Box office preview: 'Mama' may take Jessica Chastain to No. 1 (again) over holiday weekend

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Image Credit: Universal Pictures

Jessica Chastain is having a banner week. On Sunday, the statuesque actress won a Golden Globe for her performance in Zero Dark Thirty, which simultaneously topped the box office with $24.4 million. Tomorrow, Chastain will attempt to replace herself at the top of the chart with the Guillermo Del Toro-produced horror flick Mama. And she’s done all this while still performing in Broadway’s The Heiress!

Mama isn’t the only new entry this weekend. The Mark Wahlberg/Russell Crowe thriller Broken City will face the Arnold Schwarznegger vehicle The Last Stand in a quest to win over male action fans. Oscar hopeful Silver Linings Playbook is also moving into wide expansion, giving many audiences their first opportunity to see the award-festooned dramedy.

Here’s how the box office may shake out over the four-day holiday weekend:

1. Mama – $21 million
As Texas Chainsaw 3D proved two weekends ago, horror movies play well in January, and Universal’s latest effort, Mama, which boasts a slim $15 million budget, should have no trouble scoring a solid opening weekend. Jessica Chastain’s increased awards season visibility should lift the film’s prospects, as will the cache of Del Toro’s producing credit. Of course, hordes of horror-loving teens, who don’t care much about awards prestige, will likely make up the most substantial part of the audience, and in 2,647 theaters, Mama could scare up just over $20 million in its first four days.

2. Zero Dark Thirty – $19 million
Following Chastain’s Golden Globe win (and enduring chatter about director Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar snub), the controversial film may dip by only 25-30 percent and score another $18 million weekend, which would lift its total to $56 million.

3. Broken City – $17 million
Fox’s $35 million thriller Broken City may be earning poor reviews, but its stars should help it fare well with moviegoers on opening weekend. Mark Wahlberg is a proven box office draw. On this same weekend last year, the Boston native opened his action flick Contraband to a strong $24.3 million before taking Ted all the way to $218.8 million that summer. Russell Crowe isn’t quite as reliable, but his connection to audience favorite Les Miserables has lifted his stock considerably (even if he wasn’t an audience favorite). Out on 2,620 theaters, Broken City won’t break any records, but it may earn about $17 million.

4. The Last Stand – $14 million 
If there’s one thing standing in the way of this Arnold Schwarznegger actioner becoming a success, it’s the aforementioned Broken City, which is targeting the same audience of male fans to drive its business. Many older patrons will turn out to see Schwarznegger — and the film may be helped considerably by its surprisingly good reviews — but, as The Expendables 2‘s soft $28.6 million debut proved last August, the Terminator isn’t exactly an ultimate box office draw anymore. The Last Stand, which cost Lionsgate about $45 million to produce, may have to settle for just $14 million in its four-day debut.

5. Silver Linings Playbook – $12 million
The Weinstein Co. has demonstrated brilliant restraint in platforming the David O’Russell film. Though Silver Linings Playbook began its run in limited release unspectacularly, Weinstein has widely kept its theater count quite low, relying on terrific word-of-mouth to drive business, and the extra-slow expansion strategy has worked splendidly. Now, following Jennifer Lawrence’s Golden Globe win, the studio is launching the $21 million film, which has already earned $43.3 million, from 810 theaters into 2,523 locations. As a result, it may find a solid $12 million and continue its march toward the Oscar ceremony.

Check back all weekend to see how these films fare, and follow me on Twitter for more up-to-the-minute box office updates!

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