Joshua Rich's box office preview: Robin Williams' family comedy should easily beat out the more serious ''United 93'' and ''Akeelah and the Bee''
Credit: RV: Joe Lederer

Akeelah and the Bee

Here we go again… Darned if I can remember another weekend on which a more diverse crop of movies has premiered. United 93. RV. Akeelah and the Bee. Stick It. I suppose there’ll be something for everyone at the multiplex this weekend. But which one will take the cake? Will audiences go for the smart-and-sobering option (the 9/11 real-time drama United 93)? Smart-and-uplifting (the urban spelling saga Akeelah and the Bee)? Silly-and-broad (the Robin Williams family vacation yukfest RV)? Or the one whose title doesn’t rhyme with any of the others (the gymnastics comedy Stick It)? I mean, forget about box office, what happens at the movies this weekend should just tell us a lot about the American psyche in general!

Actually, please don’t forget about box office — at least not until after I’m done here. RV is bowing in the most venues, 3,639, and Sony will need to squeeze every last penny out of each one of them: Robin Williams isn’t exactly the draw he used to be, and I’d even bet that many in the young-ish crowd to which this film appeals don’t really know who he is. (His last big hit, Patch Adams, came out nearly eight years ago.) Still, by virtue of its wide appeal, PG rating, and screen count, RV will earn $19 million and take first place.

But only barely. Universal’s United 93 has drawn glowing reviews from critics — currently, it scores a very impressive 90-percent ”fresh” rating on — and the film’s subject matter has given it some of the year’s biggest buzz. Even though it’s only opening in 1,795 theaters, and even though many viewers are sure to avoid it, my spies tell me the film has been tracking very well among men. And let’s not forget the huge ratings that met the two previous TV versions of the Flight 93 story. People may be understandably squeamish, but they’re incredibly interested. So look for it to have a $15 mil debut.

A 50-percent drop to $10 mil for last week’s champ, Sony’s Silent Hill, is appropriate. Lionsgate’s Akeelah and the Bee arrives in 2,195 venues with solid reviews and marketing muscle courtesy of Starbucks (which also financed). It’ll earn a solid $9 mil — which may be enough to pay for star Laurence Fishburne’s celebratory Venti Double Skim Latte. And while Disney’s Stick It (on 2,028 screens) won’t match Bring it On‘s $17.4 mil opening from six years ago, it should land a score of $8.375 mil from the judges.

Akeelah and the Bee
  • Movie
  • 112 minutes