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MOVIE PROJECTOR

Five films have a shot at No. 1 at the box office

New releases 'The Lincoln Lawyer,' 'Limitless' and 'Paul' are expected to be in a tight race with the last two winners, 'Battle: Los Angeles' and 'Rango.'

March 18, 2011|By Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times
  • John Leguizamo and Matthew McConaughey get physical in "The Lincoln Lawyer," which cost about $40 million to produce.
John Leguizamo and Matthew McConaughey get physical in "The Lincoln… (Lionsgate )

Matthew McConaughey, Bradley Cooper or ... an alien?

Each will carry a new film at the box office this weekend, but moviegoers may have a difficult time choosing among the two handsome leading men and a decidedly less attractive protagonist.

According to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys, McConaughey's "The Lincoln Lawyer," Cooper's "Limitless" and "Paul," which centers on an extraterrestrial, are in a tight race for the No. 1 spot. All will probably gross $10 million to $15 million.

The new releases, however, still face competition from last weekend's top-grossing film, "Battle: Los Angeles," which premiered with $35.6 million. Like most action movies, the Sony Pictures release should drop about 50% to 60% on its second weekend, which means the picture could continue its dominance. Paramount's animated film "Rango," which is entering its third weekend in theaters with a tally of more than $73 million, will probably see ticket sales fall about 40%. So it too could be among the weekend's highest-grossing films.

"The Lincoln Lawyer," in which McConaughey stars as an attorney who runs his practice from the back of his car, is the only new release generating interest among older females. That's probably because McConaughey has starred in a number of romantic comedies, most recently in "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" and "Fool's Gold."

But older audiences don't typically rush out to see new films on their first weekend, which means that young males interested in "Paul" and "Limitless" could propel one of those two films to the top of the box-office charts.

"The Lincoln Lawyer," which cost about $40 million to produce, was primarily financed by Lakeshore Entertainment with a smaller investment by distributor Lionsgate. This week, Lionsgate announced it had partnered with daily deal site Groupon to offer $6 tickets to the favorably reviewed film through Fandango this weekend. As of midday Thursday, 9,280 users had purchased the deal on Groupon's Los Angeles site.

"Limitless," a psychological thriller that costars Robert De Niro, cost $27 million to produce, director Neil Burger said. Financier Relativity Media covered much of its investment by pre-selling foreign distribution rights to the picture, a person familiar with the film's financing said.

The movie is the first production from Richard Branson's fledgling company Virgin Produced, which was founded last summer.

"Paul," the latest comedy from "Shaun of the Dead" costars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, was co-financed by Relativity and distributor Universal Pictures for about $40 million. The movie, which was co-written by Pegg and Frost and directed by Greg Mottola, had a strong start in Britain in mid-February with the third-biggest opening there this year behind "Tangled" and "The King's Speech."

The film took in just slightly less than the opening of 2007's "Hot Fuzz," in which Pegg and Frost also acted and which Pegg co-wrote. "Hot Fuzz" went on to gross $41.2 million in Britain and Ireland and $23.6 million domestically.

"Paul," about two comic book nerds who encounter a space creature, has already grossed $25.7 million in four foreign markets and has yet to open in 54 areas. It will launch in Russia next weekend, followed by South Korea and Australia next month.

In limited release, Fox Searchlight will premiere "Win Win," starring Paul Giamatti as a wrestling coach, in five theaters. "Jane Eyre," which last weekend opened to the highest per-theater average of any film in limited release so far this year, will be expanded to 26 theaters from four.

amy.kaufman@latimes.com

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