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''Resident Evil'' will rise again

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Shhhh. Hush, friends. Let’s not disturb that sleeping giant otherwise known as the box office. As you know, things have been awfully quiet at the multiplex of late — so silent, in fact, that the year’s hugest flop, Evan Almighty, passed the $100 million mark last weekend while registering nary a sound. (Yes, that actually happened; talk about too little too late.) What’s more, it’s been three long weeks since any film scored a notably strong gross. And, goodness, my eyelids are starting to droop. This trend needs to end. A wake-up jolt is in order, I say! But will it come with the debut of Resident Evil: Extinction and a handful of other movies this weekend? Let’s discuss.

THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE

Resident Evil: Extinction
Screen Gems · R · 2,828 theaters · NEW
Honestly, I don’t fully get it. The RE series has been a solid one at the box office — actually, it’s gotten more solid as the years go on. The first film in the videogame-based franchise, 2002’s Resident Evil, opened with $17.7 mil and finished with $40.1 mil. Then, in 2004, Resident Evil: Apocalypse bowed to $23 mil, en route to a $51.2 mil total. And all of that happened with, at best, a mid-level star (Milla Jovovich). Sure, I know videogames are huge. But it’s not like the genre’s residual popularity helped the film versions of Super Mario Bros. or Doom or Wing Commander, all of which met with a quick ”Game Over” in theaters. No, my guess is that credit goes to the distribution wizards at Sony’s genre division, Screen Gems, who have rolled out all the RE flicks at times of the year (namely, September and March) when the pics face little competition and can thus draw viewers thirsty for some mindless mayhem. Certainly, that scheduling is going to be the key this time around.
Weekend prediction: $24 million

Good Luck Chuck
Lionsgate · R · 2,612 theaters · NEW
Well, boy, its theme and stars may be different, but damned if this romantic comedy featuring Jessica Alba and Dane Cook doesn’t bring to mind a slew of recent releases. You know: Good Night, and Good Luck; The Good Shepherd; A Good Year; The Good German; Lucky You; I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry; The Good Et Cetera. Ah, yes, Hollywood creativity and originality — there’s nothing like it!
Weekend prediction: $11 million

Eastern Promises
Focus · R · 1,404 theaters · 2nd weekend
This dark and brutal drama about a London nurse (Naomi Watts) who gets tangled up with the Russian mob is director David Cronenberg and star Viggo Mortensen’s joint follow-up to 2005’s A History of Violence. And it seems to be gaining just as many kudos from viewers both professional (check out that 83 out of 100 score on Metacritic.com) and lay (it won the audience award at the just-concluded Toronto Film Festival). Following a strong platform release last weekend, in which it earned $547,092 in 12 locations, the thriller should draw many more fans in an expanded run.
Weekend prediction: $9 million

The Brave One
Warner Bros. · R · 2,755 theaters · 2nd weekend
Jodie Foster is hanging in there, even after her revenge drama opened with a disappointing $13.5 mil. It has played well during the week, earning around a mil per day. Oh, but who am I kidding? After this weekend, we won’t really hear from it in theaters again.
Weekend prediction: $7 million

Sydney White
Universal · PG-13 · 2,102 theaters · NEW
Full disclosure: Two close friends of mine helped make this college-set update of the Snow White story (a.k.a. Sydney White and the Seven Dorks), starring Amanda Bynes and Sara Paxton. Unfortunately, as much as I want to see the teen comedy succeed for personal reasons, I have to face the facts. Similar fare hasn’t performed exceptionally well in recent times: Hilary Duff’s A Cinderella Story (which some of the filmmakers here also were involved in) bowed to $13.6 mil and banked a respectable $51.4 mil in sum in 2004, but Nancy Drew disappointed with a $6.8 mil debut and $25.6 mil cume earlier this year. And the fact that Universal seems to be releasing it with less-than-loud fanfare at a quiet time of year probably won’t lead audiences to believe that it’s the fairest film of all.
Weekend prediction: $5 million

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