‘Big Momma,’ ‘Number Four’ & ‘Unknown’ Weigh In

092773H1.jpgFox will keep it a family affair with the release of its comedy sequel Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, in which Martin Lawrence reprises his role as Big Momma and introduces Brandon T. Jackson to the successful franchise as his stepson. With a built-in fan-base from the first two hit films, look for this Big Momma to weigh in big with a weekend gross in the $20 million range.

Dreamworks suspense thriller I Am Number Four, distributed by Disney is also poised for a strong debut this President’s Day weekend, drawing the same younger audiences that drove director D.J. Caruso’s previous two thrillers, Eagle Eye and Disturbia, to solid first-place openings. Starring newcomer and potential teen heartthrob Alex Pettyfer and featuring Glee’s Dianna Agron, the film is loaded with impressive special effects and action sequences that bear producer Michael Bay’s stylistic stamp. Add to that, 200-plus IMAX showings and attractive up-and-comer Teresa Palmer of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and watch the teen and action audience spend in the vicinity of $20 million.

The third newcomer to the weekend festivities is Warner Bros.’ Unknown, starring Liam Neeson. At nearly 60 years of age, Neeson is still one of the most believable and appealing action stars working today. Given the solid street credentials he developed from his take-no-prisoners role in 2009’s Taken, Unknown should benefit not only from a great marketing campaign, but from the audience goodwill generated by that unexpected hit and collect $17 million to $20 million.  Producer Joel Silver known for putting his imprint on super high profile and successful action franchises such as Die Hard, Lethal Weapon and The Matrix oversees the proceedings, while Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra takes the helm.  Mad Men’s January Jones, Diane Kruger and Aidan Quinn star alongside Neeson.

Disney will be well represented in the top five, with its G-rated Gnomeo and Juliet taking full advantage of its second weekend landing in a holiday frame. This scenario traditionally benefits family films and the resulting small weekend-over-weekend percentage drop could help this animated romance gross in the mid to high teens.

Leave it to Bieber to take fifth position with around $15 million after a spectacular near $30 million debut last weekend. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never will still have appeal to that tiny percentage of teen girl fans who have not yet seen their idol on the big screen.

If the overall box office downtrend continues, this will be the 15th weekend of down revenues vs. a year ago.  However, given the strong lineup this weekend and favorable comparisons to the post-President’s weekend last year (President’s weekend fell a week earlier in 2010), optimism is high for a chance for the streak to finally end. The all-time record negative streak was experienced in 2005, when 19 down weeks plagued the industry from late spring into summer.

One thing is certain, this is one box office record no one wants to break.