Competition is finally heating up at the megaplex again after the September/October movie box office is way down compared to last year’s. (I blame all the sports on TV right now.) This weekend, five movies — newcomers, holdovers, some going wide — will compete for gross receipts. Let’s look first at what’s opening. whydidigetmarried_gallerytheatrical.jpgSony at the Cannes Film Festival paid $11 million for the domestic rights to We Own The Night (from Mark Cuban’s 2929 Productions) and is hoping for at least a $12 million debut this weekend. I hear the tracking for the Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Wahlberg starrer in 2,362 theaters still isn’t good, despite a crackling though muted ad campaign and the tempting pairing of those two terrific actors. But reviews of the pic (62% among the Cream Of The Crop critics on Rotten Tomatoes) are only mixed. So it’ll probably end up No. 3. Instead, awareness is very high for Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married from Lionsgate opening in 2,011 dates. His films do reliably well so my box office gurus expect this pic to be No. 2. Universal’s Elizabeth: The Golden Age is getting a lot of media attention and Oscar buzz but only opening in 1,951 venues. If those are in urban areas and college towns, then its per screen average should be very high. If not…

My analysts forsee Warner’s very adult legal drama Michael Clayton, which expands into 2,511 theaters this weekend, as the No. 1 film. If not, then George Clooney’s popularity as an actor isn’t what the media or Hollywood thinks it is. americangangster_gallerytheatrical.jpgAfter all, the movie is one of the best reviewed this early fall: 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. But consider — except for his ensemble franchise Ocean’s 11, 12 & 13 or the similarly ensemble A Perfect Storm, I can’t name one George Clooney movie that opened big at the box office. (But you don’t hear Warner execs vowing to stop making him the star of their pics…)

Disney’s family fare The Game Plan should continue strong thanks to Saturday matinees. And DreamWorks / Paramount’s The Heartbreak Kid remake will continue to fall apart.

As for the future, tracking is on overload with so many pics coming up. Looking big: Imagine / Universal’s American Gangster (Nov 2nd), Jerry Seinfeld’s Bee Movie (Nov 2nd) for DreamWorks / Paramount, and Lionsgate’s Saw IV (Oct 26th).