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Ben Affleck's 'The Accountant' is expected to unseat 'Girl On the Train' in slow box office weekend

Ben Affleck's 'The Accountant' is expected to unseat 'Girl On the Train' in slow box office weekend
Ben Affleck and Anna Kendrick in "The Accountant." (Warner Bros.)

A financial action thriller starring Ben Affleck as a criminal math whiz is expected to score the top box office spot in what all signs suggest will be another slow fall weekend for Hollywood.

Warner Bros.' "The Accountant" is likely to gross $20 million to $25 million in ticket sales from the U.S. and Canada in its debut through Sunday, according to people who have reviewed pre-release audience surveys. That would be a solid start for a movie that cost about $40 million to make.

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Such a result will surely be enough to derail "The Girl On the Train," the dark Emily Blunt movie that won the prior weekend. "Girl" opened with $24.5 million in domestic ticket sales — a strong showing given its modest production budget, but not a breakout hit. Last week also saw the disappointing $7-million debut of Nate Parker's Nat Turner film, "The Birth of a Nation."

Ben Affleck stars in the trailer for "The Accountant."

Warner Bros., the studio that is also keeping Affleck busy in DC Comics franchise movies such as "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" and "Justice League," is projecting a more conservative bow of $15 million to $20 million for "The Accountant."

Affleck plays an autistic CPA with assassin-like abilities, whose secret freelance work for criminal organizations draws the attention of the U.S. Treasury Department. The movie was directed by Gavin O'Connor, who is best known for the 2011 mixed martial arts drama "Warrior."

Meanwhile, comedian Kevin Hart should again prove his ability to generate studio profits with his latest stand-up concert movie, "What Now?" The $10-million production, released by Universal Pictures, is expected to gross a healthy $13 million to $15 million, pacing it ahead of the 2013 hit "Let Me Explain." That movie, from Lionsgate, opened with $10 million in ticket sales from the U.S. and Canada and ended up with $32 million in domestic box office receipts.

Hart's energetic comedy style and marketing prowess have helped to make him one of Hollywood's most reliably bankable stars, drawing audiences to movies like this summer's "Central Intelligence" with Dwayne Johnson ($127 million domestic) and "Ride Along 2" with Ice Cube ($90.8 million).

Also opening this weekend is "Max Steel," a PG-13 science fiction action movie based on the Mattel line of action figures. The film produced by Dolphin Entertainment and distributed by Open Road Films is not expected to do much business at cinemas, with a projected range of $5 million to $7 million in ticket sales through Sunday.

The story follows a teenager named Max and his alien friend Steel, who combine powers to form the superhero of the title.

Together, those new releases will probably make for a tepid weekend at the multiplex. The doldrums are expected to mostly continue until next month, when all eyes turn to Disney's latest Marvel Studios comic book movie, "Doctor Strange," starring Benedict Cumberbatch. That movie, opening Nov. 4, is getting a robust marketing push. The studio unveiled a 15-minute preview of 3D footage for Marvel devotees at 115 Imax theaters Monday.

Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter for more entertainment business coverage: @rfaughnder

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