Weekend Box Office: 4 Films With Something for Everyone

This weekend, movie theaters around the country will play host to four very different films: one is a gory thriller, the fifth in its franchise; the second is a wholesome heart-wrenching adaptation of a best-selling book; the third is an R-rated action comedy; and the fourth is a 3D concert musical.

Warner Brothers’ (NYSE:TWX) Final Destination 5, this weekend’s gory thriller, probably has the best shot at being number one, unless it’s ousted by holdover Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which raked in $54.8 million when it opened last weekend, and added nearly $20 million more to that figure as of Wednesday. The last Final Destination film, released in 2009, grossed $27.4 million in the U.S. its opening weekend. Apes is expected to bring in $26 million to $28 million in its second weekend. The plot of each Final Destination film is essentially the same, and relies on audiences looking for a thrill — that, and crazy new ways for the franchise’s new cast of characters to die.

DreamWorks and Participant Media’s The Help might also have a chance to push Final Destination down a peg, though the film opened a couple days ahead of the weekend, which could hurt true weekend sales. Disney (NYSE:DIS), the film’s distributor, is projecting roughly $20 million in ticket sales this weekend, but that estimate could be a bit conservative considering the film’s many positive reviews from both critics and moviegoers alike. The Help grossed $5.5 million when it opened Wednesday, and added another $4.3 million on Thursday.

The Help is based on the 2009 novel of the same name written by Kathryn Stockett, which has sold over 5 million copies and spent over 100 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list. The story takes place in 1960s-era Jackson, Mississippi, and demonstrates the plight of black domestic workers employed by white households. The film’s cast includes Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer, and Jessica Chastain.

This weekend’s third nationwide release is Ruben Fleisher’s R-rated action comedy 30 Minutes or Less, starring The Social Network’s Jesse Eisenberg. Sony (NYSE:SNE) is predicting a modest opening bow of $15 million to $17 million, hoping that positive word of mouth will give the film legs to carry it into future weekends. The film is likely to compete with Final Destination 5 for audiences, expected to be relatively young and largely male, while The Help stands alone in its appeal to older audiences, with its female-led cast tracking particularly well among women.

This weekend’s final national release is Glee: The 3D Concert Movie, released by Fox’s (NASDAQ:NWSA) film and television studios. The film will follow the cast of the Fox Network’s hit TV show “Glee” as they tour the country, performing sold-out concerts. While Fox is predicting the film will bring in high single-digit sales this weekend, it’s been hard to estimate how well the film will do. Its audience will be almost solely comprised of viewers of the weekly television show, whose fans call themselves “Gleeks” and can be quite enthusiastic in expressing their fervor for the show and its cast. The film will only be in theaters for two weeks, which could draw in more viewers its opening weekend, but is only opening in 2,040 locations.

While all of the aforementioned films are very different in terms of content, they all have one major thing in common — they were all cheap to make. While a significant number of films released in July had budgets in excess $100 million, all of this weekend’s films cost less than $50 million to make. For The Help, that means its 5-day extended opening could reimburse the studio its $25 million production budget, and then some. The same could be the case for Glee 3D, which cost $9 million to make.