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Box Office Preview: ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ Looks to Lure Kids as ‘Black Panther’ Stays Muscular

Disney will be facing off against itself at the North American box office this weekend as “A Wrinkle in Time” opens against the fourth weekend of Marvel’s “Black Panther.”

Black Panther” shows no signs of slowing down its box office reign, as estimates show Ryan Coogler’s tentpole has a good chance of coming out on top against Ava DuVernay’s time-travel fantasy, which is targeted to hard-to-track younger filmgoers.

The latest tracking for “Wrinkle” projects an opening weekend of $30 to $38 million at 3,980 North American locations. That’s slightly lower than initial estimates assessed, which showed a range between $34 to $37 million. “Black Panther” could bring $35 to $40 million in its fourth weekend.

Numerous schools start their spring vacations this week, giving PG-rated “A Wrinkle in Time” a few weeks to lure young audiences in the weeks leading up to Easter, which is on April 1 this year.

“A Wrinkle in Time” is based on Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 children’s novel, which follows a group of children as they travel through time and strange worlds to find their missing father. The film boasts a star-studded cast including Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Zach Galifianakis, Chris Pine, Mindy Kaling and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

Four years ago, the first installment of the young adult sci-fi franchise “Divergent” opened March 21 to $54 million. Another Disney title, the live-action “Jungle Book” remake, debuted in April 2016 with an impressive $103 million.

“With the first billion dollar February now on the books and the year-to-date advantage over last year at nearly 11%, the box office gravy train keeps rolling along,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore, said. “Disney’s ‘A Wrinkle In Time’ will have to contend with a formidable fourth weekend for stablemate ‘Black Panther’ that is poised for yet another solid frame that could land the two films in photo finish for the top spot.”

Meanwhile, “Black Panther” continues to break box office records, with a domestic total of $506.4 million making it the ninth-highest grossing film in North America after only 18 days. The third weekend of “Black Panther” showed only a 41% decline for the third-best third weekend of all time at $66.3 million, trailing only “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Avatar.”

If “Black Panther’s” decline is similar to last weekend, a weekend of about $40 million would result in the third-highest fourth weekend of all time, following “Avatar” with $50.3 million and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” with $42.4 million. “The Avengers” currently holds the third spot with $36.7 million.

Three other titles — “Gringo,” “The Hurricane Heist,” and “The Strangers: Prey at Night” — are each pacing to open with less than $10 million at about 2,400 sites.

Aviron Pictures’ “The Strangers: Prey at Night” is showing the strongest forecast of the three, with an opening looking the $7-$8 million range. Set in a secluded mobile home park, the horror sequel to 2008’s “The Strangers” is directed by Johannes Roberts, and stars Christina Hendricks, Martin Henderson, Bailee Madison, and Lewis Pullman.

Entertainment Studios’ “The Hurricane Heist” sees forecasts of around $7 million from an estimated $35 million budget. Directed by Rob Cohen, the bank robbery thriller follows a band of tech hackers who plan to use a Category 5 hurricane to cover their tracks as they execute a $600 million bank robbery. The cast includes Toby Kebbell, Maggie Grace, Ryan Kwanten, and Ralph Ineson.

That leaves Amazon Studios and STX Films’ action comedy “Gringo,” which is aiming for approximately $5 million. Nash Edgerton’s film features David Oyelowo as a businessman who works for a company that has developed the “Weed Pill.” He is sent to Mexico to handle the manufacturing of the product, but while out partying, he ends up getting kidnapped by a drug cartel. Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, Amanda Seyfried, and Thandie Newton round out the cast.

Also premiering this weekend is Focus Features’ thriller “Thoroughbreds,” opening on 549 screens. Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke portray childhood friends who reconnect in suburban Connecticut after years of growing apart. Cory Finley makes his directing debut with the film that features Anton Yelchin in his final on-screen role. The actor died at age 26 in a freak accident in 2016.

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