Kidnapping drama Prisoners goes head-to-head with 3D dance movie Battle of the Year this weekend. It probably won't be much of a contest, though: with a heavy marketing effort, a very wide release, good reviews and at least one major star, Prisoners will likely take first place with around $20 million.
Opening at 3,260 theaters, Prisoners is being positioned as the first adult drama of the Fall season. Marketing has clearly established the movie's kidnapping plot, and set up a heart-pounding race against time to recover the missing children. Ads have also made clear that the movie has a quality cast, which includes Hugh Jackman as a father desperately trying to find his daughter. It helps that the movie received strong word out of premieres at the Telluride Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival, and as of Thursday afternoon it has a solid 81 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Prisoners does have a few major drawbacks, though. It's a very long movie—the official runtime is north of two-and-a-half hours—which can be a turnoff for more casual moviegoers. More importantly, the gloomy color palette and dark subject material is likely to keep many people away from the theaters.
Warner Bros. has had some success releasing darker adult dramas in the month of September. 2010's The Town and 2011's Contagion opened to $23.8 million and $22.4 million, respectively. Those movies were almost certainly more accessible than Prisoners, though, which means the kidnapping drama will probably wind up a bit lower. Regardless, that should be good for first place ahead of Insidious Chapter 2, which will likely drop at least 60 percent in its second outing. Battle of the Year also opens this weekend, though it's only reaching 2,008 theaters (a fairly modest release). The 3D dance movie stars Josh Holloway (Lost), though the biggest draw is R&B star Chris Brown. While Brown has recently found his way in to the headlines mostly because of bad behavior, he does remain fairly popular (he has over 13 million followers on Twitter).
The dance movie genre hit its peak a few years ago, and has been a bit underwhelming lately—for example, last Summer's Step Up Revolution had the franchise's lowest opening with just $11.7 million. Sony doesn't expect Battle of the Year to even be able to match that figure, though: instead, they're forecasting between $6 and $8 million for the weekend.
1939 classic The Wizard of Oz is being re-released in 3D this weekend in 318 IMAX theaters. This is the third movie to be re-released in IMAX in the past year: Raiders of the Lost Ark opened to $1.67 million from 267 theaters, while Top Gun 3D debuted to $1.97 million at 300 locations. Without any competition for family audiences this weekend, it wouldn't be surprising if The Wizard of Oz wound up noticeably higher than that.
Sex addict comedy Thanks for Sharing (think Shame, but funny) is being released in to 269 theaters this weekend. Distributor Roadside Attractions has gone with this kind of moderate pattern a handful of times in the past few years, and the success seems to correlate pretty closely with reviews. Unfortunately, Thanks for Sharing is currently sitting at a middling 57 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. As a result, it's unlikely that the movie cracks $1 million this weekend.
Finally, Ron Howard's racing drama Rush opens in five theaters in New York and Los Angeles ahead of its nationwide debut on Sept. 27. The movie is getting great reviews (over 90 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and should draw big crowds in these select locations. A per-theater average north of $50,000 wouldn't be surprising—around the same time last year, The Master averaged $147,311 at essentially the same theaters. Forecast (September 20-22) 1. Prisoners - $20.2 million 2. Insidious Chapter 2 - $14.1 million (-65%) 3. Battle of the Year - $9.2 million 4. The Family - $7.2 million (-49%) Bar for Success If Prisoners gets to $20 million, it is in good shape. Considering how front-loaded it will likely be, Battle of the Year ought to earn at least $10 million this weekend.