Sony Pictures’ hit reboot “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” is about to face a stampede of new competition at movie theaters during the long Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend.
Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed journalism drama “The Post” and Warner Bros.’s kids sequel “Paddington 2” are both expected to score strong wide-release debuts in the U.S. and Canada, as is Screen Gems’ Taraji P. Henson thriller “Proud Mary.” Yet, “Jumanji,” the big-budget comedy starring Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, may still lead what is expected to be a tight race for the No. 1 spot.
“Jumanji” is expected to collect $25 million to $30 million in ticket sales Friday through Monday, meaning it could be the top domestic movie for the second weekend in a row after recently unseating “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” That would continue a remarkable run that has resulted in $248 million in North American box office receipts since the $90-million blockbuster’s Dec. 20 debut, making it the ninth-highest-grossing 2017 release.
The film, a reboot of the 1995 Robin Williams board game adventure-comedy, has also collected $279 million overseas so far for a global total of $527 million, a welcome result for Sony Pictures, which ranked fifth place among the major studios last year.
Part of the draw for “Jumanji” is the reliable star power of Johnson and Hart, joined in the movie by Jack Black and Karen Gillan. The movie has also been boosted by positive reviews and word-of-mouth response to the video game-themed update of the original “Jumanji.” Last weekend, the film grossed $37 million, a mere 26% decline from the previous weekend.
‘The Post’ vs. ‘Paddington’
“The Post,” Spielberg’s awards contender about the Washington Post and the publication of the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, could be the highest-grossing newcomer in theaters this weekend.
The film, starring Meryl Streep as Post publisher Katharine Graham and Tom Hanks as editor Ben Bradlee, is expected to gross about $20 million when it expands into wide release, according to people who have read pre-release audience surveys. The timely themes of press freedom in "The Post” and the prestige associated with the people involved is expected to appeal especially to older moviegoers.
The release, handled domestically by 20th Century Fox, will be the latest test of the market for adult dramas in an industry dominated by franchises. In a positive sign, critical acclaim and awards buzz have boosted recent films for grown-ups such as “Darkest Hour,” “The Shape of Water” and “Lady Bird.”
Estimates vary widely for the debut of “Paddington 2,” the sequel to the 2015 hit that amassed $268 million worldwide. Warner Bros. bought the North American distribution rights for the film in November from production company Studio Canal and Weinstein Co., which has been floundering in the wake of sexual harassment and assault allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Warner Bros. had to move quickly to rev up the marketing campaign for the film about a talking bear in a blue coat.
The studio is anticipating a debut of roughly $17 million through the Monday holiday, which would be similar to the opening of the original “Paddington.” However, the first movie was beloved by family audiences, and outside analysts say the sequel could top $20 million in its launch.
‘Mary’ to slay box office
Never underestimate Taraji P. Henson, who has become a formidable star thanks to the Fox television series “Empire” and the Oscar-nominated 2016 historical drama “Hidden Figures.”
“Proud Mary,” in which Henson plays a hit woman working for an organized crime family, is likely to gross at least $15 million in its debut from Sony’s genre film label Screen Gems. Films with popular black stars tend to exceed pre-weekend estimates.
That leaves Lionsgate’s “The Commuter,” the latest crime film to star Liam Neeson, of the bankable and oft-imitated “Taken” franchise. “The Commuter,” in which Neeson plays a businessman who gets wrapped up in a conspiracy on his train ride home, is expected to open with $10 million to $15 million in the U.S. and Canada.