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MOVIE PROJECTOR

'Bangkok' poses danger to 'Tropic'

The late-summer thriller is the sole major release hitting the nation's theaters this weekend.

September 05, 2008|Josh Friedman | Times Staff Writer

Both political parties have staged star-spangled, attack-filled conventions, ensuring a lively start to the fall election season. Pro football kicks off with a full schedule of games from Thursday through Monday, including rivalry match-ups that promise plenty of smash-mouth action.

But the fall movie season starts today in more subdued style, with a sole major release hitting the nation's multiplexes: Lionsgate's "Bangkok Dangerous," starring Nicolas Cage and his Hollywood hair. Tracking points to a $10-million opening for the R-rated thriller, which was financed by Initial Entertainment Group (reportedly for about $45 million) and produced by Cage's Saturn Films as well as Blue Star Entertainment.

Lionsgate, which acquired North American rights, originally had slated "Bangkok Dangerous" for Aug. 22, hoping to stand out against a throng of late-summer comedies.

But when Universal Pictures plunked another adrenaline-charged thriller, "Death Race," onto that release date in a bid for late-summer business, Lionsgate looked for a cushier spot rather than duke it out for the same, mostly male audience.

The weekend after Labor Day is usually one of the slowest moviegoing periods of the year, with customers in back-to-school, back-to-work and, of course, back-to-watching-football mode.

Last year, Lionsgate took advantage of the post-holiday lull with its western "3:10 to Yuma," pitting the Russell Crowe film against only one other wide release. "Yuma" opened to $14 million, good enough to top the charts, then rode word of mouth and the marketing bump that always comes with being advertised as "the No. 1 movie in America" to an ultimate total of $53.6 million at the domestic box office -- or almost four times its first-weekend gross.

"We'd rather be a big fish in a smaller sea than a small fish in a bigger sea," said Steve Rothenberg, president of distribution at Lionsgate. "Last year we were pretty much the lone gun and it worked out. Our hope is that by opening alone, enough people will sample 'Bangkok Dangerous' so that if the word of mouth is good it will hold up even with genre films like 'Righteous Kill' and 'Lakeview Terrace' coming out in the following weeks."

Overture Films' "Righteous Kill," a crime thriller re-teaming "Heat" stars Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, shapes up as one of next weekend's strongest releases.

"Lakeview Terrace," coming in two weeks from Sony Pictures' Screen Gems division, stars Samuel L. Jackson as a tightly wound cop who harasses the interracial couple next door.

"Bangkok Dangerous," directed by the Pang brothers, is an English-language remake of their 1999 film from Thailand, the breakthrough that helped them build a following among fans of stylized action fare. Cage plays a coldblooded assassin who travels to Thailand to wipe out a series of targets.

The movie, opening today at 2,650 theaters in the U.S. and Canada, should unseat the DreamWorks/Paramount action comedy "Tropic Thunder," which topped the box office during the last three weekends of summer but probably will slide to No. 2.

In the wake of last weekend's "Disaster Movie," however, Lionsgate can only be cautiously optimistic. The company thought it had a shot at No. 1 over the holiday weekend with the silly spoof, but genre fatigue led to a disastrous $6.9-million opening.

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josh.friedman@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Weekend Forecast

"Bangkok Dangerous" could unseat "Tropic Thunder" atop the box office. Along with the films listed below, contenders to make the top 10 include "Pineapple Express." These figures are The Times' predictions. Studios will issue weekend estimates Sunday and actual results Monday.

*--* Movie 3-day Through the Weeks prediction (studio) (millions) weekend

1 Bangkok Dangerous (Lionsgate) $10.4 $10.4 1

2 Tropic Thunder 7.7 97.0 4 (DreamWorks/Paramount)

3 The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.) 5.7 512.2 8

4 Traitor (Overture) 4.9 17.9 2

5 The House Bunny (Sony) 4.4 35.5 3

6 Babylon A.D. (20th Century Fox) 3.9 17.1 2

7 Death Race (Universal) 3.5 29.7 3

8 Mamma Mia (Universal) 2.8 136.3 8

9 Disaster Movie (Lionsgate) 2.4 10.0 2

10 Vicky Cristina Barcelona (MGM) 2.1 16.0 4 *--*

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Source: Times research

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Los Angeles Times

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