Box Office: 'Ender's Game' Off to Solid Start Friday, Could Near $30 Million

3:27 PM PST 11/01/2013 by Pamela McClintock
Summit Entertainment

The sci-fi epic -- hoping to launch a franchise -- stars Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis, Hailee Steinfeld and Abigail Breslin.

Sci-fi epic Ender's Game is off to a pleasing start at the North American box office, where it could gross $9 million on Friday for a weekend gross in the $25 million to $30 million range. That includes $1.4 million in Thursday night earnings.

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Ender's Game, a co-production between Summit Entertainment, OddLot Entertainment and Digital Domain, is the latest YA film property to attempt to establish a franchise. The action adventure, costing $110 million to make, is based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Orson Scott Card, whose anti-gay comments have riled many. (Though he has said Ender's Game isn't a YA property, it has been made widely available in schools.)

Directed by Gavin Hood, the movie stars Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis, Hailee Steinfeld and Abigail Breslin. Set in the near future, the story revolves around a young boy (Butterfield) who is recruited by the military to stop an alien race from destroying the world.

Ender's Game is a sizeable gamble for Gigi Pritzker's OddLot, which financed much of the movie and dispatched sister company Sierra/Affinity to sell it internationally. Last weekend, Ender's Game debuted at a soft No. 5 in the U.K. with just under $2 million, but the film could make up ground as it continues to roll out in additional foreign markets.

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Outside of The Hunger Games and Twilight film franchises, YA film properties have struggled at the box office. This year, The Host, Beautiful Creatures and Mortal Instruments: City of Bones all flopped.

The other two new nationwide entries this weekend are Relativity Media and Reel FX's animated 3D pic Free Birds and CBS Films' sexagenarian comedy Last Vegas, starring Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline as four friends in their 60s who travel to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. Mary Steenburgen also stars.

Free Birds, costing $55 million to produce and marking Relativity's first foray into the animation business, is projected to open in the $16 million to $19 million range, based on early Friday numbers. The movie -- about a pair of turkeys who travel back in time to prevent their kind from becoming the traditional holiday meal -- should benefit from being the only new family entry in the market. (Entertainment One is distributing in Canada.) The voice cast is led by Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson and Amy Poehler.

Last Vegas is aiming to open in the $14 million to $15 million range. Older moviegoers rarely rush to see a film on its opening weekend. CBS Films believes Last Vegas will serve as strong counterprogramming throughout the month. In August 2012, Hope Springs, starring Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones, opened to a modest $14.7 million on its way to earning $63.5 million domestically and a hearty $114.3 million globally.

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