The Lion will try to get its distribution roar back this weekend, but its female-targeting musical Fame will have to fend off a couple other wannabe kings of the box-office jungle.
Disney sends out the sci-fi thriller Surrogates, and Sony expects a solid sophomore session for last weekend's No. 1 movie, the 3D animated Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. All three pictures appear certain to ring up at least midteen millions through Sunday and have the potential to break from the pack to top the weekend rankings.
MGM will split worldwide coin from Fame evenly with Lakeshore Entertainment, which co-produced the remake of MGM's 1980 adaptation of the Fame stage musical about a performing-arts high school in New York. Directed by Alan Parker, the first film grossed $21 million domestically; TV director Kevin Tancharoen helmed the remake.
Struggling with internal finance issues for much of the past year, MGM hasn't had a theatrical release since unspooling the United Artists-produced drama Valkyrie in December.
Rated PG, Fame is expected to attracted a lot of moms with younger daughters in tow.
Surrogates stars Bruce Willis and Radha Mitchell in a futuristic tale about robots that live their owners' daily lives while the humans cocoon at home. The PG-13 pic is expected to draw its chief support from adult couples.
Elsewhere, Overture unspools the Dennis Quaid-starring Pandorum, a modestly budgeted sci-fi feature expected to open in the upper single-digit millions. The mini-major, which has four films set to unspool during the next six weeks, also bows Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story Friday in four theaters in Los Angeles and New York.
Also figuring among the weekend's key limited new releases is Coco Before Chanel, an Audrey Tautou-starring biopic from Sony Pictures Classics that unspools in five locations in Los Angeles and New York.
On an industrywide basis, the weekend will be compared with a $101 million session from 2008 topped by Paramount's $29.2 million bow of the DreamWorks-produced action movie Eagle Eye.
The 2009 box office has bested year-earlier comparisons in five of the six past frames, despite the normal seasonal lull in attendance levels since Labor Day. Year to date, box office is up 4.9 percent, at $7.48 billion.