Forecast (cont.): 'Selma,' 'Inherent Vice' Expand Nationwide This Weekend
<< Continued from "Forecast: 'Taken 3' Targets $30-Million-Plus Debut This Weekend"

Playing at 2,179 locations, Selma should wind up in second place this weekend between Taken 3 and the holiday holdovers. Since opening on Christmas Day, the movie has earned $2.2 million in limited release.

Marketing for Selma has emphasized the movie's strong reaction among critics (100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes with over 100 reviews in), along with its major awards potential (four Golden Globe nominations, including Picture, Director and Actor).

From a story perspective, advertisements have leaned toward portraying Selma as a true story drama about the efforts to secure equal voting rights in the South during the 1960s. While that's an accurate representation of the movie, it's served to downplay the fact that this is also in many ways a biopic about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the most important characters in 20th century American history.

Strong comparisons can be drawn between Selma and movies like Lee Daniels' The Butler ($24.6 million) and The Help ($26 million), which both dealt with a similar era in U.S. history. It would be surprising if Selma opened quite as high as those movies, though. While Oprah has been stumping for the movie, her role here is much smaller than it was in The Butler; likewise, Selma doesn't have the star power or brand awareness that The Help had. Paramount is expecting an opening in the mid-teen-millions, which seems like a fair forecast.

After earning $1.55 million in limited release over the past month, writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice expands to 645 locations this weekend. Anderson's last movie, The Master, earned $4.39 million when it expanded wide (788 theaters) back in September 2012.

At the time, The Master had a lot working in its favor: it had strong reviews (85 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), strong positioning (there weren't any competitive prestige titles in theaters at the time), and an intriguing, controversial premise (the Scientology angle caused quite the stir back then). In those three areas, Inherent Vice doesn't measure up.

Reviews are noticeably lower (71 percent), and awards buzz has quieted down significantly. Instead of being the go-to option for discerning moviegoers, Vice faces competition from a slew of titles with heavy awards buzz (Selma, The Imitation Game, Wild, etc.). Finally, the movie's stoner detective storyline lacks the must-see factor that The Master had.

All things considered, its likely that Inherent Vice earns less than $3 million this weekend.

Forecast (January 9-11)

1. Taken 3 - $28 million

2. Selma - $15.5 million

3. The Hobbit - $10.4 million (-52%)

4. Into the Woods - $10.1 million (-46%)

5. Unbroken - $9.6 million (-47%)

Bar for Success

Considering its modest budget and strong international prospects, Taken 3 doesn't need to come anywhere close to its predecessor. Still, it really ought to be holding above $30 million. Meanwhile, $15 million would be a good start for Selma.

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