Sci-fi film "Chappie" is on track to top a slow weekend at the box office.
The Sony Pictures film could make between $14 million and $20 million, according to people familiar with pre-release audience surveys. That would put it ahead of fellow newcomers 20th Century Fox's "Unfinished Business" and Fox Searchlight's "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel."
The futuristic film, from writer-director Neill Blomkamp ("District 9"), follows Chappie (Sharlto Copley), a robot with the ability to think and feel for himself. It co-stars Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er (the South African hip-hop duo known as Die Antwoord), Dev Patel, Sigourney Weaver and Hugh Jackman.
Sony projects the film, which cost $49 million to make, will debut to about $14 million.
By comparison, Blomkamp's most recent sci-fi film, "Elysium," launched at No. 1 in August of 2013 with $30.5 million. The film, which stars Matt Damon, went on to gross $93 million in the U.S. and Canada.
Meanwhile, last week's top film, "Focus," could drop 50% in ticket sales and pull in about $10 million in its sophomore weekend.
The Warner Bros. caper, which cost about $50 million to make, follows con artist Nicky (Smith), who trains and eventually falls for Jess (Margot Robbie). Three years after they break up, the duo reunite in Buenos Aires, where both have come to con the same billionaire.
It fared well enough among moviegoers to earn a B-minus grade from audience polling firm CinemaScore. Critics gave the film a 56% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
"Unfinished Business," which cost $35 million to make, could debut to $10 million. Fox has a slightly more modest projection of $5 million to $6 million. The R-rated comedy, which stars Vince Vaughn, Dave Franco and Tom Wilkinson, follows three men on a European business trip gone wrong.
It could be another flop for Vaughn, whose latest films "The Internship" and "Delivery Man" didn't fare too well at the box office. "The Internship," released in June 2013, started with $18.1 million. "Delivery Man," released by Disney, opened to $7.9 million.
Searchlight's "Marigold Hotel" sequel is tracking to make about $7 million. Its 2012 predecessor, a film about seven British retirees on a trip to India, opened to $750,301, or a strong per-theater average of $27,789. It became a breakout hit both overseas and in the U.S.
The PG film is set just eight months after the first movie concluded. It follows young hotel owner Sonny (Dev Patel) as he hopes to expand to another hotel while preparing for his marriage. Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Bill Nighy also reprise their roles.
Though the marketplace is crowded with R-rated films such as "Fifty Shades of Grey" and "Kingsman: The Secret Service," families will likely return to theaters next weekend for the premiere of Disney's live-action version of "Cinderella."
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