A prequel to "The Conjuring" about a haunted doll and a David Fincher thriller will fight for the No. 1 spot at the box office this weekend.
David Fincher's "Gone Girl" is expected to gross as much as $25 million, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys. This would put it in a tight competition for No. 1 with horror film "Annabelle," which could gross as much as $27 million.
Meanwhile, tracking services show a wide range of expectations for "Left Behind," the third wide release to hit theaters this weekend. The film, distributed by Freestyle Releasing, could pull in between $5 million to $15 million.
Based on the popular novel by Gillian Flynn, Fincher's film follows Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) after his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) goes missing on their fifth anniversary. As secrets of their marriage unfold, police, media and community members try to unearth whether Nick killed his wife.
The R-rated film, co-produced by Twentieth Century Fox and New Regency, cost about $61 million to make. The studios anticipate a more modest opening of about $20 million.
Fandango, a Los Angeles-based ticketing website, said on Wednesday that the thriller is poised to become one of the highest-selling October movies since the company launched 14 years ago.
It earned a score of 89 on the site's "Fanticipation" indicator, just behind the stranded-in-space film "Gravity" at the same point in its sales cycle last year.
The film has a number of advantages. For one, it has the star power behind Oscar-winning Affleck. In 2012, "Argo" grossed about $19.5 million in its opening weekend and went on to earn $136 million and an Oscar. In 2010, "The Town," grossed $23.8 million in its opening weekend and went on to gross $92.2 million.
Fincher has also developed a cult following for films such as "The Social Network" and "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." This, added to the reader fan base for Flynn's book, will likely lure in core fans.
However, many of the director's films usually see big numbers over time rather than just in their opening weekends.
By comparison, "The Social Network" opened to about $22.5 million in its opening weekend in 2010. It went on to gross about $97 million. Likewise, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" pulled in $12.8 million in its opening weekend in 2011. The film, based on the popular novel by Stieg Larsson, went on to gross $102.5 million.
But New Line's "Annabelle," which cost about $6.5 million to make, may scare up bigger crowds than "Gone Girl." The studio estimates the film will make about $20 million.
The R-rated horror film follows the haunted doll from "The Conjuring" named Anabelle. In July 2013, "The Conjuring" cast a spell over audiences and opened to about $41.5 million. It ended up grossing $318 million worldwide.
"Left Behind" will likely draw in the same faith-based crowds that popularized "God's Not Dead." Based on books by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, the apocalyptic thriller, which cost about $15 million to make, stars Nicolas Cage. Freestyle Releasing expects the film to gross as much as $10 million."
In limited release, Warner Bros.' "The Good Lie" will open in 461 theaters. The Reese Witherspoon drama could make about $2.5 million this weekend.
On Wednesday, Paramount Pictures released Jason Reitman's "Men, Women & Children" in New York and Los Angeles markets. The film will expand to the top 12 markets on Friday.