Three weeks in, "Inception" is still creating the dream at the domestic box office, with the long-legged Christopher Nolan film expected to gross another $30 million in the U.S. and Canada and once again lead the market.
Three new releases, however, will vie for second place, with the Paramount/DreamWorks adult comedy "Dinner for Schmucks," Universal's tween-targeted Zach Efron film "Charlie St. Cloud" and Warner's talking-animal kiddie film "Cats and Dogs: The Adventures of Kitty Galore" all getting released wide.
For its part, Warner hopes its 3D-converted "Cats and Dogs" sequel, co-financed by Village Roadshow at a cost of $85 million, will open up as well as the original, which premiered to $21.7 million back in 2001.
Pre-release tracking suggest just matching that total will be a challenge for the CG-based movie, which — starring Jeff Goldblum and Elizabeth Perkins and directed by Lawrence Guterman ("Son of the Mask" — is not packing a ton of star punch.
Despite a number of 3D holdovers — "Toy Story 3," "Despicable Me" and "The Last Airbender" — "Cats " will premiere at 2,130 3D-equipped locations, accounting for more than half of its 3,705 North American-theater distribution.
Opening in 2,719 theaters, meanwhile, Universal's "Charlie St. Cloud" stars Efron as a brooding young man communing with the ghost of his deceased younger brother, with promos not so subtly trying to draw comparisons to James Dean.
Co-financed with Relativity Media and shot on a budget of $36 million, "St. Cloud" is expected to gross between $12-$15 million this weekend, with a young-female audience largely eschewing a Rotten Tomatoes score in the single digits.
The Paramount-distributed "Dinner with Schmucks" — a long-gestating remnant of the studio's marriage to DreamWorks, which was also co-financed by Spyglass Entertainment — stars Steve Carell as a well-meaning but destructively anti-social IRS worker who's befriended under false pretenses by Paul Rudd for the purposes of abject ridicule.
The PG-13-rated comedy, based on a French stage production and directed by Jay Roach, was produced on a budget of around $70 million.
It's expected to gross as much as $25 million this weekend.