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Box Office: ‘Ouija’ Will Scare Off ‘John Wick’

Predicting the future is a delicate business, as any box office prognosticator can attest, but the stars are aligning for “Ouija” to be this weekend’s top-grossing film.

Based on the old seance staple, “Ouija” should scare up $20 million when it bows in 2,856 theaters. Universal, which is distributing the film, is being more conservative and putting the number closer to $18 million.

Either way, it will easily top the weekend’s other major wide release, “John Wick.” The action film about a hitman exacting revenge for a puppy-cide will do little to revive Keanu Reeves’ flagging box office power following the fiasco that was “47 Ronin.” Critics have embraced the film, but audiences don’t seem as energized, and will likely hand it a debut of $8 million at 2,589 locations. Lionsgate did not release a budget for the film, but it’s an acquisition, which limits its financial exposure.

“Ouija” arrives with a budget of less than $5 million and a cast that includes up-and-comers such as Daren Kagasoff and Olivia Cooke. The big names are behind the camera: The horror film was produced by Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes and micro-budget maestro Jason Blum. Its PG-13 rating will help broaden its appeal to its core audience of teenagers, which Universal has targeted by pegging promotions to shows that are popular with millennials such as “Pretty Little Liars” and “Teen Wolf.” By opening this weekend, “Ouija” also wisely avoids the death trap that is Halloween, when the box office is expected to be a graveyard.

Among holdovers, last week’s champ, “Fury,” should command $13 million in its second weekend, while “Gone Girl” will continue to ensnare moviegoers, pulling in $12 million in its fourth week. By the end of the month, “Gone Girl” — which has made $110 million so far — will likely pass “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” as David Fincher’s highest-grossing film domestically.

On the expansion front, the Weinstein Co. has been slowly building word-of-mouth for “St. Vincent.” In its third week, the heart-warming comedy will move from 68 theaters to 2,282 and should pick up $7 million to $8 million. Bill Murray stars as a grump who befriends a young boy. Chernin Entertainment co-produced.

The weekend will also play host to a flurry of limited releases, among them the Keira Knightley arrested development comedy “Laggies,” the Shailene Woodley drama “White Bird in a Blizzard” and the Cannes Film Festival favorite “Force Majeure.”

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