Runner Runner

2012 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

For once, Batman can stop brooding: Runner, Runner is not going to re-Gigli-ize Ben Affleck's career.

True, the critically trashed gambling thriller, formally opening Friday and costarring Affleck and Justin Timberlake, is not expected to sprint to the top of the weekend box office. Far from it.

"Gravity is the one everyone's talking about," says box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian.

The Sandra Bullock-George Clooney space drama, also debuting Friday, is widely expected to take in more than $30 million and maybe as much as $40 million domestically by Sunday. The projections are off the charts for an adult-skewing, non-horror October release that's expected to compete for Oscars.

A strong hold for the animated family film Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, last weekend's box-office champ, meanwhile, could leave Runner, Runner limping into third place with a three-day take that's more Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back ($11 million debut) than Pearl Harbor ($59 million debut), to name two other Affleck films.

The two Affleck films that more quickly come to mind as Affleck flexes his leading-man muscle again after making his mark as a filmmaker (who, granted, also acted) and leading Argo to a Best Picture win at last February's Academy Awards are Gigli, which cratered the star's career a decade ago, and the untitled upcoming Superman-Batman movie, which will put Affleck in the Caped Crusader's boots.  

If the question is could a poor run by Runner, Runner return Affleck to the bad old days of Gigli, and put a dent into the Man of Steel sequel, the answer is no.

Runner, Runner is a relatively cheap bet: It was made for a reported $30 million. (Gigli, by comparison, cost more than $50 million.)  "It could find an audience over time," Dergabedian says.

More than that, the Affleck of 2013 is in a different space than the Affleck of 2003. Post-Argo, celebrity-branding expert Jeetendr Sehdev said via email, "sentiment towards Affleck is extremely positive and one bad movie won't derail his career revival."

Runner Runner

2012 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

And Batman should be good, too.

"The people who religiously see the superhero films are not necessarily going to care about the success of Runner, Runner or its reviews," Sehdev said.

And besides no one's bigger than Batman. Or Superman.

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