Kate Beckinsale stars in "Underworld: Awakening," the fourth… (Joe Lederer, Sony Pictures )
The fourth movie in Sony Pictures' "Underworld" vampire series should lead the box office this weekend as Hollywood hopes to continue what has been a strong January in theaters.
People who have seen prerelease audience surveys are confident that"Underworld: Awakening"will debut with between $20 million and $25 million. There's less certainty around another new entry,"Red Tails."
The George Lucas-produced movie about the World War II Tuskegee Airmen is tracking for an opening of around $15 million, gaining momentum recently among African American audiences.
Those two pictures are expected to outpace Relativity Media'saction film "Haywire,"directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano, and Warner Bros.' Sept. 11 drama "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," which is expanding nationwide this weekend.
Those relatively inexpensive movies, both of which were well reviewed and generating interest mainly among sophisticated adult audiences, probably will open to about $10 million each.
"Extremely Loud" has taken in $671,502 since opening in limited release Christmas Day.
With "Underworld: Awakening," Sony's Screen Gems label and partner Lakeshore Entertainment spent a healthy $70 million on the production, which included bringing the franchise into 3-D for the first time.
The question is whether images popping off the screen will help the latest entry in the series about leather-clad vampires battling werewolves bring in more than 2009's "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans," which opened to $20.8 million.
In 2006, the second installment in the series, "Underworld: Evolution," debuted to a stronger $26.9 million.
If "Awakening" does top the box-office charts as expected, it will mark repeat success for star Kate Beckinsale, who also had a prominent role in last weekend's No. 1 film"Contraband."
"Red Tails" is also headed for a decent but not great opening given its reported cost of $58 million. The movie was financed entirely by Lucas, who is also covering the marketing costs. Twentieth Century Fox is distributing the film, which starsCuba Gooding Jr. and Terrence Howard and has received largely negative reviews.
In limited release is the Weinstein Co.'s Shakespeare adaptation "Coriolanus,"directed by Ralph Fiennes and starring Gerard Butler. The film had a one-week run in December to qualify for the Academy Awards.
"We Need to Talk About Kevin,"starring Tilda Swinton in the adaptation of a book about the mother of a young killer, opens in Los Angeles this weekend after hitting New York City last week.