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No clear favorite at weekend box office

'Secretariat' and 'Life as We Know It' open on the inside track for ticket sales supremacy, with 'The Social Network' still in the running.

October 08, 2010|By Ben Fritz, Los Angeles Times

It looks to be a tight race at the box office this weekend, with a distinct chance that none of the three movies opening nationwide will emerge a clear winner.

Walt Disney Pictures' horse racing drama "Secretariat" and Warner Bros.' romantic comedy "Life as We Know It" are both expected to sell roughly $15 million worth of tickets on their debut weekend, according to people who have seen pre-release surveys. But if both pictures perform below expectations, they could end up behind Sony Pictures' Facebook movie, "The Social Network," which is in its second weekend and on track to collect $12 million to $15 million.

"Social Network" has enjoyed strong weekday grosses, taking in about $2 million each day and bringing its box office total to $28.7 million by Wednesday.

The 3-D horror film "My Soul to Take," which Universal Pictures is releasing for Relativity Media's Rogue Pictures genre label, will probably lag behind the competition with a little less than $10 million. Young adults, who typically make up the audience for horror movies, appear to be highly interested in the first film that horror-meister Wes Craven has directed in five years. It cost about $25 million to produce.

Indeed, it appears that nothing will break out on what appears to be a slow movie-going weekend. Disney has aggressively marketed "Secretariat" as an inspirational family film, but it is mainly drawing interest from older adults, who are the most likely to be familiar with the Triple Crown winner from the 1970s.

"Secretariat" cost $35 million to produce and will need to open on the high end of expectations and generate strong word of mouth to end up a financial success for Disney.

One of the movie's challenges is that its likely audience overlaps with that of "Life As We Know It," which is broadly appealing to women. The Katherine Heigl- Josh Duhamel romantic comedy, co-financed by Warner and Village Roadshow Pictures, cost $38 million to make and will also need to end up at the high end of box office expectations to avoid being a financial disappointment.

Both "Secretariat" and "Life" were shown last Saturday in sneak previews at 800 theaters in an attempt to build buzz. This weekend the two pictures will each play at more than 3,000 cinemas.

Also opening, but at only at 742 theaters in 120 cities, is the dramatic comedy "It's Kind of a Funny Story," about a teenager who checks himself into a mental hospital. It's the first film aimed at general audiences from directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. Their previous movies, "Half Nelson" and "Sugar," grossed only $2.7 million and $1.1 million, respectively.

Distributor Focus Features wants to attract independent film fans familiar with the directors' previous movies, but it is also going after a broader set of young adults, which is why it specifically targeted college towns for the release. "Funny Story" should open to about $4 million.

Lionsgate had previously planned to release the Ryan Reynolds thriller "Buried" nationwide Friday, but the film about a man stuck in a coffin has performed poorly in limited release for the last two weekends. As a result, it will be playing in a total of 92 theaters.

ben.fritz@latimes.com

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