Box Office Preview: 'New Year's Eve,' 'The Sitter' Open in Advance of Holiday Crush

"New Year's Eve"
"New Year's Eve"
 Andrew Schwartz/Warner Bros.

Garry Marshall's star-packed ensemble pic New Year's Eve opens this weekend at the domestic box office and is widely expected to wrest the No. 1 spot from The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1, which has dominated the box office for three weeks.

Early and mid-December are always sluggish at the domestic box office, and New Year's Eve is only expected to open in the low $20 million range, far less than the $72 million bow of Marshall's Valentine's Day over the four-day Valentine's Day/President's Day weekend in 2010.

PHOTOS: 'New Year's Eve' Premiere Red Carpet Arrivals

New Line and Warner Bros., however, expect the $50 million film to have a strong multiple and play through New Year's Day, since it's the only holiday romantic comedy. The pic's cast includes Michelle Pfeiffer, Zac Efron, Ashton Kutcher, Katherine Heigl, Lea Michele, Robert De Niro, Josh Duhamel, Halle Berry, Abigail Breslin, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Hilary Swank and Seth Meyers.

Also opening nationwide is David Gordon Green's R-rated comedy The Sitter, headlining Jonah Hill in his first starring vehicle. The 20th Century Fox pic is tracking to open in the $9 million to $11 million range, although some think it could skew slightly higher. The Sitter, which cost under $25 million to produce, is tracking strongest among younger males, who have been notoriously absent from the multiplex in recent months.

PHOTOS: 'New Year's Eve' Film Stills

In the film, Hill plays a college student on suspension who is prodded into babysitting the kids next door. Things go askew when he takes them for a wild ride across New York City after being promised sex with his girlfriend. Michael De Luca produced the comedy.

Martin Scorsese's 3D family friendly film Hugo continues its roll out this weekend, expanding its theater count from 1,840 to 2,600. Through Wednesday, Hugo's domestic gross was $26.8 million.

Hugo is among a slew of awards contenders positioning themselves as The Hollywood Foreign Press Association prepares to announce Golden Globe nominations on Dec. 15, preceded a day early by SAG nominations.

On Saturday, 20th Century Fox will hold sneaks of Cameron Crowe's Christmas film We Bought a Zoo, starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, in hundreds of theaters across the country. The pic, which also snuck over Thanksgiving weekend in a bid to build buzz, opens Dec. 23.

Specialty pics opening this weeked that hope to ride the wave of awards attention include British espionage pic Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, based on John Le Carre's bestselling book and starring Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and Tom Hardy. Directed by Thomas Alfredson from an adapted screenplay by Peter Straughan and the late Bridget O'Connor, Tinker Tailor was produced by Working Title and StudioCanal.

Tinker Tailor has already done strong business in the U.K., where it opened in mid-September and has grossed nearly $22 million to date. In the U.S., Focus Features opens the critically acclaimed film in four theaters in Los Angeles and New York.

Paramount opens Charlize Theron starrer Young Adult -- which reteams director Jason Reitman with Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody -- in eight theaters New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Minneapolis, where Cody got her start as a stripper.

A number of other platform pics will continue to expand this weekend as awards season heats up, including Fox Searchlight's The Descendants, which adds 300 theaters to its run for a total locaiton count of 874. The Alexander Payne-directed film has grossed a stellar $19 million to date.

Searchlight's Shame, hoping to overcome the stigma associated with the NC-17 rating, adds 11 theaters to its run for a total count of 21. Directed by Steve McQueen and headlining Michael Fassbender, Shame opened last weekend to strong numbers despite the rating.

The Weinstein Co. expands awards darling The Artist, which played in six theaters in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco last weekend, into an additional 10 theaters.

Madonna's W.E., from the Weinstein Co., and Scottish filmmaker Lynne Ramsay's edgy indie film We Need to Talk About Kevin, starring Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly, both begin one-week award qualifying runs this weekend in Los Angeles. Oscilloscope Laboratories acquired U.S. rights to We Need to Talk About Kevin out of the Cannes Film Festival in May.

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