By Brent Lang, VARIETY Senior Film and Media Reporter
It will take Brad Pitt and a Sherman tank to hold off the “Gone Girl” phenomenon.
For now, it looks like Angelina Jolie’s better half and a squadron that includes Shia “I’m not famous anymore” LaBeouf and Logan Lerman will steer “Fury” to the top of the box office chart with a $25 million opening from 3,155 locations. “Fury” cost $68 million to produce and was backed by Columbia Pictures in association with QED Intl. and LStar Capital. It’s the brainchild of “End of Watch” auteur David Ayer and has enjoyed strong reviews for its story of men at war.
“I don’t think there’s any stopping ‘Fury,’” said Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “Brad Pitt is one of the last remaining stars who can carry a picture.”
But “Gone Girl” isn’t staging a disappearing act. In its third weekend of release, David Fincher’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s novel will take a bite out of Pitt’s female fanbase and earn $17 million, which could be good enough for runner-up status.
It will have to battle for that position with one of the weekend’s new releases, “The Book of Life.” The animated Day of the Dead adventure should do $16 million to $18 million from 3,069 locations. It cost $50 million to make and was co-produced and co-financed by Reel FX and 20th Century Fox, which will distribute the picture globally. Channing Tatum, Zoe Saldana and Diego Luna anchor the voice cast and the film is directed by Jorge Gutiérrez, the creator of the Nickelodeon series “El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera.”
After the top three, there’s a bit of bottlenecking. “Dracula Untold” will vie with newcomer “The Best of Me” for third and fourth place, with both films eyeing $12 million to $14 million weekends. Give the edge to the fanged one in this particular match-up, but only just.
“The Best of Me” is backed by Relativity and will open in 2,936 theaters with a budget of $26 million. Due to foreign and ancillary pre-sales and tax credits, the company says its exposure is only $5 million on the film. It arrives from the romance cottage industry that is Nicholas Sparks, the author behind such weepies as “The Notebook” and “Dear John.” The film centers on two former high school sweethearts (James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan) who are drawn together again at the funeral of a friend.
What’s left will be divvied up between holdovers “Alexander and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” and “The Judge.” The Disney film about a child’s dies horribilis should be able to retain much of its family audience, despite the competition from “Book of Life,” and will likely pull in $11 million, a slight drop from its $18.4 million debut last weekend. It will be a steeper fall for the Robert Downey Jr. legal drama, which will likely do $7 million.
There will also be a flurry of limited releases hitting art house theaters, most prominently Oscar hopeful “Birdman” and the race relations satire “Dear White People,” which will bow in four theaters and 11 theaters, respectively. Look for “Birdman,” which features a return to form for original “Batman” star Michael Keaton, to have a lock on the top per-screen average when the weekend concludes.
Analysts expect that the box office will be up over the year-ago period when “Carrie” opened and “Gravity” cast a shadow over the multiplexes. It will be the third weekend in a row of gains. That’s good news for the movie industry, which was battered by a summer box office that fell to its worst levels in nearly a decade.
“There’s been a lot of smart scheduling,” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “There’s been something for everyone and the market has responded well.”