Another week, another horror film. That’s the mantra in Hollywood at the moment. Among the four new films going into wide release this weekend are Sony’s terror tale "Vacancy" which represents the fourth scary flick in three weeks to hit the multiplexes.

Also debuting are New Line’s murder drama "Fracture," the Warner Bros. romantic drama "In the Land of Women," and the British action comedy "Hot Fuzz" all looking to help moviegoers kill some time as they await the return of the webslinger.

Sony offers a new batch of frights in its latest horror pic "Vacancy" starring Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale as a couple stranded at a dirty motel where occupants are filmed while being brutally killed. The studio is making the right move by selling the R-rated film on concept first, and starpower second. The marketing has been creepy and effective plus the plot is different and appealing. Horror fans are likely to take interest. But moviegoers have been bombarded with scary movies so much in recent weeks that you’d think it was October. Plus the harsh rating will keep out some of the younger teens who may want in on this action. Also a wildcard will be this week’s massacre at Virginia Tech as college students may not be in the mood at this moment for a movie about senseless killings.

Most of the business will depend on marketing and the campaign has been solid. It is very difficult nowadays to set your horror flick apart from all the other ones but "Vacancy" has done it right. Competition from "Disturbia" will be a factor, but older teens and young adults who like a good scare should line up in decent spring-like numbers. "Vacancy" opens in 2,551 theaters on Friday and could pull in around $14M over three days.


Kate Beckinsale and Luke Wilson are forced to snoop in "Vacancy."

Recent Oscar nominee Ryan Gosling plays an assistant district attorney prosecuting a man who murdered his wife, played by Academy Award winner Anthony Hopkins, in the new courtroom thriller "Fracture." The New Line release will play to a mature adult audience which puts it in a strong position given all the films targeting teens and young adults at the moment. Both actors are well-respected, however they are not necessarily box office powers. Hopkins has done well when he’s playing a cannibal, but otherwise his track record is spotty when anchoring a film with no other major commercial draws. Reviews have been somewhat positive which could help a tad. "Fracture" debuts in about 2,400 theaters and may collect roughly $12M over the frame.


Ryan Gosling wishes there was a time limit in "Fracture."

Warner Bros. goes after the ladies with the weekend’s only PG-13 entry "In the Land of Women." Written and directed by actor-turned-filmmaker Jonathan Kasdan, the romantic drama stars "The O.C."’s Adam Brody along with Meg Ryan and Olympia Dukakis in the story of a young man who learns the complexities of the other sex while caring for his ailing granny. Male appeal will be close to zero. That means that "Disturbia," which is playing very well with teenage girls, will be a major competitor here. Aside from that, there aren’t too many direct threats however the overall marketing push has not been very loud on "Women." Landing in 2,155 theaters, "In the Land of Women" might capture about $8M for the weekend.


An Adam Brody sandwich, courtesy of "In the Land of Women."

The creative team behind 2004’s cult hit "Shaun of the Dead" is back with its take on cop buddy flicks with "Hot Fuzz." The R-rated action comedy finds an overachieving London cop being transferred to a seemingly peaceful countryside village before stumbling upon a series of mysterious killings. Young men will make up the core audience. But through video and cable, "Shaun" has built up a loyal fan following which is likely to give this new entry a try. Add in positive buzz from its blockbuster release in the U.K. earlier this year (it’s already grossed $48M outside of North America) plus glowing reviews from U.S. critics and it is sure to pack a punch in the per-theater average race. Holding it back will be the moderate wide release in 825 locations. In 2004, "Shaun" debuted in 607 sites and grossed $3.3M for a solid $5,487 average. "Hot Fuzz" should be hotter and could arrest about $6M this weekend.


The dandy "Shaun of the Dead" gang is back in "Hot Fuzz."

Following its surprisingly potent number one opening, Shia LaBeouf‘s thriller "Disturbia" will face some hefty competition from "Vacancy" which also goes after those seeking a scary flick. A 45% drop could be in order giving the Paramount title around $12M for the frame and a ten-day tally of $39M.

Will Ferrell‘s hit comedy "Blades of Glory" looks set to break through the $100M mark this weekend. A 35% decline would give the Paramount release about $9M for the frame and $102M after 24 days. Disney’s animated film "Meet the Robinsons" has been holding up very well and with another weekend of mostly R-rated new entries, look for another slim dip. The 3D toon might slide by just 25% to roughly $9M boosting the cume to $84M. An invitation to the century club is in the mail.

LAST YEAR: Spooky flick "Silent Hill" topped the charts opening to a strong $20.2M on its way to $47M for Sony. The Weinstein Company’s spoof hit "Scary Movie 4" tumbled 58% in its second weekend to $16.8M for the runnerup spot. Debuting in third was the Michael Douglas actioner "The Sentinel" with $14.4M before finishing with $36.3M for Fox. The studio’s toon sequel "Ice Age: The Meltdown" followed with $13.3M in its fourth frame while competing animated entry "The Wild" rounded out the top five with $8.3M. The weekend’s other new release, the Hugh Grant comedy "American Dreamz," bowed poorly in ninth with $3.7M on its way to just $7.2M for Universal.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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