The kidnapping thriller "Prisoners" is set to hold the box office captive this weekend.
The well-reviewed film costarring Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman will likely debut at No. 1 with a solid $20 million in ticket sales, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys.
The only other movie hitting theaters nationwide this weekend, the dance flick "Battle of the Year," is poised to disappoint with an opening of just $5 million.
"Prisoners" centers on two families whose children are abducted on Thanksgiving. The father of one of the missing children (Jackman) takes matters into his own hands when he believes the cop assigned to the case (Gyllenhaal) is not making headway.
Financed by Alcon Entertainment for $46 million, "Prisoners" is being distributed by Warner Bros. Although the movie has been a favorite among critics, it remains to be seen if a broad audience will be interested in the picture's dark subject matter. Per industry tracking, the film appeals most to older females.
Although Jackman has proved to be a relatively reliable box office draw, in recent years he has appeared mostly in big-budget action films. And even though last year's hit adaptation of "Les Miserables" -- in which he played Jean Valjean -- featured serious storylines, it was still filled with uplifting musical numbers.
"Prisoners" is more in Gyllenhaal's wheelhouse. Though he’s had detours to big studio films such as "Prince of Persia" and "The Day After Tomorrow," he seems to be most embraced when he’s appeared in grittier movies such as 2012's critical darling "End of Watch" or, earlier in his career, the indie relationship drama "The Good Girl.”
In fact, the actor recently dropped out of the splashy Walt Disney Studios version of the Stephen Sondheim musical "Into the Woods" to focus on the L.A. noir "Nightcrawler."
"Battle of the Year," meanwhile, is based on director Benson Lee's 2007 documentary "Planet B-Boy," about an international break dancing competition in Germany. The feature film stars R&B singer Chris Brown along with some actual B-Boy dancers in the story of a ragtag group of guys trying to find direction through competitive street dancing.
The movie was financed by Sony Pictures' Screen Gems label for roughly $20 million. The studio is asking critics to hold off on publishing reviews until Friday -- an indication that Sony likely feels the movie will be poorly received.
"Battle of the Year" is the latest in a string of dance films to hit theaters in recent years. In 2007, Brown also appeared in the similarly themed "Stomp the Yard," which collected a respectable $61 million domestically. And though the "Step Up" franchise has flagged in the U.S. and Canada since its 2006 inception, the series still does massive business abroad. "Step Up Revolution," the fourth installment, grossed $105 million overseas in 2012 -- 75% of that figure worldwide.
In limited release, Universal Pictures will launch its race car drama “Rush” in two theaters in Los Angeles and three in New York. Co-financed by Cross Creek Pictures and Exclusive Media for $38 million, the film is based on the 1970s competition between Formula One rivals James Hunt and Niki Lauda.
Since having its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this month, the Ron Howard-directed picture has been met with critical acclaim. Universal is hoping to generate more good buzz this weekend before the film expands to multiplexes nationwide on Sept. 27.
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