Forecast: Odds Favor Clint's 'Curve' on Competitive Weekend
Four brand-new movies are opening in nationwide release this weekend, though they are all modest enough that $20 million should be good enough for first place. Featuring 82-year-old Clint Eastwood's first starring role in four-and-a-half years, baseball drama Trouble with the Curve seems to have a slight advantage going in to the weekend, though House at the End of The Street, End of Watch and Dredd could all be in contention as well. Additionally, Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master is expanding nationwide after one of the best limited debuts ever.

Staying mostly behind the camera lately, movie legend Clint Eastwood has only starred in two movies in the last decade (Gran Torino and Million Dollar Baby). Both of those went on to earn over $100 million, which reinforces what a draw Eastwood remains in his old age. His bizarre chair conversation at the Republic National Convention may have hurt his brand a bit among liberal audiences, though they aren't really the target for either a baseball movie or an Eastwood movie, so Trouble with the Curve should be unfazed.

While baseball is "America's pastime" (can't we just give this title to football already?), it doesn't really have much pull at the box office: the top opening ever for the genre belongs to The Benchwarmers with $19.6 million. Last September's Moneyball, which also deals with the backroom aspects of the sport, opened to $19.5 million on its way to $75.6 million, both of which seem like the upper boundaries for Trouble with the Curve.

If anything is going to upset Trouble with the Curve, it's going to be House at the End of the Street at 3,083 locations. Relativity Media acquired the horror movie on the cheap ($2.5 million), and have executed a mid-range marketing campaign mostly geared towards genre fans. Unfortunately, the movie's antagonist remains vague, which tends to be a major drawback for horror flicks: in the last year, that's hurt Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, Dream House and Silent House, all of which debuted to $8.5 million or less. Recognizing the movie's limitations, Relativity is currently forecasting between $11 and $12 million for the weekend.

So how could House at the End of the Street possibly beat Trouble with the Curve? Two words: Jennifer Lawrence. In the last two years, Lawrence has gone from unknown to superstar thanks to an Oscar nomination for Winter's Bone, a supporting role in X-Men: First Class ($146.4 million), and the headlining role in box office sensation The Hunger Games ($408 million). If only a tiny fraction of those Hunger Games fans give J-Law's latest movie a look, it will be a break-out hit.

Opening at 2,730 theaters, End of Watch is from writer-director David Ayer, who is best-known for scripting Training Day. While Open Road Films would obviously like it if End of Watch could match Training Day's $22.6 million debut, the standard for gritty cop movies is much lower: recent entries Brooklyn's Finest, Pride & Glory and Ayer's Street Kings ($12.5 million) opened to $13.4 million, $6.3 million, and $12.5 million, respectively, which seems like an appropriate range for End of Watch. With the found footage conceit and star Michael Pena adding some appeal for Latino audiences, though, it could wind up a bit higher.

The weekend's final new movie, comic book adaptation Dredd, opens on 2,700 screens at 2,506 theaters, with roughly 2,200 of those locations playing the movie in 3D. Following a well-received screening at the San Diego Comic-Con in July, the movie has been consistently building strong buzz among comic book fans, and even has a solid 85 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. With a few noteworthy exceptions like 300 and Wanted, though, extremely violent R-rated comic book adaptations don't really break out at the box office. A good recent example is Kick-Ass, which took an incredible amount of buzz in to its opening weekend but only wound up with a $19.8 million debut. Dredd will also be held back a bit by the awful reputation of 1995's Judge Dredd, which earned just $34.7 million total and has a terrible 5.1 rating on IMDb. Lionsgate's tracking suggests the movie is on course for an opening weekend between $8 and $10 million.

After opening to $736,311 at just five locations last weekend, The Master is expanding nationwide in to 788 theaters. That impressive debut isn't indicative of the movie's mainstream prospects, though: writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson has a passionate but small audience, and the buzz on The Master isn't as enthusiastic as it was for There Will Be Blood. Anderson's top weekend is $5.7 million (Magnolia's nationwide expansion), and it would be surprising if The Master wound up higher than that this weekend.

Weekend Forecast (September 21-23)

1. Trouble with the Curve - $18.7 million

2. House at the End of the Street - $14.5 million

3. End of Watch - $13.3 million

4. Dredd - $12.6 million

5. Finding Nemo 3D - $9.5 million (-43%)

6. Resident Evil 5 - $8.2 million (-61%)

7. The Master - $4.2 million

Bar for Success

Based on historical comparisons, all four of the new releases this weekend are in good shape if they open at around $15 million.

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