Hey kids, get ready for the next No. 1 movie in America — brought to you by the guy who made “Hostel.”
That’s right, filmmaker Eli Roth, who rose to fame as one of top purveyors of ultra-violent horror in the mid-2000s, has emerged from his torture chamber to direct Amblin Entertainment’s spooky adventure “The House With a Clock in Its Walls.”
Roth’s foray into children’s entertainment is a surprising career switch, even in an industry in which Wes Craven made “Music of the Heart.”
But if it works, the film will represent a return to form of sorts for Steven Spielberg’s production company Amblin Entertainment, for which live-action youth adventures (“E.T.: The Extraterrestrial,” “The Goonies”) were once its stock in trade.
Here’s what to watch:
House of horrors
The new film, based on a 1973 book about a young boy who goes to live with his mysterious uncle in a mansion with supernatural secrets, is expected to open with $18 million to $25 million in the U.S. and Canada on Friday through Sunday, according to people who have reviewed prerelease audience surveys. Universal Pictures, which is distributing the picture, has projected an opening of roughly $15 million. The movie, which has a PG rating, cost more than $40 million to make, according to people close to the production.
Though not a blockbuster by any means, it will almost certainly unseat last weekend’s biggest movie “The Predator,” which debuted with an underwhelming $24 million in receipts for 20th Century Fox. “House” is tracking best with younger females, according to analysts.
Live-action kids fantasy films, such as Amblin’s “The BFG,” have had mixed results at the box office, and most youngsters probably aren’t familiar with the John Bellairs novel on which “The House With a Clock in Its Walls” is based. But star Jack Black (who plays the warlock uncle) made a successful stab at kiddie horror in Sony’s “Goosebumps” in 2015, which collected $80 million in the U.S. and Canada.
Moore or less?
As Roth makes his out-of-left-field career changeup, left-wing provocateur Michael Moore will try to rally the resistance with his latest big-screen polemic. “Fahrenheit 11/9,” an attack on the Trump presidency, is expected to open with about $4 million this weekend, according to analysts. That’s a far cry from the $24-million opening for Moore’s 2004 anti-George W. Bush screed “Fahrenheit 9/11,” which went on to become the highest grossing documentary ever ($119 million, domestic).
Though he won an Oscar for 2002’s “Bowling for Columbine,” Moore’s style appears to have lost some of its commercial appeal in recent years. His most recent doc, 2016’s “Where to Invade Next,” took in less than $4 million in its limited release.
The weekend’s other major release, Amazon Studios’ emotional drama “Life Itself,” is expected to open with $4 million to $6 million. “Life Itself,” starring Oscar Isaac and Olivia Wilde, was written and directed by Dan Fogelman, who created the critically acclaimed TV family drama “This Is Us.” However, critics have not been kind to “Life Itself,” delivering a poor 15% Rotten Tomatoes rating.