Super Bowl Sunday is always a drag for theater owners, but that's not going to stop Zac Efron from sneaking in a touchdown.
His Bromantic comedy "That Awkward Moment" arrives as many Americans prepare for a weekend spent in front of the television, where the closest they'll get to going to the movies is rewinding the "Captain America: Winter Soldier" and "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" commercials debuting during Super Bowl XLVIII.
Last year, zombie-rom-com "Warm Bodies" topped the box office with a $20 million Super Bowl weekend debut. Young adults and teens came out to see Nicholas Hoult wrestle with his undead heart. But Sylvester Stallone's "Bullet to the Head" suffered what turned out to be one of the worst openings of 2013.
In "Moment," Efron is joined by emerging stars Miles Teller ("The Spectacular Now") and Michael B. Jordan ("Fruitvale Station"), underscoring the "counter-programming" strategy employed by the studios. The idea is that women and young adults may skip watching the game to go watch Efron and crew instead. "Labor Day," starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, hits theaters this weekend with the same idea in mind, as the drama is aimed at an older demographic.
Box-office watchers predict a close race between two-time champion "Ride Along" (which broke January records in its debut) and the latest from the "High School Musical" veteran.
"That Awkward Moment" should take in about $13 million according to most estimates, while Ice Cube and Kevin Hart's action/comedy could land anywhere between $9 million and $12 million. It's not quite the Seahawks vs. the Broncos, as those figures are still low by Hollywood standards.
On the surface, "Labor Day" has many elements that scream "Oscar fare." However, critics haven't warmed to it and it's unlikely to crack $10 million this weekend. In fact, there isn't a single movie in theaters that's expected to make double digits aside from "Moment" and "Ride Along."
"Labor Day," the massive hit "Frozen" ($800 million worldwide and counting), "The Nut Job," and "Lone Survivor" should all make around $5 to $7 million each, keeping three of those four in the Top 5. Box office duds "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" and "I, Frankenstein" will continue to slip further from view.