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'Bohemian Rhapsody' looks to rock the box office with $35-million opening weekend

20th Century Fox's classic rock biopic is poised for a solid box office debut, despite controversy surrounding its absentee director Bryan Singer.

Will classic rock drama “Bohemian Rhapsody” become the box-office champion this weekend? Or will the new music biopic bite the dust at the multiplex amid controversies surrounding its ousted director, Bryan Singer?

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So far, the movie’s commercial prospects are looking solid despite its troubled production and mixed reviews. The long-anticipated film, about the “Radio Ga-Ga” rockers and bombastic frontman Freddie Mercury, is expected to gross about $35 million from Friday through Sunday, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys.

That should be enough for the PG-13 film, which carries a production budget of $52 million, to beat Disney’s live-action fantasy “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” for the top spot at the box office. Universal Pictures’ low-budget horror sequel “Halloween,” which has grossed a massive $128 million since its Oct. 19 release, probably will yield the No. 1 spot after two weeks topping the North American charts.

Little high, little low

If “Bohemian Rhapsody” does as well as expected, it would be the best opening for a music biopic since the 2015 release of “Straight Outta Compton,” which blasted into theaters with $60 million in domestic ticket sales.

Films about famous musicians don’t always perform (just look at “I Saw the Light,” about Hank Williams). But the Queen film produced by 20th Century Fox and New Regency could benefit from audiences’ love for the groundbreaking British band’s catalog of hits, as well as hype for actor Rami Malek’s performance as the dynamic vocalist Mercury, who died in 1991 of complications from AIDS.

Singer, known for movies such as “X-Men,” is still credited as the film’s director, though he was fired from the production in December after failing to appear on set, according to people familiar with the circumstances. “Eddie the Eagle” director Dexter Fletcher was tasked with finishing the picture.

Separately, Singer earlier this month preemptively denounced an anticipated Esquire magazine article that is expected to detail sexual assault allegations against him. In a post on social media, Singer accused the publication of dredging up old accusations, which he has denied.

No easy dance

As “Bohemian Rhapsody” reaches for the high notes, Disney’s latest big-budget fantasy will probably have a soft opening this weekend when the studio makes an early play for holiday moviegoers.

“The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” based on the 19th century Christmas tale by E.T.A. Hoffmann that inspired the beloved ballet, is expected to gross $20 million to $25 million in the U.S. and Canada through Sunday, analysts said. The PG-rated fairy tale will probably open lower than the Burbank studio’s March dud, “A Wrinkle in Time,” which debuted with $33 million and ended up grossing a lackluster $100 million domestically.

Disney has ruled the box office in recent years with huge hits such as Marvel’s “The Avengers: Infinity War,” Pixar’s “The Incredibles 2” and “The Jungle Book,” but has occasionally struggled with pictures that don’t fit within one of its major brands.

Paramount’s “Nobody’s Fool,” the first R-rated comedy from prolific filmmaker Tyler Perry (“Boo! A Madea Halloween”), will probably collect about $15 million in its first three days in theaters, propelled by the popularity of its star Tiffany Haddish (“Girls Trip,” “Night School”). That performance would be roughly on par with Perry’s recent non-”Madea” film “Acrimony.”

In limited release, Amazon Studios will expand its horror remake “Suspiria” into about 250 theaters after a strong debut in two locations in New York and Los Angeles.

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