The Grey, starring Liam Neeson -- Open Road Film's second release ever -- is poised to debut as the No. 1 movie at the domestic box office this weekend.
The film is expected to easily beat this weekend's other new releases, Lionsgate's One for the Money and Summit's Man on a Ledge.
It's an unusual weekend at the box office. None of the three new movies come from major studios but all three come from high-profile producers. Joe Carnahan, Ridley Scott and Tony Scott produced The Grey, Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Mark Vahradian produced Man on a Ledge and Katherine Heigl and Sidney Kimmel produced One for the Money.
Another quirk of the weekend: Lionsgate is competing against itself. The company bought Summit Entertainment earlier this month. By the time the deal was done, much of the advertising for Man on a Ledge had been locked in.
But while both Man on a Ledge and One For the Money are rated PG-13, they target different audiences. Ledge is a thriller and Money is an action-comedy.
In limited release this weekend is Roadside Attractions' Albert Nobbs, which won Glenn Close an Academy Award nomination. It will be at 246 locations. Other Oscar nominees expanding this weekend are The Descendants, which will increase from 560 to 1,997 locations and The Artist, which is going fro 662 locations to 900.
While Open Road, which launched last March, would be happy to break double-digits, less conservative box-office watchers outside Open Road believe the R-rated action drama will gross about $14.5 million.
It's not exactly a feel-good film: The Grey is about an oil drilling team that finds itself hunted by a pack of wolves after their airplane crashes, stranding them in the wilds of Alaska.
The movie, which Carnahan directed, is tracking well, according to the research firm NRG. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed by NRG reported some awareness of the movie and 38 percent reported definite interest in seeing it. Of all the movies opening this weekend, more people -- 7 percent of everyone, 11 percent of men younger than 25 and 12 percent of men 25 and older -- said The Grey was their first choice.
Women, not surprisingly, were less enthusiastic about the film: 31 percent of all women said they were definitely interested in seeing it, but 5 percent of those younger than 25 and 3 percent of those 25 and older said it was their first choice.
Critics generally like the film, which opens at 3,185 locations. The website Metacritic.com, which measures critical response to movies, gave it a strong Metascore of 63.
Open Road, financed by exhibitors AMC Entertainment and Regal Entertainment Group, released its first movie, Killer Elite, in 2011.
That R-rated action thriller was a flop, grossing $53 million worldwide on a $70 million budget.