Most audiences typically use the first weekend of January to catch up on December releases, so studios have taken to releasing genre titles as counterprogramming. This year is no exception: the only brand-new nationwide release this weekend is horror remake Texas Chainsaw 3D, which will reach 2,654 locations beginning at 10 p.m. on Thursday. It has a good chance of taking first place, though it's going to face tough competition from The Hobbit, Django Unchained and Les Miserables. Meanwhile, fracking drama Promised Land expands nationwide, and The Impossible and Not Fade Away will also each reach over 500 theaters.
In 1974, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre earned $30.9 million—the equivalent of $128 million adjusted for inflation—and introduced the world to iconic horror villain Leatherface. After a series of disappointing follow-ups, Michael Bay produced a 2003 remake that opened to $28.1 million on its way to a very good $80.6 million. Three years later, prequel The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning earned just $39.5 million, suggesting audiences had once again tired of the concept. Texas Chainsaw 3D technically takes place within the time frame of the original franchise, which is similar to the situation with The Thing (2011). Unfortunately, the marketing doesn't really communicate this, and instead the movie basically looks like a less-inspired remake of the 2003 remake. Without doing much to differentiate itself (aside from the 3D, which is an after-thought), it's unlikely to match the 2003 movie's $28.1 million debut.
Still, the marketing has done some solid outreach to the core horror movie fanbase, and these types of movies tend to perform very well in January: on this same weekend last year, The Devil Inside debuted to $33.7 million, and in January 2009 Lionsgate opened My Bloody Valentine 3-D to $21.2 million. Lionsgate is currently expecting around $15 million for Texas Chainsaw 3D, though don't be shocked if it winds up above $20 million. Promised Land expands nationwide to 1,675 theaters following a disappointing opening weekend in limited release ($173,915 from 25 locations). While Matt Damon is a fairly big star, he's definitely capable of being involved in a dud if the movie itself doesn't have a clear hook, which seems to be the case with Promised Land. It's also unfortunate that this is a prestige movie that's lacking prestige—it has no awards nominations in sight, and is currently at a terrible 46 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. A Top 10 finish is likely, though anything over $5 million would be a big surprise. The Impossible and Not Fade Away are both making significant expansions in to 572 and 565 theaters, respectively (just shy of the 600 theaters necessary for nationwide classification). The Impossible has the most momentum: it saw its per-theater average jump from $9,588 to $12,172 from weekend one to two, which suggests word-of-mouth is good. Still, Summit seems to be saving any major marketing push for after a possible Academy Award nomination next week for Naomi Watts, and it won't make the Top 10 this weekend. Not Fade Away, meanwhile, isn't going to do much business at all. The Sopranos creator David Chase's big-screen debut averaged just $2,884 at 19 locations last weekend, and if it miraculously holds that average it will wind up with less than $1.7 million. Instead, expect it to wind up well under $1 million. Forecast (Jan. 4-6) 1. Django Unchained - $19.9 million (-34%) 2. Texas Chainsaw - $19.7 million 3. The Hobbit - $18.8 million (-41%) 4. Les Miserables - $17.2 million (-37%) Bar for Success If Texas Chainsaw 3D matches The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning's opening attendance levels it will wind up with over $22 million, which seems like a fair threshold.