Weekend Box Office Preview: 'Lone Survivor' Set to Overcome 'Hercules'

Comcast's Lone Survivor will compete with Lionsgate's Hercules, Disney's Frozen, and Time Warner's Desolation of Smaug

Comcast Universal's Lone Survivor should win this weekend's box office. Image source: Comcast

Hercules may be the son of Zeus, but he's no match for a team of four Navy SEALs.

Following its very limited (two-screen) Christmas release for 2013 award consideration, Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA  ) Universal's critically acclaimed $40 million production in Lone Survivor expands to nearly 2,900 theaters this weekend. Based on the 2007 best selling non-fiction book of the same name, the powerful story of a military mission gone wrong is also experiencing strong advance ticket sales. As a result, I wouldn't be surprised if Lone Survivor manages to handily exceed Comcast's own preliminary estimates, which call for a total gross in the mid-to-high teens.

Meanwhile, in offering the sole newcomer entering wide release this weekend, Lionsgate  (NYSE: LGF  ) and Summit Entertainment certainly hope The Legend of Hercules will provide a strong showing. However, given both its competition and the fact it's slated to open on just 2,104 theaters, I think The Legend of Hercules will be hard-pressed to break the $10 million mark over the next three days.

This in mind, it's worth noting Lionsgate and Summit didn't produce The Legend of Hercules, but rather acquired U.S. distribution rights last November from Millennium Films. And Millennium, for its part, served as Hercules' primary financier, reportedly spending around $40 million to bring the action epic to life.

The holdovers

But we also shouldn't forget last weekend's big-budget winners, most notably including both Disney's (NYSE: DIS  )  Frozen and Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Sure, Frozen is entering its seventh weekend in wide release, and has already earned a staggering $643.6 million worldwide -- that's more than quadruple Disney's lofty $150 million production budget. But that didn't stop Disney's breakout animated hit from grabbing the top spot over Smaug last weekend, when it fell by less than a third to earn another $19.6 million stateside. If Frozen experiences a similar drop this weekend, that'd still put it in the mid-teens.

Then there's Time Warner's Desolation of Smaug, which I think is likely to snag a close third place domestically in its own fifth weekend. This time seven days ago, Smaug was about to plunge by 46% for a solid $15.7 million cume. Following that downward trajectory, then, should put Smaug at around $10 million to $11 million.

Even so, don't shed any tears for Time Warner; Like its predecessor in The Hobbit: An Expected Journey, international audiences have made up nearly 70% of Desolation of Smaug's total ticket sales, bringing its worldwide gross to an incredible $761.2 million to date.

Finally, Time Warner could also pleasantly surprise audiences this weekend with the expansion of Her, which will grow to 1,729 screens this weekend after three weeks in limited release. While I certainly don't expect Her to vie for the top spot, it's impressive that the quirky comedy has already earned more than $3.2 million in just 47 theaters.

I'll be sure to touch base with revised numbers as the weekend wears on. In the meantime, just sit back and enjoy the show.

The battle doesn't end here

All of the above companies stand to earn millions at the box office, but it's easy to forget they're also vying for your entertainment dollars on the small screen.

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