Tight race has all three pics vie for No. 1 spot

Friday the 13th is scaring up a three-way battle at the domestic box office, with “The Three Stooges,” “The Cabin in the Woods” and “The Hunger Games” all on track for $5-7 million Friday, according to early B.O. estimates.

Fox’s PG-rated “Stooges,” helmed by Bob and Peter Farrelly, is expected to gross as much as $20 million this weekend, as is “The Hunger Games,” but B.O. analysts warn that a strong Friday night performance from Lionsgate’s horror pic, “Cabin in the Woods,” could make for a photo finish for the No. 1 spot.

“There are two kinds of movies where you just can’t pick ‘em (Friday),” one exec says. “Horror movies, because of Friday night audiences, and family movies, because of the Saturday matinees.”

Based on the popular TV comedy from the 1950′s, “The Three Stooges” stars Sean Hayes, Will Sasso and Chris Diamantopoulos and was made for roughly $35 million. As of Friday afternoon, Fandango reported that “The Three Stooges” was leading both “The Hunger Games” and “Cabin in the Woods” in advance ticket sales, a sign that, despite having no A-list stars, the family comedy was benefitting from a strong marketing campaign by Fox, in addition to the established fanbase of Curly, Moe and Larry.

“Cabin in the Woods,” produced and co-written by Joss Whedon, marks the feature directing debut of “Cloverfield” and “Lost” scribe Drew Goddard in a tale of five young adults embarking on a weekend of debauchery at an abandoned cabin in the woods. Chris Hemsworth and Anna Hutchinson star.

“Cabin” was originally made in 2009 by MGM and set for a 2010 release but Lionsgate purchased the film from MGM once it emerged out of bankruptcy in 2011.

This weekend’s other new release, Open Road’s “Lockout,” is tracking for a $6 million-$7 million weekend.

“The Hunger Games,” which recently crossed the $300 million mark in the U.S., is seeking its fourth-consecutive No. 1 at the U.S. box office.

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