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Nicolas Cage's 'Season of the Witch' Poised for Modest Box-Office Opening

Relativity Media's foray into domestic distribution officially gets under way Friday as it releases its first in-house production, the Nicolas Cage starrer Season of the Witch.

But how big of a spell the medieval actioner can cast remains to be seen.

It's looking like a sluggish weekend at the box office, with tracking soft for both Season of the Witch and Screen Gems' Gwyneth Paltrow topliner Country Strong, which makes a modest nationwide expansion after an awards-qualifying run.

Indeed, holdovers True Grit and Little Fockers are poised to take the top spots on the box-office chart unless Season of the Witch overperforms. Holdover Tron: Legacy also could best Season.

The first weekend of January can be one of the slowest frames of the year at the multiplex. This time could be especially tough in comparison to 2010, when Avatar broke the mold and did big business throughout the month.

Most box-office pundits believe Season, playing in roughly 2,816 theaters in the U.S. and Canada, will gross in the $10 million-$12 million range.

Relativity says that would be a win, since the movie cost $40 million to make, with much of the budget financed by foreign presales.
Season was produced by Chuck Roven and Alex Gartner's Atlas Entertainment.

Directed by Dominic Sena and also starring Ron Perlman, the movie features Cage and Perlman as medieval knights who return from fighting in the Crusades to find their homeland devastated by the Plague.

The action kicks in when they are asked to transport a young girl who is a accused of being a witch and infesting a monastery with the Plague.

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The Season's biggest challenge will be to lure younger males, who instead have their sights on Sony's 3D movie The Green Hornet, which opens Jan. 14. Tracking for Season is best among males over the age of 25, followed by younger females.

Lionsgate was originally set to release the film this past spring through its output deal with Relativity.

But Ryan Kavanaugh's Relativity decided to do it on its own after absorbing the distribution and marketing operations of Overture Films, led by veteran studio exec Peter Adee.

Having its own domestic distribution puts Relativity in full charge of its own films. It also can earn distribution fees from releasing third-party pics, such as it did with Warrior's Way in December (that film did little business, grossing roughly $5.2 million domestically).

Sony opens Screen Gems' Country Strong in 1,424 locations and is predicting a weekend take of $5 million-$6 million. The film cost just $12 million to produce.

Country Strong, also starring Garrett Hedlund, Leighton Meester and Tim McGraw, is being marketed heavily to America's heartland.
Written and directed by Shana Feste, the film tells the story of fallen country music star who teams with a younger singer to resurrect her career. Complications arise as they go on tour with her husband and a beauty queen-turned-singer.

Tobey Maguire and Jenno Topping produced.

True Grit has been topping the box office chart this week, with a domestic cume of $93.4 million through Wednesday. The film will jump the $100 million mark this weekend.

Another awards front-runner, Sony's The Social Network, ups its profile this weekend by adding screens to play in 600 theaters domestically. The film, which opened Oct. 1, has cumed $93.4 million domestically. Overseas, where it hasn't yet opened in Japan, Social Network has grossed north of $104 million for a global total of nearly $200 million.