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Box Office: ‘Deadpool’ Still a Juggernaut; ‘The Witch’ Generating Heat

It’s a “Deadpool” world.

After vaporizing records, the superhero movie will easily top the box office for a second consecutive weekend, pulling in $55 million. That’s in line with what Fox, the studio behind the $58 million comic-book adaptation, predicted “Deadpool” would pull in during its premiere. It ended President’s Day Weekend with $152.3 million in its war chest. That bested the openings of Tiffany comic book brands such as the X-Men and Superman, defying conventional wisdom that blockbusters can’t come with an R rating, and resurrecting star Ryan Reynolds’ career in the process.

By the end of the weekend, “Deadpool” will cross the $200 million mark domestically.

Though the mercenary in red tights will remain a juggernaut, some brave new releases will try to shoulder in on the action. Among them, “Race,” a drama about Jesse Owens, the black Olympian who captured four gold medals in the 1936 Berlin games. His triumph came as Adolf Hitler was in firmly in control of Germany and Nazism was on the rise. Focus Features bought domestic rights to the film for $5 million. It should make $9 million when it debuts in 2,300 locations.

Then there’s “Risen,” a religious drama from Sony Pictures, that follows a Roman soldier tasked with examining rumors of Jesus’ resurrection. It cost $20 million to produce and unspools across 2,912 theaters.  Tracking suggests that the film will bring out the faithful to the tune of $10 million. There are a number of things working in its favor. The opening coincides with Lent and the Christian community is one that Sony has shown an ability to reach in the past, having successfully fielded the likes of “Heaven is for Real” and “War Room.”

The biggest question mark is “The Witch,” a creepy horror flick that A24, the indie label behind “Room” and “Ex Machina,” picked up over a year ago at the Sundance Film Festival for just under $1 million. The pre-Salem story of a Puritan family that becomes mysteriously afflicted has been embraced by critics and currently enjoys an 87% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s also popping on social media platforms and earning the endorsement of novelist Stephen King. That response has some analysts predicting it has breakout potential.

The Witch” was originally intended to be a multi-platform release, pairing an on-demand debut with a limited theatrical roll-out. But A24 rethought its strategy based on the reactions it was getting in screenings. It decided instead to push “The Witch” on to 1,800 theaters, marking the widest release in the company’s history. To limit its financial exposure if the bet fails to pay off, A24 has leaned heavily on digital promotions instead of more costly television spots.

Tracking has the film connecting with horror aficionados and racking up more than $10 million. However, the studio insists that given its limited marketing spending, it would be content with an opening in the $3 million to $4 million range. That could happen, of course. There are plenty of films that stir excitement on social media only to collapse away from the comforting confines of Twitter.

But many box office sages believe that “The Witch” can cast a strong enough spell to convince people to see what all the buzz is about and what kept no less an authority on the macabre than King up at night.

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