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Box Office: ‘Don’t Breathe’ to Scare Off ‘Suicide Squad’

This is the way the summer movie ends. Not with a bang, but a whimper.

Facing little in the way of serious competition, Sony and Screen Gems’ “Don’t Breathe” should debut in first place this weekend, racking up $12 million across more than 3,000 screens. If those estimates hold, it will mark the lowest-grossing number one film since “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” topped charts for the fourth consecutive time on the weekend of Dec. 11th, a sign that blockbuster season is officially over despite the fact that summer hasn’t quite ended.

It is possible that “Suicide Squad,” the supervillain mash-up that vexed critics, but still drew crowds, could retain its crown. It will likely add $10 million to its haul, pushing the comic book adaptation ever closer to $300 million domestically. “Suicide Squad’s” stateside total currently stands at $264.6 million.

“Don’t Breathe” centers on a group of teenagers who break into the home of a blind man in order to steal money, only to find that their mark isn’t helpless. Instead of scoring a big payday, they find themselves in a desperate fight to stay alive. The film was financed by Sony Pictures’ Stage 6 Films and was produced for less than $10 million. Reviews for the picture have been positive and the studio effectively built buzz with screenings at Comic-Con and SXSW.

“I think it could surprise this weekend,” said Shawn Robbins, senior analyst with BoxOffice.com. “It’s been a slow and steady climb on social media and these low-budget to mid-budget horror films tend to do much better than expected.”

Indeed, the horror genre has showed impressive endurance in recent months. In a year where sequels have disappointed, “The Conjuring 2” and “The Purge: Election Year” have nearly matched or surpassed the grosses of previous films in their franchises. Likewise, “The Shallows” and “Lights Out” have turned out audiences in force, with their lower budgets making them profitable enterprises for their backers.

Lionsgate’s “Mechanic: Resurrection” will also try to capitalize on the last gasp of blockbuster season. The follow-up to 2011’s “The Mechanic” centers on a crack assassin (Jason Statham in steely “Transporter” mode) who globe trots on a series of killings. Tommy Lee Jones lends some gravitas to the proceedings and Jessica Alba offers whatever the opposite of that is. The first film was a modest box office success, earning $62 million on a $40 million budget, but it was a big enough success on home entertainment platforms to justify a sequel. Look for “Mechanic: Resurrection” to pull in between $6 million to $8 million when it bows across 2,258 locations.

The Weinstein Company originally planned to launch the boxing drama “Hands of Stone” across more than 2,000 screens, but the indie label has altered its plans. The biopic about Panamanian fighter Roberto Duran will instead show on roughly 800 theaters, before moving to 2,500 locations the following Friday. Purportedly that’s because there were concerns that “Don’t Breathe” would attract Latinos and African-Americans, two groups that “Hands of Stone” needs to appeal to if it is going to make money. It should do just under $3 million when it debuts.

Roadside Attractions and Miramax will offer up “Southside With You” in roughly 800 theaters. The look at the Obamas’ first date earned a solid reception at the Sundance Film Festival when it debuted last January. The film doesn’t have recognizable stars, but it could appeal to fans of the 44th president. It should do more than $1 million.

The summer box office has fielded a number of painful flops. From “Alice Through the Looking Glass” to “The BFG” to last weekend’s “Ben-Hur,” hundreds of millions of dollars have gone up in smoke as franchises have collapsed. Still, hits such as “Suicide Squad” and “The Secret Life of Pets” have softened those blows and bolstered overall revenues. In fact, ticket sales are up 5% over last summer, which could make this the second highest-grossing summer in history.

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