By Grady Smith
Updated February 02, 2012 at 12:00 PM EST
Credit: Diyah Pera

This weekend, as Tom Brady and Eli Manning meet in Indianapolis to compete for the coveted Vince Lombardi trophy, another competition will be brewing.

Three new wide releases are set to battle it out for box office glory. Teen superhero drama Chronicle and spooky Daniel Radcliffe vehicle The Woman In Black both have a shot at earning a number one debut, while Drew Barrymore’s warm-and-fuzzy whale drama Big Miracle will need just that to really succeed. Here’s how the Top 5 might shake out:

1. Chronicle – $19 million

Fox’s $15 million found footage gamble has been nagging at my box office prognosticating mind all week. On the one hand, it’s a film geared toward young males opening against THE SUPER BOWL. How does that make sense? On the other hand, it’s a well-made found footage film opening at the peak of the found footage zeitgeist. That’s working in its favor. Sure, it’s drummed up a whole lot of viral buzz thanks to its brilliant “Flying People in New York City” video, but films like Snakes on a Plane and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World proved that online buzz can be misleading. Arrgh! This is a very tough one to predict.

The Devil Inside shocked Hollywood when it scored a tremendous $33.7 million opening weekend last month, and Chronicle is the lucky to be the first found footage film hitting theaters since then. (The film is not a static-camera gimmick, though.) Tracking massively underestimated Devil‘s appeal, and I wonder if the same thing may happen with Chronicle. Although the film was off most people’s radars a few weeks ago, online activity surrounding it has surged this week, and the well-reviewed drama has that certain undefinable freshness that makes me think it may break out. It just seems, for lack of a better word, cool. Chronicle could play very well with the YouTube generation, who won’t hesitate to rush out to theaters on Friday and Saturday night. Still, going up against the Super Bowl is always risky.

Honestly, I could see Chronicle stunning everyone with $30 million this weekend, and I could see it flying low with $10 million. I’m expecting something in between — perhaps a robust $19 million start.

2. The Woman in Black – $13.5 million

CBS Films acquired The Woman In Black for $3 million (it was produced for a reported $13 million by the British studio Hammer Film Productions), and if the film can achieve a sturdy opening weekend, the fledgling studio may have its first real hit. The supernatural spookfest — more in the vein of The Others than Saw — marks Daniel Radcliffe’s first starring role since the Harry Potter series wrapped in July, and although the film has no chance of achieving Potter-sized numbers, it should notch a healthy debut thanks to strong interest from teenage girls. Last year, The Roommate captured the young female crowd and debuted over Super Bowl weekend to $15 million. The weekend before that, horror movie The Rite scored a $14.8 million bow. The Woman In Black may debut with similar numbers, although some audiences may avoid the costumey period piece — give it $13.5 million over the Friday-to-Sunday period.

3. The Grey – $10 million

Liam Neeson’s male-driven survival story will struggle to compete with football’s biggest event on Sunday, which may cause a larger-than expected drop of 50 percent to $10 million.

4. Big Miracle – $8 million

Universal’s family-friendly drama, which stars Drew Barrymore (outside of her rom-com wheelhouse) as a woman fighting to rescue three whales locked inside rapidly spreading Alaskan ice, is hoping to replicate the success of Eight Below, another snowy family film, which opened in February 2006 with $20.8 million. Unfortunately, whales are less bankable protagonists than dogs (or dolphins, or penguins, or zoos!), and audiences haven’t been overly excited by trailers. Still, the film, which was made for under $40 million, is the first true family offering since We Bought A Zoo arrived in December. That film opened with $9.8 million, but Big Miracle, on a tougher frame and in just 2,128 theaters, may take in a slightly softer $8 million.

5. Underworld Awakening – $6 million

Kate Beckinsale’s vampire sequel should hold onto one last week in the Top 5, unless Katherine Heigl’s critically reviled One for the Money ekes out a strong hold. Thirteen days into its run, Underworld Awakening is playing slightly ahead of the franchise’s peak performer Underworld: Evolution, which finished with $62.3 million. Awakening may take in $6 million this weekend on its way to a similar finish.

What will you be seeing this weekend?

For more box office coverage, follow me on Twitter: Follow @EWGradySmith

The Woman in Black

  • Movie
  • PG-13