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B.O. Weekend Tracking: 'Death Race' May Have Slight Advantage over 'Tropic Thunder'

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Aug 20, 2008 | 9:54am EDT

There are four new wide releases this week, but only of them is likely to top $10M for the traditional three-day weekend. The Jason Statham vehicle Death Race (Universal) seems to be getting some traction in industry tracking, although a huge breakout opening is unlikely. Instead, the Paul W.S. Anderson-directed action pic will likely open with $13M-$16M. I suspect this movie, also starring Oscar nominee Joan Allen (The Contender) and Golden Gobe winner Ian McShane (Deadwood), will be enough to out-pace holdover Tropic Thunder (Dreamworks/Paramount), which will probably dip 40 percent-45 percent from its opening weekend.

Adapted from 1975’s Death Race 2000, which starred a pre-Rocky Sylvester Stallone, the new Death Race features Statham, who is increasingly becoming a solid bankable action star. If the new movie reaches my $16M predicted opening, it would be his all-time fourth-best opening behind The Italian Job ($19.4M), The One ($19.1M) and Transporter 2 ($16.5M).

The Ben Stiller-directed satire Tropic Thunder, which was clearly hurt by Michael Phelps and the first week of the Olympic Games on NBC, has a real chance to repeat as the weekend box office champ with something in the $13M-$16M range, but I am calling for $15M, a tick behind Death Race. I still believe that Thunder is going to perform very well in coming weeks thanks to excellent reviews and positive word-of-mouth.

The Warner Bros mega-hit The Dark Knight should continue to hold extraordinarily well with a probable No. 3 finish. I am calling for a possible $9.75M for the Friday-thru-Sunday period, which would likely push the total domestic cume for the Caped Crusader to something over $488M.

The other wide releases are all likely to finish the three-day with disappointing results. The House Bunny (Sony), featuring the always-funny Anna Faris from Scary Movies appears to be the strongest of the titles in the marketplace. Lots of appeal with Females Under 25 could result in $6M-$9M, and my call is for $8.2M and a 4th place finish.

Fox’s The Rocker, starring Rainn Wilson (The Office), is trying to get a jump on the competition with a Wednesday opening, but this film is just not moving the needle. My sources tell me that industry tracking shows no buzz, low awareness, a poor Definite Interest score and a dismal First Choice. The result will be a possible three-day of $5M-$8M (my prediction is $6.2M) and a potential five-day of only $8M-$11M (my number is $9.3M). If those numbers hold, The Rocker will be fifth for the weekend.

Meanwhile, MGM/Weinstein’s The Longshots, featuring Ice Cube (Are We There Yet?) will open very quietly with $4M-$7M and a finish anywhere from sixth to 10th place. My call is for just over $5M.

FINAL PREDICTIONS FOR THE WEEKEND OF AUGUST 22

1. Death Race (Universal) - $16M

2. Tropic Thunder (Dreamworks/Paramount) - $15M

3. The Dark Knight (Warner Bros) - $9.75M

4. The House Bunny (Sony) - $8.5M

5. The Rocker (Fox) - $6.2M

6. Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Warner Bros) - $6M

7. The Longshots (MGM/Weinstein) - $5.25M

8. Pineapple Express (Sony) - $5.1M

9. Mirrors (Fox) - $5M

10. The Mummy 3 (Universal) - $3.7M

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