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'Maze Runner: The Death Cure' to top Helen Mirren's 'Winchester' in slow Super Bowl weekend box office

'Maze Runner: The Death Cure' to top Helen Mirren's 'Winchester' in slow Super Bowl weekend box office
Dylan O'Brien, Giancarlo Esposito and Rosa Salazar in "Maze Runner: The Death Cure." (20th Century Fox)

“Maze Runner: The Death Cure,” 20th Century Fox’s teen sci-fi sequel, is expected to hold its position as the No. 1 movie in North America this weekend, as Hollywood steps aside for Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots.

Super Bowl weekend is usually a slow period for North American multiplexes, and that’s certainly expected to be the case this year. The only new wide release competing with “Maze Runner” is “Winchester,” CBS Films’ historical haunted-mansion movie starring Helen Mirren. “Maze Runner” is expected to gross $10 million to $12 million in ticket sales from the U.S. and Canada Friday through Sunday, likely securing the top spot for the second weekend in a row.

‘Maze’ to top again

“Maze Runner: The Death Cure” opened last weekend with a solid $24 million in the U.S. and Canada, at the high end of pre-release expectations. That’s still about 20% lower than the opening for its 2015 predecessor “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials,” reflecting American moviegoers’ waning interest in young-adult sci-fi movies in the “Hunger Games” vein. Yet it was enough to finally unseat Sony Pictures’ surprise smash “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” which has amassed more than $820 million in worldwide receipts.

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'Maze Runner: The Death cure: tailer

The finale of the “Maze Runner” series, adapted from the dystopian books by James Dashner, has also done solid business overseas, with $83 million in international ticket sales from countries including China and South Korea. It cost an estimated $62 million to make.

The movie, which was delayed after star Dylan O’Brien was injured on set in 2016, marks the latest hit for Fox, which is in the process of being acquired by Walt Disney Co., pending government approval. Fox is riding high on the box-office success of Hugh Jackman’s turn as P.T. Barnum in “The Greatest Showman,” which has collected about $260 million globally, and Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” ($83 million so far). Fox movies are up for 27 Oscars this year, led by titles from the company’s specialty film division, Fox Searchlight, including “The Shape of Water” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

‘Winchester’ to haunt cinemas?

Lone new entrant “Winchester” stars Oscar winner Mirren as the eccentric heiress to the Winchester firearms fortune, who believes her labyrinthian estate is haunted by the souls of those killed by the company’s famous rifles.

CBS Films and Lionsgate, releasing the film as part of the studios’ ongoing distribution deal, are making an unconventional bet that the horror film can attract older moviegoers, along with the typical scary movie audience.

“Winchester” is likely to gross $8 million to $9 million in the U.S. and Canada Friday through Sunday, according to people who have reviewed pre-release audience surveys. CBS Films acquired distribution rights to the film, directed by brothers Michael and Peter Spierig, for about $3.5 million.

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