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Box office preview: 'Wild Things' destined to be king

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Where-Wild-Things_dlSpike Jonze has adapted Maurice Sendak’s beloved children’s book Where the Wild Things Are into a movie that isn’t for kids. Yes, its lead is a young boy who goes on a mythical journey filled with lovable two-story-tall monsters but make no mistake Wild Things isn’t for the under-10 set. How that translates into box-office dollars will be very interesting. Tracking suggests the movie opens to around $30 million with most of the money coming from the young hipster crowd of 17-34 year olds. The numbers also suggest that parents have gotten the message and are unlikely to bring their children to the theater. Also opening this weekend is the Jamie Foxx, Gerard Butler-vigilante themed Law Abiding Citizen and The Stepfather, the remake of the 1987 thriller that starred Lost‘s Terry O’Quinn. Those movies unfortunately will have to contend with the growing phenomenon of Paranormal Activity which gets its first weekend of wide release after already making an astounding $7.9 million in 160 theaters. It’s a very crowded weekend and Hollywood’s going to need a lot of movie-going to make each of these films a winner.

1. Where the Wild Things Are: $30 million

Spike Jonze may have no children but he certainly remembers what it feels like to be one. His meditation on childhood Where the Wild Things Are is a movie worth seeing if its just for the visual spectacle and the great music. He’s filmed a movie based on a book that people called unfilmable, rather similar to Warner Bros. last big risk, Zack Synder’s adaptation of Watchmen, which was also deemed unfilmable. Watchmen topped out at $107 million domestically. How Wild Things ultimately performs is going to depend solidly on the word-of-mouth from the 20-year-old crowd. If they dig Jonze’s unique vision they could turn it into a hit. If they pass, the expensive adaptation will be deemed a valiant failure. Let’s hope for the former.

2. Couples Retreat: $17 million

Last weekend, Vince Vaughn contradicted the latest theory flooding Hollywood that movie stars don’t matter anymore. Well, they seem to matter in the case of Vaughn. The movie got terrible reviews in the press and the trailers showed the film’s only two jokes, yet Couples Retreat still outgrossed expectations and that was due primarily to Vaughn. Audiences love his schtick and he gave it them in boatloads in this film. My guess is the movie drops at least 50% its second weekend when audiences get distracted by the sheer number of other options in the marketplace.

3. Paranormal Activity: $16 million

Not since The Blair Witch Project has a movie captivated fans with its marketing alone. Such is the case with Paranormal, which will expand to 760 theaters this weekend thanks to millions of online fans demanding it. With media attention at a fever pitch a high-teen gross could happen.

4. Law Abiding Citizen: $15 million

Something about those television ads is working. Men’s interest in this movie has spiked in the last day, meaning the ultra-violent Gerard Butler, Jamie Foxx two-hander could open impressively this weekend. It’s tracking a bit older than Paranormal Activity and those movie-goers aren’t always first out of the gate to see a film. Regardless, this revenge flick has some legs and should open respectably this frame.

5. The Stepfather: $13 million

Starring Nip/Tuck‘s Dylan Walsh as the creepy stepfather (and Gossip Girl‘s Penn Badgley as the stepson), this $19 million remake should open strong enough to please the suits at Sony. And Screen Gems, the unit releasing the film, has a definite knack with opening genre films. The real thing standing in its way is the surprise heat surrounding Paranormal. Unfortunately, that may take a little wind out of its sails.