After suffering its usual post-Labor Day cratering last weekend, the domestic box office should return to full revenue force with the debut of four widely released features.
Sony's Screen Gems label is expected to lead the charge again this weekend, following up No. 1 finisher "Resident Evil: Afterlife" with the youthful-, female-skewing "Easy A."
The high-school-themed romantic comedy, released in 2,856 theaters and loosely based on "The Scarlet Letter," cost only $8 million to make, but it's tracking to gross more than $20 million over the weekend.
"It's getting strong tracking among young females, who tend to run out and see movies early," said one rival-studio distribution official.
Warner's R-rated crime drama "The Town," directed and starring Ben Affleck, and co-starring Jeremy Renner and Jon Hamm, should land in second place.
Co-financed by Warner and Legendary Pictures at a cost of $37 million, the awards-aspiring "Town" is garnering an 88 percent grade from critics aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with debut expectations pegged in the $15 million-$20 million range. It will start out in 2,861 locations.
Also in the wide-release mix this weekend are Universal's M. Night Shyamalan-produced (but not -directed) horror film "Devil" and Lionsgate's family-targeted 3D animated "Alpha and Omega."
The first of three Media Rights Capital-funded movies branded with Shyamalan's "The Night Chronicles" moniker, "Devil" will debut in 2,110 locations and is expected to gross in the mid-teens. The lightly casted PG-13-rated film, about a small group of elevator riders who find themselves stuck with the devil himself, is expected to start out in the mid-teens.
Universal paid MRC $27 million for worldwide distribution rights.
"Alpha and Omega," meanwhile, stems from Lionsgate's production partnership with India-based animation house Crest Entertainment.
Produced on a budget of $25 million and launching in 2,625 theaters, the bulk of them 3D-equipped, "Alpha" voice-stars Christina Ricci, Justin Long, Hayden Panettiere, Danny Glover and the late Dennis Hopper.
The toon about two lost wolves trying to find their way home is expected to gross just over $10 million.
Meanwhile, with the indie and specialty-division sectors ramping up, a flurry of limited releases this weekend will include Rogue Pictures' Sundance pick-up "Catfish."
The documentary, which follows a young man as he courts a women he meets through social networking, will be one of the last films Universal distributes for Rogue, which is establishing its own distribution wherewithal.
Universal will debut "Catfish" at 12 locations within New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Austin, Texas.
"We chose markets with active moviegoing demographics and a lot of major media outlets," said Universal distribution chief Nikki Rocco. "These cities also over-index on social media usage."
Fox Searchlight, meanwhile, premiered the Keira Knightley film "Never Let Me Go" in four theaters on Wednesday, grossing $24,622.
The big story for the weekend, however, seems to be "Easy A," the PG-13-rated comedy that stars Emma Stone, Amanda Bynes, Lisa Kudrow, Malcolm McDowell and Thomas Haden Church.
"It's emerged as quite an attractive title for young females," said another rival-studio executive.