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‘The Revenant’ Hunts for $35 Million-Plus in Box Office Opening

Underlining Leonardo DiCaprio’s star power, “The Revenant” is heading for a better-than-expected $35 million to $40 million this weekend in a potential showdown with box office magnet “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

The Revenant” grossed an impressive $2.3 million in Thursday night preview screenings as it expanded from a successful four-screen run that began on Christmas Day to 3,371 site on Friday. Recent expectations had been for a weekend in the $20 million range domestically for “The Revenant,” or less than half than the fourth weekend of “Star Wars.”

Friday estimates showed “The Revenant” with $13 million to $15 million on Friday, which will likely edge  the 22nd day of the seventh Star Wars movie. “The Force Awakens” is still expected to win the weekend with nearly $45 million.

“‘The Revenant’ has suddenly become the got-to-see film because of DiCaprio,” noted Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with Rentrak. “He may be one of the last movie stars, which is a rare commodity these days.”

The stark drama, directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu, has performed solidly in its limited release, earning $1.5 million since Christmas at the four sites — including the nation’s sixth-best per-location gross with $198,767 at the Arclight Hollywood while “The Force Awakens” posted the top five.

DiCaprio portrays fur trapper Hugh Glass, who was mauled by a bear and left for dead  by members of his party during a brutal winter expedition in 1823. The shoot lasted nearly a year and stretched from Canada  to South America to capture realistic conditions.

“The Revenant” carries plenty of awards season credibility with a Producers Guild nomination announced Tuesday, American Society of Cinematographers nom unveiled Wednesday, four Golden Globes nominations and a Screen Actors Guild nod for DiCaprio. The film carries a $135 million price tag with New Regency financing along with RatPac, Alpha Pictures and Empyre.

The opening of Gramercy’s horror-thriller “The Forest” is performing in line with expectations and heading for a $10 million launch at 2,451 theaters. The story centers on an American, played by “Game of Thrones” star Natalie Dormer, investigating the disappearance of her twin sister in the legendary Aokigahara Forest at the base of Mount Fuji.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens” set a new record Wednesday as the top domestic movie of all time by eclipsing the final total for “Avatar.”  “The Force Awakens” took in $6 million domestically on Thursday, its 21st day of release, for a total of $770.4  million and the international gross grew by $9 million Thursday to push the total to $821.3 million — just ahead of  “Minions’” $821.2 million for the 10th spot.

Paramount’s third weekend of Will Ferrell-Mark Wahlberg comedy “Daddy’s Home” will continue to perform solidly and finish in third place with about $16 million at 3,493 sites, lifting its 17-day total by Sunday to $117 million.

Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” looks likely to finish the frame in fifth with a 50% decline to about $8 million at 2,938 sites. The Western has grossed about $35 million so far.

Watch our Q&A with Leonardo DiCaprio and Alejandro G. Inarritu:

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