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Box Office: ‘Escape Room’ No Match for ‘Aquaman’

The 2018 box office may have ended with a bang, but 2019 looks like it’s starting with a whimper.

With no major releases hitting theaters, “Aquaman” should easily retain its No. 1 spot atop the domestic box office charts for the third consecutive weekend. The only newcomer to the marquees is Columbia Pictures’ “Escape Room,” a psychological horror film that is expected to bring in around $10 million when it debuts in 2,700 locations.

Since this weekend looks to be dominated by a slew of holdovers, it should be noted that it can be difficult to gauge just how much a film will dip coming off the busy span from Christmas to New Year’s. New Year’s Eve fell on a Monday, so most children won’t head back to school until the following Monday, which means moviegoing could still see a big boost throughout the first weekend of 2019.

As a whole, January tends to be a slow month at the box office. After competitive Decembers, studios often hold off on launching blockbuster-hopefuls while cinephiles recover from being in vacation mode. As for the month of January, this edition could be an outlier. “Glass,” a mash-up of “Unbreakable” and “Split,” hits theaters on Jan. 19, when it is projected to open to between $50 million to $70 million.

Until then, it’s Jason Momoa’s multiplexes, baby. “Aquaman” — directed by James Wan and starring the former “Game of Thrones” actor — looks to be the big winner in North America again and could amass between $23 million and $26 million in its third weekend of release, which would represent a drop of 50 to 55% from its previous outing. The superhero tentpole only suffered a small decline of 22% after its opening weekend, a benefit from audiences having some time off from work and school.

DC’s Atlantean adventure earned $16.78 million on New Year’s Day for a stateside haul of $216 million. “Aquaman” also hit a major milestone overseas, crossing $600 million in international territories. That takes the blockbuster’s global total to $822 million, officially surpassing the worldwide tally of “Wonder Woman,” which topped out with a massive $821 million in 2017. Warner Bros. shelled out $200 million for “Aquaman” before accounting for marketing costs, and healthy ticket sales indicate their comic-book empire could have a strong future even after DC whiffed on rebooting Batman and Superman with Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill.

Escape Room” was directed by Adam Robitel, who co-wrote “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” and helmed “Insidious: The Last Key.” The film, which cost $9 million to produce, follows a group of strangers who get trapped in a deadly escape room.

While most major studios are sitting this weekend out, a handful of holiday holdovers are hoping to draw audiences who may have spent the past few days with friends and family, away and apart from the cinema. Disney’s “Mary Poppins Returns” had a more modest start than anticipated, though the musical expects to have a long life in theaters. Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda star in the sequel to the 1964 classic, which opened with $23.5 million and has collected $114 million in North America and $86 million overseas. “Mary Poppins Returns” could add $14 million to $20 million to its domestic bounty in its third weekend of release.

Another holdover, Paramount’s “Transformers” spinoff “Bumblebee,” looks to break out after facing tough competition from “Aquaman” between Christmas and New Year’s. The autobot origin story starring Hailee Steinfeld could earn another $10 million to $15 million this weekend. “Bumblebee” has generated $78.5 million at the domestic box office and $90 million internationally. It carries a $135 million price tag plus marketing costs, so it needs to pick up some steam to justify the investment.

Otherwise it promises to be all quiet on the multiplexes front until M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” bows during Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.

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