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''Prom Night'': Getting lucky?

The teen horror remake looks like it holds a winning hand; expect it to wrest the No. 1 spot from ”21” this weekend. Meanwhile, Keanu Reeves’ ”Street Kings” is unlikely to get anywhere near a box office crown

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Brittany Snow, Prom Night
Suzanne Tenner

Is April the new February/September at the box office? It’s starting to look that way. With grosses on the slide for the past several weeks (year-to-year declines in excess of 20 percent have become frighteningly common) and another slow weekend on the horizon, it appears as if Hollywood has found itself trapped in a new doldrums period.

But a fresh wind is blowing and help is on the way! Okay, maybe not — I just wanted to say that because it seemed like something that should be said there. In fact, nothing on the release schedule between now and May 2 (when Iron Man premieres) looks like a sure bet. This weekend, the Prom Night remake is the only one of three major new movies that smells like a winner. Although if things continue to stink at the box office, all the new movies could tank and 21 will cruise to victory once again. Actually, that would take some serious tanking, but you get my point.

THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE

Prom Night
Screen Gems · PG-13 · 2,700 theaters · NEW
To be fair, this reinterpretation of the 1980 Jamie Lee Curtis fright flick (starring Hairspray‘s Brittany Snow) really is a strong candidate for a big win this weekend. On paper, at least. It’s based on an existing and popular film, it has youth appeal to spare, and it boasts a non-restrictive PG-13 rating. Screen Gems is known for doing a great job in marketing this kind of film to this kind of crowd during slow times of the year (see: the $30.1 mil opening of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, or Underworld: Evolution‘s $26.9 mil bow). And if I haven’t been clear enough already: Its competition will be weak. The only complication, then, is the aforementioned multiplex malaise — just how much of a hindrance will it be? We’ll soon see.
Weekend prediction: $19 million

21
Columbia · PG-13 · 2,736 theaters · 3rd weekend
Impressive as its double-win at the box office has been, I still can’t help but ask: Is this gambling movie really the hit that we think it is? I mean, it has earned a respectable $50 mil and should recoup its moderate $35 mil-or-so production budget, but would it have done so with stronger opponents? Isn’t it just like Disturbia, which basically came out of nowhere a year ago to dominate the multiplex in less-than-dominant fashion (it earned $80.2 mil in a slow burn), largely because there was nothing else people wanted to see? Sure, the job of distribution gurus is to find the perfect points in the year to roll out their movies, and that certainly happened in this case. But let’s be honest: 21 is hardly a blockbuster.
Weekend prediction: $9 million

Street Kings
Fox Searchlight · R · 2,467 theaters · NEW
Keanu Reeves stars in this gritty urban crime drama from David Ayer, the screenwriter of the gritty urban crime drama Training Day and the writer/director of the gritty urban crime drama Harsh Times. (This guy needs a hug!) But wait — Keanu Reeves is in it? Oh yeah, The One is going all dark in a way that he hasn’t since his 1991 trifecta of Point Break, My Own Private Idaho, and Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey. I happen to like this actor a lot, and he has quite a post-Matrix fan following out there — of course, George Clooney also has a considerable fan following, and look what happened to his grownup-skewing movie last weekend (see below). Anyway, a film like this needs strong reviews to stay alive in theaters, so we might want to put it on life support already.
Weekend prediction: $9 million

Nim’s Island
Fox · PG · 3,518 theaters · 2nd weekend
As anticipated by someone whose name rhymes with Boshua Bi…sorry, ahem…Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin’s family film did in fact beat Leatherheads last weekend, when the final numbers were revealed. It opened with $13.2 mil and George Clooney’s movie banked $12.7 mil. So that’s a start.
Weekend prediction: $8 million

Leatherheads
Universal · PG-13 · 2,771 theaters · 2nd weekend
In case you haven’t heard, the period football comedy got sacked last weekend. Called it!
Weekend prediction: $6 million

THE OTHER NEW RELEASE

Smart People
Miramax · R · 1,106 theaters · NEW
Everybody loves Dennis Quaid, Ellen Page, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Thomas Haden Church. It’s just that maybe not everybody wants to see their quirky indie romance. Or they aren’t allowed to. (It’s rated R.) Or they can’t. (It’s only playing in 1,106 theaters.) Or they don’t even know that it’s opening. (Uh, hello, marketing campaign?)
Weekend prediction: $1 million