Holdovers including the well-reviewed baseball drama "Moneyball," family film "Dolphin Tale" and the 3-D version of "The Lion King" are each expected to bring in $13 million to $15 million this weekend, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys.
That should be well ahead of the quartet of new pictures, which also include the costly thriller "Dream House" starring Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz, Christian drama "Courageous" and romantic comedy "What's Your Number?"
Both the 3-D "Dolphin Tale," about an injured-but-spirited sea creature, and the sports flick starring Brad Pitt were beloved by audiences upon their debuts last weekend, meaning neither should sustain significant dips in ticket sales.
Meanwhile, "The Lion King" was only supposed to play in theaters for two weeks, but after claiming the No. 1 spot at the box office twice in a row and raking in more than $65 million after 13 days, Disney is keeping the movie in 2,340 theaters this weekend.
Of the new films opening this weekend, "50/50" probably will have the best debut. The inexpensive "cancer comedy" starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen could gross a respectable $12 million, only slightly ahead of "Dream House." The ultra-low-budget "Courageous" should rake in around $8 million, while "What's Your Number?" starring Anna Faris may only bow to around $7 million.
"50/50" is generating interest from the widest swath of moviegoers, though distributor Summit Entertainment is hopeful that the young male fan base of Rogen, who has a supporting role but is featured prominently in advertising and publicity, will come out in large numbers.
The film, in which Gordon-Levitt plays a 25-year-old diagnosed with cancer, was received warmly at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month and has so far earned mostly positive reviews.
The movie was produced by Summit and Mandate Pictures for about $8 million, meaning that if the film garners good word-of-mouth, its financial backers should end up in decent shape.
"Dream House," however, cost a lot more. The movie, about a family who unknowingly moves into a home where numerous murders have been committed, was financed by Morgan Creek Productions for about $50 million and is being distributed by Universal Pictures.
Older females seem to be most interested in the film, which was directed by six-time Oscar-nominated director Jim Sheridan. Despite its pedigree, "Dream House" has not been screened for critics — typically a sign that a studio believes it will be poorly received.
"Courageous," centered around four police officers who question their faith after tragedy strikes, was made by Christian brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick. Both ministers and filmmakers, the duo made 2008's "Fireproof," a drama starring "Growing Pains" star Kirk Cameron that grossed $33.5 million worldwide.
"Courageous" was produced by Affirm Films — the Sony division that acquires films with religious or inspirational themes — for about $2 million. The picture is playing in about 1,000 fewer theaters than the weekend's three other releases, but has sold more advance tickets via website Fandango thanks largely to church groups, the main audience to whom "Courageous" has been marketed.
It is largely young women, meanwhile, who are expected to show up to see "What's Your Number?" The film, in which Faris plays a woman who tracks down her ex-boyfriends in the hope they may have improved with age, has only earned middling reviews. It was produced by New Regency Pictures for about $20 million and is being distributed by 20th Century Fox.
In limited release, there are a number of films opening this weekend. Fox Searchlight will debut the Indian film "Force" in 60 theaters as well as the critically panned, long-delayed Kenneth Lonergan-directed film "Margaret" in two others. Magnolia Pictures is putting Eli Craig's horror comedy "Tucker & Dale vs. Evil" in 30 theaters, while Freestyle Releasing's Sarah Palin documentary "You Betcha!" will play in six. Finally, Sony Pictures Classics will release its critical darling, "Take Shelter," featuring "It"-girl Jessica Chastain and Michael Shannon, in three theaters.