Box Office Preview: ‘Pacific Rim Uprising’ Set to Break ‘Black Panther’s’ Five-Week Streak

Watch out, “Black Panther,” because “Pacific Rim Uprising” is gearing up to strike.

Universal and Legendary’s “Pacific Rim Uprising” — the sequel to Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 “Pacific Rim” — is aiming to score from $22 million to $29 million at around 3,700 locations at this weekend’s domestic box office. Though it would be a smaller debut than its predecessor, that would likely be enough to take down Marvel powerhouse “Black Panther” following its rare five-weekend reign.

Steven S. DeKnight co-wrote and directed “Pacific Rim Uprising” with a reported $150 million budget. The original, which starred Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, Charlie Hunnam, and Robert Kazinsky, opened with $37 million in July 2013. It went on to gross $411 million at the worldwide box office, thanks to a strong international showing, especially in China, where it made $112 million compared to the U.S.’ $101.8 million.

The sequel is set 10 years after the Battle of the Breach with a new generation of Jaeger pilots ready to combat the evolving Kaiju monsters and prevent humanity’s extinction. John Boyega plays Jake Pentecost, the son of Elba’s character Stacker Pentecost, who sacrificed his life in the first film. The cast also includes Scott Eastwood, Jing Tian, Cailee Spaeny, Kikuchi, Burn Gorman, Adria Arjona, and Day.

Meanwhile, “Black Panther” has proven itself a massive box office force, but seems to be finally slowing down going into in its sixth weekend. If it continues on a similar trajectory, the superhero tentpole should score around $15 million to $18 million. Last weekend, it reeled in$26.7 million, which was the fourth-highest fifth frame of all time. It marked the first time a movie has held the top spot for five weekends in a row since 2009’s “Avatar.”

“Going six for six is a rare feat indeed, but it would be unwise to underestimate this cat’s nine lives at the box office,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior analyst at comScore, said of “Black Panther.” “But ‘Pacific Rim’ has the brand recognition and the epic scale that could propel it to the top of the charts this weekend.”

Also launching this weekend, Paramount Pictures and MGM’s animated comedy “Sherlock Gnomes” is estimated to earn $13 million to $18 million in 3,600 theaters. The sequel to 2011’s “Gnomeo & Juliet,” which reeled in $194 million worldwide, sees the petite pair recruiting detective Sherlock Gnomes and his sidekick, Gnome Watson, to investigate the mysterious disappearance of other garden gnomes. Directed by John Stevenson and executive produced by Elton John, it features the voices of James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mary J. Blige, and Johnny Depp.

Another animated film, Fox Searchlight Pictures’ “Isle of Dogs,” is opening in limited release in 27 theaters before slowly expanding nationwide. Wes Anderson’s stop-motion animated film boasts a star-studded ensemble voice cast that includes Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, and Bob Balaban. Set in a dystopian futuristic Japan, dogs have been quarantined on a remote island due to a canine flu. A boy, Atari, ventures to the island to find his dog, Spots.

New indie distributor Global Road Entertainment, built from the merger of North American distributor Open Road Films and sales and finance firm IM Global, is premiering “Midnight Sun.” Tracking for the young adult romantic drama is at about $5 million in over 2,000 theaters. Directed by Scott Speer and adapted from a Japanese movie of the same name, the pic stars Bella Thorne as a teen who has been sheltered at home since childhood due to a life-threatening sensitivity to sunlight. With only her father (Rob Riggle) for company, Katie soon ventures outside after dark, where she is noticed by her longtime crush (Patrick Schwarzenegger). She faces the dilemma of whether she can live a normal life with her newfound soulmate.

Following last week’s successful release of faith-based “I Can Only Imagine,” Affirm Films’ biblical drama “Paul, Apostle of Christ” is looking at a wide-ranging opening of $2 million to $7.5 million in 1,400 theaters over Palm Sunday weekend. The story follows James Faulkner as Saint Paul, the infamously ruthless persecutor of Christians who became Jesus Christ’s most influential apostle. The film, directed by Andrew Hyatt, follows Paul’s last days awaiting execution by Emperor Nero in Rome. Jim Caviezel, Olivier Martinez, Joanne Whalley, and John Lynch round out the cast. Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate’s “I Can Only Imagine,” based on the best-selling Christian song, soared past early box office forecasts with a surprisingly strong $17.1 million at 1,629 locations in North America.

Rounding out the weekend, director Steven Soderbergh’s latest, “Unsane,” is looking at a soft debut of about $3 million from an unspecified number of screens in a wide opening. The Bleecker Street and Fingerprint Releasing psychological thriller stars Claire Foy as a bright but troubled business woman. Foy’s character Sawyer signs up for a support group when she finds out her estranged ex-boyfriend has begun to stalk her. She discovers that she has involuntarily placed herself in a mental institution without communication to the outside world. Joshua Leonard, Jay Pharoah, Juno Temple, Aimee Mullins, and Amy Irving also star.

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