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'Halloween' expected to sink 'Hunter Killer' at the box office this weekend

Jamie Lee Curtis stars in David Gordon Green's "Halloween."

“Hunter Killer,” the new Gerard Butler submarine movie, will be no match for the murderous Michael Myers at the box office this weekend.

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The military thriller, released by Lionsgate, is expected to gross a modest $6 million to $9 million in the U.S. and Canada Friday through Sunday, according to people who have read pre-release audience surveys. That would put it far behind Universal Pictures and Blumhouse’s hit horror sequel “Halloween,” which will probably collect about $35 million in its second weekend.

“Halloween,” a direct sequel to the 1978 John Carpenter classic, posted a killer opening last weekend, grossing $76 million in the United States and Canada. That’s the best opening for a horror movie since Warner Bros.’ “It” set box-office records last fall. “Halloween,” starring Jamie Lee Curtis in the scream queen role that launched her career and set the template for the slasher genre 40 years ago, posted the biggest debut ever for the venerable scary movie franchise.

Here’s what to watch.

Down periscope

In “Hunter Killer,” Butler (“London Has Fallen”) plays a U.S. sub captain who must lead a team of Navy SEALs to rescue the Russian president, whose abduction threatens to set off an international catastrophe. The movie, directed by Donovan Marsh, also stars Common and Gary Oldman.

The picture has weathered a long voyage to the multiplex. It was originally supposed to be released by Relativity Media, which plunged into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2015 after a string of flops. Santa Monica-based Lionsgate picked up the North American distribution rights to the film in March. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, and Millennium Films, which produced the movie, has not revealed what the movie cost to make. The companies are betting the film will perform similarly to 2016’s Jason Statham action flick “Mechanic: Resurrection,” another film that Lionsgate released domestically for Millennium.

Submarine movies are a cinematic mainstay, with classics such as “Das Boot” and “The Hunt for Red October” marking the high points for the genre. “Hunter Killer,” however, has drawn lukewarm reviews from critics, indicated by a 38% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Trick or treat?

The week of Halloween is typically a slow period for new Hollywood releases, as movies compete with trick-or-treating and house parties. That’s certainly true this time, as studios are mostly sitting out the weekend.

Besides “Hunter Killer,” the biggest new films are Working Title and Universal Pictures’ “Johnny English Strikes Again,” a British spy comedy sequel starring Rowan Atkinson that is not expected to do especially well in the U.S. when it opens in about 500 theaters. (New studio movies typically debut in more than 2,500 theaters). It will probably open with about $4 million stateside. But the film has already grossed nearly $100 million internationally.

Another mid-tier release, “Indivisible,” the faith-based drama about an Army chaplain, his wife and the impact of war on their marriage, is also expected to open in the low single-digit millions. Notable in limited release is Amazon Studios’ ambitious remake of the Italian horror classic “Suspiria.”

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