Matt Damon’s ‘Great Wall’ poised for soft U.S. opening against ‘Lego Batman’ and ‘Fifty Shades’

“The Great Wall” features Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal and Willem Dafoe.

They’re both box-office successes, they’re both sequels, and they both feature reclusive billionaires with outsized egos. But that’s pretty much where the similarities end between “The Lego Batman Movie” and “Fifty Shades Darker,” which are poised for a box-office rematch during the upcoming Presidents Day weekend.

Three new releases also hit theaters Friday, including the closely watched U.S.-China co-production “The Great Wall.” Yet none are expected to topple the “Lego” or “Fifty Shades” follow-ups, which opened to No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, last weekend.

That leaves what should be a tight three-way battle among “The Great Wall,” the R-rated Ice Cube comedy “Fist Fight” and the Keanu Reeves hit “John Wick: Chapter 2.”

Here’s what to expect this weekend:


Will ‘Lego Batman’ keep the top spot?

Most analysts predict “The Lego Batman Movie” will continue its run at No. 1 domestically, following an opening of $53 million last weekend. The Warner Bros. animated movie, featuring the voice of Will Arnett, could follow up with around $30 million Friday through Monday, boosted by overwhelmingly positive reviews and a strong audience response, evidenced by an A-minus CinemaScore. A second weekend at the summit will be good news for the studio, which started the franchise with 2014’s “The Lego Movie.”

However, there’s a modest chance that “Fifty Shades Darker” will fight its way to the top. Perhaps moms who took their kids to see “Lego Batman” last weekend will choose a ladies night or date night with the erotic drama this time around. That depends on whether audience interest in the series can overpower negative reviews. The first “Fifty Shades” installment declined significantly in its second weekend.

Hitting a ‘Wall’

The Matt Damon-starring epic “The Great Wall” was meant to be a global blockbuster that energized moviegoers all over the world. Director Zhang Yimou’s saga about a European mercenary who joins Chinese fighters against invading monsters was indeed big in China, with more than $170 million, and set a template for future U.S.-China co-productions.

That world-domination strategy doesn’t appear to be panning out, though, as the $150-million film is poised to open in the U.S. and Canada with just $17 million to $19 million. That would be a disappointing result for the movie, which was co-produced by Legendary East and Le Vision Pictures and distributed domestically by Universal Pictures.

Even the China grosses — which would be huge for any other movie — are viewed by some analysts as disappointing, given the high production costs and lofty expectations of nearly $300 million in ticket sales.

Meanwhile, New Line’s new comedy “Fist Fight,” starring Ice Cube and Charlie Day, is projected to open with $15 million to $20 million, according to industry estimates, on a production budget of less than $25 million. The R-rated comedy about rival teachers who go to blows after school could end up upsetting “The Great Wall” for third place. Or, last weekend’s breakout hit “John Wick: Chapter 2” could defy expectations and beat out both.

No ‘Cure’

The weakest of the major new releases is probably “A Cure for Wellness,” a thriller directed by Gore Verbinski about a mysterious wellness spa with a dark secret.

The movie — starring Dane DeHaan, produced by New Regency and released by 20th Century Fox — is likely to open with $6 million to $8 million. The lack of interest in the film comes shortly after audiences flocked to another psychological thriller, Universal’s M. Night Shyamalan flick “Split,” which ruled the box office for three weeks straight until “Lego Batman” bumped it off. Reviews for “Cure” have been lukewarm so far.


Hollywood will also look to Oscar favorites including “Hidden Figures,” “La La Land” and “Lion” to ride their acclaim to additional box-office returns. Fox’s “Hidden Figures” reigns as the top-grossing best picture nominee, domestically, with $131 million so far. Lionsgate’s “La La Land” is close behind with $125 million. “Lion,” from Weinstein Co., has picked up some late momentum after 12 weeks in release, scoring $30 million.