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B.O. Update: 'Burn After Reading' May Upset Perry's 'Preys' to Win

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Sep 13, 2008 | 9:20am EDT

The weekend box office horserace is a photo finish between the brothers behind No Country for Old Men, Atlanta’s entrepreneurial Gospel-infused maverick and a couple of old guys mailing it in. And the winner appears to be The Coen Brothers and Burn After Reading (Focus), although it is very close, and I cannot rule out a win for Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys (Lionsgate).

This is a bit of a shocker since the Coens have never been a sure thing at the box office, but the movie has scored an estimated $6.51M on Friday, and that should translate to an excellent $19M for the weekend. The quirky, comic spy film, starring Oscar winners George Clooney, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton along with Academy Award nominees Brad Pitt and John Malkovich, has grabbed excellent reviews (77 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes), and it will easily be the biggest-ever opening for the Coens, surpassing Lady Killers ($12.6M) and Intolerable Cruelty ($12.5M). It’s safe to say that the critical and box office success of No Country for Old Men has pushed the brothers into a more commercial league.

The No. 2 movie for the day and probably the weekend looks like Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys (Lionsgate), which generated an estimated $6.35M on its opening day. Perry’s core audience, Christian, middle-class, African-American women, are showing up as expected, and the movie should hit $18M for the 3-day. The maverick filmmaker's pictures are tough to project so the number could creep higher over the weekend, but I still think it will fall short of Burn After Reading.

This would be a very good number for Tyler Perry Studios and Lionsgate, since this is a drama about the business and personal dealings of two families--one black and one white--and not a “fat suit comedy” with a lot of Under 25 appeal. Still, The Family That Preys will likely be Perry’s second-softest opening behind Madea's Family Reunion ($30M), Diary of A Mad Black Woman ($21.9M), Why Did I Get Married? ($21.3M) and this year’s Meet the Browns ($20M), and ahead of only 2007’s Daddy's Little Girls ($11.2M).

It appears that Righteous Kill (Overture), the teaming of Oscar winners Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro, has scored $6.23M Friday despite being critically savaged (23 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes). It will likely get a 15 percent-20 percent Saturday increase from adult moviegoers, and it should finish third for the weekend with about $17.7M. That’s better than 88 Minutes starring Pacino this spring, which managed only $16.9M in its entire US theatrical run.

Righteous Kill  is the latest film from schlock producer Avi Lerner and his Millennium Films. According to IMDb, Lerner has produced over 200 movies, including gems like Cyborg Cop, Octopus 2: River of Fear, Shark Attack 3: Megalodon and, my personal favorite, Mansquito. In the past 2 years, Millennium has managed to get 11 movies into US theatres, and the average Rotten Tomatoes score of positive reviews has been just 29 percent. The consensus is that Righteous Kill  is nothing more than a glorified Law & Order episode, but the names Pacino and DeNiro on the marquee are clearly selling tickets.

The worst reviews of the weekend were reserved for Diane English’s remake of George Cukor’s The Women (Picturehouse) with only 10 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. That has not dampened the movie’s appeal with women who are showing up in greater-than-anticipated numbers, making it the No. 4 movie of the day and weekend. With Meg RyanAnnette Bening and Eva Mendes heading up a cast of some of America’s best actresses, this movie has paid off with $4M on Friday, and a likely $12.8M opening weekend. It’s not exactly Sex and the City, but it proves that there is clearly an audience for estrogen-filled, female-driven product.

It will be close for fifth between holdovers Tropic Thunder (Dreamworks/Paramount), The House Bunny (Sony) and The Dark Knight (Warner Bros) with all three of them finishing in the $4.5M range, but I am calculating that Thunder, which passed $100M on Friday, will likely round out the top five.

EARLY THREE-DAY ESTIMATES

1. Burn After Reading (Focus) - $19M, $7,167 PTA, $19M cume

2. Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys  (Lionsgate) - $18M, $8,696 PTA, $18M cume

3. Righteous Kill  (Overture) - $17.7M, $5,615 PTA, $17.7M cume

4. The Women (Picturehouse) - $11.8M, $3,984 PTA, $11.8M cume

5. Tropic Thunder (Dreamworks/Paramount) - $4.56M, $2,083 PTA, $518.2M cume

6. The Dark Knight (Warner Bros) - $4.56M, $2,083 PTA, $518.2M cume

7. The House Bunny (Sony) - $4.5M, $1,629 PTA, $42.3M cume

8. Bangkok Dangerous (Lionsgate) - $3.24M, $1,223 PTA, $13.3M cume

9. Traitor (Overture) - $1.98M, $983 PTA, $20.5M cume

10. Babylon A.D. (Fox) - $1.87M, $907 PTA, $20.4M cume

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