There won't be much buzz at the box office on the first weekend of the new year, as only one new movie -- "Texas Chainsaw 3D" -- hits theaters nationwide.
The horror flick starring the serial killer made famous in 1974's "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" is expected to debut with a respectable sum of about $16 million, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys. The movie is to premiere in a handful of theaters at 10 p.m. on Thursday, before expanding nationwide on Friday to 2,654 locations.
That won't be enough to unseat "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" from the top position, where the Peter Jackson film has resided for the three weekends since its debut. The prequel to "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy will likely take in an additional $20 million during its fourth weekend in theaters, raising its domestic total to over $260 million by Sunday. "Texas Chainsaw 3D" will have to fight for the runner-up spot against "Django Unchained" and "Les Miserables," the Christmas releases that have been benefiting from strong word of mouth.
Meanwhile, the environmental drama "Promised Land" will expand from 25 to 1,500 locations this weekend. The film co-written by and starring Matt Damon and John Krasinski is likely to take in about $6 million after only a modest start in limited release last weekend.
"Texas Chainsaw 3D" was financed by Avi Lerner's Millennium Pictures for just under $20 million but is being distributed in North America by Lionsgate, which is spending about $20 million to market the horror film. Lionsgate did not screen the movie for critics, typically an indication that a studio feels its film will not be embraced by reviewers.
Since the original film featuring the chainsaw-wielding villain was released nearly four decades ago, there have been five other films starring Leatherface. The biggest box-office success was 2003's "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," which starred Jessica Biel and took in $80.6 million. The most recent "Chainsaw" film, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning," didn't fare nearly as well, grossing only $39.5 million.
The sixth "Chainsaw" movie was initially slated to debut on Oct. 26 of last year, but saw its release date pushed back in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The new film follows a woman who inherits a family home inhabited by Leatherface.
"Promised Land," financed by Focus Features for about $15 million, has received middling reviews. The movie stars Damon as an energy company salesman who travels to a small town in an effort to persuade locals to allow fracking -- which extracts underground natural gas -- on their land.
Focus launched the picture, directed by Damon's "Good Will Hunting" collaborator Gus Van Sant, in limited release in an effort to build buzz. An educated, older crowd initially turned up to see the movie. On opening weekend, Focus said 52% of those who saw the movie were over the age of 50, and 77% had a college degree.
Also expanding this weekend is "The Impossible," Summit Entertainment's tearjerker about a family struggling to survive in the aftermath of the 2004 Thailand tsunami. The $40-million production has been in only 16 theaters since its Dec. 21 debut and hasn't done amazingly well, selling about $600,000 worth of tickets. This weekend, the movie is set to play in 572 cinemas.
The film, which has earned awards buzz for star Naomi Watts, has done especially well overseas, where it has so far made $60 million. The movie has done brisk business in Spain, from which hail the film's director and the real-life family its characters are based on.