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Box office preview: Will 'The Final Destination' and 'Halloween II' massacre each other?

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Your regular box office prognosticator Nicole Sperling is out for the next few weeks, box office fans, so you’re stuck with me for this week’s horror movie showdown. That’s right, we’ve got the unusual spectacle of two slice-and-dice flicks opening this weekend, The Final Destination (actually the fourth film in the series), and Halloween II (the second in director Rob Zombie’s reboot of the durable horror franchise, but technically the ninth Halloween movie total). With the R-rated Inglourious Basterds and District 9 also vying for similar audiences, it looks like it’s gonna be — yep, you knew this was coming — quite a bloody weekend at the box office. Here’s how I see the body count stacking up:

1. The Final Destination — $19 million

The three previous films in this making-efficient-mincemeat-of-anonymous-hot-actors franchise have all built on the previous film’s opening weekend, with the last one banking $19.1 million when it opened in Feb. 2006. I do think the steeper competition this time around will suppress the total number of ticket buyers for the film. But New Line Cinema has aggressively promoted the fact that this Final Destination is in 3D, and over half the 3,121 theaters showing the film will be charging the premium ticket price that comes with that unique pleasure. The last horror movie to go 3D — last January’s subtly titled My Bloody Valentine 3D — brought in $21.1 million even though it came in third place, and that was on far fewer 3D screens.

2. Inglourious Basterds$18 million

The big question hovering now over Quentin Tarantino’s WWII opus is whether its impressive $38 million opening weekend exhausted its potential audience, or if the film has the legs to go the distance. Since I’m planning on seeing the film this weekend, and since word-of-mouth on the film has been rather strong, I put the film’s second weekend drop around 52%, for a healthy $18 million weekend, which puts it ahead of…

3. Halloween II — $14 million

Writer-director Rob Zombie’s first stab at rebooting the grandpappy of the slasher film genre raked in $30.1 million when it opened over the four-day Labor Day weekend in 2007, but that was against no real competition, and juiced by the excitement of infusing moribund anti-hero Michael Myers with some desperately needed new blood. But a Halloween sequel? Been there, slashed that. I’m calculating horror fans looking at a choice between yet another Halloween movie and the chance at watching pretty kids die in three dimensions will go with the latter more than the former. Adding injury to more injury, Halloween II‘s distributors, the rather famously cash strapped The Weinstein Co. and Dimension Films, haven’t been able to flex as much marketing muscle for the project as they might have in their halcyon days.

4. District 9 — $7.5 million

I’m thinking this little-sci-fi-movie-that-could might see the first small chink in its insect-like armor thanks to this weekend’s glut of R-rated movie violence, with a third-weekend drop close to 60%. That still would put the film’s total gross close to $90 million, well on its way to becoming one of the summer’s most profitable films.

5. Taking Woodstock — $7 million

Opening in almost 1,400 theaters, director Ang Lee’s first English-language film since Brokeback Mountain will certainly capitalize on nostalgia for the historic three-day music festival. The film’s critical reception, however, has been decidedly mixed-to-negative: A 52% Rotten Tomatoes score does not bode well for the movie’s prospects with a prospective audience that actually still reads, and heeds, movie reviews.

Also opening in limited release:

Big Fan — Comedian Patton Oswalt takes on his first dramatic role as a sad-sack New York Giants mega-fan who runs afoul of his favorite player.

The September Issue — This documentary follows the making of the most important issue for the fashion world’s de-facto bible, Vogue magazine, and the infamous editor — proverbial “ice queen” Anna Wintour — who runs it.

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