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'Fantastic Four' expected to dominate weekend in a slower month at box office

'Fantastic Four' expected to dominate weekend in a slower month at box office
The Thing (Jamie Bell), Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan), Reed Richards (Miles Teller) and Sue Storm (Kate Mara) in the movie "Fantastic Four," directed by Josh Trank. (20th Century Fox)

"Fantastic Four" will likely have a solid debut at the weekend box office, but it might not be enough to help jumpstart sluggish August ticket sales.

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The Marvel film is tracking to debut with up to $50 million, according to people familiar with pre-release audience surveys. Twentieth Century Fox, which is releasing the film, has a more modest forecast in the $40 million range.

"Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation" is expected to stay strong in its second weekend. Tracking suggests the film, which topped the box office with $56 million last weekend, will drop only about 20% to 30%. Other contenters this weekend include "The Gift," "Ricki and the Flash" and "Shaun the Sheep."

Analysts don't expect this week's entrants to help revive ticket sales in what has so far been a slow start for the month -- but, the summer as a whole could still be on track for a historic finish thanks to recent blockbusters like "Jurassic World" and "Minions." Hollywood has made about $3.6 billion since the summer kicked off in May, according to Rentrak.

"August is not necessarily a blockbuster month," said Paul Dergarabedian, an analyst at Rentrak. "But I wouldn't underestimate it. ... I think we're going to wind up with the second biggest summer ever, after the 2013 $4.75-billion record."

Last summer, the movie industry suffered its worst May-to-Labor Day season since 1997, after adjusting for inflation. But things would have been worse without the surprise superhero hit "Guardians of the Galaxy." The unconventional comic book movie launched with $94-million, the highest opening for an August release. It went on to collect about $333 million domestically.

Now, "Fantastic Four," another Marvel film, will test its box office might in a crowded marketplace. The film, which stars Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell, is a contemporary re-imagining of Marvel's original and longest-running superhero team. It cost Fox $120 million to make.

The Marvel brand already has a built-in fan base, with most films drawing hoards of moviegoers. But like all reboots, "Fantastic Four" can be a risk.

The previous "Fantastic Four" film, which starred a different ensemble, finished first with a $56.1-million opening weekend in 2005 despite mixed reviews.

Fox has a lot riding on the remake, including an intended sequel that's already on the calendar for 2017. The studio must win over fans and jump-start a new franchise.

"It seems like this latest installment is the closest to the original intention of the comic book," Dergarabedian said. "At the end of the day, all the audience cares about is that it's been at least a couple of weeks since a superhero movie release."

New offering "The Gift," which cost just $5 million to make, is looking at an opening of between $6 million to $8 million. Some familiar with tracking suggest it could make as much as $12 million.

The film, produced by STX Entertainment and Blumhouse Productions, is a psychological thriller that follows a married couple (played by Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall) after they have a chance encounter with an acquaintance from high school (Joel Edgerton).

This is STX Entertainment's first film on the big screen. The studio, co-founded by businessman Robert Simonds and investment firm TPG Capital last year, focuses on films with low- to mid-level budgets of $20 million to $80 million. It is expected to release 12 to 15 films next year.

Also in theaters, Sony's TriStar label will release "Ricki and the Flash" in 1,600 theaters this weekend, with plans to expand in the coming weeks. The film could make between $8 million and $10 million. Sony's opening weekend esimate is between $6 million to $7 million.

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The film, which is geared toward female audiences, follows mother/rock star Ricki Rendazzo (Meryl Streep) as she tries to reconnect with her ex-husband, Pete (Kevin Kline), daughter Julie (Mamie Gummer, Streep's real-life daughter) and engaged son Josh (Sebastian Stan).

Lionsgate also will roll out "Shaun the Sheep" on Wednesday. The PG-rated animated film about is expected to make about $8 million over the five-day period.

Staff writer Oliver Gettell contributed to this report.

For more news on the entertainment industry, follow me @saba_h

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