A trio of films -- Rise of the Guardians, Life of Pi and Red Dawn -- open nationwide on Wednesday, hoping to overcome their respective challenges and feast throughout the long Thanksgiving holiday.
But none is expected to topple Summit Entertainment's holdover The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2 from the top perch. Breaking Dawn 2, with a domestic gross of $151.2 million, is expected to earn between $55 million and $60 million for the Wednesday-Sunday stretch.
Of the new offerings, DreamWorks Animation's Christmas-themed toon Rise of the Guardians has the best shot of coming in at No. 2. Last year, Disney's The Muppets grossed $41.5 million over the five-day Thanksgiving stretch, and tracking suggests that Rise of the Guardians will land in that range, although distributor Paramount is offering a more conservative estimate.
Rise of the Guardians, costing $145 million to make, is the final DWA pic that Paramount will distribute.
While Rise of the Guardians could score one of the lowest openings for a DWA title, Paramount believes the 3D toon will have a strong hold through Christmas and New Year's since there's no other animated family pic in sight.
Directed by Peter Ramsey, Rise of the Guardians is based on William Joyce's The Guardians of Childhood book series, about how childhood holiday heroes are charged with protecting the world from evil.
In the film, Jack Frost, voiced by Chris Pine, is enlisted by the guardians to stop the villain Pitch, voiced by Jude Law. Alec Baldwin voices Santa Claus, while Hugh Jackman voices the Easter Bunny. Isla Fisher voices the Tooth Fairy.
Rise of the Guardians could have to compete with James Bond pic Skyfall for No. 2. Skyfall, the most successful Bond film worldwide, has grossed $165 million so far in North America.
Ang Lee awards contender Life of Pi is a pricey gamble for Fox, costing $120 million to make (the studio says it was just under that number). Many thought it was impossible to adapt Yan Martel's prize-winning novel about an Indian boy lost at sea with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.
Tracking suggests that Life of Pi will post a so-so five-day opening in the $15 million to $20 million range, putting it in direct competition with MGM and FilmDistrict's Red Dawn and Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, which heads into its second weekend in nationwide release.
Fox insiders say Life of Pi, from the studio's Fox 2000 division, is a truly unique project that will play to audiences of all ages throughout the holidays and was a creative risk worth taking. Life of Pi, starring Suraj Sharma in his first acting role, is rated PG in the U.S.
But while Life of Pi is drawing generally good reviews, tracking has been soft for the film domestically, putting increased pressure on the movie's international performance. Life of Pi opens in Taiwan -- where Lee was born -- China, Hong Kong, India and Puerto Rico.
Red Dawn, a remake of John Milius' 1980s cult classic, has been sitting on the shelf since 2009, its release delayed by MGM's financial woes. FilmDistrict acquired rights to release the film last year.
Several of the movie's stars -- including Chris Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson -- weren't known at the time of production, but have shot to fame since. Red Dawn also stars Adrianne Palicki, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Isabel Lucas and Connor Cruise.
Directed by Dan Bradley, Red Dawn features a group of young Amiercan patriots who try to save their city from enemy occupation by foreign forces. Originally, the enemies were Chinese, but the film was altered to change the villains to North Koreans so as to not hurt the movie's chances in China.
Among more limited Thanksgiving releases, David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbood expands into a total of 367 theaters Wednesday after opening last weekend in 16 theaters to modest results. The Weinstein Co. was originally going to open the critically acclaimed film nationwide Wednesday but scaled back in a bid to grow the movie through good word-of-mouth.
Silver Linings, also an awards contender, stars Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver.
Opening Friday at the specialty box office are award contenders Rust and Bone, from Sony Pictures Classics and starring Marion Cottilard, and Hitchcock, the Fox Searchlight film starring Anthony Hopkins as the legendary director Alfred Hitchcock and Helen Mirren as Hitchcock's wife, Alma.