Jodie Foster should scare up a No. 1 debut. The Hollywood maverick and ''Fight Club'' director David Fincher are set to prey on moviegoers' fears (and wallets) with ''Panic Room''
Jodie Foster, Panic Room
Credit: Panic Room: Merrick Morton

More than two years after her last movie, can Jodie Foster still cause a box office ”panic”?

We’ll see with the release of her new thriller, ”Panic Room,” directed by freaky-movie master David Fincher (”Seven,” ”Fight Club”). Though she hasn’t appeared on movie screens since 1999’s costume-drama flop, ”Anna and the King,” Foster is looking to score her biggest opening yet with ”Panic Room,” which features the two-time Oscar winner as a newly-divorced mom trying to stave off three menacing burglars who’ve gained access into her new Manhattan townhouse. The number to beat: $20.6 million, the amount amassed by ”Contact” in its first weekend in 1997. Thanks to Foster’s star power, a surefire concept, and countless media appearances (including EW’s Spring Movie Preview cover), it shouldn’t be difficult. Look for ”Panic” to finish No. 1 with $25 million.

The family hit ”Ice Age” should hold at No. 2, continuing its strong word-of-mouth fueled run. A drop of 35 percent would result in another $20 million for the computer-animated flick. Last week’s surprise No. 1, ”Blade 2,” meanwhile, is likely to have a bigger decline, plummeting perhaps 50 percent to $16 million for third place.

But there are still three other new entries to contend with. The most promising seems to be Dennis Quaid’s baseball picture, ”The Rookie.” The G-rated film, about a high school teacher and coach who becomes a major league pitcher, has earned fantastic reviews and is the definition of a crowd pleaser. That combination could help the film earn around $14 million this weekend for the fourth spot.

Rounding out the top five will likely be the rerelease of ”E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” which grossed $14.2 million in its first weekend, bringing the film’s total take past the $400 million mark. A 35 percent drop to $9 million seems in order.

That leaves the week’s two other new releases just outside the top five. The kiddie sci-fi flick ”Clockstoppers” will try to attract the ”Spy Kids” crowd, while Robin Williams kicks off his cool image makeover with the dark comedy ”Death to Smoochy,” costarring Edward Norton. Both films should end up with about $8 million for the weekend. Though if ”Smoochy” flops, we hope it doesn’t force Williams into making ”Patch Adams 2.”

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