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'Nim's Island' vs. 'Leatherheads'

With a hefty theater count, the Jodie Foster-Gerard Butler-Abigail Breslin family film could take down George Clooney’s screwball sports comedy, with third major new release ”The Ruins” riding the pine

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Jodie Foster, Gerard Butler, ...

Fantasy. Adventure. Drama. Romance. Horror. Music. Comedy. Football. Fun. There’ll be something for everyone at the multiplex this weekend, as three big movies (the live-action kid pic Nim’s Island, George Clooney’s period sports comedy Leatherheads, and the R-rated fright flick The Ruins) premiere. Meanwhile, 21 and Horton Hears a Who! should continue to hold on remarkably well. And in more limited release, Martin Scorsese’s ballyhooed Rolling Stones concert film, Shine a Light, will illuminate 276 theaters, including several IMAX screens (it could gross around $3 million). Who will come out on top in this crowded field — and will I manage to avoid completely blowing my predictions this time around? Let’s find out.

THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE

Nim’s Island
Fox · PG · 3,513 theaters · NEW
In this literary adaptation, Abigail Breslin plays a girl on a fantasy-filled tropical island who unites with a famous author (Jodie Foster) and, um, one of the author’s characters (Gerard Butler) in order to hunt for her missing father (uh, also Gerard Butler). I think. The plot of Nim’s Island kinda baffles me, but, you know, I’m not 7 years old. And since when did 7-year-olds care about plot? Anyway, we’re not exactly talking Lost here, but for those who are 7 (and who’ve already seen Horton), this’ll be the magical mystery island tour to take this weekend. Breslin, Foster, and Butler all have big hits on their résumés, but I don’t think any of these stars are big draws in the family-film genre, largely because none of them have made many family films before. Not that kids care much about stars, either.
Weekend prediction: $18 million

Leatherheads
Universal · PG-13 · 2,777 theaters · NEW
I’d love to say that George Clooney’s third outing as a director — a period football comedy-romance in which he stars opposite The Office‘s John Krasinski and Renée Zellweger — will win the weekend box office; arguably, it’s the ”biggest” opener of the lot. But I’m just not sure that’s going to happen. Why? Because although Clooney is often hailed as the last true movie star, that distinction has never fully translated into box office stardom. Here’s a somewhat startling tidbit: If you eliminate the summer blockbusters and franchise films that Clooney has appeared in (and, certainly, he deserves a lot of credit for the success of the Ocean’s Eleven movies, but still), his biggest hit was…1999’s Three Kings, which debuted with $15.8 mil and banked a total of $60.7 mil. That’s it. A mere $15.8 mil debut is the best he’s ever gotten for a run-of-the-mill, non-tentpole-esque movie. Now, Leatherheads is more along the lines of Clooney’s throwback romance Intolerable Cruelty, and that movie premiered with $12.5 mil. I suspect that this film will do a tad better, considering that it might draw a younger crowd. But let me just end with one final thought: Sports movies never do particularly well financially, and, considering that, if you’re going to release a football movie, why not at least do it during football season?
Weekend prediction: $14 million

21
Columbia · PG-13 · 2,653 theaters · 2nd weekend
The blackjack drama debuted at No. 1 with $24.1 mil and has stayed quite strong during the week, grossing well over a million bucks per day. Boy, if it keeps up this kind of winning streak, someone’s going to drag it down to a boiler room and take out a pair of brass knuckles…
Weekend prediction: $13 million

Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!
Fox · G · 3,569 theaters · 4th weekend
Oh, it’s still not going anywhere, even at $120 mil and counting.
Weekend prediction: $12 million

The Ruins
Paramount/DreamWorks · R · 2,812 theaters · NEW
Jena Malone and Jonathan Tucker (In the Valley of Elah) headline this relatively star-less horror movie about a bunch of kids who get into trouble while on an archaeological dig in Mexico. Amazingly enough, there’s a literary pedigree here: The film is based on a novel by Scott Smith, who also wrote the source material for Sam Raimi’s terrific 1998 movie A Simple Plan. But R-rated horror flicks not based on existing franchises have a hard time drawing blood at the box office — just three weeks ago, Doomsday debuted with only $4.9 mil. And now you’re thinking: Doomsday? Three weeks ago? Which one was that?
Weekend prediction: $8 million