Box Office: ‘Coco’ to Dominate Slow Pre-‘Star Wars’ Weekend

Ahead of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Disney-Pixar’s animated comedy “Coco” is looking to dominate the North American box office with about $18 million at 3,748 sites, early estimates showed Friday.

It’s the third straight winning weekend for “Coco” at the domestic box office, which has seen major studios opt to hold off on any new releases for two weeks instead of offering wide openings. Disney-Lucasfilm’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is expected to dominate when it opens on Dec. 15.

The weekend will see one wide opening as Broad Green Pictures launches its last movie with the action-comedy “Just Getting Started” debuting in 2,146 locations. The film, starring Morgan Freeman, Tommy Lee Jones, and Rene Russo, is tracking to gross an unimpressive $4 million this weekend. Also starring are Jane Seymour, George Wallace, Joe Pantoliano, Glenne Headly, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Graham Beckel, and Elizabeth Ashley.

Broad Green closed down production in August after three years of mostly disappointing box office performance. Freeman stars as the freewheeling manager of a luxury Palm Springs resort, whose status as the alpha male is challenged by the arrival of Jones’ character, a charming ex-military man.

Neon is launching the dark comedy “I, Tonya” as a platform release in four locations with early Friday estimates of a stellar finish at around $250,000. The film has been receiving awards recognition for Margot Robbie’s portrayal of disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding and Allison Janney’s portrayal of her mother.

Fox Searchlight’s expansion of awards contender “The Shape of Water” is also expected to perform well with about $2.4 million at 41 locations. The Guillermo del Toro fantasy opened with a stellar $166,564 at two sites last weekend.

“Coco,” which has generated more than $117 million in its first 16 days, will share a dubious distinction with six other titles this year by leading the box office with less than $20 million. That list includes “Split” in its third weekend, “Fate of the Furious” in its third weekend, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” in its second weekend, the opening weekends of “The Dark Tower” and “Jigsaw,” and the second and third weekends of “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” — which were the lowest weekends of the year at $10 million each.

“Coco” should become the fourth title of 2017 to lead the domestic box office for three straight weekends, joining Lionsgate’s “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” and Universal’s “Fate of the Furious” and “Split” as three-peaters.

The fourth weekend of Warner Bros.-DC Entertainment’s “Justice League” and the third weekend of Lionsgate’s “Wonder” should battle for second with about $9 million each. “Justice League” crossed the $200 million milestone on Tuesday on its 19th day, becoming the 10th movie to achieve that mark in 2017. The tentpole, however, is not delivering on expectations, given a budget that may be as high as $300 million. The disappointment was enough to cause an executive shake-up of Warner Bros.’ DC Entertainment operations, with Jon Berg departing as its point person and becoming a production partner with Roy Lee.

“Wonder,” playing at 3,518 sites, should cross the $100 million mark by the end of the weekend. The drama, starring Jacob Tremblay as a fifth-grader with a facial deformity, has been highly profitable for Lionsgate with a $20 million budget.

A24’s expansion of James Franco’s “The Disaster Artist” from 19 to about 840 locations is pegged to take in around $7 million and finish in fourth. The comedy-drama grossed $1.2 million in its opening weekend, good enough for 12th place last weekend.

The weekend will also see the sixth weekend of Disney-Marvel’s “Thor: Ragnarok” take in around $6.5 million, which should put its domestic total above $300 million. The third Thor movie was a key factor in November’s box office staying ahead of the same month last year.

Overall domestic box office has trailed last year’s since the mid-summer and was off 4.1% as of Dec. 6 with $9.89 billion, according to comScore. “This weekend is the appetizer round in preparation for next week’s ‘Last Jedi’ main course and as such there is a terrific selection of cinematic bites big and small,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with the tracking service.

The second weekend of December has been among the quieter periods in recent years as studios opt to start launching major titles on the third frame. Last year’s total for the same weekend was $84 million and 2015’s figure was $77 million, according to comScore.

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