The nearly two-and-a-half-hour thriller Prisoners, directed by Denis Villeneuve, and starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, will easily top the North American box office this weekend, September 20-22, 2013. Currently playing at 3,260 locations, Prisoners took in $7.01 million on Friday, according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo. Budgeted at a reported $46 million — not including marketing and distribution expenses — the Warner Bros. release is expected to collect around $21 million by Sunday evening, as per Deadline.com.
How does that compare to previous Hugh Jackman weekend debuts? Setting aside Tom Hooper's "event musical" Les Misérables and action movies such as The Wolverine, the R-rated Prisoners may turn out to be Jackman's strongest opening in an "adult (non-musical) film." For comparison's sake, Baz Luhrmann's Australia, co-starring Nicole Kidman, debuted with $14.8 million at 2,642 sites in 2008 (or approximately $17 million today), while Christopher Nolan's The Prestige, co-starring Christian Bale, opened with $14.8 million from 2,281 venues in 2006 (or approximately $18 million today). Both movies were rated PG-13.
As for Jake Gyllenhaal, even taking inflation into account, since his co-starring role opposite Heath Ledger in Ang Lee's epoch-making Brokeback Mountain he has had only one opening above the $20 million mark at the U.S. and Canada box office: Mike Newell's eventual domestic disappointment Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which debuted with $30.09 million in May 2010.
Helping things out is the fact that awards-season buzz has been strong for Prisoners following its debut at the Telluride Film Festival a few weeks ago. The film, which has elements in common with Michael Winner / Charles Bronson's Death Wish, Sam Peckinpah / Dustin Hoffman's Straw Dogs, Pierre Morel / Liam Neeson's Taken, and Stanley R. Jaffe / Kate Nelligan's Without a Trace, currently has an 84 percent approval rating and 7.6/10 average among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics.
Prisoners' official weekend box office estimates will be released on Sunday morning. Weekend box office actuals come out on Monday.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman topline 'Prisoners' movie cast
Besides Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, both of whom will likely be shortlisted for acting awards in the coming months, Prisoners also features two-time Academy Award nominee Viola Davis (Doubt, The Help), Academy Award winner Melissa Leo (The Fighter), Academy Award nominee Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow), Maria Bello, Paul Dano, Dylan Minnette, Zoe Borde, Erin Gerasimovich, Len Cariou, Wayne Duvall, and Jeff Pope.
Director Denis Villeneuve's 2010 drama Incendies was a Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award nominee and the winner of 8 Genie Awards, including Best Picture, while his 2009 Montreal massacre drama Polytechnique won 10 Genie Awards, once again including Best Picture. Prisoners screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski's other feature-film credit is the Mark Wahlberg thriller Contraband; it's no coincidence that Wahlberg is one of Prisoners' executive producers.
Hugh Jackman Prisoners movie photo: Warner Bros.