Box Office: One Wolf Movie Leads into Another

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With 2012 already surpassing 2011, this week sees the release of three potentially tougher sells even with a good amount of starpower among the new releases. The best bet is probably Joe Carnahan’s thriller The Grey (Open Road), starring Liam Neeson, a wilderness survival movie that’s being pushed as the type of action-thriller Neeson has done very well with in recent years, for example 2009’s Taken ($24.7 million opening, $145 million total) and last year’s Unknown ($21.8 million opening; $63.6 million total). The film premiered at the annual geek-fest Butt-Numb-A-Thon last December to raves and reviews should generally be good as well. Then you add the fact Neeson hasn’t starred in a movie in nearly a year, that should be enough incentive for the key 17 to 30-year-old male demo, as well as some of Neeson’s older fans, to make this their first choice. The question is whether it can do strong enough business to beat last week’s #1 Underworld Awakening, though we think that will have a large enough drop to allow Carnahan’s movie to move into first place, which would be quite a coup for relatively new distributor Open Road on their second release. We’re probably looking at somewhere between $13 and 16 million over the weekend and $40 to 45 million total, maybe even more if word-of-mouth remains positive, although next week’s Super Bowl won’t help.

Interview with Joe Carnahan

Sam Worthington returns as the Man on a Ledge (Summit), the crime-drama co-starring Elizabeth Banks, Edward Burns, Jamie Bell and smokin’ hot Genesis Rodriguez. (No, seriously, you have no idea who she is, but you’ll be a fan after seeing the movie.) It’s a decent heist premise with lots of twists, and it might get some good reviews, but it just doesn’t look as enticing as its prime competition for male audiences, The Grey. Other than Worthington, who had success with Avatar and Clash of the Titans, big fantasy sci-fi epics, there’s no one in the cast that might draw in audiences with Banks’ previous drama The Next Three Days only bringing in $21 million after a $6.5 million opening. This one normally might find legs based on word-of-mouth but with the Super Bowl next week and a lot more new movies in February, it may not find that audience until later. We think this one will end up somewhere under $10 million for the weekend with roughly $30 million total.

Lastly, Katherine Heigl plays Stephanie Plum, the heroine of Janet Evanovich’s popular mystery novels in One for the Money (Lionsgate), which is hoping to at least do as well as last year’s The Lincoln Lawyer. They’re even doing a similar two-for-one Groupon deal, although this one is being marketed very poorly as a typical Heigl comedy with a bit more action. Even fans of the books and Heigl’s most ardent female fans should be able to tell this is a dog from commercials and will likely stay away, so this also will end up under $10 million (helped only by that Groupon deal) and probably wind up in fifth or sixth place with the chance of legs being nil.

We should also see nice Oscar nomination bumps for movies like The Artist, which will add more theaters Friday, as well as Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, which also received a controversial Best Picture nomination.

We haven’t seen any of the three new movies in limited release this week, but France’s selection for the Oscar Foreign Language category, Valerie Donzelli’s Declaration of War (IFC Films), is one of them. It involves a couple, played by Donzelli and Jeremie Elkaim, who discover their child is sick.

The Theatre Bizarre (W2 Media) is a horror anthology involving a young woman who arrives at an abandoned theater where an odd man tells her six bizarre tales with segments directed by Richard Stanley, Buddy Giovinazzo, Tom Savini, Douglas Buck, Karim Hussain, David Gregory and Jeremy Kasten.

Also on the horror tip, Robin Hardy, director of the horror classic The Wicker Man, returns with the thematic follow-up The Wicker Tree (Anchor Bay), which follows two young missionaries traveling in Scotland who arrive at the town of Tressock and are convinced by the local baron (Graham McTavish) and community to take part in their annual festival. Apparently, they haven’t seen The Wicker Man, ’cause even I know better than accepting offers to take part in small town festivals!

This weekend last year, the supernatural thriller The Rite (Warner Bros.), starring Anthony Hopkins, came out on top with just under $15 million while the Jason Statham action-thriller The Mechanic (CBS Films) took third place with $11. 4 million. The Top 10 grossed just over $80 million and this weekend will be close depending on whether moviegoers decide to check out some of the new releases.

This Week’s UPDATED Predictions

UPDATE: The only major change this week is that we can’t ignore the huge success of Lionsgate’s latest Groupon deal for Katherine Heigl’s One for the Money, which is likely to push it way up the charts as the older women that may have any interest in the movie are also the same demographic that would take advantage of a Groupon deal to get what is essentially half-priced tickets.

1. The Grey (Open Road) – $15.5 million N/A (up .3 million)

2.One for the Money (Lionsgate) – $12.5 million N/A (up 3.8 million)

3. Underworld Awakening (Sony/Screen Gems) – $11 million -57%

4. Red Tails (20th Century Fox) – $10.5 million -45%

5. Man on a Ledge (Summit) – $10.3 million N/A (up .3 million)

6. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (Warner Bros.) $7.5 million -29%

7. Contraband (Universal) – $6.4 million -47%

8. The Descendants (Fox Searchlight) – $4.5 million

9. Haywire (Relativity Media) – $4.2 million -50%

10. Beauty and the Beast 3D (Walt Disney) – $3.9 million -56%

11. The Artist (The Weinstein Company) – $3.3 million +43%

Next week, the month of February kicks off with Super Bowl weekend and three very different movies. Daniel Radcliffe stars in the period thriller The Woman in Black (CBS Films), while Chronicle (20th Century Fox) is a dark take on superheroes using the successful found footage format and Big Miracle (Universal) has Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski saving whales.

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