Another wave of new releases hits the multiplexes across North America this weekend in hopes of capturing the final dollars of the summer movie season.

Leading the charge are Disney’s football tale "Invincible" for all audiences and the raunchy Warner Bros. comedy "Beerfest" aimed at young men. Music fans will get Universal’s "Idlewild" starring the OutKast duo while the New Line comedy "How to Eat Fried Worms" will play to school kids. Indie hit "Little Miss Sunshine" advances to another round in the box office pageant doubling its theatrical run in hopes of winning over new fans in all parts of the country. Overall, the marketplace looks to remain sluggish with moviegoers not being too impressed with Hollywood’s late-summer menu.

Mark Wahlberg hopes to score a box office touchdown this weekend with the football drama "Invincible" from Disney. The Good Vibrations rapper-turned-actor plays Vince Papale, a 30-year-old bartender who earns a spot on the starting lineup of the 1976 Philadelphia Eagles. With a PG rating and the studio’s brand name behind it, "Invincible" should play to a broad audience with men connecting to the sports angle, women responding to the emotional true story, and kids coming in for the inspirational underdog tale. The studio has devised a strong marketing promotion with the NFL which has been pushing the film to football fans during the pre-season.


Greg Kinnear and Mark Wahlberg in "Invincible"

Excitement does not match what the studio saw with "Remember the Titans" or what Universal had with "Friday Night Lights." Those fall football films opened with just over $20M a piece. But, "Invincible" does offer a feel-good story that could work for the moment. And Disney can crank out these uplifting sports dramas with its eyes closed. Wahlberg is hit or miss at the box office, but here he should add some decent starpower to the picture. And Greg Kinnear, who plays Coach Dick Vermeil here and also stars in "Little Miss Sunshine," will have a great weekend at the turnstiles allowing his agents to start asking for more bucks for future projects. Charging into more than 2,400 theaters, "Invincible" could live up to its name and score a top spot debut with around $14M.

The Broken Lizard group returns in "Beerfest," a new comedy about a group of American dudes who train to take on the Germans in a secret beer drinking competition in Munich. Warner Bros. is looking to target the frat boy crowd with this R-rated gross-out comedy. With lots of belching and the most shots of bare breasts of any movie released in theaters this year, the studio should hit its mark with older teens and twentysomethings. "Wedding Crashers" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" may have been doing brisk business at this time last year, but R-rated sex comedies with no stars often end up struggling at the box office before finding gold on DVD. Films like "The Girl Next Door," "Eurotrip," "Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle," and even Broken Lizard’s "Super Troopers" all opened in the $5-7M range. The troupe’s fan base has grown thanks to cable and video so "Beerfest" should benefit. Plus the studio is giving it a relatively strong push for an end-of-August flick. But it has also been a tough year for R flicks and there is plenty of competition for young males right now. Chugging down brews in over 2,800 theaters, "Beerfest" might drink down about $11M this weekend.


The Broken Lizard troupe is back in "Beerfest"

Andre Benjamin and Antwan A. Patton of the Grammy-winning hip hop act OutKast reunite for the new music-driven film "Idlewild" which also stars Terrence Howard, Cicely Tyson, Patti Labelle, and Ving Rhames. The R-rated drama about the goings-on at a Prohibition-era nightclub will have significant appeal to hardcore fans of the popular musical act and should see much of its business come from African American adult audiences. Casual fans who only know them as the "Hey Ya" guys are not likely to spend money on tickets. Last summer, "Hustle & Flow" played to a similar audience and bowed to $8M from 1,013 theaters for a solid $7,915 average. "Idlewild" is going out in about the same number of playdates and could end up in the same neighborhood. Debuting in 973 theaters, the Universal release could capture about $7M over the frame.


Outkast’s Big Boi in "Idlewild"

New Line offers up "How to Eat Fried Worms," the big-screen adaptation of the best-selling kids book.The PG-rated film is aimed at school children and the tween set with a pic filled with immature boy pranks. Last weekend’s top five lacked any movies for kids so "Worms" should not face too much direct competition. However, excitement might not be high enough to generate a large opening. Parents and children familiar with the book might take a trip to the local cinema for this one. But the real cash will be made on DVD. Opening in about 1,800 theaters, "How to Eat Fried Worms" could bow to around $6M this weekend.


New Line Cinema’s "How To Eat Fried Worms"

In limited release, Sony Classics opens its dramatic thriller "The Quiet" which stars Elisha Cuthbert as a popular cheerleader whose life changes when her parents adopt an orphaned deaf girl into the family. Edie Falco co-stars in the R-rated film which opens in six sites in New York and Los Angeles on Friday. Reviews have been mixed.

Last weekend, "Snakes on a Plane" eked out a victory atop the box office charts with a less-than-expected $15.2M bow. About half of that business was generated on Thursday night and Friday leaving little audience left for the days and weeks ahead. A steep drop is sure to occur this weekend now that the hype is all gone. Most people interested in "Snakes" in the first place have already gone and seen it. A 60% fall would leave New Line with a $6M weekend and a ten-day tally of $26M.

Will Ferrell has been satisfying audiences with "Talladega Nights" all month long. A 35% drop could result giving the Sony hit about $9M for the frame which would push the cume to $128M. A similar decline could be in the works for Paramount’s "World Trade Center" which may grab around $7M this weekend boosting its total to $56M.

The comedy sensation "Little Miss Sunshine" will more than double its run this weekend and further infiltrate theaters across the country. Fox Searchlight’s unstoppable hit will expand from 691 to over 1,400 locations on Friday and could collect about $7M in its fifth frame. That would put "Sunshine’s" cume at $22M putting it on course to become a bigger hit than "Snakes on a Plane" will be.

LAST YEAR: The Steve Carell surprise hit "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" enjoyed a small decline and held onto the top spot with $16.3M dropping only 24% in its second frame. Miramax opened its Matt Damon adventure "The Brothers Grimm" in second with $15.1M on its way to $37.9M. The airline thriller "Red Eye" followed with $10.3M with the revenge actioner "Four Brothers" in fourth place with $7.9M. Opening poorly in fifth was "The Cave" with $6.1M leading to a disappointing $14.9M finish. The teen flop "Undiscovered" opened to an embarrassing $676,000 from 1,304 theaters for a pathetic $518 average landing in the number 20 spot. The Lions Gate release ended up with a miserable $1.1M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

This week at the movies, we’ve got four underdog stories. An average Joe tries to play pro football ("Invincible," starring Mark Wahlberg), the new kid in school tries to ward off bullies by consuming soft-bodied invertebrates ("How to Eat Fried Worms"), a ragtag bunch tries to win an international keg-tapping contest ("Beerfest," starring Broken Lizard), and two struggling 1930s musicians try for a big break ("Idlewild," starring Outkast). What do the critics have to say?

Pity the poor Philly football fan. Despite some recent success, the Eagles haven’t had a championship season since 1960. I’ll bet a lot of residents of the City of Brotherly Love think they could do better themselves. Well, "Invincible" tells the true story of a guy who felt that way… and was right. Mark Wahlberg stars as an over-the-hill substitute teacher and bartender who shows up at an open tryout and wows coach Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear) with his speed and skills despite never playing ball in college. The critics say what could have been another clichéd sports drama is elevated by strong performances by Wahlberg and Kinnear, as well as a palpable sense of time and place. "Invincible" is at 74 percent on the Tomatometer.


"I am a star. I’m a star, I’m a star, I’m a star. I am a big, bright, shining star."

Despite a title that conjures images of a pre-teen "Fear Factor," the critics say "How to Eat Fried Worms" is actually quite tame — or quaint — compared with much of contemporary family fare. Although its youthful cast contribute solid performances, the critics say "Worms" doesn’t quite live up to the standard set by the classic children’s book of the same name. Still, they also say the film is good-natured fun for the kids. At 61 percent on the Tomatometer, "Worms" is a reasonably appetizing item on the cinematic menu.


Well, in France they eat snails….

Those Broken Lizard folks are at it again, with another gleefully juvenile movie that should appeal to their cult audience while confounding the critics. Sort of like "Dodgeball" for the pub set, "Beerfest" tells the tale of a group of misfits who take on the world in an international beer drinking contest. While critics concede that there are more than a few moments of boozy, tasteless fun, they also say the film, at 111 minutes, is a little too hit and miss to justify its running time. At 51 percent on the Tomatometer, "Beerfest" is a little too sudsy. Still, it’s the best reviewed Broken Lizard film, beating "Super Troopers," which scored 36 percent.


"Beerfest": More subtle, sophisticated humor from Broken Lizard

Ain’t nobody dope as Outkast — in the studio. The silver screen may be a different matter. Big Boi and Andre 3000 bring their Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik to a story set in the Depression era south in "Idlewild." Critics say that with the musical scenes, the cast are the type of people make the club get crunk. But, ah ha, what’s that fuss, then? Well, the scribes say there’s too little of Outkast’s power music electric revival, and the plot gets bogged down in clichés. At 52 percent on the Tomatometer, critics don’t love the way "Idlewild" moves — but don’t hate it either.


"Idlewild": "Crocodile on my feet/ Fox fur on my back/ Bowtie ’round my neck/ That’s why they call me the gangsta mack/ In the Cadillac."

Also in theaters this week in limited release: "Old Joy," an exploration of friendship starring indie darling Will Oldham, is at 100 percent; "LOL," a no-budget tale of hipsters and technology, is at 100 percent; "Princesas," a story of friendship between prostitutes in Madrid, is at 70 percent; "Rolling Family," sort of like an Argentine "Little Miss Sunshine," is at 63 percent; the Spanish sex comedy "Queens" is at 57 percent; and the Elisha Cuthbert/ Camilla Belle psychological thriller "The Quiet" is at 27 percent.

Recent Mark Wahlberg Movies:
————————————–
52% — Four Brothers (2005)
60% — I Heart Huckabees (2004)
73% — The Italian Job (2003)
33% — The Truth about Charlie (2002)
52% — Rock Star (2001)

Recent Big Boi and Andre 3000 Movies:
—————————————————
62% — ATL (2006)
52% — Four Brothers (2005)
29% — Be Cool (2005)

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