''The Wedding Planner'' battles ''Save the Last Dance'' | EW.com


''The Wedding Planner'' battles ''Save the Last Dance''

J. Lo should outearn Julia Stiles at the weekend box office

Jennifer Lopez

”Save the Last Dance” may have taken its final turn atop the movie chart. The Julia Stiles teen romance has earned an impressive $48.7 million since opening at No. 1 two weeks ago, but it faces tough competition this Super Bowl weekend from two new wide releases, the Jennifer Lopez/ Matthew McConaughey comedy ”The Wedding Planner” and the high school satire ”Sugar & Spice.”

All three female friendly pics are likely to fare well during the big game, when women traditionally flock to theaters while guys stay glued to the tube. ”If you have a female aimed picture [during Super Bowl weekend], you have a decent shot at winning the box office,” Dan Marks, executive VP of ACNielson, tells EW.com.

Lopez’s constant presence in the news (and her TV publicity blitz) makes ”Planner” the likeliest victor, Marks says. Not only has the singer/ actress’ romantic life been a source of much recent tabloid discussion, her new single, ”Love Don’t Cost a Thing,” is No. 4 on the Billboard chart. ”[The song] really helps draw the youth audience,” Marks says. ”They’re really tuned into those things.”

Moreover, Lopez’s last flick, ”The Cell,” opened at $17.5 million – a good indication that the queen of most media has the star power to lead a film to the No. 1 spot. Gitesh Pandya of boxofficeguru.com thinks ”Planner” could earn as much as $18 million. Robert Bucksbaum of tracking firm Reel Source is more conservative. He says the film will debut at $14 to $15 million. ”We think it’s going to open at No. 1 easily,” says Bucksbaum, ”but the Super Bowl tends to decimate the box office,” so numbers overall will be down.

”Spice” will also cut into ”Planner”’s take among women. The Clearasil set flick lacks the J. Lo. prerelease buzz, but its hot young cast (”American Pie”’s Mena Suvari and ”X-Men”’s James Marsden) and offbeat story line (a gang of dark hearted cheerleaders turn to bankrobbing) could help it generate $8 - 11 million, analysts say. This means it will probably vie for the No. 2 spot with ”Dance,” which is also expected to gross $8 - 10 million.

But don’t expect ”Dance” to move too far from center stage. Marks credits its early success to a lack of teen drawing competition (”That audience was hungry – they were starved,” he says). And positive word of mouth has helped the film continue to cash in. ”It isn’t just a flash in the pan,” Marks admits. In fact, some say it’s the best thing since chocolate milk came to the school cafeteria.