LOS ANGELES — There won’t be much buzz at the box office on the first weekend of the new year, as only one new movie — “Texas Chainsaw 3D" — hits theaters nationwide.
The horror flick about the serial killer made famous in 1974’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" is expected to open with a respectable sum of about $16 million, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys. The movie was to premiere in a handful of theaters Thursday night and expanded Friday to 2,654 locations nationwide.
Its take won’t be enough to unseat “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" from the top position, where the Peter Jackson film has resided for the three weekends since its release. The prequel to “The Lord of the Rings" trilogy will probably take in an additional $20 million during its fourth weekend in theaters, raising its domestic total to more than $260 million by Sunday. “Texas Chainsaw 3D" will have to fight for the runner-up spot against “Django Unchained" and “Les Miserables," the Christmas releases that have been benefiting from strong word of mouth.
Meanwhile, the environmental drama “Promised Land" will expand to 1,500 locations this weekend. The film co-written by and starring Matt Damon and John Krasinski is expected to take in about $6 million after opening in only 25 theaters last weekend.
“Texas Chainsaw 3D" was financed by Avi Lerner’s Millennium Films for about $20 million but is being distributed in North America by Lionsgate, which is spending about $20 million on marketing. Lionsgate did not screen the movie for critics, typically an indication that a studio feels its film will not be embraced by reviewers.
Since the original film featuring the chain saw-wielding villain was released nearly four decades ago, there have been five other films starring Leatherface. The biggest box- office success was “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," which starred Jessica Biel and took in $80.6 million in 2003. The most recent “Chainsaw" film, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning," grossed only $39.5 million in 2006.
The sixth “Chainsaw" movie was initially slated to open Oct. 26, but its release date was pushed back in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. The film follows a woman who inherits a home inhabited by Leatherface.
“Promised Land," financed by Focus Features for about $15 million, has received middling reviews. The movie stars Damon as an energy company salesman who travels to a small town in an effort to persuade locals to allow hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to extract underground natural gas on their land.
Focus launched the picture, directed by Damon’s “Good Will Hunting" collaborator Gus Van Sant, in limited release in an effort to build buzz. An educated, older crowd turned up to see the movie. On opening weekend, Focus said 52 percent of those who saw the movie were age 50 and older, and 77 percent had a college degree.
Also expanding this weekend is “The Impossible," Summit Entertainment’s tear-jerker about a family struggling to survive in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami in South Asia. The $40 million production has been in only 16 theaters since its Dec. 21 release and has grossed only about $600,000.