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Timing of opening date could give 'Eagle' a soaring launch

September 26, 2008|Josh Friedman | Times Staff Writer

The summer popcorn movie season ended weeks ago. Or did it?

DreamWorks/Paramount's "Eagle Eye," a techno-thriller starring Shia LaBeouf, could reap the first opening-weekend gross above $30 million since early August, when "The Mummy: Curse of the Crystal Dragon Whatever" came out.

Box-office revenue in the U.S. and Canada has been down for eight of the last nine weekends, but the PG-13-rated "Eagle Eye," opening at 3,510 theaters including 86 Imax locations, might help Hollywood snap out of its funk.

Produced for a little more than $80 million, the race-against-time thriller is pulling from all demographics in consumer tracking and figures to easily outsell today's other major releases, "Nights in Rodanthe" and "Miracle at St. Anna."

"Rodanthe," from Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Ltd., stars Richard Gere and Diane Lane as, um, seasoned lovebirds in a romance that appears to be adapted from either a Nicholas Sparks novel or a Lands' End catalog. "Miracle at St. Anna," from Disney's Touchstone Pictures and director Spike Lee, is an earnest drama about World War II's unsung black heroes that, at 160 minutes, is not nearly as long as the war itself.

"Eagle Eye," a re-teaming of LaBeouf and "Disturbia" director D.J. Caruso, had been slated for an Aug. 8 release. Caruso was surprised when Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore told him the film, in which LaBeouf and Michelle Monaghan play civilians snared in a Big Brother-style conspiracy, was being moved to late September.

"I wondered, 'Have I been demoted?' " Caruso said. "But Rob felt like our movie might have been crowded out with all the competition in August. This is kind of an experiment about whether a summer action-adventure movie can work in the early fall."

Caruso said September "can be a very scary month," calling it a time when studios often "take a chance" on pictures with dicey prospects (a less-diplomatic filmmaker might have used the term "dump"). But Caruso said Moore did him right with the modestly budgeted "Disturbia," which opened in April 2007, comfortably ahead of the summer crush, and ranked No. 1 for three straight weeks.

"I hear people talking now about how they want the 'Disturbia' date for their movie," Caruso said. "I hope next year they're saying they want the 'Eagle Eye' date."

Moore called it a trade-off to shift out of the bustling summer, saying the softer spot should help "Eagle Eye." "The marketplace is smaller but the competitive environment is so much better," he said.

The PG-13-rated "Nights in Rodanthe," opening at 2,704 theaters, has the pedigree to become an estrogen-powered success despite mixed reviews. It reunites the glamour duo from 2002's "Unfaithful" and brings a built-in audience devoted to Sparks, whose novel "The Notebook" was adapted into a four-hankie hit in 2004.

"Rodanthe," as expected, is tracking well with women: In the Projector household, for example, 100% of females over 25 want to see it. Expect an opening in the $10-million vicinity.

The R-rated "St. Anna," however, has soft tracking, equally mixed reviews and a relatively small screen count, at 1,185 theaters, so a mid-single-digit launch looks likely.




Weekend Forecast

The thriller "Eagle Eye" should dominate this weekend's box office. Along with the films listed below, contenders to make the top 10 include "The Women" and "Ghost Town." These figures are The Times' predictions. Studios will issue weekend estimates on Sunday and results Monday.

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

1 Eagle Eye $30.7 $30.7 1 (DreamWorks/Paramount)

2 Nights in Rodanthe (Warner 9.8 9.8 1 Bros.)

3 Lakeview Terrace (Sony) 7.7 26.4 2

4 Burn After Reading (Focus) 6.6 46.0 3

5 Miracle at St. Anna (Disney) 5.8 5.8 1

6 Igor (MGM) 4.7 13.5 2

7 My Best Friend's Girl 4.4 15.2 2 (Lionsgate)

8 Righteous Kill (Overture) 3.9 34.9 3

9 The Family That Preys 3.3 32.9 3 (Lionsgate)

10 Fireproof (Samuel Goldwyn) 3.3 3.3 1 *--*


Source: Times research


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