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‘Sonic’ to Speed Past ‘Birds of Prey,’ ‘Fantasy Island’ at Box Office

Sonic (Ben Schwartz) in SONIC THE
Photo Credit: Courtesy Paramount

Paramount’s family film “Sonic the Hedgehog” is expected to race ahead of its box office competition when it debuts in theaters this weekend.

The action adventure, based on the Sega video game character, should collect $40 million to $45 million from 4,130 venues over the Presidents’ Day holiday stretch. Those figures would easily be enough to claim the No. 1 spot from last weekend’s champ, Warner Bros.’ “Birds of Prey,” as well as new movies, including Universal’s romantic drama “The Photograph,” Sony’s supernatural thriller “Fantasy Island” and Searchlight’s “Downhill” remake with Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Jeff Fowler directed “Sonic,” which arrives on the big screen after an extensive makeover. The movie’s release was delayed last year after the first trailer dropped to an avalanche of backlash. While it was an unusual move to postpone the film by three months due to criticism, the character redesign seems to have appeased moviegoers since subsequent trailers were more positively received.

“Sonic,” a live-action and CGI hybrid, follows the world’s fastest hedgehog (voiced by Ben Schwartz), who teams up with his new best friend Tom (James Marsden) to defend the planet from the evil Dr. Robotnik (Jim Carrey). Video game adaptations are a genre often frothily received by moviegoers, but “Sonic” will have to resonate beyond its core demographic to recoup its $87 million price tag. The film also bows this weekend in 41 countries overseas, about 60% of its international footprint, which could help boost box office receipts. However, fears of coronavirus have impacted moviegoing in parts of Asia.

“Fantasy Island,” will compete with “Birds of Prey” for second place on box office charts, though the former could pull ahead if it arrives on the higher end of projections. Sony anticipates an opening between $13 million and $15 million from 2,770 venues, but independent tracking services estimate that number could reach $20 million over the four-day weekend. Sony spent $7 million on the film.

Blumhouse produced the PG-13 horror remake, based on the TV series starring Ricardo Montalban and Herve Villechaize. Michael Pena stars as Mr. Roarke, the owner of a remote tropical resort who makes the secret dreams of his guests come true — at a cost. 

Another new movie, “The Photograph,” is on pace to earn $12 million to $15 million from 2,500 theaters. The film, which cost $16 million to produce, follows the estranged daughter (Issa Rae) of a photographer who falls in love with the journalist (LaKeith Stanfield) assigned to write a profile on her mother. “The Photograph” was written and directed by Stella Meghie and produced by Will Packer (behind “Girls Trip,” “Ride Along” and “Night School”).

This weekend’s final newcomer, “Downhill,” is expected to debut to $4 million when it launches on 2,275 screens. The movie, a remake of Ruben Ostlund’s “Force Majeure,” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to mixed reviews. Ferrell and Louis-Dreyfus play a married couple forced to reevaluate their relationship after an avalanche threatens their family ski trip. It’s the first film to be released under the newly renamed Searchlight Pictures since Disney merged with Fox last year.

Elsewhere, “Birds of Prey” is hoping to rebound over the long weekend after its lackluster $33 million debut. If it sees holds similar to DC titles like “Suicide Squad” and “Shazam,” it could add another $13 million to $16 million in its sophomore outing. “Birds of Prey’s” underwhelming performance was somewhat surprising, since the comic-book adventure — starring Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn — was well received by audiences and critics. Part of the blame has been put on its R-rating, restricting younger fans from buying tickets. Another concern was its cumbersome title “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn).” Since most moviegoers might not be aware of who the Birds of Prey are, some major theater chains like AMC and Regal shortened the moniker to “Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey” for search purposes. The change was not mandated by the studio.

After its historic Oscars sweep, Bong Joon Ho’s dark thriller “Parasite” should see a notable boost in ticket sales. Though the movie has been on home video since late January, Fandango reported a 450% increase in ticket sales from the weekend prior. Neon is doubling its theater count, bringing “Parasite” to roughly 2,000 theaters this weekend, after it became the first foreign-language film ever to score an Academy Award for best picture. “Parasite” has already earned $36 million in North America, making it one of the most successful non-English films at the box office. It’s also been a massive hit overseas, amassing $129 million for a global haul of $165 million.

Among indie releases, Neon is opening “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” in 17 theaters in markets including New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The French romance drama, written and directed by Céline Sciamma, had its world premiere at Cannes. “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” had a short run in theaters last December, generating $33,672, to qualify for awards season. It scored Golden Globe and Independent Spirit Award nominations.