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‘Blair Witch’ looks to scare up box-office returns, beat ‘Sully’

“Blair Witch,” a sequel to the similarly named 1999 horror classic, looks to take the top spot at the box office this weekend.
“Blair Witch,” a sequel to the similarly named 1999 horror classic, looks to take the top spot at the box office this weekend.
(Chris Helcermanas-Benge)

“Blair Witch,” a sequel to the similarly named 1999 horror classic, looks to take the top spot at the box office this weekend from “Sully,” the critically acclaimed film starring Tom Hanks.

The Lionsgate found-footage film is expected to gross $19 million to $24 million in ticket sales from the U.S. and Canada through Sunday, according to people who have reviewed pre-release audience surveys. That could be enough to dethrone “Sully,” which took in $35 million last weekend and is expected to experience a small drop in its second-week performance.

“Blair Witch” centers on a group of college students who travel into a Maryland forest to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a woman. The film comes nearly two decades after “The Blair Witch Project” became a cultural phenomenon and ushered in a wave of found-footage films, which are shot to look like discovered video recordings. The 1999 film cost $60,000 to produce and grossed nearly $250 million worldwide.

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At first “Blair Witch” was kept under wraps, filming under a different name. The movie’s connection to “The Blair Witch Project” was revealed at Comic-Con in June. The new film, which cost less than $10 million and opens on 3,000-plus screens, is expected to draw young audiences and older fans of the 1999 picture.

“Blair Witch” will face another long-gestating sequel: “Bridget Jones’s Baby.” The third film in the “Bridget Jones” series follows 2004’s “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason,” and again stars Renée Zellweger. The Universal Pictures movie will debut on more than 2,900 screens; it cost $35 million to make and counts StudioCanal, Miramax and Working Title as producers. The film, which is expected to draw a heavily female audience, is projected to take in $13 million to $16 million. “Bridget Jones” movies do well overseas — the first two films in the series both grossed more than $200 million abroad. The new picture is being released in 40 territories this weekend.

Also opening is “Snowden,” the Oliver Stone-directed drama about the former Central Intelligence Agency employee who leaked classified information from the National Security Agency. The movie, which stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is expected to debut in the range of $7 million to $11 million. It cost $50 million to produce and is being distributed by Open Road Films. “Snowden” will bow on about 2,200 screens.

The film faces a challenge in going up against “Sully,” which should continue to draw a mature segment of audiences. “Sully” kicked off the fall moviegoing season with a strong opening-week performance that was buoyed by favorable reviews and good word of mouth. The picture, about the 2009 "Miracle on the Hudson” emergency landing of a US Airways passenger jet, is expected to experience the sort of modest second-week decline enjoyed by other well-reviewed, adult-skewing films like “Captain Phillips” and “The Martian.” It could gross about $20 million this weekend.

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“Hillsong: Let Hope Rise,” about a Christian band, also debuts this weekend. The documentary from Pure Flix Entertainment is expected to take in $1 million to $3 million.

Follow @DanielNMiller on Twitter for film business news.

Daniel.miller@latimes.com


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