Weekend Box Office: The Safe Bet’s on ’21’

Don’t bet the house on Horton, says today’s Hollywood Reporter. Only an exceptional third-session hold by Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! would see it score a hat trick atop the box office and though none of the four wide openers this weekend appears to be a sure shot to hit No. 1, Sony’s card-counting drama 21 is a strong lead candidate.

“We’re certainly in the game to be No. 1 this weekend,” Sony distribution president Rory Bruer told THR.

An opening somewhere in the mid-teen millions seems a safe proposition for 21, but a $20 million-plus opening isn’t out of the question, says THR.

Rival execs believe Sony has a winning hand with 21, says Variety, and should be able to hit at least that number in millions of dollars.

Also bowing is superhero spoof Superhero Movie for a projected low- to midteen millions.

Iraq War drama Stop Loss will play in fewer than half as many venues as 21 and Superhero as prospects for the film appear grim, despite generally good reviews.

A debut of $4 million or more would be cause for joy. Paramount executives have done extensive research among prospective moviegoers about their attitude toward war films and subsequently are reining in even best-case scenarios accordingly.

Picturehouse held 110 sneak previews of its British comedy Run, Fat Boy, Run last weekend. “Early reviews have been a bit mixed, but patron word-of-mouth will be even more key in the film’s playability over future frames,” Picturehouse president Bob Berney told THR. “If we can get them in, it plays terrific.”

Meanwhile, Horton is about to give Fox this year’s first $100 million grosser, even though Variety notes that Hollywood is seeing solid rather than spectacular box office so far this year as the first quarter ends.

As of Wednesday, 2008 receipts hit $1.98 billion, or 3 percent above the same point last year, according to Rentrak. And a significant amount of this year’s take has come from 2007 holdovers I Am Legend, Alvin and the ChipmunksNational Treasure: Book of Secrets and Juno.