Ron Howard's whaling film could break 'Hunger Games' box-office grip

Director Ron Howard's 19th century whaling film "In the Heart of the Sea" could break the long box-office winning streak of the "Hunger Games" finale, but it is still not expected to generate big ticket sales.

That will probably make for another slow weekend at the box office as all eyes in Hollywood turn to "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," which opens Dec. 18. Last weekend also had little new to offer moviegoers, besides the holiday-themed horror-comedy "Krampus."

"In the Heart of the Sea" is projected to gross $12 million to $15 million Friday through Sunday during its opening weekend in the U.S. and Canada. The film, which stars Chris Hemsworth, cost nearly $100 million to produce, making the release another probable box-office disappointment for Warner Bros.

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"Prospects aren't big for this film, and if you open a week before 'Star Wars,' you're going to get lost in the shuffle," said Jeff Bock, senior box-office analyst at the tracking firm Exhibitor Relations

The studio has suffered multiple flops this year, including "Pan" and "Our Brand Is Crisis," although it recently caught a break with the hit "Rocky" franchise spinoff "Creed."

"In the Heart of the Sea" is based on the true story that inspired the celebrated Herman Melville novel "Moby Dick." Howard is known for successes such as "A Beautiful Mind" and "Apollo 13," but his most recent movie "Rush," which also starred Hemsworth, was a box-office disappointment.

Howard's new film has already begun its international march, opening earlier this month in 38 countries, although it hasn't shown much muscle. The nautical adventure has grossed $18.5 million overseas so far, with bright spots including Russia and South Korea.

Otherwise, there's little left to compete with "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2," which has topped the domestic sales charts for three straight weeks and could be on its way to a fourth win in a row.

The Lionsgate movie, starring Jennifer Lawrence, has grossed about $524 million so far worldwide, including $229 million in the U.S. and Canada. Pixar's "The Good Dinosaur" has faded faster than expected, an indication that it hasn't caught on with families.

In limited release, Paramount Pictures is opening "The Big Short," a comedy-drama about the financial crisis in which a group of Wall Street types (played by Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell and Christian Bale) bet against the big banks and the housing market. The Adam McKay-directed picture has earned generally strong reviews.

Universal Pictures' "Legend," starring Tom Hardy as identical twin gangsters in 1960s Britain, is expanding to 73 theaters this weekend.

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A version of this article appeared in print on December 09, 2015, in the Business section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "`Hunger Games' may lose box-office grip - Ron Howard's whaling film `In the Heart of the Sea' could open at No. 1 in slow weekend. - MOVIE PROJECTOR" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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