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Movie projector: 'Secretariat' and 'Life As We Know It' will battle 'Social Network' for No. 1

LifeKnowIt Three new movies open at theaters nationwide this weekend, but it's possible that none will be the most popular pick among audiences.

Walt Disney Pictures' horse-racing drama "Secretariat" and Warner Bros.' romantic comedy "Life As We Know It" are both expected to sell roughly $15 million worth of tickets on their debut weekend, according to people who have seen pre-release surveys. If neither picture performs well, they could end up behind Sony Pictures' Facebook movie "The Social Network," which in its second weekend is likely to collect $12 million to $15 million, presuming that word of mouth is strong.

"Social Network" has enjoyed strong weekday grosses, taking in about $2 million each day and bringing its box office total to $28.7 million by Wednesday.

The 3-D horror film "My Soul to Take," which Universal Pictures is releasing for Relativity Media's Rogue Pictures genre label, will probably lag behind the competition with a little less than $10 million. Young adults, who typically make up the audience for scary movies, appear to be very interested in the first film that horror-meister Wes Craven has directed in five years. It cost about $25 million to produce.

Indeed, it appears that nothing will break out on what looks to be a slow moviegoing weekend. Disney has aggressively marketed "Secretariat" as an inspirational family film, but it is mainly drawing interest from older adults, who most likely remember the Triple Crown winner from the 1970s.

The film cost $35 million to produce and will need to open on the high end of expectations and generate strong word of mouth to end up a financial success for Disney.

One of the movie's challenges is that its likely audience overlaps somewhat with that of "Life As We Know It," which is appealing to women of all ages. The Katherine Heigl-Josh Duhamel romantic comedy, which was co-financed by Warner and Village Roadshow Pictures, cost $38 million to make and will also need to end up at the high end of box office expectations to avoid being a financial disappointment.

FunnyStoryBoth "Secretariat" and "Life" were shown last Saturday in sneak previews at 800 theaters in an attempt to build buzz. This weekend the two pictures will each play at more than 3,000 cinemas.

Also opening, but at only at 742 theaters in 120 cities, is the dramatic comedy "It's Kind of a Funny Story," about a teenager who checks himself into a mental hospital. It's the first film aimed at general audiences from directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. Their previous movies, "Half Nelson" and "Sugar," grossed only $2.7 million and $1.1 million, respectively.

Distributor Focus Features wants independent film fans familiar with the directors' previous movies, but it is also going after a broader set of young adults, which is why it specifically targeted college towns for the release. "Funny Story" should open to about $4 million.

Lionsgate had previously planned to release the Ryan Reynolds thriller "Buried" nationwide Friday, but the film about a man stuck in a coffin has performed poorly in limited release for the last two weekends. As a result, it will be playing in a total of 92 theaters.

-- Ben Fritz

Top photo: Josh Duhamel and Katherine Heigl in "Life As We Know It." Credit: Peter Iovino / Warner Bros. Bottom photo: Keir Gilchrist and Zach Galifianakis in "It's Kind of a Funny Story." Credit: KC Bailey / Focus Features

 
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