Box-Office Preview: 'Pride and Prejudice,' 'Hail, Caesar!' to Battle Super Bowl

Hail, Caesar and Pride, Prejudice and Zombies Split - H 2016
Courtesy of Universal Pictures; Sony Pictures

'The Choice,' the latest Nicholas Sparks' film adaptation, also opens.

Super Bowl always makes the playing field tough at the box office, but this year could be quieter than most at the multiplex as Hail, Caesar! and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies both anticipate modest openings, game or no game.

Mash-up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies could score the most with $12 million, although Sony is being more conservative in suggesting $8 million to $9 million, the same range as Hail, Caesar! and the weekend's third new offering, The Choice, the film adaptation of Nicholas Sparks' best-selling novel.

That means Kung Fu Panda 3 will stay at No. 1 in its second outing with $22 million or more. (The biggest headline of the weekend could turn out to be Star Wars: The Force Awakens crossing the $2 billion mark worldwide, becoming only the third film in history to achieve the milestone after Avatar and Titanic.)

Hail, Caesar!, the latest offering from siblings Joel and Ethan Coen, boasts the biggest star power with an ensemble cast that includes Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes and Jonah Hill.

An ode to Hollywood of the 1950s, the storyline revolves around a "fixer' who tries to figure out what happened to an actor (Clooney) who vanishes during filming. Older females are the most interested in seeing Hail, Caesar!, followed by older males.

Universal and Working Title Films will open the pic in 2,231 theaters in North America. It will begin its assault overseas on Feb. 17 after staging its international premiere at the Berlin Film Festival.

Hail, Caesar! cost $22 million to produce, while Pride and Prejudice and Zombies — targeting younger moviegoers — was fully financed by Cross Creek Pictures for $28 million and is being released by Sony's Screen Gems in 2,930 theaters domestically.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is based on Seth Grahame-Smith's book interjecting zombies into Jane Austen's classic tale.This time out, heroine Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) is a master of martial arts and weaponry, while Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley) is a fierce zombie killer who must rethink his upper-class prejudices when the two join forces to conquer the undead.

Burr Steers directed the film, which also stars Jack Huston, Bella Heathcote, Douglas Booth, Matt Smith, Charles Dance and Lena Headey. The movie begins opening in select markets overseas this weekend.

The Choice was directed by Ross Katz and stars Benjamin Walker and Teresa Palmer as two neighbors who fall in love when first meeting. They appear opposite Maggie Grace, Alexandria Daddario, Tom Welling and Tom Wilkinson.

The movie, from Lionsgate, could have an advantage in skewing heavily female. The Choice will roll out in 2,631 theaters and was acquired for less than $10 million.