Notable Newcomers Invade The Box Office!

A very crowded weekend in store as Liam Neeson in Taken 2, battles a bevy of newcomers including Warner Bros.’ Argo, Lionsgate’s Sinister, Sony’s Here Comes the Boom, CBS Film’s Seven Psychopaths and Atlas Distribution’s Atlas Shrugged Part 2.

Twentieth Century Fox’s Taken 2 led the charge last weekend with nearly $50 million and helped the industry enjoy a 50% uptick vs. the comparable weekend in 2011. The PG-13 action crime drama nearly doubled the Friday through Sunday gross of the 2009 original and in the process proved that Liam Neeson (at age 60) is one the most viable (and popular) action stars working today. In its second weekend an expected 50% drop would still give it a shot at repeating at number one with a gross in the $23 to $24 million range and a 10 day total of around $85 million.

ALTDebuting this weekend is Warner Bros.’ Argo, directed by and starring Ben Affleck in the stranger-than-fiction true life story of a ruse designed to free six American hostages hiding out at the Canadian Embassy during the infamous Iranian hostage crisis of the late ‘70’s. The film is already generating huge Oscar buzz along with great reviews and should become a word-of-mouth darling in the coming weeks. Featuring a solid ensemble cast including Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman and Tate Donovan, projections this weekend range from the high-teens to the low $20 million range and thus it could be a contender for first place if it comes in on the high end of expectations. Argo is definitely a “must see” movie and should be in the top tier of any film buff’s movie-going list.

Third, fourth and fifth place will likely find three films in a major tug-of-war with grosses ranging from $15 to $18 million with Sony Pictures Animation’s Hotel Transylvania in its third weekend going up against newcomers Here Comes the Boom also from Sony and Lionsgate’s horror-entry Sinister.

Boom stars Kevin James as a high school teacher who mixes it up in the world of MMA (Mixed-Marshal Arts) to raise money for his school’s faltering after-school programs and co-stars Salma Hayek and Henry Winkler. Frank Coraci, who also directed numerous Adam Sandler comedies, referees this PG-rated comedy.

On the other side of the genre spectrum is the R-rated horror-thriller Sinister starring Ethan Hawke as a novelist whose family is terrorized by supernatural powers within their new home where a family was once murdered. Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) directs from his script co-written with C. Robert Cargill.

Universal’s PG-13 music-themed comedy Pitch Perfect, will enjoy a very strong third weekend with a showing just outside of the top five with a potential gross of $10 to $12 million while Sony’s R-rated time travel hit man movie Looper starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis will continue to be a threat in the neighborhood of $8 million. Disney will have Tim Burton’s well-reviewed Frankenweenie making a mark with around $7 million.

ALTAnother notable debut this weekend is CBS Film’s critical favorite and Toronto Film Festival Audience Prize winner Seven Psychopaths in 1,480 theaters. The R-rated crime comedy features a cooler-than cool cast that includes Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken, Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish and Olga Kurylenko and is directed by In Bruges helmer Martin McDonagh. An innovative marketing campaign that includes a set of one-sheets with each featuring one of the key cast members and a “Psycho Cats” faux-trailer starring real felines already has generated quite a lot of buzz for the film that will expand into more theaters on October 26. The film is expected earn around $7 to $8 million this weekend and a thus solid per-theater average should await these seven psychopaths.

Fox’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower adds 505 theaters and should take in a solid $4 million in this its fourth weekend of release. Finally, opening in 1,012 theaters is Atlas Shrugged, Part 2 with an expected weekend gross of around $3 million for the film based on the epic novel by Ayn Rand.

This should prove to be another solid but very crowded weekend at the multiplex with the high class problem of choosing which of the many appealing films to see will vex moviegoers around the country.