Early Box Office: 'Argo' Could Win Slow Weekend Over 'Cloud Atlas,' 'Silent Hill'

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In 1980, THR ran an ad promoting the "original" faux film "Argo" -- so perhaps it's only natural that THR helped Ben Affleck find the original "producer" of it. THR's own Bill Higgins recently located makeup artist Robert Sidell, who had posed as the fake film's producer.

New Halloween teen comedy "Fun Size" and Gerard Butler surfing drama "Chasing Mavericks" are faring even worse.

Four new films – led by pricey epic Cloud Atlas, starring Tom Hanks and Halle Berry – are off to a weak start at the domestic box office, opening up the way for Ben Affleck's Argo to rise to No. 1 in its third weekend.

Argo, Cloud Atlas and new Halloween horror offering Silent Hill: Revelation 3D are all expected to earn between $11 million and $13 million, according to early Friday returns. Most box office observers are giving Argo the advantage, though it opened Oct. 12.

Victoria Justice teen comedy Fun Size may only gross $5 million for the weekend, while Gerard Butler surfing drama Chasing Mavericks may not crack $3 million, an abysmal number.

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It's not clear whether Hurricane Sandy -- nicknamed "Frankenstorm" -- will affect moviegoing later in the weekend as it approaches landfall in the Northeast.

In terms of risk, the $100 million Cloud Atlas  has the biggest exposure by far. The dreamy epic, based on the 2004 novel by David Mitchell, was directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Tywker.

Both Argo and Cloud Atlas are from Warner Bros., although the studio only has distribution rights to Cloud Atlas, which is one of the most ambitious independent productions ever mounted. The movie covered its budget through foreign presales, the deal with Warner Bros. and Germany money, among other sources.

Revelation, distributed by Open Road Films, looks to open notably behind the $20 million-plus opening of Silent Hill in 2006. Still, of the weekend's four new films, Revelation will be in okay shape financially. Samuel Hadida produced and financed the $20 million film, which is the third horror pic to open in a row after Sinister and Paranormal Activity 4, both of which have done solid business (Paranormal 4 could gross in the $10 million range in its second weekend).

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From Paramount and Nickelodeon, Fun Size was also budgeted modestly, costing $14 million to produce. But its box office debut is still a disappointment for the studio and television showrunner Josh Schwartz, who makes his feature directorial debut with the pic. 

Chasing Mavericks, based on the real-life story of surfer Jay Moriarty, was co-financed by Fox and Walden for $20 million. Walden is coming off another box office disappointment, school drama Won't Back Down, which it fully financed.

If it comes in at No. 1, Argo would be the first film since The Blind Side to win the weekend crown in its third weekend at the box office. Argo, which has earned north of $48 million to date, placed No. 2 on the past two weekends.