Opening at 2,662 locations, Ride Along is essentially the comedy version of Training Day. In the rookie role is Kevin Hart, who has established a strong brand thanks to supporting turns in movies like Think Like a Man ($91.5 million) and his incredibly popular stand-up work (last Summer's Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain earned $32.2 million). Meanwhile, Ice Cube assumes the role of the veteran cop; Cube's last headlining role was 2008 box office bomb The Longshots, so it's unclear if he's much of a draw these days.
The movie's real strength, though, can be found in its tagline: "Propose to this cop's sister? Rookie mistake." That line clearly explains what the movie is about, and suggests that there is something here for both men and women (one of the keys to comedy success). It also helps that ads deliver plenty of amusing gags, including a very memorable one involving Hart and a shotgun.
Universal has led the MLK weekend each of the past two years with Contraband ($28.5 million) and Mama ($32.1 million). They're expecting a similar result for Ride Along—specifically, around $30 million—though don't be surprised if it winds up higher than that. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is the fifth time that Tom Clancy character Jack Ryan has appeared on the big-screen. There were three movies in the early 1990s, with Ryan being portrayed once by Alec Baldwin and twice by Harrison Ford. The most recent Ryan movie was 2002's The Sum of All Fears, which starred Ben Affleck as the CIA analyst. Adjusting for inflation, all four of those movies opened between $31 and $42 million.
Opening at 3,387 theaters, Shadow Recruit finds Chris Pine taking over the Ryan role. This isn't the first iconic character that Pine has rebooted: he was first introduced to the general moviegoing public when he brought Captain James T. Kirk to life in J.J. Abrams' 2009 Star Trek. While this movie (and its 2013 sequel) have made Pine a recognizable asset, it's unclear if he can open a movie on his own.
The marketing for Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit has been aggressive, though not particularly compelling. Advertisements suggest a fairly generic terrorist plot that isn't all that dissimilar to the storyline in The Sum of All Fears (albeit without the immediacy that came from that movie's disaster imagery). There's also been an emphasis on general espionage tropes (tagline: "Trust No One"), though that's been equal parts intriguing and confusing. The romantic subplot with Keira Knightley could help, but it's been pushed aside a bit in the final run-up to release.
Paramount is expecting high-teen-millions for the four-day weekend, which would be a fairly disappointing start for this franchise. On the brand name alone, this should be getting past $20 million.
At 2,543 locations, Devil's Due is the second found footage supernatural horror movie in the first three weeks of 2014. The first one, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones opened to $18.3 million, which was a new low for the Paranormal series. That suggests that audiences are souring a bit on this gimmick—2013 was the best year in a long time for the horror genre, and not a single one of these hits were presented using found footage.
Still, the appeal of supernatural horror is undeniable, and Devil's Due fits squarely inside this wheelhouse. On this weekend last year, Mama opened to $32.1 million—while Devil's Due won't come close to that, it's hard to imagine it opening below $15 million. Fox, however, isn't expecting more than $10 million. The Nut Job is the first animated movie to be released by Open Road Films, which has it booked at 3,427 locations this weekend. It's reaching theaters on the back of a decent marketing push that has smartly played up the humor, which is typically an indicator of animated success. Unfortunately, it's not from a major animation studio, and it has the kind of unpolished look that held back computer animated movies Free Birds and Escape From Planet Earth last year. It also faces direct competition from Frozen, which is remarkably still drawing people to theaters. For the four-day frame, it's unlikely The Nut Job makes it past $20 million.
After receiving Best Picture nominations on Thursday, Gravity, Captain Phillips and 12 Years a Slave are all getting re-released nationwide this weekend. Captain Phillips got a jump on the competition by expanding to 903 locations on Wednesday; on Friday, Gravity makes it to 944 theaters and 12 Years a Slave reaches 761 venues. Forecast (Jan. 17-19) 1. Ride Along - $28.6 million ($34 million 4-day) 2. Lone Survivor - $23.4 million (-38%) 3. Jack Ryan - $18.8 million ($22.4 million 4-day) 4. Devil's Due - $12.6 million ($14.7 million 4-day) 5. The Nut Job - $12.3 million ($16.6 million 4-day) 6. Frozen - $10.7 million (-27%) Bar for Success Ride Along and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit are both in good shape if they make it to $20 million in their first three days. Meanwhile, The Nut Job and Devil's Due are both fine if they hit $15 million through Monday.