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Box Office: ‘In the Heart of the Sea’ Launches in Choppy Waters with $575,000 Thursday

Ron Howard’s whaling drama “In the Heart of the Sea” has launched with a modest $575,000 in Thursday night preview screenings in the U.S.

Warner Bros. is opening  “In the Heart of the Sea” at 3,103 domestic locations Friday amid muted expectations of an opening weekend between $12 million and $14 million. The number is a disappointment, given a production budget around $100 million. By comparison, Warner Bros. saw $650,000 for “Pan” in Thursday night previews on its way to a $15.1 million opening weekend on Oct. 9-11.

The film, starring Chris Hemsworth, is the only new release this weekend as many moviegoers grow increasingly fixated on next week’s worldwide premiere of Disney’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

“In the Heart of the Sea” will likely win this weekend and end the three-week winning streak held by Liosngate’s “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2,” which should take in around $10 million. “Mockingjay – Part 2” has already taken in $232 million in the U.S. and another $300 million internationally.

Universal’s second frame of comic horror film “Krampus” should snag third place with an $8 million weekend. The overall weekend will be one of the slowest of 2015.

“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 in March of this year, but the studio decided earlier this year to push it back nine months.

“In the Heart of the Sea” debuted overseas last weekend with a moderate $18.5 million from 38 markets. Village Roadshow co-financed the film.

Hemsworth is best known for portraying Thor in Marvel’s cinematic universe. The Australian actor previously teamed up with Howard for 2013’s racing drama “Rush.”

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