LOS ANGELES (AP) — Having played one of the most famous movie villains of all time, Anthony Hopkins takes up priestly duties in Warner Bros.' "The Rite" on over 3,000 screens this weekend and will likely exorcise between $16 million to $18 million from audiences.
A huge marketing push for the PG-13 rated horror-thriller should help. Also, January tends to be a fairly frightful month at theaters, with scary films now a staple of the time frame. Last year, there was "Legion" and "Daybreakers," while 2009 included "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans" and the "The Unborn" — all with opening weekends in the $15 million to $20 million range.
After grabbing 12 Academy Award nominations on Tuesday, The Weinstein Co.'s "The King's Speech" is perfectly primed for a so-called Oscar bump and a chance to achieve its highest chart position yet with the addition of 873 theaters. Look for the "King's" weekend ransom to be around $10 million, with a $70 million domestic total by Sunday night.
Of course, George VI will have to avoid a royal butt-kicking by ever-present man of mayhem Jason Statham in the remake of the 1972 classic action film "The Mechanic." In this CBS Films release, Ben Foster (Russell Crowe's gun-slinging sidekick in "3:10 to Yuma") brings his particular brand of psychotic intensity to the role of a junior hit man, making it tailor-made for the young males who love this type of buddy action yarn. As with "King's," the R-rated film should be on target for a gross of about $10 million.
This presents yet another pileup situation for third, fourth and fifth positions. Last weekend's leader, "No Strings Attached" from Paramount, is likely to romance a second weekend gross in the $8 million to $10 million range, with similar expectations for Sony's "The Green Hornet," Paramount's Oscar-nominated "True Grit" and even awards darling "Black Swan" from Fox Searchlight.
Overall, the industry continues to pale to the year-ago marketplace, when "Avatar" was in first place for a seventh weekend, earning a staggering $31.3 million for the three-day frame.
Paul Dergarabedian is president of the Box Office Division of Hollywood.com and a longtime box office analyst for The Associated Press.