Projection Booth: Will ‘Grindhouse’ Mow Down Ice Skaters?

'Year of the Dog' star Molly Shannon also weighs in.

It might seem recent box-office-topping films “300,” “Wild Hogs,” “TMNT” and “Blades of Glory” couldn’t be any more different from one another. And yet there is a buried theme bridging the three: teamwork.

On that note, boy oh boy, does Hollywood have a wicked matchup for you this Friday.

Co-directed by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, “Grindhouse” is an adrenaline-fueled homage to action exploitation from two friends geekier than Godard. Crazy ex-stuntman who gets his jollies from “auto” erotica? Check! Virus that mutates normal people into flesh-eating zombies? Check! Hyper-sexualized, very flexible stripper who winds up with a machine gun in place of her leg? My goodness, do you need to check that.

But is it enough to win the weekend? At over three hours, “Grindhouse” will have to fill a lot of seats to make up for its long running time. Rodriguez, who directed the first film “Planet Terror,” and Tarantino, who directed the second, “Death Proof,” have both had consistent, if moderate, success at the domestic box office — their recent movies have usually opened in the $20 million range.

Merely hitting that number might not be enough, with strong competition from a team of disparate adversaries. To better take advantage of a week in which many children have days off school due to Easter, “Are We Done Yet?” opened Wednesday at nearly 3,000 screens. Starring Ice Cube, the film is a remake of 1948’s “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” and a quasi-sequel to the frozen one’s surprise 2005 hit, “Are We There Yet?” Also released Wednesday was “Firehouse Dog,” the story of a Hollywood pooch who finds his way to a small-town firehouse.

Speaking of Easter-timed releases, there’s always “The Reaping.” Starring double-Oscar-winner Hilary Swank, the movie centers on a former Christian missionary who travels to a small town to debunk the supposed return of the biblical plagues. Locusts, rivers that run with blood, death of your first born? It’s fun for the whole family on 2,600 screens.

And don’t discount “Blades of Glory.” In its second weekend, “Blades” should finish nicely as strong word of mouth continues to propel the Will Ferrell/ Jon Heder comedy to the top of the rankings.

The Predictions: No fair calling our celebrity guest biased. After six years at “Saturday Night Live,” Molly Shannon has learned to appreciate a good laugh or two. But the comedienne best known for her role as a “Superstar” Catholic schoolgirl has moved on to more dramatic fare, headlining Mike White’s “Year of the Dog” alongside Laura Dern and John C. Reilly. This week, she lets us know what film she’s putting her money on.

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

Josh Horowitz, MTV Movies editor: “Grindhouse” ($22 million)
“A small part of me — the part I don’t like to talk about — wants to pick a comedy about a celebrity dog who ends up in a firehouse to win the box-office crown this weekend. But I just can’t do it. Clearly ’Grindhouse’ is the film to beat this weekend after months of buzz-worthy trailers. Still, a three-hour running time means a big commitment from an audience member, especially when there’s some good mindless fun like ’Blades of Glory’ still around. I’ll take Quentin and Robert’s opus, then, by a nose.”

Larry Carroll, MTV News writer: “Grindhouse” ($27 million)
“The question isn’t whether ’Grindhouse’ will mow down its competition like Rose McGowan taking out zombies with her machine-gun leg — instead, it’s how much opening-weekend money will be lost due to the double-feature’s near 200-minute run time. I’m thinking that even with theaters showing it on two or three screens, the anticipation of the year’s most original (and simultaneously most unoriginal) movie will yield $27 million. To paraphrase Kurt Russell’s Stuntman Mike, I’d offer these words to would-be competitors Ice Cube and Hilary Swank: ’I’m afraid you’re going to have to start getting scared immediately.’ ”

Molly Shannon, “Year of the Dog” star: “Blades of Glory” ($17 million)
“Could ’Blades of Glory’ be #1 again? I predict [it will]. I haven’t seen it yet but I’m sure it’s hilarious, it looks so funny from the trailers I’ve seen. Will, Amy Poehler and Will Arnett are amazing. I hope that movie stays at #1. It opened at $33 [million,] so let’s say it will make another $17 million.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “Grindhouse,” “Are We Done Yet?,” “Firehouse Dog,” “The Reaping” and “Blades of Glory.”

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