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Box Office: ‘In the Heart of the Sea’ Off to Rocky Start

Ron Howard’s whaling drama “In the Heart of the Sea” has been scuttled, heading for a lackluster opening weekend of $11 million to $12 million at 3,103 U.S. locations, early estimates showed Friday.

The fourth weekend of Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2,” could edge “In the Heart of the Sea” with early Friday tracking around $11 million to $12.5 million for a three-day total.

Recent forecasts had projected that “In the Heart of the Sea” would take in $12 million to $14 million but Thursday night previews generated only $575,000 — underlining the marginal moviegoer interest in the poorly reviewed movie. The numbers are a clear disappointment, given a production budget around $100 million plus the star power of Chris Hemsworth.

It’s probable that “In the Heart of the Sea” will not even match “Pan,” another big-budget money-loser for Warner Bros. “Pan” opened with $15.1 million on the second weekend of October and limped to $34.8 million domestically.

With Disney opening “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” on Dec. 18, prospects for holdover business in the coming weeks are fairly dim. International grosses for “In the Heart of the Sea” have been unimpressive so far with $18.5 million in 38 markets last weekend.

“In the Heart of the Sea” is based on Nathaniel Philbrick’s 2000 book about the sinking of the whaling ship Essex in 1820 — which inspired Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick.” Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, Ben Whishaw and Brendan Gleeson also star.

Howard shot the film in 2013 and Warner Bros. had originally planned to open it on March 13 of this year, but the studio decided earlier this year to push it back nine months. Village Roadshow co-financed.

“Mockingjay 2” looks likely to decline less than 35%. It has already taken in $233 million in the U.S. in its first three weeks and another $300 million internationally — and even though it’s the lowest domestic grosser of the four films in the Jennifer Lawrence franchise, it’s also the sixth biggest film of 2015.

Universal’s second weekend comic horror film “Krampus” should snag third place with an $8 million weekend. The overall weekend will be one of the slowest of 2015 — but all that should change next Thursday night.

“We are truly in the eye of the storm as we await the massively anticipated debut of ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ next week and as such this should be a fairly modest weekend at the box office,” noted Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with Rentrak.

He noted that the weekend will also see Paramount’s eight-screen opening for awards season favorite “The Big Short,” starring Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt.

“With a truly astonishing array of movies of all kinds for virtually every moviegoer, we are heading into not only one of the most crowded holidays, but also one of the most exciting,” Dergarabedian added. “The last two weeks of December are traditionally the most busy of the month and this year with “Star Wars” in the mix, could take the power of this end-of-year time frame to unprecedented heights.”

Rentrak figures show that since 2006, the last two weeks of the year have accounted for between 71.5% and 85.3% of the December total. The current record-holder for that period came in 2009, when the final two weeks generated $911.2 million with the launch of “Avatar.”

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