Two-time Oscar winner Jodie Foster returns to the big screen this weekend in the vigilante thriller The Brave One which has its sights set on an easy top spot debut. The frame’s only other wide openers, the comedy Mr. Woodcock and the fantasy adventure Dragon Wars, bring with them less buzz and look to make less of a dent into the North American box office.

Gunning for her third number one hit in as many years, Foster takes a darker role starring as a woman who takes the law into her own hands after her fiancé is brutally beaten and killed in the Warner Bros. drama The Brave One. The R-rated film from director Neil Jordan (The Crying Game, Interview with the Vampire) co-stars Terrence Howard, Naveen Andrews, and Mary Steenburgen and should play to an adult audience. Cross-gender appeal is strong here so this will not play out like a chick flick or a woman-in-peril film. Foster is one of very few women in Hollywood bankable enough to open pictures consistently year after year and she tends to pick projects with commercial viability in the first place. Gone are the Nell days.

The Brave One should play to the same crowd that came out for two other September thrillers led by fortysomething white women – Foster’s own Flightplan from 2005 and Julianne Moore‘s The Forgotten from a year earlier. Flightplan took off with $24.6M and a $7,193 average while Forgotten bowed to $21M and a $6,773 average. Brave carries a harsher R rating but that should not affect the grosses too much since most of the interest will come from those over 16 anyway. A more narrow release in 2,755 theaters will have an impact though. Marketing has been top notch and Foster has been making so many promotional appearances that you’d think her name were Hillary. Despite a bad title, The Brave One should still score a strong opening weekend in the number one spot and could gross about $22M over three days.

Jodie Foster is The Brave One.

Seann William Scott and Billy Bob Thornton compete over who has the best three names in the biz in the new comedy Mr. Woodcock. The PG-13 film finds a young man whose life is traumatized when his mother decides to marry his old nemesis, the junior high gym teacher. The New Line release does offer up some starpower from the two leads plus Susan Sarandon as the remarrying mom. Hopes are for a wide age range to take interest. But the buzz around the picture is not too strong and it is not exactly at the top of the must-see list at this moment for teens and young adults. The Thornton-Sarandon crowd will be hard to reach with Jodie and Russell out there with high profile flicks for mature adults. Crashing into over 2,200 locations, Mr. Woodcock could debut with about $6M.

Billy Bob Thornton is Mr. Woodcock.

The forces of good and evil go at it once again in the new fantasy adventure Dragon Wars from Freestyle Releasing. The PG-13 pic hopes to tear young males away from their PlayStations, but with zero starpower and a light marketing push the grosses and averages will not fly too high. After a big wave of good summer action movies targeted this demo, a series of bad ones went after young guys too in recent weeks. That leaves little space at the multiplexes. Debuting in a curiously wide 2,000 theaters, Dragon Wars could collect about $4M this weekend.

The Korean sci-fi/thriller Dragon Wars a.k.a. D-War

Audiences have been upbeat on the Russell CroweChristian Bale Western 3:10 to Yuma and its older skew should mean that the sophomore drop will not be too fierce. Plus competition for adult men is not very formidable. A 40% decline to $8.5M could result giving Lionsgate about $28M after ten days.

Halloween‘s freefall means it will be out of theaters by the time trick-or-treating begins. A 55% drop would lead to a $4M frame and a 17-day tally of $50M. Superbad should continue its strong run with a 40% dip to $3M which would boost Sony’s total to $109M.

LAST YEAR: The Rock‘s football drama Gridiron Gang from Sony led a batch of new films with a debut of $14.4M which was good enough to clinch first place. Opening in second and playing to a more mature adult audience was The Black Dahlia with $10M for Universal. Final grosses reached $38.4M and $22.5M. Bowing poorly in third was the baseball toon Everyone’s Hero with $6.1M for Fox on its way to just $14.5M. Sony’s teen thriller The Covenant dropped from first to fourth with $4.8M while Paramount’s The Last Kiss opened quietly in fifth with $4.6M leading to a $11.6M final.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,

Young men returned to theaters in droves and powered the crude new stunts sequel Jackass: Number Two to the number one spot with the biggest opening weekend of any film in the past seven weeks. The martial arts actioner Fearless debuted impressively in second place playing to young men as well, but the new older-skewing period dramas Flyboys and All the King’s Men were mostly ignored.

Holdovers enjoyed small declines as the overall marketplace bounced back after two dismal weeks, even though ticket sales failed to reach last year’s levels for the third consecutive weekend.

Paramount scored a major victory with the chart-topping performance of Jackass: Number Two which grossed an estimated $28.1M in its first weekend in theaters. Crashing into 3,059 locations, the R-rated comedy averaged a stellar $9,188 per theater. Its predecessor, Jackass: The Movie, was a surprise number one hit in October 2002 with a $22.8M bow from 2,509 theaters and a similar $9,073 average. It went on to gross a fantastic $64.3M from a slim $5M budget. Number Two was produced for just under $12M and looks to become another highly profitable title for the studio proving that the franchise is still alive and well. The films are based on the popular MTV prank series.

With six historical films in the top ten, young movie fans were not in the mood to learn about yesterday and instead chose the immature and outrageous antics of present day jokester Johnny Knoxville and pals. Studio research showed that young men were the core audience, as expected. Those under the age of 25 made up a hefty 70% of the crowd and males accounted for 65%. Jackass also delivered the second biggest opening of the year for an R film trailing the $29M bow of March’s Inside Man. Critics were surprisingly upbeat with their reviews of Number Two.

Jet Li‘s Fearless flew into the number two spot over the weekend opening to an estimated $10.6M from 1,808 theaters with a solid $5,843 average. The PG-13 film about China’s most famous fighter from a century ago was marketed as the action star’s final martial arts picture ever and helped to get his loyal fan base out into the theaters. The Focus release marks Li’s seventh consecutive film to debut with an opening weekend average of more than $5,000. Critics were quite pleased with the Mandarin-language picture. Fearless opened in Hong Kong and most of Asia early this year and has kicked its way into other major markets like Australia, New Zealand, and France in recent weeks.

Dropping from first to third was The Rock‘s football drama Gridiron Gang which grossed an estimated $9.7M in its second play. The Sony sports flick held up exceptionally well considering the weekend’s formidable competition for male dollars and slipped only 33%. The Rock’s movies usually fall by at least 45% in their sophomore frames. After ten days, the $30M feel-good film has grossed $27.2M and should rush past the $50M mark domestically. Even though Gridiron began with the weakest opening ever for the actor, it looks to become his highest grossing film since 2002’s The Scorpion King ($90.5M) thanks to strong legs and positive word-of-mouth.

MGM’s Flyboys took off in fourth place with an estimated $6M from 2,033 theaters. The PG-13 pic about American fighter pilots during World War I averaged a mild $2,957 per theater. Starring James Franco, the adventure film skewed older as a very high 73% of the audience was over the age of 30. Men made up 59% of the crowd and reviews were not too favorable. Flyboys is the third consecutive period drama in as many weeks that has failed to excite today’s moviegoing public following disappointing results from competing Los Angeles-based murder mysteries The Black Dahlia and Hollywoodland.

A pair of not-so-strong sophomores followed. The animated baseball flick Everyone’s Hero grossed an estimated $4.8M, down just 22%, and raised its ten-day tally to $11.6M. Fox could finish with around $25M. Universal’s crime thriller The Black Dahlia crumbled 56% to an estimated $4.4M dropping from second place to sixth. The $60M Brian De Palma entry has taken in just $17.3M and might end up with a disappointing $25M as well.

Sony saw low voter turnout for its political thriller All the King’s Men which was defeated in a landslide this weekend opening to a poor $3.8M, according to estimates. Averaging a weak $2,510 from 1,514 locations, the PG-13 film stars Sean Penn as an outspoken politician who runs for governor of Louisiana. Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Anthony Hopkins and James Gandolfini co-star. The studio had high hopes for this remake of a Best Picture Oscar winner, but instead met with awful reviews across the board from critics which helped to fuel negative buzz. Only older adults had interest as studio research showed that a whopping 75% of the audience was 35 or older and 53% were women. All the King’s Men is just the latest in a series of historical films that Hollywood has been rolling out this fall that have had moviegoers yawning.

The supernatural chiller The Covenant dropped only 31% to an estimated $3.3M with a sum of $20.3M for Sony. For the fourth consecutive weekend, the long-lasting hits The Illusionist and Little Miss Sunshine ranked back-to-back on the charts. Yari Film Group’s Vienna-set mystery eased a scant 10% to an estimated $3.3M pushing its total to $27.5M. Fox Searchlight’s comedy smash slipped just 13% to an estimated $2.9M lifting the cume to $50.3M.

In limited release action, Warner Independent saw stellar results from its surreal drama The Science of Sleep which bowed to an estimated $347,000 from only 14 theaters for a sparkling $24,786 average. Directed by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), the R-rated film scored good reviews and will expand to over 200 theaters on Friday in most major markets. Miramax saw a so-so start for its animated noir Renaissance which debuted to an estimated $10,000 from a pair of solo engagements in New York and Los Angeles for a mild $5,200 average.

Four more pictures were pushed out of the top ten this weekend. Two-time chart-topper Invincible grossed an estimated $2.6M in its fifth session. Off 36%, the Mark Wahlberg football pic has collected a solid $54.8M to date and might end up with around $60M for Buena Vista. The Zach Braff comedy The Last Kiss grossed an estimated $2.5M, down 45%, putting its ten-day total at a puny $8.5M. A final take of roughly $15M seems likely.

The murder mystery Hollywoodland fell 46% in its third frame to an estimated $1.5M for Focus. With only $12.9M in the bank, look for a weak $16M conclusion to its case. Lionsgate’s action thriller Crank tumbled 56% to an estimated $1.2M for a $26.6M cume. The Jason Statham pic should reach about $29M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $76.8M which was down 9% from last year when Flightplan debuted at number one with $24.6M; but up a healthy 38% from 2004 when The Forgotten opened in the top spot with $21M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,

Variety reports on a pretty exciting new project from director Matthew Vaughn ("Layer Cake"). The filmmaker will direct an adaptation of Neil Gaiman‘s "Stardust" for Paramount, and he’ll do it with the help of Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Claire Danes, among others, of course.

"Paramount has set Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Claire Danes, Charlie Cox and Sienna Miller to star in "Stardust," an adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel to be directed by Matthew Vaughn. Pic begins shooting in the U.K. and Iceland next month.

Story concerns a star-crossed youth from the English village of Wall who tries to win the heart of his true love by searching for a falling star and heading into a magical world where he must deal with a witch and a pirate.

Film will be the first for Vaughn since "Layer Cake," after he dropped out of the third X-Men pic for personal reasons. A majority of shooting will be done in the U.K."

Revolution Studios issued a press release that was kind enough to publicize, and here’s the scoop: The Joe Roth mystery thriller "Freedlomland," which is based on the novel by screenwriter/author Richard Price ("Sea of Love," "The Color of Money," "Clockers," and several others), has finished production and inched one step closer to your multiplex lobby.

Described as "a highly-charged and gritty mystery of a car hijacking, a missing child and a neighborhood torn asunder," the film stars Samuel L. Jackson ("Coach Carter"), Julianne Moore ("The Forgotten"), Edie Falco ("Sunshine State"), Ron Eldard ("Ghost Ship"), and Aunjanue Ellis ("Ray").

You may remember director Joe Roth from movies such as "Christmas with the Kranks," "America’s Sweethearts," and "Revenge of the Nerds 2: Nerds in Paradise" — but we won’t hold that against him; "Freedomland" still sounds pretty solid. But we won’t get to find out until next January!

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