Kicking off what will be a busy month for Lionsgate, as well as for teens and 20somethings, Summit's YA-adaptation "Ender's Game" opens nationwide Friday at 3,407 domestic locations, tracking to gross in the mid-to-high $20 millions.
Expected to land in second place is Relativity Media's 3D animated film "Free Birds," which should earn between $16 million and $19 million, followed by Paramount's holdover "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa" and CBS Films' adult-skewing comedy "Last Vegas," both of which are projected to gross around $15 million.
READ REVIEW: "Ender's Game"
In limited release, Universal releases director Richard Curtis's time travel romcom "About Time" at 175 North American locations. The aggressive platform is meant to build word-of-mouth before the pic's nationwide expansion next weekend.
Other than a few standout performers such as "Gravity," the month of October has been relatively sluggish. And while "Ender's Game" may get the month off to a slow start, potential box office behemoths "Thor: The Dark World" and "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" loom on the horizon.
For "Ender's Game," the projected $25 million-$28 million bow would be a decent enough start for Lionsgate, which financed roughly 20% of the film's $110 million production budget. The majority of the pic's pricetag was financed by Oddlot Entertainment and Digital Domain. Producers sold foreign rights to help mitigate risk.
Still, the film's projected start looks meager, especially as an unfortunately-timed precursor to "Hunger Games." It's also modest considering Summit likely had much higher hopes tied to the broad fanbase of author Orson Scott Card's 1985 source novel. The film adaptation stars Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Hailee Steinfeld, Viola Davis and Abigail Breslin.
SEE ALSO: 'Hunger Games: Catching Fire' on Track for Mega $150 Million-Plus Debut
Meanwhile, "Free Birds," the first full-length animated feature for Dallas-based Reel FX and Relativity, cost $55 million to produce, a low budget for an animated film.
"Free Birds" will have the family market to itself, and it should dominate that demo until Disney's "Frozen" bows over Thanksgiving weekend. By that time, "Free Birds" will have played out domestically.
Also entering an underserved market for its core demo is "Last Vegas," which based on appeal for 66-year old plus stars Robert De Niro, Kevin Kline, Morgan Freeman and Michael Douglas, should see strong playability with moviegoers over 50.
The $28 million-budgeted comedy has received mixed reviews, and CBS Films has focused its marketing spend on the film's lighter elements hoping to position it as an adult crowdpleaser.
Targeting the arthouse crowd, Focus Features' well-reviewed "Dallas Buyers Club," starring Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto and Jennifer Garner, bows limited at six locations on Friday.
And coming off a successful limited bow last weekend, IFC Films' controversial NC-17-rated lesbian drama "Blue Is the Warmest Color" expands to 37 engagements in 10 additional markets. Heavy media attention followed IFC Center's decision to allow teens to see the film.
Box Office: 'Ender's Game' Deploys for $27 Million Weekend
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