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Box Office Scares or Prayers? ‘Curse of La Llorona’ Battles ‘Breakthrough’ on Easter Weekend

With Disney and Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” gearing up to obliterate box office records, the rest of Hollywood is laying low on the film front.

“Endgame,” a culmination of sorts for the comic-book empire’s film saga, is expected to suck all the oxygen out of other movie theater auditoriums when it launches on April 26. For the most part, studios shied away from major releases even before Avengers in fear that rival movies could struggle to recoup ticket sales beyond opening weekend.

However, there was at least one studio brave enough to take on Disney, and that is, well, Disney. The Magic Kingdom is launching two movies this weekend, most notably, “Breakthrough,” the studio’s first Fox title since completing its $71 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox. Disney also has “Penguins,” a documentary from the Buena Vista company’s Disneynature label. Both titles are getting a head start on the weekend by opening on Wednesday.

“Breakthrough,” a faith-based film about a parent’s unwavering love for their children, is debuting ahead of Easter. The drama is expected to earn between $13 million to $20 million from 2,700 theaters during its first five days of release. “Breakthrough” stars “This Is Us” actress Chrissy Metz as a mother who refuses to give up hope after her adopted son suffers a near-fatal fall through an icy lake. Roxann Dawson directed the movie, which was produced by DeVon Franklin (“Miracles from Heaven,” “Heaven Is for Real,”) and executive produced by NBA star Stephen Curry. The cast also includes Topher Grace and Josh Lucas. Ticketing service Fandango reports that “Breakthrough” is outpacing pre-sales for other Easter weekend hits like “Heaven Is for Real” and “Paul, Apostle of Christ.”

This weekend could also be big on the scares. On Friday, Warner Bros. and New Line’s supernatural thriller “The Curse of La Llorona” joins the box office race. “The Curse of La Llorona,” a standalone film set in the “Conjuring” universe, is expected to earn between $15 million and $20 million when it opens in 3,400 venues. The film is based on the Mexican folklore about the Weeping Woman, a figure who lost her children and causes misfortune to those nearby. James Wan, known for his work on “Aquaman,” “The Conjuring,” and “Saw,” served as a producer.

“La Llorona” didn’t receive much critical love (it holds a bleak 35% on Rotten Tomatoes). However, fans of things that go bump in the night aren’t a bunch that are influenced by critics. The latest installment in the “Conjuring” universe was “The Nun,” which carried a 26% on Rotten Tomatoes. It debuted with $53 million and went on to earn $365 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing entry in the series.  “La Llorona” isn’t as well known as the characters in “The Nun,” and thus isn’t expected to make the same splash on opening weekend.

Penguins,” a documentary narrated by Ed Helms, anticipates a single-digit start around $5 million to $7 million from 1,800 screens in its first five days of release. The film, which comes out in time for Earth Day, is a coming-of-age story about a penguin named Steve who journeys to the Antarctic spring to find a suitable home and partner to start a family. Disneynature’s most recent venture was the John Krasinski-narrated “Born In China.” It debuted with $4.7 million and ended its box office run with $25 million in ticket sales worldwide.

“The Curse of La Llorona” will likely face off against another Warner Bros. and New Line movie for the top spot on North American charts. Reigning box office champ “Shazam!” could add another $10 million to $12 million during its third weekend in theaters. The superhero blockbuster is just shy of the $100 million mark in North America, with domestic ticket sales currently hovering around $96 million.

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