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Movie Projector: New 'Footloose' could dance circles around rivals

October 13, 2011 | 12:46 pm

Footloose

Nearly three decades after the original “Footloose” became a cultural phenomenon, a remake of the ’80s dance flick may shimmy its way back to the top of the box office this weekend.

The film is expected to open with close to $20 million, according to people who have seen pre-release audience pollings. That gives it a good shot at claiming the No. 1 spot over "Real Steel," the robot boxing action movie that debuted with $27.3 million last weekend. Starring Hugh Jackman, the picture is expected to bring in an additional $16 million or so this round.

Another reboot from the '80s, the sci-fi horror film "The Thing," is likely to start off with around $14 million. But the other new wide release, "The Big Year," starring Steve Martin, Owen Wilson and Jack Black, could prove to be one of the biggest flops of the year. Despite its moderate budget, the comedy may only sell around $5 million worth of tickets.

The original “Footloose,” about a group of teenagers faced with a dance ban in a their small town, was released in 1984. A career-making turn for its star Kevin Bacon, the film became a sleeper hit, grossing over $80 million worldwide.

Tracking surveys on Thursday indicated that the new version was generating especially strong interest among young females, meaning the movie could end up with an opening weekend gross in the high-teens. But a representative for Paramount, which produced the film, said the studio expects an opening closer to $15 million.

To boost word of mouth about the reboot –- which had a modest production budget of about $24 million -- Paramount sent the film’s mostly unknown cast on a cross-country promotional tour in over a dozen cities. On a Friday this month, the studio also offered free screenings of the Craig Brewer-directed movie in 25 markets nationwide to further build buzz.

In addition to attracting younger females, the film could resonate with women in their 40s who are nostalgic for the original version. Last weekend, the film opened in New Zealand and Australia, grossing a total of just over $1 million in the countries. It will open this weekend in five additional foreign markets.

“The Thing," billed as a prequel to the 1982 John Carpenter-directed film, probably will appeal to a mostly male crowd. The movie, about a team in Antarctica attempting to find the origins of an alien creature, was financed by Universal Pictures for about $38 million.

Overseas, where Universal is distributing the picture on behalf of Morgan Creek Productions, "The Thing" will open in five countries this weekend, including Australia and France.

20th Century Fox's "The Big Year" may boast three top comedy stars, but the studio will have little else to brag about after the film's potentially dismal opening weekend. The movie, about three competitive bird watchers, is poised to have one of the lowest openings of any major studio release this year.

The movie, co-financed by 20th Century Fox and Dune Entertainment, was relatively inexpensive to produce -- about $41 million before Canadian tax credits. However, if its opening weekend is as low as expected, its financial backers will lose millions of dollars.

Martin, Wilson and Black have promoted the movie on a number of popular television talk shows, including "Good Morning America" and "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." But because the film centers around bird watching -- on the surface, perhaps not the most scintillating of subjects -- it will likely be a tough sell for audiences.

In limited release, Sony Pictures Classics will open director Pedro Almodóvar's latest film "The Skin I Live In," in one theater in New York and another in Los Angeles. Lions Gate's joint venture with Mexico's Televisa, Pantelion, will open the Spanish-language romantic comedy "Labios Rojos" in 67 theaters.

RELATED:

Craig Brewer in step with 'Footloose'

Box Office: Clooney no match for Jackman's 'Steel' [Video]

‘The Thing’: Mary Elizabeth Winstead on living up to John Carpenter’s legacy

-- Amy Kaufman

twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Julianne Hough, center, stars with Kenny Wormald in "Footloose." Credit: Paramount.

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