By Grady Smith
Updated September 21, 2012 at 04:22 AM EDT
Keith Bernstein


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It’s a busy frame at the movies this weekend — at least on the distribution side. Whether moviegoers will busily fill up seats is another story.

Four new wide releases are entering theaters — baseball flick Trouble with the Curve, horror entry House at the End of the Street, sci-fi thriller Dredd 3D, and cop drama End of Watch — and although all four look like they may debut with more than $10 million, none seems poised to truly break out. It’s looking like the battle for the top spot may come down to Katniss and Clint.

Here’s how I think the box office might shake out.

1. Trouble with the Curve – $16 million

Following Clint Eastwood’s chat with an empty chair at the Republican National Convention, the question on many people’s mind was how many empty chairs there might be at screenings of the actor’s new movie. The baseball drama may have lost a few customers, but given Eastwood’s older target-demographic and sports-centric focus, Trouble with the Curve should still find solid business — at least in the heartland.

The Warner Bros. film, which stars Eastwood, Justin Timberlake, and Amy Adams, won’t climb as high as last year’s Moneyball, which opened with $19.5 million, but it will get a big boost from Eastwood’s visible presence. Though his directorial efforts like J. Edgar ($37.3 million) and Hereafter ($32.7 million) aren’t always lucrative, he’s demonstrated drawing power as a star. (Trouble marks Eastwood’s first film as an actor for another director since 1993’s In the Line of Fire.) Most recently, Gran Torino grossed an impressive $148.1 million domestically. Curve won’t likely climb that high — it may bat up about $16 million from 3,212 theaters.

2. House at the End of the Street – $15 million

That this film features Jennifer Lawrence’s first starring role since The Hunger Games may help turn House at the End of the Street into a mid-level hit — much in the same way that Daniel Radcliffe’s horror title The Woman In Black proved a winner, grossing $54.3 million earlier this year.

The horror film (which was not screened for critics), cost about $10 million to make, Relativity, which is distributing the film, says it only spent $2.5 million to acquire it. Thanks to heavy buzz among its target audience of young women, House may end up taking the weekend crown — especially since Relativity decided to release the film wider than originally planned in 3,083 theaters. It may gross about $15 million.

3. End of Watch – $10 million

The Jake Gyllenhaal/Michael Pena cop drama hasn’t drummed up a gigantic amount of buzz, but thanks to strong reviews, there’s solid interest in the R-rated title. In a crowded marketplace, End of Watch may very well fade into the background — and football fans could be hard to remove from their living room sofas. Fortunately, the film carries a reported $7 million budget, and playing in 2,730 theaters, it could gross $11 million.

4. Finding Nemo – $10 million

Last weekend’s runner up may dip by about 40 percent to $10 million in its sophomore frame.

5. Dredd 3D – $9 million

The sci-fi actioner, which stars Karl Urban as the titular helmeted character, is the second attempt to make comic book character Judge Dredd happen at the box office. The $90 million 1995 adaptation Judge Dredd flopped hard, earning a paltry $35.7 million total. This new Dredd may not even climb that high when all is said and done. While Internet awareness is high thanks to heavy geek chatter, Dredd may struggle to break $10 million.

Distributor Lionsgate isn’t doing the film any good by opening it one weekend after Resident Evil: Retribution, which is targeting the same demographic, and without a major star, casual moviegoers are unlikely to flock to an obscure property like Dredd. The film was financed for about $50 million by IM Global and later acquired by Lionsgate, who have put ample money (estimated in the $25 million range) into promotion. Out in 2,506 theaters, Dredd may earn $9 million.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master also moves into wide release this weekend, expanding from 5 to 788 theaters. While the buzzy cult drama set a record in limited release, its wide release prospects are much cooler. Though the film may be garnering strong reviews, it’s far too obscure for mainstream audiences. It may gross about $5 million.

Follow me on Twitter for box office updates throughout the weekend, and stay tuned to EW on Saturday and Sunday for full box office results.


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