably make $8 million.” The Downside: Though the film falls in the same money-making category as “Rush Hour” in 1998 and “Blue Streak” in 1999, Jamie Foxx ain’t no Chris Tucker or Martin Lawrence, and certainly no Jackie Chan.

The Skinny: Six losers in life, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Huey Lewis, travel to Omaha, Nebr., for a national karaoke contest. The Upside: It’s got Gwyneth Paltrow in it. And she sings with her God-given voice. And did we mention Huey Lewis? The Downside: Gray expounds, “The buzz [for the film] is so poor. It’s been sitting on the shelves. But I think it’ll do modest business with its limited release [in 581 theaters]. Moviegoers don’t really follow what the industry thinks. The film should make between $2 million and $3 million.”

Last weekend’s total box office tally was a mere $61 million, the second lowest of the year so far, and it’s possible that this weekend’s numbers could be even less, Gray says.

In other words, get ready to see holdovers such as “The Watcher,” “Bring It On” and “Nurse Betty” remain high on the charts.