''Pirates'' dunks ''Lady in the Water'' -- barely. Joshua Rich's Prediction: Even with four major new releases in theatres this weekend, keep your eye on the Sparrow

By Joshua Rich
Updated July 21, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: Peter Mountain

Clerks II

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  • Movie
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It’s another one of those weekends where Hollywood studios throw all sorts of…you know…at screens and look to see what sticks. There are four movies opening in wide release, representing many different genres for many different crowds. And yet, when it’s all over, besides a nasty odor in the air, we may notice that things haven’t changed much. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest remains a formidable foe (it has earned nearly $300 million in less than two weeks and is still taking in more than $7 mil per weekday). It may well finish at No. 1 again. But let’s take a quick run through what else we’ve got.

Warner Bros. is distributing its third major summer movie, M. Night Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water, and, boy, how times have changed for M.N.S. It sure says a lot about his diminishing box office prospects when the director of smashes like The Sixth Sense and Signs has a slew of movies coming out against him. I guess nobody was scared off of this date. After all, it’s been a while since M.N.S. made Sense…or any sense…or many cents. His last film, The Village, debuted well with $50.7 mil two years ago, but it then suffered a now-legendary 67.5 percent drop due to bad word of mouth. Similar problems plague LITW: Disney considered it such a dubious project that they let M.N.S. take it to Warner Bros., and its early reviews have been very harsh (as of Thursday it registered an embarrassing 19 percent ”fresh” rating on rottentomatoes.com). Also, it’s opening in 3,235 locations — 495 fewer than The Village first played in. Add it all up and we’re looking at a $32 mil bow this weekend. That’s very solid by most standards, though a little soft considering the M.N.S. track record.

By releasing the CG kiddie flick Monster House in a substantial 3,553 theaters, Sony is betting that by now most tots have seen POTC:DMC and Cars and they’re ready for something new. (What’s more, they also don’t read reviews, so a middling critical response shouldn’t be a problem.) The movie appears to have a lot of buzz in the under-13 community, and while it may not open with Pixar-like numbers, a solid $28 mil premiere will come.

The flick that many folks have been waiting for, Kevin Smith’s Clerks II, is finally here, more than a decade after the cheapie Clerks became an indie-world sensation. The film comes from the Weinstein Company via MGM, and it appears in 2,150 venues. Despite the loud griping of a certain Good Morning America critic, CII has actually scored somewhat strong reviews: Right now, it’s enjoying a 60 percent ”fresh” rating. Of course, its hard R and moderate screen count, as well as Smith’s history of low-eight-figure debuts, will dampen its grosses a bit. But a solid $13 mil opening still should result.

My Super Ex-Girlfriend, from Fox, opens in 2,702 multiplexes already flooded in recent weeks by comedy fare. In fact, this movie’s star, Luke Wilson, will find his biggest competition in his brother Owen, whose You, Me and Dupree bowed solidly last week. And with Dupree and the other humorous holdover Little Man each earning about $11 mil, the squeeze will be on the remarkably buzz-less MSE-G, which also will take in just $11 mil.

So who will be No. 1? It’ll be close between LITW and POTC:DMC, for sure. If Disney’s pirate saga drops another 50 percent in its third weekend, it’ll come in a few bucks behind. But if it can hold just a few more viewers, it’ll earn $33 mil — good enough to boost its total well over $300 mil and to take the top spot once again. I can’t hide the fact that my spyglass is a little foggy this week, but that’s what I see.

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Clerks II

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  • Movie
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mpaa
  • R
runtime
  • 97 minutes
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