It's clear that Hollywood will be more focused on the Oscars than the box office this weekend.
The studios have for the most part steered clear of the theaters. Neither of this week's two wide openers — the Weinstein Company's low-budget horror thriller “Dark Skies” and Summit's Dwayne Johnson action film “Snitch” — are expected to crack $13 million.
The battle for the top spot will likely be between last week's runner-up, “Identity Thief," and last week's No. 1 movie, “Good Day to Die Hard." Only with a lot of luck could "Snitch" sneak in for a surprise win.
"Identity Thief," the R-rated comedy starring Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman appears to have the most momentum. It has already claimed 2013's biggest opening, more than doubled its $35 million production budget in box-office grosses and will be the year's first $100 million movie.
Universal still has it in more than 3,220 locations and it remains the only broad comedy in the marketplace, so it looks likely to claim the top spot with around $13.5 million in its third week.
"Good Day to Die Hard" remains in more than 3,000 theaters for Fox and will compete directly for male action fans with the PG-13 rated “Snitch. A 50 percent drop from last weekend would put it at $12 million for the three days. The fifth film in the "Die Hard" franchise, and the first since 2007, ”Good Day" has already taken in $40 million domestically since its Valentine's Day debut, and double that figure overseas.
In "Snitch," Johnson stars as a father who goes undercover for the DEA to free his son who was imprisoned after being set up in a drug deal. Susan Sarandon, Benjamin Bratt and Barry Pepper co-star in the film, directed by Rick Roman Waughm who co-wrote with Justin Haythe.
Johnson is coming off two box-office hits, “Fast and Furious 5” and “Journey 2,” the latter of which opened to $27 million about this time last year and went on to make $325 million worldwide. This is the first of five movies he'll be in this year, including next month's “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” and “Fast and Furious 6” in May.
But this year has been a tricky for action heroes. Arnold Schwarzenegger's “The Last Stand” and Sly Stallone's “Bullet to the Head” both tanked in January, before “Good Day to Die Hard” opened to a solid $28.6 million last week.
"Snitch" will be in 2,511 theaters for Summit and is expected to finish the weekend with between $10 million and $12 million.
“Dark Skies” is a PG-13 sci-fi thriller that revolves around a couple trying to save their family from an apparently alien presence which preys on their children. Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton and Dakota Goyo star, while Scott Stewart (“Priest”) directs.
Jason Blum and his Blumhouse Productions, the company behind “Sinister,” “Insidious” and the “Paranormal Activity” franchise, is producing.
Weinstein is handling P&A costs in return for distributing and has it in roughly 2,313 theaters. A three-day total of around $9 million seems likely.
"We're very excited about being in the Jason Blum business," the Weinstein Company's head of distribution Erik Lomis told TheWrap Thursday.
Two other films that over-achieved last week will be factors again this week. Relativity still has the Nicholas Sparks adaptation "Safe Haven" in 3,223 locations, on the heels of its surprising $24.6 million haul last weekend. A roughly $10 million second week is a good bet.
"Escape From Planet Earth," the Weinstein Company's computer animated kids film, overachieved with nearly $16 million over its debut weekend. For the second week in a row, it will be the only real family fare in the market, and Weinstein has added about 75 screens to take the location count to 3,350, so a three-day total north of $10 million appears likely.
The studios will be back with four wide releases on March 1. That's when Relativity unveils its teen comedy “21 and Over,” New Line debuts adventure film “Jack the Giant Slayer,” CBS Films is back with “The Last Exorcism Part II” and RCR Distribution's thriller “Phantom” rolls out.