Box Office: ‘Blair Witch’ Looks to Scare Off ‘Sully,’ ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby’

The opening of horror sequel “Blair Witch” has the best prospects of topping the second weekend of Tom Hanks’ “Sully” with as much as $23 million this weekend in more than 3,000 theaters — though it could be a tight contest.

Universal’s romantic comedy sequel “Bridget Jones’s Baby” is also launching with expectations in the $12 million to $16 million range at 2,920 sites. Open Road’s biopic “Snowden” will debut with forecasts in the $8 million to $10 million range.

And Warner Bros.’ “Sully,” which overperformed with $35 million on its opening weekend, may show enough staying power to lead the pack, given its appeal to older moviegoers. Hanks’ “Captain Phillips” declined just 36% in its second weekend in 2012 and his “Bridge of Spies” decreased only 26% in its second frame.

Lionsgate is forecasting that the third film in the “Blair Witch” franchise will finish in the $15 million to $18 million range, but rivals are predicting significantly higher numbers, noting that the horror sector has seen solid performances throughout the summer from “The Conjuring 2,” “The Purge: Election Year” and “Don’t Breathe.”

Lionsgate revealed “Blair Witch” in July at Comic-Con at what had been billed as a screening of “The Woods,” releasing a poster and trailer. The updated story, directed by Adam Wingard, is set in the remote Maryland woods where three filmmakers disappeared 20 years ago.

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“Blair Witch” centers on a group of college students venturing into the Black Hills Forest in Maryland to uncover the mysteries surrounding the disappearance of the sister of one of the students — who many believe is connected to the legend of the Blair Witch. At first the group is hopeful, especially when a pair of locals offers to act as guides through the dark and winding woods, but as the endless night wears on, the group is visited by a menacing presence.

The first film, 1999’s “The Blair Witch Project,” was directed by Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick with a production budget of $60,000. After debuting at Sundance, Artisan released the movie, which became a box office sensation with nearly $250 million in worldwide grosses.

The 2000 sequel, “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2” was directed by Joe Berlinger and followed a group of people going into the woods to investigate the witch and coming unglued. Artisan budgeted $15 million for the film, which grossed $48 million worldwide.

“Bridget Jones’s Baby” is a $35 million production from Universal, StudioCanal, Miramax and Working Title with Renée Zellweger in the third installment in the series, a dozen years after “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” was released. The film also marks the return of Colin Firth, with Patrick Dempsey and Emma Thompson as  newcomers.

Sharon Maguire, who also directed the original “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” is the helmer in the new movie in which Bridget is unexpectedly pregnant. Reviewers have been enthusiastic with an 88% Rotten Tomatoes score. Both “Bridget Jones” movies grossed more than $200 million abroad. “Bridget Jones’s Baby” is being released in 40 territories this weekend.

Snowden,” directed by Oliver Stone and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as N.S.A. whistleblower Edward Snowden, is opening on 2,400 screens. The drama, which carries a $40 million price tag, will premiere Wednesday night at over 800 theaters in a Fathom event with a live broadcast Q&A with Stone and Gordon-Levitt in New York, and Snowden via satellite from Moscow.

Pure Flix documentary “Hillsong: Let Hope Rise” is expected to take in about $3 million on its debut in 815 locations.

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