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Robert Downey Jr.’s ‘The Judge,’ ‘Dracula Untold’ and ‘Alexander’ Take on ‘Gone Girl’ at Box Office

Three wide openers make for another close and busy weekend in what’s been a roller-coaster year

Three very different wide openers will challenge reigning champ “Gone Girl” and the horror movie “Annabelle” for the top spot at the box office this weekend, in what is shaping up as another nail-biter.

Opening nationwide on Friday are Warner Bros.’ Robert Downey Jr.-Robert Duvall courtroom drama “The Judge,” Universal’s epic action-adventure “Dracula Untold” and a Disney family film starring Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner — “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” The sexy thriller “Addicted” is opening too, but in 846 theaters.

“Alexander” and “Dracula Untold” are both likely to hit the high-teen millions, say the analysts. That’s where “Gone Girl” and “Annabelle” will land if they can hold 50 percent of their audience from last week. It’s far more likely the mature-skewing murder mystery can do that than the demon doll tale, since horror movies tend to fade quickly and the mature-skewing Ben Affleck-David Fincher thriller is still generating considerable buzz. “The Judge” is projected to wind up in the mid-teen millions, with the very low budget “Addicted” around $5 million.

On Wednesday morning, “Dracula Untold” and “Gone Girl” were neck-and-neck in advance sales at online ticket broker Fandango, with “Alexander” just behind. At Movietickets.com, “Gone Girl” had the edge.

Also read: How Fox Marketed ‘Gone Girl’ Into a Hit by Keeping Its Secrets

Last weekend was the biggest ever in October, driven by “Gone Girl” and “Annabelle,” which both over-performed and finished less than $400,000 apart at $37 million. The record-breaking weekend was a high-point in what has been a wildly up-and-down year for the box office.

It came on the heels of the worst September at the box office in six years — which followed the best August in history, which came after the worst July in 12 years. And this year’s very down summer followed an above-average spring. The roller-coaster ride has left the overall box office down 4.8 percent from last year’s record-breaking haul.

Watch video: Steve Carell Is an Idiot in ‘Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’

The PG-rated “Alexander,” a Rob Lieber adaptation of Judith Viorst’s 1972 novel of the same name, follows one very tough day in the life of 11-year-old Alexander (Ed Oxenbould). Bella Thorne, Megan Mullally, Danny Glover, Jennifer Coolidge and Dick Van Dyke co-star in the comedy, which is directed by Miguel Arteta (“Cedar Rapids”).

Disney has it in a good spot. About a third of the nation’s schools, primarily in the East, are out Monday for Columbus Day, and it’s the Thanksgiving holiday in Canada as well. “Alexander” should open at least as well as recent family films “Dolphin Tale 2” ($15.8 million) and “The Boxtrolls” ($17.2 million).

“It’s something different in terms of tone than a lot of the other films in the marketplace, so that should help,” Disney’s distribution chief Dave Hollis told TheWrap. “It seems there’s something for everybody this weekend, and that’s usually good for the overall box office.”

Walt Disney Pictures, 21 Laps Entertainment and the Jim Henson Company teamed on the film, which was produced by Shawn Levy, Dan Levine and Lisa Henson. The production budget was $28 million, setting a reasonable bar for profitability. 

“Alexander” doesn’t look strong on social media, but some of that may be due to its unwieldy title. There aren’t a lot of reviews, but most so far have been positive. Disney will have “Alexander” in 3,088 theaters.

Watch video: Luke Evans Is the Real Batman in First ‘Dracula Untold’ Trailer

The PG-13-rated “Dracula Untold” is an update of the classic vampire tale, drawn from Universal’s vault of vintage horror characters.

Luke Evans (“Fast & Furious 6”) stars as Vlad the Impaler and Gary Shore makes his feature directing debut in this origin tale, written by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless. Sarah Gadon and Dominic Cooper co-star.

Legendary Pictures and Michael DeLuca Productions teamed on the $70 million “Dracula,” which was produced by DeLuca. They’re hoping it plays well internationally and it’s off to a good start, taking in $21 million from 17 markets last weekend, and it adds 16 more this weekend. 

It hasn’t been reviewed yet, but it’s looking particularly strong on Facebook with more than 2.1 million “likes.” It’s tracking most strongly with young males and ethnic moviegoers, and Universal will have it in 2,885 locations, including full IMAX and Premium Large Format theater runs.

Also read: Robert Downey Jr. Hints That Someone Else May Wear the Armor for Fourth ‘Iron Man’ Movie (Video)

“The Judge” is an R-rated drama about a successful lawyer (Downey) who returns to his hometown for his mother’s funeral only to discover that his estranged father (Duvall), the town’s judge, is suspected of murder.

Vera Farmiga, Billy Bob Thornton, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Dax Shepard co-star in “The Judge,” which was directed by David Dobkin (“Wedding Crashers”) and scripted by Bill Dubuque and Nick Schenk.

Village Roadshow, Team Downey and Big Kid Pictures partnered on “The Judge,” which was produced by Dobkin, David Gambino and Susan Downey with roughly a $50 million budget.

The early reviews, mostly out of the Toronto Film Festival, have been so-so. It’s doing well on Twitter, pacing ahead of another recent adult drama, “This Is Where I Leave You.” Warner Bros. will have it in roughly 2,700 theaters.

Watch video: Robert Downey Jr. Defends Father Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’ Trailer

“Addicted” is an R-rated drama about a woman who risks her family life when she has a series of affairs, from Lionsgate and Code Black, its label specializing in films targeting African-American audiences.

Sharon Leal and Boris Kodjoe star in “Addicted,” which is directed by music video specialist Bille Woodruff and adapted from a book by the same name. Kat Graham, William Levy and Tasha Smith co-star.

It’s looking very strong on Twitter and Facebook, pacing ahead of “Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor,” which opened to $21 million in March of 2013, but that was on many more screens. Paul Hall produced “Addicted,” which has a budget of under $5 million.