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‘Aquaman’ approaches $1 billion box-office milestone

‘Aquaman’ approaches $1 billion box-office milestone
This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Jason Momoa, left, and Amber Heard in a scene from "Aquaman." (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

Before the release of “Aquaman,” anyone predicting the Warner Bros. superhero film would become the highest grossing DC Comics blockbuster since “The Dark Knight Rises” would have been laughed out of the room.

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But “Aquaman,” starring Jason Momoa as the Atlantean warrior once relegated to junior varsity status in DC’s comic book canon, is poised to reach $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales as soon as Saturday, according to analysts. The movie has collected more than $970 million as of Thursday, including $700 million from overseas sales, according to studio estimates.

“Aquaman’s” success represents a much-needed win for the Burbank studio and its superhero movie strategy, which has weathered inconsistent results at the box office with marquee characters including Batman and Superman. “Justice League,” Warner Bros.’s would-be answer to Marvel Studios’ “Avengers” franchise, foundered in 2017, leading executives to focus on making individual hits rather that trying to conjure a cinematic universe.

Here’s what to watch this weekend.

A box office whale

The James Wan-directed “Aquaman,” which cost roughly $200 million to produce, is expected to generate about $15 million in receipts Friday through Sunday in the U.S. and Canada. That should make it the No. 1 movie domestically for the fourth weekend in a row, beating Sony Pictures’ “A Dog’s Way Home” and STX Films’ Kevin Hart comedy “The Upside.” Last year’s “Black Panther” was the most recent film to hold the top spot for four weeks.

“Aquaman” partly owes its commercial success to a more fun and over-the-top approach to the superhero genre, with impressive underwater visuals. The film has played especially well in China, the world’s second-largest box office market, where it has grossed $285 million. DC’s movie strategy will face another test in April with the debut of “Shazam,” which the filmmakers have described as “Big” (the 1988 Tom Hanks comedy) meets “Superman.”

Puppy love

As “Aquaman” makes waves, Sony Pictures will try to attract canine-loving moviegoers with the feel-good “A Dog’s Way Home,” which follows a mixed rescue pooch named Bella who must travel 400 miles to find her human companions. The movie, which cost an estimated $18 million to produce, is expected to fetch $9 million to $10 million Thursday evening through Sunday. “A Dog’s Way Home” joins a litter of recent pet-themed films, including 2017’s “A Dog’s Purpose” from Universal ($205 million in global box office) and its upcoming sequel, “A Dog’s Journey.”

STX Films’ latest release “The Upside,” starring Hart as a man on parole who gets a job assisting a paralyzed billionaire (Bryan Cranston), will also probably open with about $10 million in box office revenue.

The movie comes with some baggage. Hart, a reliable box office draw known for his roles in “Ride Along” and “Night School,” was recruited to host this year’s Oscars ceremony, but dropped out after getting blasted online for his past homophobic comments. “The Upside” was one of the films left in the lurch by the Weinstein Co. bankruptcy. STX made a deal with Lantern Entertainment, the firm that bought the remains of Weinstein Co., to release the film.

Notorious R.B.G.

“On the Basis of Sex,” Focus Features’ drama about the rise of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, will embark on its wide release this weekend. The film, produced by Participant Media and starring Felicity Jones as the liberal Supreme Court Justice, focuses on Ginsburg’s law career and struggle for women’s rights. It has grossed $4 million in limited release since its Christmas Day debut.

Meanwhile, Entertainment Studios is unveiling its sci-fi thriller “Replicas,” starring Keanu Reeves. The picture is expected to open with a weak $6 million.

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