"Cloud Atlas" has mind-boggling scope, a trio of acclaimed directors including the creators of "The Matrix," the biggest budget ever for an independent film and Tom Hanks and Halle Berry topping an all-star cast. But it's no lock to win the box office when it opens this weekend.
With a projected opening of around $13 million, "Cloud Atlas" faces strong competition from Ben Affleck's resilient "Argo," which is back for its third week and figures to finish in the same range, say industry analysts.
After that it's a logjam. Video game-based "Silent Hill: Revelation 3D" debuts, and it will compete with last week's No. 1 film, "Paranormal Activity 4," for the horror crowd. Sony's over-achieving animated kids film "Hotel Transylvania" is still going strong and remains in 3,276 theaters in its fifth week. Those three films are likely to finish a few million below the top two, the analysts say,
Add to that mix two youth-skewing openers, the monster-wave surfing film "Chasing Mavericks" and the teen comedy "Fun Size" and you have a very crowded marketplace.
"It's the last weekend before the holiday movie season begins," Exhibitor Relations senior analyst Jeff Bock told TheWrap, pointing to the arrival of Disney's animated "Wreck-it Ralph" on Nov. 2 and Sony's James Bond thriller "Skyfall" on Nov. 9.
"Over the years, this October weekend has typically been sort of a grab-bag batch of movies in this slot, " Bock added. "This year, it's a goodie bag. The question is can any of these movies go beyond their target audience?"
If "Argo" rises to the top spot in its third week, it would be the first movie to manage the feat since "True Grit" in January of 2011.
The very strong word of mouth on Ben Affleck's political thriller -- it received a rare "A+" CinemaScore from audiences -- is translating into just the sort of staying power Warner Bros. envisioned for the awards contender. And with "Cloud Atlas" opening, the studio could well have a 1-2 finish.
Warner Bros. put up $20 million of the estimated $100 million "Cloud Atlas" budget and is distributing the film in North America. The rest was covered by smaller investments, foreign rights sales and by Andy and Lana Wachowski, who directed the film along with Tom Twyker ("Run Lola Run").
Their adaptation of David Mitchell's sprawling sci-fi 2004 novel tells six interweaving stories that show how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future. One soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.
"Forrest Gump" it ain't. With a running time of 2 hours, 44 minutes, the R-rated film will challenge moviegoers.
"Cloud Atlas" will likely be a contender for editing and effects awards and the acting has drawn praise as well. Nearly all of the players -- Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Doona Bae and Susan Sarandon also star -- portray several characters of varying race and gender.
But "Cloud Atlas" was one of the most divisive films when it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and it has split critics, with some branding it pretentious and plodding, and others hailing its bold visual style and narrative. The review are good but not great. Sixty-six percent of the notices on Rotten Tomatoes are positive, 62 percent at Movie Review Intelligence.
The social media signs aren't strong. Three days prior to its release, "Cloud Atlas" had 109,514 "likes" on Facebook, according to tracking service Boxoffice.com. By comparison, Sony's time-travel tale "Looper" had 232,896 three days prior to its Sept. 28 release. On Twitter, "Looper" had 11,247 mentions five days prior to its release, "Cloud Atlas" had 7,192.
The screen count for the R-rated film is a not-so-wide 2,008 locations including Imax, which indicates that Warner Bros. knows it is dealing with a unique property that will require special handling. That was true back in 1999, when it launched the Wachowskis' "The Matrix." But no one is suggesting "Cloud Atlas" will launch a $1.6 billion franchise.
Open Road Entertainment, which had a surprise No. 1 movie with "End of Watch last month, will have a tougher time with "Silent Hill: Revelation 3D." The R-rated horror film is based on the video game "Silent Hill 3" and is a sequel to "Silent Hill," which opened No. 1 with $20 million in April 2006.
When her father disappears, Heather Mason (Adelaide Clemens) is drawn into an alternate reality that holds answers to the nightmares that have plagued her since childhood. Sean Bean and Radha Mitchell return as co-stars along with Carrie-Anne Moss. Michael J. Bassett steps in as director and co-wrote with Martin Solibakke.
The presence of "Paranormal Activity 4" and "Sinister" could cut into its audience, but social media activity is solid and Open Road has aggressively marketed "Revelation." It has the film in 2,931 theaters and will get a boost from the 3D premiums. Open Road says it will be happy if it hits $10 million with "Revelation." The production budget was in the $20 million range.
Fox's "Chasing Mavericks" is based on the life of young surfer Jay Moriarity. It follows his quest to ride America's most dangerous waves, and his friendship with Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler), the Santa Cruz local who takes him under his wing.
Newcomer Jonny Weston plays Moriarity, and Elisabeth Shue and Abigail Spencer co-star. Michael Apted directed the last three weeks of principal photography after Curtis Hanson was forced to pull out for health reasons.
Fox has the PG film in roughly 2,000 theaters.
Teen comedy "Fun Size,' distributed by Paramount, is the first PG-13 film developed by Nickelodeon Movies to be released in the U.S. Written by Max Werner, it marks the directing debut of Josh Schwartz.
Victoria Justice plays Wren, whose plans go awry when she's forced to babysit her brother, who disappears into a sea of Halloween trick-or-treaters. With her best friend and two nerds at her side, she needs to find her brother before her mom (Chelsea Handler) finds out. Thomas McDonell, Jane Levy, Josh Pence and Johnny Knoxville co-star.
The Twitter and Facebook buzz has been slow for a young-skewing film. Paramount, with its second release in as many weeks after months with none, has the film in 3,014 theaters.