LOS ANGELES (MCT) – "Lone Survivor," Universal Pictures' military drama about a mission gone wrong, could ambush "Frozen" at the box office this weekend, as "The Legend of Hercules" joins the fray and "Her" and "August: Osage County" enter more theaters.
The Afghanistan war movie could generate $20 million in ticket sales through Sunday in the U.S. and Canada, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys, although Universal is predicting a softer $17 million. That probably would make it the top movie this weekend ahead of "Frozen," Disney's long-running hit animated musical.
"Lone Survivor," written and directed by Peter Berg, is based on Marcus Luttrell's best-selling firsthand account of an ill-fated mission in Afghanistan in which his Navy SEAL team faces an impossible moral dilemma and is attacked by enemy fighters. Mark Wahlberg, who plays Luttrell, is joined by Emile Hirsch, Taylor Kitsch and Ben Foster as the other members of the SEAL team.
Universal gave "Lone Survivor" a limited release on Christmas Day to qualify for 2013 awards consideration. It cost $40 million to make.
"Frozen," which came in first place last weekend, could come in second this time around. It was the fourth-highest-grossing movie of 2013 behind "Iron Man 3," "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" and "Despicable Me 2." It has generated more than $300 million in ticket sales so far domestically.
Warner Bros.' offbeat computer love story "Her," from writer-director Spike Jonze, expands to theaters across the country Friday and may gross $9 million during its first weekend in wide release. In "Her" _ which cost around $30 million and was financed by Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures _ Joaquin Phoenix plays a lonely man in the near future who falls for a highly advanced operating system, voiced by Scarlett Johansson.
Also starring Amy Adams, "Her" debuted in limited release Dec. 18 and has grossed more than $3 million. It has drawn widespread praise from critics, 91 percent of whom liked it, according to the Rotten Tomatoes website, which aggregates movie reviews.
The new wide release "The Legend of Hercules," starring "Twilight Saga" alumnus Kellan Lutz as the half-man, half-god, could gross around $10 million. More conservative projections put it at $8 million, a mediocre opening for the film.
Millennium Films said it made and financed the 3-D action adventure for $40 million, although others familiar with the project said the budget was substantially higher.
"Hercules" is the latest movie to be distributed by Lionsgate's Summit Entertainment, which also released the "Twilight" movies.
"August: Osage County," from the Weinstein Co., is expected to take in around $6 million through Sunday as it expands to 905 theaters after running in five locations since Dec. 27. John Wells' adaptation of the Tracy Letts play about a dysfunctional family has earned Golden Globe award nominations for Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, although it has generated mixed reviews.
The film, which also features Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin and Benedict Cumberbatch, cost roughly $25 million to make.