As weekend box offices go, this should be quite a horse race … and we're not just making this pun because Disney's "Secretariat" is opening.
Three films will vie for the top spot at domestic theaters this weekend, with "Secretariat" debuting alongside Warner Bros.' Katherine Heigl comedy "Life as We Know It," and both challenging the incumbent champ, Sony's Facebook-founder biopic "The Social Network."
Also opening wide this weekend will be Universal-distributed Wes Craven film, "My Soul to Take," as well as Focus' mental-hospital drama "It's Kind of a Funny Story."
If you're impressed by big movies that drive big revenue at the weekend box office, well, be prepared to be unimpressed.
None of the aforementioned films is expected to gross over $20 million this weekend. In fact, according to Warner distribution president Dan Fellman, an $18 million performance should be enough to win the market.
Then again, it might not even take that much.
Co-financed by Village Roadshow and Gold Circle Films at a cost of $38 million, the PG-13-rated "Life as We Know It" is expected to gross in the mid-teens or slightly above this weekend, with reviews aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes splattering it with a 30 percent fresh score.
The film stars Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel as the struggling young caregivers to an orphaned toddler.
Meanwhile, following the behind-the-track story of the eponymous 1973 Triple Crown winner, "Secretariat" stars Diane Lane and John Malkovich, with Disney spending a reported $35 million to produce the sports flick.
Tracking estimates peg its performance in the $12 million-$15 million range.
As for "Social Network," Sony is hoping for week-to-week declines of well under 50 percent for an Oscar-aspiring movie that grossed $22.4 million last weekend.
"It'll be interesting to see what happens with 'Social Network' this weekend," said one rival-studio executive. "Will it continue to draw well in the big cities? Will the middle of the country catch up to it or just let it go?"
For its part, Universal is dealing with the fact that the whole country seems to be letting the horror genre go lately, with two scary movies — Paramount Vantages "Case 39" and Overture/Relativity's "Let Me In" — both failing to crack the $6 million mark last weekend.
Releasing the Relativity/Rogue-produced "My Soul to Take" in 2,411 theaters, 75 percent of them 3D-equipped, Universal officials expect to gross under $10 million in U.S. theaters this weekend. (Alliance Entertainment is distributing the film in Canada.)
The R-rated film represents the first Craven horror movie based on an original concept in 15 years. It's also the filmmaker's first use of 3D.
Relativity spent around $25 million to produce it.
Among the specialty-division fare, Focus will launch "It's Kind of a Funny Story" in 742 theaters. The PG-13-rated youth drama, which focuses on a teenager who checks himself into a mental home, stars Zach Galifianakis and Emma Roberts.
Meanwhile, among limited releases, Overture/Relativity will release "Stone," an R-rated thriller that stars Robert De Niro, Milla Jovovich and Edward Norton, in six locations.
Also launching in limited form: Anchor Bay will release unrated, critically mauled horror remake "I Spit on Your Grave" in 12 theaters; Weinstein will debut John Lennon biopic "Nowhere Boy" in four locations; and Sony Classics will put out Stephen Frears R-rated comedy "Tamara Drewe" in four houses.