"Bought a ticket for a runaway train … like a madman laughing at the rain."
Debuting its Tony Scott-directed Denzel Washington thriller "Unstoppable" in 3,207 theaters in the U.S. and Canada Friday, Fox is hoping more than a few moviegoers whistle that Soul Asylum tune.
The PG-13 rated film about a runaway locomotive, which co-stars Chris Pine and was shot in the Rust Belt on a budget of nearly $100 million, is on pace bring in around $20 million during its first weekend, according to pre-release estimates.
The film is registering strong 80 percent awareness among all moviegoers, according to one tracking firm, and is scoring an 86 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
But it's looking at second place at the domestic box office, with DreamWorks Animation's "Megamind" predicted to once again win the weekend with around $30 million.
Also opening: Rogue Picture's low-budget sci-fi film "Skyline," a $10 million "Independence Day"-esque space-alien-themed thriller, rendered in the laptops of CGI wunderkinds Greg and Colin Strause ("Aliens vs. Predators: Requiem").
Paramount's rom-com "Morning Glory," with Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton and Rachel McAdams, opened Wednesday, bringing in a soft $1.1 million.
The limited-opening scene will calm down a bit this weekend, with Summit's expansion of the Valerie Plame biopic "Fair Game" (which goes from 46 to 175 theaters) being the highlight.
Coming off a big weekend in which two films (Warner Todd Phillips comedy "Due Date" and "Megamind") opened to north of $30 million, leading the domestic box office to its biggest first weekend of November ever, huge performances might be hard to find.
For its part, Fox — which co-produced "Unstoppable" with Dune Entertainment — doesn't have to look hard for comparisons. The Washington-Scott team were also responsible for Sony's runaway-subway-themed "Taking of Pelham 1 2 3," which opened to $23.7 million in June 2009.
More good news: Washington hasn't opened a wide release to less than $20 million since 2003's "Out of Time."
"Unstoppable" opens in 40 foreign territories this weekend, as well.
Not as optimistic going into the weekend is Paramount, which might not even get to $10 million out of the gate for the PG-13-rated "Morning Glory," playing at 2,518 theaters.
The film, co-produced by J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot, has a negative cost of around $40 million, according to published reports, making the break-even bar hard to reach.
Barring huge over-performance, "Morning Glory" will mark two straight bombs for Harrison Ford, with January's drama "Extraordinary Measures" opening to just $6 million.
"Skyline," meanwhile, should make its money back its first weekend, with the film projected to bring in around $12 million. It has a largely no-name cast, with Eric Balfour (one of Claire's loser boyfriends on "Six Feet Under") being the headliner.
It opens to 2,880 theaters in the U.S. and Canada, with Universal distributing to American outlets and Alliance handling those in the Great White North.