The Oscars have been announced so The Descendants – which was still a limited release – is going wide this weekend. One wonders when The Artist will follow. Since the front runner’s still in limited release, mainstream audiences can choose between Liam Neeson and wolves in The Grey, Katherine Heigl in One for the Money, and Sam Worthington in Man on a Ledge. Decisions, decisions. It’s likely last weekend’s winners will stay viable.

Liam Neeson has become the king of January, and that’s got everything to due with Taken. Even though this (like Unknown) will not do as well, he’s still got enough clout to make relatively well-budgeted action movies for the next couple years. The Grey should do all right, and if the film was cheap enough it may keep director Joe Carnahan working. Both he and Neeson are coming off of The A Team, which has an audience, but underperformed – and that was Joe’s big studio picture. Carnahan’s been kicking around Hollywood since Narc made him a hot item, and he had some heartbreaking great projects that fell apart. The man will probably keep working, but he needs a home run, and this looks to be a two-base hit at best.

Katherine Heigl is Katherine Heigl at this point. Diminishing returns, modest audience, $45 guaranteed. Maybe a little more, maybe a little less. Lionsgate knew this when they greenlit One for the Money, and this is their second go-around with the actress (after Killers).

Sam Worthington isn’t a movie star yet and there’s a lot of action this weekend along with the earlier releases, so Summit’s Man on a Ledge looks to get lost in the shuffle. It’s funny that Lionsgate just bought Summit, and this weekend they’ve got releases against each other. Word on pretty much everything hitting is mixed to negative, with The Grey so far the winner of best reviewed. It’s a weak weekend, which is to be expected for late January. This was never considered a hit period until Taken.

So let’s do this:

  1. The Grey - $15 Million
  2. One For the Money – $12.5 Million
  3. Red Tails – $10.5 Million
  4. Underworld 4 - $10 Million
  5. Man on a Ledge – $9.5 Million

We could see Red Tails outperform expectations yet again this weekend. Ledge might do a bit better, but I feel like early estimates are high for a film with no real “want to see” appeal. And as people wait for the Superbowl, perhaps these numbers could go up a little.

What do you want to see this weekend?