MLK Holiday Box Office Preview: Jessica Chastain vs. Jessica Chastain

Jessica Chastain in "Mama"
Jessica Chastain in "Mama"
 

The long Martin Luther King Day weekend finds Jessica Chastain in a race with herself for the top spot at the domestic box office as her new horror film, Mama, debuts opposite chart-topping holdover Zero Dark Thirty.

Tracking suggests that Mama, from Universal, will gross in the $20 million range for the four-day weekend; Zero Dark Thirty, which expanded nationwide last weekend after receiving five Oscar nominations including best actress for Chastain and best picture, might not be far behind.

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If so, Chastain would outshine Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe and Arnold Schwarzenegger, all of whom have films opening this weekend. In Mama, Chastain plays a young woman who must care for two feral girls.

Action-thriller Broken City, starring Wahlberg and Crowe opposite Catherine Zeta-Jones, is tracking to open in the $14 million range. The $35 million movie, produced by Emmett/Furla Films and New Regency, headlines Wahlberg as a former cop who is asked by the mayor (Crowe) to investigate the politician's wife, only to uncover a bigger scandal.

Last Stand, a straight action pic, likewise is pacing to open in the low-teen millions. From Lionsgate, Last Stand marks Schwarzenegger's first starring vehicle since the Terminator threequel in 2003 and follows a border-town sheriff who takes on a drug cartel. The film also stars Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Rodrigo Santoro, Genesis Rodriguez and Luis Guzman.

Mama has an advantage in being rated PG-13 and should draw plenty of teenagers. Broken City and Last Stand, both rated R, will have to compete for males. Lionsgate is hoping to draw Latino moviegoers and has marketed the pic heavily to this demo.

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The wild card of the weekend is David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook, which The Weinstein Co. finally is expanding nationwide after two months in release, hoping to benefit from eight Oscar nominations including best picture as well as a Globe win for Jennifer Lawrence, who stars opposite Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver.

Silver Linings has grossed a respectable $43.3 million to date and ups its theater count from roughly 800 to 2,500 on Friday. It's the first film in three decades to score nominations in all four acting categories.

Overseas, Django Unchained makes a big push, opening in most major markets, including the U.K. Lincoln likewise makes its first international foray, opening in Mexico and Spain.

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