Super Bowl likely to intercept filmgoers

Ben Fritz and Amy Kaufman
Los Angeles Times (MCT)

LOS ANGELES — Super Bowl weekend is never a big hit at the box office, but it probably will be particularly low-scoring for films this year.

Two new movies — the thriller "The Roommate" and "Sanctum," the 3-D underwater adventure produced by James Cameron — are expected to have weak openings this weekend.

"The Roommate," which stars "Gossip Girl" actress Leighton Meester, probably will be No. 1, but probably won't have an impressive premiere. According to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys, the college-set horror film should open with $12 million to $15 million in ticket sales, mostly to young women.

"Sanctum," meanwhile, is appealing mostly to men and should have an opening of less than $10 million.

Both movies will have to sell the majority of their tickets Friday and Saturday, because most Americans will be more interested in the Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers and commercials on Super Bowl Sunday.

"The Roommate" was produced by Sony Pictures' low-budget genre label Screen Gems at a cost of $16 million. Still, its projected opening is on the low end of a typical launch for the film unit.

A year ago, Screen Gems' thriller "Legion" premiered to $17.5 million.

The main selling point for "Sanctum," which features an unknown Australian cast, has been Cameron.

Although he only produced the movie, the "Avatar" director has done interviews and recently started a Twitter account to promote the film.

Distributor Universal Pictures and its partner, Relativity Media, paid about $12 million for rights to distribute the movie domestically and in several foreign countries.

Given the film's underwhelming prospects in the U.S. and Canada, its backers are undoubtedly hoping it will perform better in Britain and Australia, where it also opens this weekend.

The recent Oscar nominations might also have an effect on ticket sales. Last weekend, several contenders, including "The King's Speech" and "True Grit," received a significant boost from their multiple Academy Awards nods. Interest in Hollywood's most watched awards race — with Oscar night only three weeks away — could again bolster the box-office receipts of several nominated films.

Natalie Portman already has two movies in release, the Oscar-nominated "Black Swan" and the romantic comedy "No Strings Attached," and fans will have yet another opportunity to see her this weekend. "The Other Woman," a poorly reviewed drama that has been on video on demand since Jan. 1, opens in limited release.





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