Moviegoers continue to flock to see Lee Daniel's The Butler, putting the historical drama on course to stay at No. 1 ahead of a crowded pack of new entries, according to early Friday returns.
The Weinstein Co. release -- headlining Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey -- is expected to gross in the $15 million range, pushing its total earnings to roughly $50 million, all but ensuring that those investing in the $30 million film will see a return.
As for the three new films, Lionsgate's horror pic You're Next is being given an edge over Edgar Wright's sci-fi action-comedy The World's End and supernatural young-adult property Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, although You're Next could lose the No. 2 spot to holdover We're the Millers.
Box office observers believe You're Next, about a family whose vacation home is attacked my animal-mask-wearing assailants, will open in the $10 million range. Lionsgate acquired the film at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival, but its release was delayed after the company's merger with Summit Entertainment.
World's End is expected to gross in the $8 million to $9 million range for the weekend, a solid hit for Focus Features considering it is only playing in 1,549 theaters, compared to 3,118 for Mortal Instruments and 2,437 for You're Next. World's End, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, follows a group of friends who reunite for an epic bar crawl only to discover that their hometown has been infested with a supernatural being. Written by Wright and Pegg, the sci-fi comedy is considered the third in the British filmmaker's series, after Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007).
Mortal Instruments, based on Cassandra Clare's popular supernatural YA book series, opened on Wednesday and has done tepid business so far, grossing roughly $4.7 million in its first two days. The film, starring Lily Collins as a demon-hunting teen, opened on Wednesday may only earn $8 million to $9 million for the three-day weekend, a disappointing start.
Sony is releasing Mortal Instruments via it Screen Gems label but has limited financial exposure since the $60 million movie was fully financed and produced by Germany's Constantin Films, which is already in pre-production on a sequel.
The other film to watch is Woody Allen's critically acclaimed Blue Jasmine, which expanded into a total of 1,200 theaters on Friday, marking Allen's widest release ever. The Sony Pictures Classics release, earning north of $10 million to date, could add $5 million to its coffers by the end of the weekend.