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'Passengers' to get out-sung, out sci-fied at holiday box office

'Tis the season for a big run of debut films over the long holiday weekend, even if those new titles don’t stand a chance against one of the sci-fi events of the decade.

Walt Disney Co.'s "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" launched into the heights of the galaxy after its Dec. 16 wide release, opening to about $155 million, at the top of forecasts. While that figure falls short of its predecessor, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" by almost $100 million, it will still mark the 12th-largest opening weekend of all time, the second-largest December opening behind last year's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and the third-largest of 2016 behind "Captain America: Civil War" and "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice."

"Rogue One" is predicted to continue its sweep through the Christmas weekend, leaving behind debut wide releases "Sing" and "Passengers" along with their all-star casts. The Star Wars title is expected to bring in about $96 million in its second weekend, more than double what the runner-up will collect, according to BoxOffice.com.

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"Sing"
Source: Universal Pictures

Behind "Rogue One" will be animated ensemble comedy "Sing," which BoxOffice.com forecasts to land at $43.1 million for the three-day, four-night weekend, or $65.9 million from its Dec. 21 opening through Monday, Dec. 26, accounting for all holiday sales. Looking at the Dec. 21 through Dec. 26 period, TheWrap puts expectations at $55 million. Deadline Hollywood, meanwhile, came in bullish with a $70 million forecast.

Whatever the case, Comcast Corp.'s Universal Pictures' quirky cartoon is expected to beat "Passengers," led by A-list actors Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, as well as Michael Fassbender's video-game adaptation "Assassin's Creed."

"Sing" compares well to other breakout non-Disney animated features like "Minions," "The Secret Life of Pets" and "Despicable Me." A list of comparisons compiled by S&P Global Market Intelligence that include those titles as well as "Despicable Me 2" and "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax" suggests a winner for Universal Pictures. Those films opened to an average $86.0 million and went on to collect net profits averaging $657.4 million for an average profit margin of 60%.

The title had a respectable 71% "fresh" rating as of 11:45 a.m. ET on Dec. 22.

Just behind "Sing" should be the anticipated sci-fi romance "Passengers," which fell flat with critics and may get punished at the box office for it. The title was running at a dismally "rotten" 30% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

BoxOffice.com forecasters put the Pratt-Lawrence tie-up at $40 million for the long holiday weekend. TheWrap concurred with a $39 million projection, and Deadline went high again with a $50 million forecast, waving off Sony Corp.'s internal estimate of $35 million to $40 million.

The title compares with some of the biggest sci-fi events in recent memory, like "Gravity," "Interstellar" and "The Martian." But with much softer reviews, it will likely fit in at the bottom of that list with titles like "Prometheus" and "Solaris." "Passengers" might compare especially well with "Prometheus," which despite a solid Rotten Tomatoes score was met with mixed reviews and opened to $51.1 million, leaving theaters with a 24.0% profit margin.

Video game adaptation "Assassin's Creed," an ambitious undertaking for 21st Century Fox Inc. that has also fallen flat with critics, also will debut over the holiday weekend. The title was sputtering through Rotten Tomatoes at a meager 18% "rotten" rating.

"Michael Fassbender is like the ultimate special effect. Just by showing up, he confers respectability on two hours of semi-coherent overly art-directed video-game sludge," Variety said in its skewering recount of the film.

BoxOffice.com is looking for that Fassbender title to collect $27 million for the long run through Dec. 26. TheWrap was a little more optimistic with a $33 million forecast, and Deadline agreed, pegging the film with a range of $30 million to $35 million, saying that the bad reviews will not likely dissuade the video game's dedicated fans.

Fox was reportedly hoping to do something grand with "Assassin's Creed," something out of the ordinary for video game titles, but failed to follow through, according to reviewers. Many have compared the movie to other video-game titles like "Warcraft" and "Hitman." However, even if those films are not cinematic touchstones, they still tend to collect profits for their studios, and Fox will hope that "Assassin's Creed" can do the same.

Two other films will sweep up the rest of the holiday audiences. The most acclaimed of those smaller titles is "Fences," an emotional Denzel Washington flick that was playing well on the indie circuit and among critics. That title was the only "Certified Fresh" weekend debut on Rotten Tomatoes with a whopping 95% "Certified Fresh" rating. But critical acclaim will still not be enough to launch "Fences" above the competition as forecasts put the title just below the $10 million mark.

Likely beating out "Fences" but still falling well short of the other debut competition, the comedy "Why Him?" is seeing wide estimate ranges. BoxOffice.com pegs it at $13 million, but Deadline puts a sprawling range of $14 million to $22 million on the title. It was running at a decidedly "rotten" score of 34%.

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