In true popcorn-season form, it’ll be a battle of the sequels at the domestic box office this weekend.
The follow-up to 2008’s jukebox musical “Mamma Mia!” is tracking for a three-day tally between $30 million and $36 million when it opens in over 3,200 locations. A $30 million-plus debut would be a jump on its predecessor’s $27 million start. Much like the hit Broadway musical it was based on, “Mamma Mia” became a box office smash, earning $615 million worldwide on a $52 million budget. Though it pocketed an impressive $144 million in North America, “Mamma Mia” found even greater success overseas, where Swedish pop group ABBA has a huge following. At the time, it was the highest-grossing film directed by a woman (Phyllida Lloyd), until it was surpassed by Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman” in 2017.
Arriving in theaters a decade after the first film, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is both a sequel and a prequel that once again features ABBA classics. Meryl Streep returns as Donna, the mother of Amanda Seyfried’s Sophie. Though set five years later, the film relies heavily on flashbacks of Lily James as a young Donna to tell the story of how she came to the Greek villa of Kalokairi and met Sophie’s three potential fathers.
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Most of the original cast — including Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard, and Colin Firth as Sophie’s possible dads; Christine Baranski and Julie Walters as Donna’s best friends; and Dominic Cooper as Sophie’s husband — reprised their roles. Pop legend Cher joins the cast as Sophie’s estranged grandmother. Ol Parker, the screenwriter behind “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” took over directing duties and penned the script.
The highly anticipated musical should fend off Sony’s “The Equalizer 2,” which is shooting for a $27 million to $32 million launch. Denzel Washington reprises his role as retired CIA-agent-turned-security guard-turned-vigilante Robert McCall in the first sequel of Washington’s nearly 40-year career. Antoine Fuqua returned to direct the movie, which also stars Pedro Pascal, Ashton Sanders, Melissa Leo, and Bill Pullman. In the follow-up, McCall sets out to avenge the murder of his friend.
If estimates hold, “Equalizer 2” will have a lower opening weekend than the first film. Despite lukewarm reviews, “The Equalizer” opened in 2014 with $35 million and went on to generate $192 million worldwide, including $101 million in North America. Critical reception for “Equalizer 2” seems even less enthusiastic, and it stands at 39% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Meanwhile, BH Tilt’s “Unfriended: Dark Web” is expecting a single-digit start between $6 and $8 million. The original Blumhouse title, “Unfriended,” opened to double that number with $15 million. That film became a massive moneymaker, pocketing $64 million from a $1 million budget. Stephen Susco made his directorial debut, though the filmmaker is no stranger to the horror genre. He wrote “The Grudge,” “The Grudge 2,” and “Texas Chainsaw 3D” before stepping behind the camera.
“Dark Web” is a standalone sequel, which follows a group of friends — Colin Woodell, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Betty Gabriel, and Andrew Lees — who discover a laptop with disturbing files. According to projection instructions shared on Twitter, the thriller features not one, but two different endings. Apparently, there’s no way to know in advance which moviegoers will see.
In limited release, Sundance darling “Blindspotting” is debuting on 14 screens. Daveed Diggs, known for his Tony-winning role in “Hamilton,” wrote the Oakland-based drama with his longtime collaborator Rafael Casal. Directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada, “Blindspotting” follows Diggs and Casal as lifelong friends through the last three days of Digg’s character’s year-long probation.
Other new offerings at the specialty box office also include Magnolia’s Lauren Greenfield documentary “Generation Wealth,” Vertical Entertainment’s “Damascus Cover,” IFC’s “Far From the Tree,” and Bleecker Street’s fashion documentary “McQueen.”