'Rite,' 'Mechanic' to open as 'King's Speech' gains momentum

Ben Fritz
Los Angeles Times (MCT)

LOS ANGELES — Two new movies will compete against a royal rival this weekend.

"The King's Speech," which just scooped up 12 Oscar nominations, is expanding its run and is expected to contend for the top box-office spot alongside a pair of new releases: "The Rite," starring Anthony Hopkins, and the Jason Statham action vehicle "The Mechanic."

Pre-release surveys indicate that "The Rite" is most likely to win the weekend with ticket sales of $15 million to $20 million, with most interest coming from adult males. That would be a decent but not great start, given that Warner Bros.' movie unit New Line Cinema spent $37 million to produce the picture.

"The Mechanic" is the fourth release from CBS Films, the struggling one-year-old mini-studio that's still awaiting its first hit. The remake of the 1972 Charles Bronson movie appears unlikely to fit that bill, though it probably won't flop either.

CBS paid only about $5 million for rights to distribute the picture domestically, which is expected to open at about $10 million.

After getting more Academy Award nominations than any other movie Tuesday, Weinstein Co.'s "The King's Speech" jumped from the No. 3 movie in ticket sales to No. 2 on Tuesday, behind "No Strings Attached," and became the most popular film on Web ticket seller Fandango. On Friday its run will grow to about 2,500 theaters from 1,680, giving it a good shot at grossing more than $10 million this weekend for the first time.

Several other movies with best picture nominations will also expand their presence this weekend. "127 Hours," which has been playing in fewer than 100 theaters for the last month, will jump to nearly 1,000. Distributor Fox Searchlight is hoping to boost the meager $11.3 million box-office total of the low-budget drama starring James Franco.

And Roadside Attractions is rereleasing the dark independent drama "Winter's Bone," which reached only $6.3 million in ticket sales last summer, at a handful of theaters in big cities including Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. Because the film is already out on DVD, its theatrical prospects are limited.

This weekend will also see the first movie release from Pantelion, a joint venture between Lions Gate Entertainment and Mexican media giant Televisa to make pictures for Latino audiences. The comedy "From Prada to Nada" debuts in 256 theaters, in cities with large Latino populations.

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