Oscar week is here, which means Hollywood's attention is more focused on gold statuettes than new movies opening at the multiplex. But Sunday's star-studded gala at the Dolby Theatre won't necessarily turn the box office into a snooze-fest.
One reason to pay attention is "Get Out," the critically acclaimed and politically timely new horror film from half of television comedy duo "Key & Peele." The highly anticipated directorial debut of comedian-turned-horror maestro Jordan Peele could rival "The Lego Batman Movie" for top spot at the domestic box office. Or the computer-animated superhero comedy could win for the third weekend in a row.
Meanwhile, Oscar crowd pleasers "La La Land," "Hidden Figures" and "Lion" will seek out additional dollars before their stars hit the red carpet.
Here's what to watch for at the box office this weekend:
‘Get Out’ could be a hit
Written and directed by Peele, "Get Out" has been a big deal on social media since Universal Pictures released the first trailer in October to 30 million views. Critics also have responded enthusiastically to its blend of genre film-making and social criticism, evidenced by an extremely rare 100% positive score from Rotten Tomatoes as of Tuesday.
That's a good sign for the movie's prospects. The studio is projecting a debut of up to $19 million in ticket sales from the U.S. and Canada Friday through Sunday. Analysts who have reviewed pre-release audience surveys expect it to gross $20 million or more and become a breakout hit in the vein of M. Night Shyamalan's latest thriller "Split," released a month ago.
The movie follows a young black man (Daniel Kaluuya of "Sicario") who meets his white girlfriend's parents at their estate, only to find out that the situation is much more sinister than it appears. The movie was produced for $5 million by low-budget horror shop Blumhouse Productions, and marks the feature film debut of "Girls" star Allison Williams.
‘Lego Batman’ returns in force
Warner Bros.' caped crusader parody "The Lego Batman Movie" has shown impressive staying power with audiences. The irreverent comedy, featuring the voice of Will Arnett, grossed $42.7 million during the Presidents Day weekend, down slightly from its opening the prior week. It easily could win again this weekend with around $20 million in sales, adding to its total of $107 million.
The $80-million cartoon also has picked up $72 million internationally, adding up to a global total of $179 million. Universal's international hit sequel "Fifty Shades Darker" also will be in the mix after grossing $279 million around the world, including $91 million at home.
Besides "Get Out," newcomers aren't expected to make much money at theaters this weekend. Lionsgate's "Rock Dog," a computer-animated family comedy about a pooch who wants to be a star musician, is on track to open with about $7 million.
"Collide," a European-set action thriller with Felicity Jones and Anthony Hopkins, may do even worse. The ill-fated "Collide" was once on Relativity Media's release schedule, but went to Open Road Films after Relativity went bankrupt in 2015. The long-delayed picture is expected to open with $5 million.
With nine best picture nominees this year, and a handful of them still in theaters, some moviegoers are likely to play catch-up in the coming days.
The biggest Oscar buzz beneficiary remains "Hidden Figures," the 20th Century Fox film about black female mathematicians and engineers at NASA in the 1960s. The movie is the highest-grossing best picture nominee, domestically, with $144 million, followed closely by "La La Land" with $134 million. Both are still in wide release. Weinstein Co.'s "Lion" has enjoyed a late-in-life boost lifting its domestic total to $37 million after 13 weeks in theaters.