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Box office preview: 'The Interview' eyes strong limited release

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Into The Woods 02

After dozens of leaked emails, one scary threat, and some flip-flopping later, it’s official: The Interview isn’t opening wide on Christmas day as planned, but it will be available in more than 200 locations across the country. (You can see the full list here.)

The Interview will likely bring in strong numbers due to the overwhelming amount of controversy surrounding the film in recent days. Tickets are already selling fast, and people will go see it not just because it’s a comedy they’re interested in but because going to the theater to see it is a statement.

But because it is only opening in a limited number of locationsmore than 200 as of nowThe Interview won’t have a chance to make a big dent in the box officeor to get a spot in the top five. These spots are reserved for Into the Woods, Unbroken, andmaybeThe Gambler. All three are opening in at least 2,000 theaters Christmas day, and all but one (sorry, Gambler) have great chances of dominating the weekend box office.

But they still have some solid competition in the form of some older films: The Hobbit came out last weekend and grossed $54.7 million from Friday to Sunday, a total that won’t likely drop any more than 50 percentif even that. Annie and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb also arrived in theaters last weekend and made about $16 million each, but Night at the Museum is more likely to stay ahead this weekend thanks to families who want to use the time off to head to the moviesand whose kids aren’t thrilled by the idea of a light musical (Annie) or a darker one (Into the Woods).

Besides the wide releases, there are also a few films opening in smaller batches: Tim Burton’s Big Eyes will open in about 1,300 locations, Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic Selma in 19, and Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper in four. These three are likely films that will be talked about quite a bit in the coming weeksespecially the critically acclaimed Selmaso although their releases are too small right now to make it to the top of the box office, they should have strong holds once they expand.

As for the top five, here are our picks:

1. Into the Woods — $33 million 

As Big Hero 6 proved when it beat out Interstellar at the box office, Disney usually wins. Into the Woods, a film with a star-studded cast including Meryl Streep and Anna Kendrick, should be no exception: Its fairytale-based plot will attract families, and its songs will attract fans of musicals.

2. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies — $32 million 

The Hobbit will take some time to die out thanks to its passionate fans and those who sat out the movie’s opening weekend in favor of seeing it over the holidays. But even though the Peter Jackson movie should continue to have a consistent audience, it probably won’t make it to number one again as a result of mixed reviews and strong competition.

3. Unbroken — $20 million 

Unbroken doesn’t feature any big-name stars, but it does have Angelina Jolie—one of the biggest names in Hollywood —at its helm. Jolie’s directorial debut was 2011’s In the Land of Honey, a film that only had a limited release in the U.S. and didn’t feature any actors the typical moviegoer would recognize. But Unbroken is getting a huge release—3,131 theaters—and will benefit from that, along with the buzz around the mostly unknown star, Jack O’Connell. Additionally, Jolie has a solid fanbase thanks to her films and humanitarian work and those fans will likely flock to theaters to see what their idol created.

4. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb — $13 million

The third in the Night at the Museum series also doesn’t have great reviews—but it also has a much less critical audience than, say, The Gambler. This film is underperforming compared to the previous movies in the franchise, but the holiday weekend should give it a boost thanks to families who will ensure that its numbers earn it a spot around the top five, if not in it, this weekend.

5. The Gambler — $8 million 

This one is hard to predict: Mark Wahlberg has star power, but not necessarily tons of it—and star power is what this film needs, because reviews aren’t helping its status much. The Gambler is a remake of a 1974 film of the same name, a movie that many reviewers are claiming is far superior to this one. And as there are plenty of other dramas in theaters now, viewers might choose something like the well-reviewed Unbroken over the iffier Gambler. 

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