Lower Your Expectations and you will love it!

Can ‘Austin’ Power Box Office?
Last weekend’s threadbare box office looks likely to prove a one-weekend shortfall if New Line Cinema strikes the kind of motherlode that’s predicted for “Austin Powers in Goldmember.”
The studio bows its third-in-a-franchise spy spoof in 3,613 theaters Friday, with industryites forecasting a three-day haul comfortably above $50 million.
And that could be good news for more than just New Line, as conventional wisdom says buzz generated from such big bows has a beneficial effect on other current releases.
“It gets people wanting to go to the movies,” said DreamWorks distribution president Jim Tharp, whose reigning champ “Road to Perdition” is entering its third weekend.
The original “Austin” debuted with $53.9 million in May 1997 and the first sequel opened at $54.9 million in June 1999.
“You always want to do better than the last one,” said New Line distribution president David Tuckerman. “So that’s our expectation.”
New Line offered 2,416 “Austin” sneak peeks Thursday night, but those grosses won’t be reflected in weekend totals.
Also bowing in wide release Friday is Disney’s kids-and-parents affair “Country Bears,” tagged for 2,553 locations. It will compete for the same crowd as Sony’s “Stuart Little 2,” which opened disappointingly last weekend.
Meanwhile, Paramount will try to salvage a decent sophomore session from its sub drama “K-19: The Widowmaker” after a poor launch last weekend. The modestly budget horror picture “Eight Legged Freaks” (Warner Bros.) will seek to avoid a drop from the top 10 in its second frame.
And DreamWorks adds about 100 engagements — for a total 2,250 — for “Road to Perdition.” The studio appears well validated in its strategy of adding playdates this week and last after securing a solid second-place bow over the July 12 frame. Gripping but dark, the mob-themed adult drama finished No. 1 last weekend and now seems headed north of $100 million domestically.
“Country Bears” is a modestly budgeted live-action adaptation of a Disney World theme-park attraction of the same name. Never intended as a box office behemoth, “Bears” will likely remained caged in the single-digit millions over its opening weekend.
Sony marketing and distribution president Jeff Blake expressed hope that “Stuart Little 2” would follow the trajectory of its 1999 predecessor, which ended up with an impressive $140 million tally after opening with $15 million. The costly sequel opened with $15.1 million, just behind “Perdition,” but has out-performed the market each weekday since then.
“But as always, we’ll have to wait to see how it does this weekend,” Blake said.
Industrywide, the box office was off 18% last weekend from the same frame in 2001. But 21 of the preceding 22 weekends had seen year-over-year upticks, and industryites are hoping the frame was a mere aberration.
“It’s my impression that it was just a one-weekend thing,” DreamWorks’ Tharp said, noting mid-week grosses have shown signs of renewed vigor. “But people aren’t really sure why that was last weekend.”