The sci-fi tentpole “Pacific Rim Uprising” is heading toward a moderate $23 million debut at 3,708 locations — enough to top “Black Panther” by as much as $8 million. According to early Friday estimates, “Black Panther” is set for the $16 million range, which would leave the Disney-Marvel title with one of the top seven sixth weekends of all time. It will wind up the frame with $630 million at the domestic box office, surpassing “The Avengers” as the fifth-highest domestic grosser of all time, and trailing only “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Avatar,” “Titanic,” and “Jurassic World.”
Universal-Legendary’s “Pacific Rim Uprising” is expected to earn as $10 million on its first day Friday, including $2.4 million from Thursday night previews. The movie, the sequel to Guillermo del Toro’s 2013 “Pacific Rim,” had been forecast to score between $22 million and $29 million.
The original “Pacific Rim” — set in the near future and starring Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, and Charlie Hunnam — opened to $37 million domestically. It went on to gross $411 million at the worldwide box office, led by $112 million in China.
“Pacific Rim Uprising” has scored mixed reviews from critics, with a current 47% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film is also opening this weekend in most international markets, including China.
The launch of Paramount Pictures and MGM’s animated comedy “Sherlock Gnomes” is battling three holdovers for third place, coming in at the low end of forecasts in the $12 million range at 3,662 theaters. The family-friendly pic is a sequel to 2011’s “Gnomeo & Juliet.”
The second weekends of Alicia Vikander’s “Tomb Raider” and the faith-based drama “I Can Only Imagine” are both anticipated to make slightly less than “Sherlock Gnomes” in the $10 million to $11 million range. Fox’s second weekend of the gay coming-of-age romantic drama “Love, Simon” is holding nicely between $8 million and $10 million.
Three other new films are also opening nationwide this weekend with middling prospects. Sony-Affirm’s biblical drama “Paul, Apostle of Christ” looks likely to finish in the $5 million to $6 million range in 1,431 theaters over Palm Sunday weekend. The story follows James Faulkner as Saint Paul in his last days awaiting execution by Emperor Nero in Rome.
New indie distributor Global Road Entertainment, the successor to Open Road Films, is launching “Midnight Sun” with initial estimates for the young adult romantic drama between $3 million and $5 million at 2,173 theaters. Bella Thorne stars as a teen who has been sheltered at home since childhood due to a life-threatening sensitivity to sunlight.
Steven Soderbergh’s thriller “Unsane” is also expected to earn between $3 million and $5 million from 2,023 sites with Bleecker Street and Fingerprint handling the release. Claire Foy stars as a troubled woman stalked by her ex.
With no other films breaking out this year except for “Black Panther” and Sony’s “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” the overall domestic box office is now lagging 2017. As of March 21, this year’s total was off 1.4% at $2.54 billion, according to Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with comScore. He noted that the trend will continue downward this weekend, since the same 2017 weekend included the second frame of “Beauty and the Beast” with $90 million and “Power Rangers” launching with $40 million.
“With the upcoming weekend a year ago generating $201.5 million, this will be another big ‘down’ weekend and by the end of the weekend, the year to date could be down by an even greater margin,” he said. “At only 12 weekends into the year, the box office ecosystem is relatively small and any change to the bottom line can cause a major pendulum swing in the other direction.”
Dergarbedian noted that “Black Panther” has accounted for 24% of the total year-to-date box office in North America this year. “We needed more films to help carry the weight and until the next big 2018 blockbuster comes along, this rollercoaster will be at the bottom arc of the revenue curve,” he added.
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