Box Office: Calm before the holiday storm

'Playing for Keeps' faces holdovers in quiet weekend

The decision to position soccer-themed romcom “Playing for Keeps” as a holiday movie could mean a red card for FilmDistrict, as its target audience of femmes over-25 are likely too busy prepping for Christmas this weekend to visit plexes.

As one distrib exec said, “It’s like launching an action movie over Super Bowl weekend and hoping guys don’t watch the game.”

FilmDistrict originally planned to launch “Keeps,” starring Gerard Butler and Jessica Biel, closer to the holiday, but the distrib bumped it up to avoid bigger titles. Even with “Keeps” expected to gross just $5 million through Sunday, it could’ve done worse had it stayed put.Without a double-digit player, it’s going to be a hard-knock weekend at the domestic B.O. as the orphaned December sesh otherwise relies on holdovers.

With Thanksgiving falling on the earliest possible date this year, this weekend — the first full frame in December — falls in between what’s typically a sluggish post-holiday period and the usual mid-December kickoff to tentpole Christmas moviegoing. That comes next weekend with Warner Bros.’ “The Hobbit” tracking for a domestic opening of about $75 million.

This time last year, Warners launched “New Year’s Eve,” with $13 million, ahead of Fox’s “The Sitter,” at nearly $10 million. As a result, most of the industry ignored the frame this time around, leaving repeats like “Twilight” and “Skyfall” to again carry the heavy B.O. load.

That means Summit’s “Twilight” titan, “Breaking Dawn — Part 2,” could nab its fourth straight weekend win, with only $8 million, down 53% from last weekend. Sony’s “Skyfall” will rival the bloodsucker, followed by “Rise of the Guardians,” “Lincoln” and “Life of Pi.”

Last weekend, “Part 2,” which has cumed $257 million domestically, held exactly in line with its “Twilight” predecessor; “Skyfall,” with $248 million Stateside, fell more steeply than expected. Still, the troupe of holdovers led a record-setting post-Thanksgiving domestic frame totaling $114 million.

Open Road Films is giving “End of Watch” a considerable awards push this weekend, relaunching the pic at 1,249 theaters. Box office expectations are modest, however. The film has earned nearly $40 million since launching Sept. 21.

The weekend marks the second straight frame when a star-driven genre pic is expected to fall flat, after Brad Pitt’s “Killing Them Softly” debuted wide with just $6.8 million.

Still, FilmDistrict has little skin in the game, having acquired only U.S. distribution rights for the film. “Keeps” was produced by Avi Lerner’s Millennium/Nu Image Films, along with Misher Films and Eclectic Pictures.

The specialty box office will benefit from the vacant marketplace.

Near the top, the Weinstein Co.’s “Silver Linings Playbook” should continue its steady B.O. growth; Stateside cume is nearly $11 million. Distrib is holding steady with the pic’s location count at 371. Fox Searchlight, expands “Hitchcock” to 183 playdates, up from 50 last weekend. “Hitchcock” nears the $1 million mark.

Focus Features launches “Hyde Park on Hudson” this weekend in New York and L.A. at two locations each.

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