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'Snitch' will fight for No. 1 on a slow weekend at the box office

EntertainmentMoviesSnitch (movie)Dark Skies (movie)Academy AwardsScott StewartLegion (movie)

With the Oscars telecast airing on Sunday, Hollywood is preparing for the biggest weekend of the year. There won't be as much to celebrate at the box office, however, as two new films are expected to have lackluster debuts.

"Snitch," an action film starring the beefy Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, is expected to start off with an underwhelming $12 million, according to those who have seen prerelease audience surveys. That means the picture will have to compete for the No. 1 spot with "Identity Thief," the Melissa McCarthy comedy that is still doing brisk business as it enters its third weekend in theaters.

The only other new movie hitting theaters this weekend, the sci-fi horror flick "Dark Skies," will likely launch with roughly $10 million. 

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Instead of heading to the movies this weekend, millions of Americans will be camped out in front of their television sets Sunday to see how "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane fares hosting the Academy Awards. After the golden statues are handed out, studios are hopeful that a handful of winners will benefit at the box office in coming weeks. 

While "Snitch" doesn't seem destined for awards glory next year, the movie has earned decent reviews for an action film. On Thursday, the picture had notched a 61% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. "Dark Skies," meanwhile, was not screened in advance of its opening for critics -- typically a sign that the studio fears it will be disliked by reviewers.

In "Snitch," Johnson stars as a father who agrees to work as an undercover informant for the government in an effort to save his teenage son from jail time. The movie, which has been marketed primarily to young males, is so far generating interest from both black and Latino moviegoers. Lionsgate's Summit Entertainment acquired the U.S. distribution rights to the film for around $5 million.

Johnson, 40, has become a legitimate box office draw in recent years. With the exception of 2010's "Faster," the former professional wrestler has helped to reinvigorate a number of franchises, including "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" and "Fast Five," his biggest hit to date which collected a whopping $626 million worldwide.

As for "Dark Skies," the scary movie was directed by Scott Stewart -- the filmmaker behind thrillers such as "Legion" and "Priest -- and produced by low-budget horror guru Jason Blum. The picture, which stars Keri Russell, centers around a couple attempting to protect their children from aliens. 

Weinstein Co.'s Dimension Films label acquired the picture from Blum's Blumhouse Prods. and is receiving a fee to distribute it, though the independent studio is paying to market the film.

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