Box Office Preview

'Death Race' Revs Up for a Box Office Assault

The dog days of summer are here, moviegoers, but British man of action Jason Statham should have the muscle car to leave rivals eating dust

Jason Statham, Death Race | DEATH RACE Jason Statham's convicts-in-cars flick may steal Ben Stiller's 'Thunder'
DEATH RACE Jason Statham's convicts-in-cars flick may steal Ben Stiller's 'Thunder'

My goodness, an EW.com box office savant goes on vacation for a few weeks and the world turns upside down. Back in the world of multiplexes and Internets now, I'm learning that Star Wars is no longer the No. 2 top domestic grosser of all time, Seth Rogen may have to wait a little longer before his coronation as the next Will Ferrell, and Hollywood has started to dump a whole bunch of crapola in theaters now that we're in the end of August.

Oh, yes, it's gonna be a bummer of a weekend in box office land, as four of the seven major movie companies are releasing films they couldn't fit anywhere else on the calendar. I could hit you with my usual ''there'll be something for everyone this weekend,'' since the new releases include an R-rated action flick (Death Race), a family sports film (The Longshots), a college comedy (The House Bunny), and a farce featuring a star of The Office (The Rocker). But who would I be kidding? Most folks are going to be finishing their summer breaks and watching the end of the Olympics. Or playing EW.com's Summer Box Office Challenge game.

THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE

Death Race
Universal · R · 2,531 theaters · NEW
Jason Statham and three-time Oscar nominee Joan Allen (a.k.a. the former future Meryl Streep) star in a remake of the 1975 Roger Corman cult classic Death Race 2000. Sweet! Much as I poop on the August-September movie doldrums, Statham has emerged as the king of the late summer in recent years, with $10 million-ish debuts each for 2004's Cellular, 2005's The Transporter 2 (a $16.5 mil opener, in fact), 2006's Crank, and 2007's War. His Bank Job was also a $30.1 mil word-of-mouth success earlier this year. And if he's not enough of a draw, there's always this: exploding cars!
Weekend prediction: $17 million

Tropic Thunder
Paramount/DreamWorks · R · 3,352 theaters · 2nd weekend
Despite (or, perhaps, because of?) all that controversy, Ben Stiller's ensemble satire rolled into theaters and unseated The Dark Knight with a $25.8 mil premiere. But no need to quit while it's ahead, the comedy should hold strong with little substantial direct competition this weekend.
Weekend prediction: $14 million

The Longshots
MGM/Dimension · PG · 2,089 theaters · NEW
Keke Palmer, so great in the 2006 gem Akeelah and the Bee, plays a girl who leads a Pop Warner youth football team to victory in this fact-based tale, which stars Ice Cube as the coach. The gross could go either way here: Ordinarily, I'd say this low-buzz movie doesn't sound like much of a winner, but Ice Cube's devoted following and the success of similar fare (see: Dwayne Johnson's The Game Plan) mean it could score a touchdown.
Weekend prediction: $13 million

The Dark Knight
Warner Bros. · PG-13 · 3,163 theaters · 6th weekend
So completely dominant, with about $480 mil domestically and more than $800 mil worldwide, Christian Bale's comic-book movie is like the Usain Bolt of the multiplex.
Weekend prediction: $11 million

The House Bunny
Columbia · PG-13 · 2,714 theaters · NEW
In this high-concept comedy from Adam Sandler's production company and the writers of Legally Blonde, Anna Faris is a Playboy Bunny who teaches a lame sorority about boys. I can imagine it now, the debate that'll rage in your head this weekend: ''Shall I stay home to watch the team handball final tonight, or should I go see The House Bunny? Team handball or House Bunny? Uh...team handball!''
Weekend prediction: $6 million

THE OTHER NEW RELEASE

The Rocker
Fox · PG-13 · 2,784 theaters · NEW
The Office's Rainn Wilson plays a former would-be hair-metal rock god (got that?) who gets a second chance at awesomeness when he hooks up with his nephew's garage band. I'd go on, but the movie debuted on Wednesday to an abysmal $577,343, so it sure sounds as if Wilson will be jamming unplugged through Sunday.
Weekend prediction: $5 million

Originally posted Aug 22, 2008
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