Focus Features’ animated “Kubo and the Two Strings” also launched quietly on Thursday night with $515,000 at 2,100 locations.
The trio of new entries are expected to trail Warner’s third weekend of “Suicide Squad” at the domestic box office with the supervillain tentpole leading the pack at around $22 million.
It’s a decent start for “War Dogs,” starring Miles Teller and Jonah Hill as a pair of unlikely arms dealers in a project. The film, which carries a $45 million budget, is expected to take in around $12 million to $14 million at 3,258 locations amid mixed reviews that earned it a 60% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
R-rated “War Dogs,” helmed by “The Hangover” director Todd Phillips, is based on Guy Lawson’s book “Arms and the Dudes” about two young contractors obtaining a government contract to supply weapons for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. It’s aimed at the same demographic that supported Sony’s animated comedy “Sausage Party,” which has grossed a solid $47 million in its first six days.
The soft Thursday night numbers for “Ben-Hur” offer confirmation that the $100 million biblical epic will struggle to generate business this weekend. Paramount and MGM, which co-financed the film, had been hoping for a $20 million launch at 3,084 locations by appealing to faith-based customers, but other trackers have been forecasting a debut in the $10 million to $15 million range.
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The remake, directed by Timur Bekmambetov, has been blistered by critics and carries a 29% score on Rotten Tomatoes. The 1959 version of the film was a box office smash and won 11 Oscars.
The reboot stars Jack Huston, Morgan Freeman, Toby Kebbell, Nazanin Boniadi, Haluk Bilginer, and Rodrigo Santoro. The producers include Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, who saw strong ratings from their 2013 mini-series “The Bible.”
Paramount has seen a rough year so far with “Zoolander 2” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” faltering, and “Star Trek Beyond” under-performing. The studio’s parent Viacom has been distracted by a protracted battle for control between CEO Philippe Dauman and majority stakeholder Sumner Redstone — a fight that appeared to conclude Thursday night with a preliminary legal settlement that ousted Dauman.
“Ben-Hur” may wind up behind “War Dogs” and “Kubo and the Two Strings,” which is opening at 3,260 locations. Laika’s fantasy adventure, which cost $55 million to produce, is set in ancient Japan and centers on a boy’s quest to reassemble a magical suit of armor.
Reviewers have been strongly supportive of “Kubo” with a 95% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.