Projection Booth: Will ‘Hitcher’ Kill ‘Stomp’ At Box Office?

Kevin Smith bets on remake of cult horror flick.

Where have all the movies gone? Can it be that there is but one new major studio release this week in theaters? Call it poor planning, a cosmic quirk or the studios saying, “You deserve a break, loyal moviegoer,” but it’s all about “The Hitcher” this week at your local multiplex.

Well, at least it’s a familiar kind of flick. “The Hitcher” is a remake of the 1986 horror cult classic — OK, maybe “classic” is too strong a word — about a murderous hitchhiker out for blood. We hate it when that happens. The original featured such then-up-and-coming stars as C. Thomas Howell and Rutger Hauer. Sean Bean — stepping into the psychopath’s well-trod shoes — and Sophia Bush of “One Tree Hill” must be hoping for a kinder fate than those two thespians.

While no other new flicks are opening up to challenge “The Hitcher,” it will have to contend with an emboldened wider release of “The Queen.” Coming off two key Golden Globe wins for actress and screenplay (see ” ‘Dream’ Night: Jennifer Hudson, Borat Win Big At Golden Globes” ), this art-house favorite about the relationship between Queen Elizabeth II and British Prime Minister Tony Blair expands to 1,000 screens this week. It’s already earned a slightly majestic total of $31 million.

If tales of queens and politicians leave you yawning, there’s always the film cited by many as the best-reviewed one of 2006, “Pan’s Labyrinth.” Though shunned at the Globes, this fantasy flick from the fertile mind of Guillermo del Toro (“Hellboy,” “Blade II”) is packing in crowds at the few theaters it’s in. This week it expands to 500 screens and seeks to gain a little more mainstream momentum. Don’t be scared by the subtitles: The tale of a girl who escapes into a fantasy world during the Spanish Civil War will stand the test of time.

As for films that dominated the top five last week, look for “Stomp the Yard” to lose a sizable share of its audience in week two, and the hugely successful family adventure “Night at the Museum” to continue its slow descent out of the top 10 (see “Chris Brown, Ne-Yo ‘Stomp’ Stiller At The Box Office” ).

The Predictions: The seesaw battle of wills between this writer and MTV News writer Larry Carroll continues this week, but there’s an interloper who just might beat us both. Kevin Smith — the famed director of “Clerks” who is bolstering his acting résumé with appearances in “Catch and Release” and “Live Free or Die Hard” (see ” ‘Die Hard’ Sequel Gets More Action With … Kevin Smith?” ) — has dropped by the Projection Booth to gaze into the future of the box office. And he means business. Check back Monday to see who has bragging rights for another week.

What’s the #1 flick? How much will it rake in?

· Larry Carroll, MTV News writer: “The Hitcher” ($21 million)

” ‘Stomp the Yard’ might have the moves, but ‘The Hitcher’ has a musical number (courtesy of Nine Inch Nails) that’s every bit as catchy. It’ll be a neck-and-neck battle for sure, but I’m thinking that ‘Hitcher’ will win the weekend by a thumb. I predict that ‘The Hitcher’ will take in $21 million, kicking off a C. Thomas Howell career revival of epic proportions.”

· Josh Horowitz, MTV Movies editor: “Stomp the Yard” ($15 million)

“I like to go with streaks. I did well by ‘Happy Feet’ for four weeks, and in the absence of anything strong coming out this week (apologies to ‘The Hitcher’), I’m going to stick with the film that put me out in front in the standings. So it’s ‘Stomp the Yard’ for one more week at the top of the heap. There’s still some juice left in its dance moves.”

· Kevin Smith, star of “Catch and Release”: “The Hitcher” ($15 million)

” ‘The Good German’ will do $6 [million]. I don’t know if it’ll be at the top at the box office, because whatever is #1 this weekend still holds up. I’m thinking, ‘The Hitcher’ is rated R — it’s not one of those PG-13-rated horror movies. Let’s say $15 million.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “The
Hitcher,”
“Stomp the Yard,” “The Queen” and “Pan’s Labyrinth.”

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