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Movie projector: As sixth 'Potter' starts to slip behind fifth, 'G-Force' and 'Ugly Truth' battle for No. 2

July 23, 2009 |  5:55 pm


Three movies are opening in theaters this weekend, but it's last week's opener, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," that likely will again be No. 1 at the box office.

Nonetheless, "Half-Blood Prince" is starting to show signs that it doesn't have the legs of the previous "Potter" film, based on ticket sales the past few days.

On its first three weekdays after a healthy $158-million five-day opening -- $20 million more than predecessor "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" -- the latest "Potter" film has sold $26.9 million worth of tickets in the U.S. and Canada.

"Order of the Phoenix," which opened at the same spot on the calendar two years ago, earned $28 million on the Monday-Wednesday after its opening. That film played on more IMAX screens, which carry higher ticket prices, but the approximately 8% increase in overall ticket prices during the past two years should balance that out.

On the other hand, exit polls were very strong, with audiences giving it an average grade of "A-," according to CinemaScore. So there's mixed evidence as to whether the new film will drop more than the 57% that "Order of the Phoenix" declined on its second weekend.

It's unlikely to drop more than 60%, however, meaning "Harry" will almost certainly gross more than $30 million and be No. 1 at the box office once again, because none of this weekend's three new pictures have breakout potential.

Disney's mix of live-action and computer-animated guinea pigs, "G-Force," has the best shot at No. 2 with opening-weekend ticket sales expected in the mid-$20 millions, according to industry executives with access to pre-release audience polling. That's only a so-so start for an effects-heavy film, which tends to cost more. But given that the audience will consist primarily of families, the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced picture should enjoy strong weekday grosses as well with kids out of school.Orphan

Sony's romantic comedy "The Ugly Truth" will likely be close behind "G-Force" in the low $20 millions. That would be a solid start as it cost $38 million to produce.

The weekend's third new movie is "The Orphan," a horror flick that Warner Bros. is distributing and marketing for Dark Castle Entertainment, which financed the movie. The low-cost movie is expected to have a decent start in the low to midteen millions.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: "G-Force." Credit: Disney Enterprises. Isabelle Furhman and Vera Farmiga, left, in "The Orphan." Credit: Rafy, AP.