Box office preview: With 'Killing' set to open 'Softly,' 'Twilight' and 'Skyfall' aim for No. 1

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Image Credit: The Weinstein Company

This weekend, The Weinstein Co. is releasing Killing Them Softly, the Andrew Dominik-directed crime drama starring Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini into 2,424 theaters. But the well-reviewed art piece will likely have trouble breaking out — especially in a crowded field full of holdovers that are still raking in big bucks since last weekend’s record-breaking Thanksgiving frame. Also entering theaters is the little-known horror film The Collection, which is hitting 1,403 locations.

Neither film poses a legitimate threat to The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, Skyfall, or Lincoln, all three of which will duke it out for the top spot.

Here’s how I think the box office may shake out over the Friday-to-Sunday period:

1. Skyfall – $18 million

The James Bond film is guaranteed a heftier-than-usual decline, since last weekend’s numbers were inflated by the holiday. Still, great word-of-mouth will soften the blow considerably, and a decline just below 50 percent would give Skyfall, which has already amassed over $800 million worldwide, about $18 million and a $247 million total.

2. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 – $17.5 million

There’s still a good chance that Breaking Dawn – Part 2 will top the chart, but it should face a sharper decline than Skyfall. Breaking Dawn – Part 1 dropped 60 percent in the post-Thanksgiving frame. A similar result would place the Twilight finale at about $17.5 million and $255 million total.

3. Lincoln – $17 million

Steven Spielberg’s $65 million Oscar contender increased by a phenomenal 22 percent over the three-day holiday weekend, and although it won’t enjoy another week of box office increases, it should score one of the slimmest drops in the Top 20. A scant 33 percent decline would give Lincoln $17 million for the weekend and $87 million total after just three weekends. If it manages an even smaller drop than that, then watch out, because Lincoln will be on its way to becoming a true box office juggernaut.

4. Rise of the Guardians – $13 million

The $145 million DreamWorks animated film disappointed last weekend, and its prospects look rather dire. Fortunately, its holiday theme should give it a slight boost as the film approaches Christmas. Rise of the Guardians may fall by about 45 percent to $13 million this weekend, which would give it a sad 12-day total of $48.5 million.

5. Life of Pi – $13 million

The well-reviewed Ang Lee spectacle fared better-than-expected last weekend, and it has held up nicely over the weekdays that followed. Spurred by good word-of-mouth Life of Pi should receive a major influx of adult audiences over the weekend. It may fall by about 40 percent to $13 million as well.

6. Killing Them Softly – $8 million

The low-key marketing campaign for Killing Them Softly hasn’t drummed up much buzz for the gangster film. And Brad Pitt, while a box office draw, doesn’t necessarily pack theaters for his more artsy endeavors like the last film he made with director Andrew Dominik, 2007’s The Assassination of Jess James by the Coward Robert Ford, which grossed just $3.9 million. The R-rated Killing will certainly make more than that, but awareness and tracking for the film are low, though devoted Brad Pitt fans should turn up. The film, which is entering theaters on a notoriously slow weekend, might debut to a soft $8 million. (Weinstein did not provide EW with a budget for the film.)

It’s tough to say how well The Collection will fare, though it seems unlikely to attract audiences broader than die-hard horror fans. Most audiences aren’t looking for a scary movie during the traditionally warm-and-fuzzy holiday season. The LD Entertainment release may debut around tenth place, but that could be setting the bar too high. We’ll see.

Who do you think will take the weekend crown? Check back to EW all weekend long to find out, and follow me on Twitter for up-to-the-minute updates.

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