"Unstoppable" has a shot at living up to its title at the box office this weekend, but "Morning Glory" does not.
The new Denzel Washington-Chris Pine thriller "Unstoppable" is likely to be in a tough competition with the animated 3-D film "Megamind," which opened last week, for the most popular movie in the U.S. and Canada this weekend, according to pre-release audience surveys. Each movie will probably sell about $25 million worth of tickets.
The low-budget science-fiction movie "Skyline," the only other picture opening nationwide, is set for a decent start of $12 million to $15 million.
The opening of "Unstoppable," about an out-of-control train, looks to be right in line with that of last year's "The Taking of Pelham 123," another thriller — also involving an out-of-control (subway) train — starring Washington. That film opened to $23.4 million and ended up with total domestic receipts of $65.5 million.
"Pelham" grossed a stronger $84.7 million overseas, and distributor 20th Century Fox, which financed "Unstoppable" along with Dune Entertainment and Ingenious Film Partners, is hoping its movie will be more popular with foreign audiences as well. It will need to be to turn a profit, given the picture's sizable cost. One person close to the production said "Unstoppable" cost about $100 million after the benefit of tax credits, though another person close to Fox said the final budget was closer to $85 million.
The movie opens in 40 foreign markets this weekend, including such key countries as France, Germany, South Korea and China.
Paramount Pictures kept a tight lid on costs for "Morning Glory," which had a budget of only about $40 million, but still appears to have a money loser on its hands. With marketing failing to connect with the target audience of adult women, Paramount opened the movie Wednesday in hopes of building word of mouth going into the weekend.
However, "Morning Glory" brought in a weak $1.1 million on its first day in theaters, meaning the picture will struggle to bring in even $10 million by Sunday. Mixed reviews from critics, which typically matter more to older moviegoers, are unlikely to help.
"Skyline" isn't tracking to do much better than "Morning Glory," but given its small budget, that should be good enough. Relativity Media acquired rights to the independent film last spring and is distributing it through Universal Pictures.
The alien-invasion tale, made by a pair of brothers who have previously worked as visual effects supervisors, cost only $10 million to make and isn't being screened for critics ahead of its opening.
Like "Unstoppable," "Skyline" is appealing primarily to male moviegoers. If it does better than expected, it could eat into ticket sales for the Denzel Washington film.
With exit polls indicating audiences liked DreamWorks Animation's latest release, "Megamind" should see receipts decline less than 50% from its $46-million opening last weekend, putting it close to "Unstoppable."
The Robert Downey Jr. comedy "Due Date" could be close behind and wind up in third place if it enjoys a small drop following its $37.5-million opening.