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''30 Days of Night'' triumphant?

Josh Hartnett’s chilly bloodsucker thriller, ”30 Days of Night,” should make short work of a weekend filled with also-rans and lackluster offerings

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Josh Hartnett, 30 Days of Night

Well, hello, box office fans. Crazy, crowded weekend ahead of us, with a whopping six — six! — movies opening in more than 1,000 theaters. So, yes, we have a ton to get to. But before that, please note that if there’s one lesson for you to take away from this column, it’s this: When the dust settles on Sunday, the likely No. 1 movie in the land will be the one starring… Josh Hartnett. (Welcome back, brother!)

I know. Mind-blowing. While you contemplate the cosmic ramifications of that shocking bit of news, read on for all my predictions, and then make your own picks in EW.com’s Fall Box Office Challenge. On behalf of all the hunky, overachieving Joshes everywhere, I thank you.

THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE

30 Days of Night
Columbia · R · 2,855 theaters · NEW
Let’s not pile on Hartnett, whose career never did take off the way many expected it would circa 2001’s Pearl Harbor. The guy deserves a break — and it looks like he caught one with this vampires-in-Alaska flick, based on the popular comic-book, from producer Sam Raimi (a.k.a. he who spinneth every web into gold). The late-summer success of Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake (which opened with $ 26.4 mil) indicates that fright flicks may have risen from the grave that many box office analysts had buried them in following a string of flops. And, hey, just in time for pumpkin season!
Weekend prediction: $ 19 million

Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?
Lionsgate · PG-13 · 2,034 theaters · 2nd weekend
Heck, after that $ 21.4 mil opening, I’d say it’s more like, Tyler Perry’s Why Didn’t I See This Coming? Dear Lord, let me never doubt the drawing power of the domestic dramedy auteur (whose fourth theatrical feature, by the way, earned an ultra-rare A+ CinemaScore review from audiences) ever again.
Weekend prediction: $ 10 million

The Game Plan
Walt Disney · PG · 3,301 theaters · 4th weekend
Yet another guy who continues to defy expectations. The Rock rolls on, with a $ 60 mil-plus gross to date.
Weekend prediction: $ 7 million

Rendition
New Line · R · 2,250 theaters · NEW
I’m just going to say this right off the bat: I’m not buying it. This post-9/11 drama about government-sanctioned torture is the latest in a string of Iraq War/War on Terror-themed flicks (No End in Sight, The Kingdom, In the Valley of Elah, the upcoming Redacted and Lions for Lambs) which haven’t remotely clicked with audiences even if they were fine artistic endeavors. But, jeez, it’s not even clear whether Rendition — in which Reese Witherspoon plays a woman whose Middle Eastern husband is suspected of being a terrorist and Jake Gyllenhaal is a CIA workhorse undergoing a crisis of conscience — is a fine artistic endeavor (that is, if you believe the critics). Oh, and then there’s the fact that I’m still not sold on either Gyllenhaal (who only has two hit movies, The Day After Tomorrow and Brokeback Mountain, on his résumé) or Witherspoon (who’s half a decade removed from her Legally Blonde/Sweet Home Alabama heyday), as box office draws. I know, I know, I’m piling on. But still.
Weekend prediction: $ 7 million

Gone Baby Gone
Miramax · R · 1,713 theaters · NEW
Directed by Ben Affleck (hey, another Pearl Harbor alum! What is this, 2001? Anybody seen my Temptation Island videotape?) this adaptation of a darkly realistic, Boston-set Dennis Lehane novel (think: Mystic River) has terrific word of mouth and some nice early reviews going for it. The thriller about a missing child stars Casey Affleck, Ed Harris, and Morgan Freeman, and could start its slow build to financial success on a moderate number of screens this weekend.
Weekend prediction: $ 6 million

THE OTHER NEW RELEASES

The Comebacks
Fox Atomic · PG-13 · 2,812 theaters · NEW
I’m also totally not buying this sports spoof, featuring Anchorman‘s David Koechner, The Office‘s Melora Hardin, and — wait, is that Carl Weathers? What up, Apollo?! Good to have you back this week, too!
Weekend prediction: $ 6 million

Things We Lost in the Fire
Paramount · R · 1,142 theaters · NEW
Love Halle Berry. I mean, who doesn’t? Oh, yeah, moviegoers: The Oscar winner is four years removed from the only semi-successful non-franchise release of her career (2003’s Gothika, which grossed a respectable $ 59.7 mil). So the prospects for this downer, about a grieving widow who takes comfort in the embrace of a depressed friend (fellow James Bond movie vet/Oscar winner Benicio Del Toro), in a mere 1,142 locations, aren’t good. Besides, if there’s one kind of movie that people seem eager to see less than an Iraq War/War on Terror-themed flick, it’s an uplifting (read: so shattering you won’t want to leave your bedroom for a decade) film with the tagline ”Hope Comes With Letting Go.” Fun!
Weekend prediction: $ 3 million

Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour
Freestyle · PG · 1,115 theaters · NEW
In one of the more optimistic statements of 2007, this hugely under-publicized teen ghost story promises on its poster/website to be ”the first in a series of Sarah Landon mysteries.”
Weekend prediction: $ 12.50 (from the director’s parents)