Box Office, Jumanji (2017), Movies, Paddington 2, The Post, THR Online, USA

Box Office Preview: ‘Jumanji’ Rules As ‘The Post’ Courts a Wider Audience

Three new national releases — ‘Paddington 2,’ ‘Proud Mary’ and ‘The Commuter’ — also will enter the crowded marketplace.

While Steven Spielberg’s The Post expands into theaters across America this weekend, and three new films also are entering wide release, Sony’s Jumanji: Welcome to The Jungle, which is entering its fourth weekend, is expected to easily outdistance the new challengers as it claims the top spot at the domestic box office during the course of the Martin Luther King holiday weekend.

Jumanji, a PG-13-rated comedy/adventure starring Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, demonstrated real staying power last weekend as it took in $37.2 million, and so conceivably could attract as much as another $30 million over the coming four-day weekend. It’s already crossed the $250 million mark domestically.

The Post, which is being released by Fox, will be aiming for adult audiences interested in its politically-relevant account, written by Liz Hannah and Spotlight screenwriter Josh Singer, of how Washington Post publisher, Katharine Graham, played by Meryl Streep, and editor Ben Bradlee, portrayed by Tom Hanks, joined forces to defy the government and publish the Pentagon Papers.

Playing in just a handful of theaters, the $50 million film, which opened Dec. 22, has grossed $4.2 million per date. This weekend, the production, from Amblin Entertainment and Participant Media, moves into 2,820 theaters, and could take in about $18 million to $20 million.

It will be rubbing elbows, though, with a trio of new films, all jostling each other for attention.

Warners, which bought North American distribution rights from the beleaguered Weinstein Co. and producer StudioCanal, will be bowing Paddington 2, the animated/live-action continuation of the adventures of a plucky Peruvian bear, voiced by Ben Wishaw. Paul King, who directed the PG-rated sequel, from a screenplay he wrote with Simon Farnaby, also directed the 2014 original, which bowed to $25.5 million when it debuted over Martin Luther King weekend in 2015. David Heyman, who produced the Harry Potter movies for the studio, served as producer on the whimsical British film.

The new Paddington, which has already opened in Great Britain, has collected $125.2 million aboard. And it could be looking at a $20 million bow in the states, although studio estimates peg it at a few million dollars lower.

Meanwhile, Sony will introduce Proud Mary, in which a gun-toting Taraji P. Henson plays a hit woman in Boston, whose life changes when she meets a young boy. Babak Najafi (London Has Fallen) directed the R-rated action pic, opening in about 2100 locations. Its screenplay is by John Stuart Newman, Christian Swegal and Steven Antin from a story Newman and Swegal.  And it was produced by Paul Schiff, Tai Duncan.  Executive producers are Glenn S. Gainor and Henson. 

While the studio is eying a low to mid-teen million dollar debut, Proud Mary also could climb to top the $20 million mark.

Finally, Lionsgate will launch The Commuter in around 2800 locations, including select IMAX theaters. The latest action movie starring Liam Neeson, this time finds Neeson playing a businessman who find himself caught up in a frenzied criminal conspiracy when he meets a stranger, played by Vera Farmiga, on a train. Jaume Collet-Sera (The Shallows) directed the PG-13-rated actioner, written by Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi and Ryan Engle from a story by Willinger and de Blasi and produced by Alex Heineman and Andrew Rona for StudioCanal. The first entry in a new, long-term partnership between Lionsgate and StudioCanal, it is projected to open in the low-to-mid-teen million range.

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