The threequel is the final installment in the YA film franchise.
Maze Runner: The Death Cure is on course for a $24 million debut at the North American box office, according to early Friday returns.
That will be enough to unseat Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, now in its sixth weekend. The Jumanji reboot is still going strong, and should place No. 2 with $16 million-$17 million.
The Death Cure is the final installment in 20th Century Fox’s successful YA film series adapted from James Dashner’s dystopian-themed books. Friday’s gross will include $1.5 million in Thursday previews.
The threequel was originally set to hit theaters a year ago, but its release was delayed when franchise star Dylan O’Brien was injured while filming. Wes Ball directed all three films. This time out, the Gladers travel to the villainous WCKD headquarters to rescue their friends.
Elsewhere, Scott Cooper’s gritty Western Hostiles, starring Christian Bale and Rosamund Pike, rides into 2,813 theaters across the country after playing in select cinemas since Christmas. The indie film, acquired by Entertainment Studios, is projected to earn $8 million for the weekend.
While Hostiles was shut out of the Oscar race, a flurry of films picking up best picture nominations earlier this week will look for a boost, including Steven Spielberg’s The Post (20th Century Fox) and Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water (Fox Searchlight), which earned a total of 13 noms, the most of any movie.
The Post should likewise gross $8 million for the weekend. The Pentagon Papers drama, starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, is now in its third weekend in wide release.
Shape of Water, which has been rolling slowly, swims into roughly 1,600 locations, an uptick of more than 600 theaters. The adult fairy tale is looking at weekend earnings of roughly $4 million.
Jan. 26, 12:45 p.m. Updated with revised weekend estimates.