The box-office champ next weekend is going to be Walt Becker‘s Wild Hogs, a.k.a., Easy Rider with pot bellies (John Travolta, Tim Allen, William H. Macy, Martin Lawrence). General interest is 75, definite interest is 41 and first choice is 9 (as of last Thursday). Figure $30, maybe $35 million.

The likely #2 film among new 3.2.07 openers, Craig Brewer‘s thoroughly satisfying and self-aware Black Snake Moan, is at 51, 26 and 2…not much.

You won’t find a greater aesthetic gulf next weekend than the one over Zodiac next weekend — a gap between big-gun critics and Fincher buffs (except for David “too Alan Paklula!” Poland) doing cartwheels on one end, and Joe Schmoe ticket-buyers going “meh” on the other. David FIncher‘s masterpiece is tracking at 59, 31 and 3.

Let’s face it — it’s going to open mildly and then go nowhere after this unless general audiences suddenly decide to step out of their popcorn-munching sleeping bags and go, “Oh, yeah…sometimes there’s something to be said for extremely well-made thrillers that don’t do the exact same thing that my girlfriend and I have seen happen in 87 other catch-the-killer movies.” Will they do that? No. 90% of paying audiences go to theatres expecting to eat meat loaf with gravy, mashed potatoes and green beans.

“If Paramount thought they had something, they’ve have snuck Zodiac this weekend,” a marketing guy confided this morning. “They’re spending the money in the right places, but it’s just not penetrating. People are looking at the trailer and it’s not a story they want to see. Awareness is modest and It’s not filtering through. They wanted it to do $18 or $20 million but It’s going to do $10 or $12 million….definite interest at 3% with a week to go tells you that. If a movie is going to be a hit a week out definite interest levels should be in the middle 30s, and first choice should be at 6 or 7.”