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'1917' trying to turn Golden Globes wins into box office green

Fresh off two big wins at the Golden Globes, "1917" is expanding into wide release on Jan. 10, hoping to establish steady momentum with moviegoers that will last through awards season.

The World War I epic won best theatrical drama at the 77th annual Golden Globe Awards, and director Sam Mendes also took home an award. The picture, distributed by Comcast Corp.'s Universal Studios, tells the story of two British soldiers who must navigate through trenches and cross enemy territory to deliver a message that will stop a deadly attack.

The movie garnered strong reviews, tallying an 89% "Certified Fresh" rating on critical review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes as of 12 p.m. ET on Jan. 10. Describing the film as "hard-hitting, immersive and an impressive technical achievement," the site said "1917" "captures the trench warfare of World War I with raw, startling immediacy."

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Between buzz from critics and awards shows, "1917" is expected to lead the Jan. 10 weekend box office, knocking The Walt Disney Co.'s "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" out of the first-place position it has held for three weeks running.

BoxOffice.com expects "1917" to earn a weekend gross of $36 million, which would add to the more than $2 million the film has earned since its limited release on Christmas. Variety was a bit less bullish, projecting a $20 million to $25 million nationwide opening. Universal is reportedly projecting a $20 million weekend gross.

Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence, compares "1917" with other war-time dramas like "Dunkirk," "Saving Private Ryan" and "Fury." Those titles, along with two other comparisons, saw an average opening gross of $25.5 million and all managed to turn a profit. The five films ended with an average net profit of $77.4 million.

Variety noted that, given the $90 million budget for "1917," the film will need long legs at the box office during awards season to recoup its costs.

Also expanding into wide release is "Just Mercy," a legal drama based on a true story about a young lawyer who graduates from Harvard and moves to Alabama to defend those wrongly condemned.

The movie, distributed by AT&T Inc.'s Warner Bros., features a strong cast led by Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx and Brie Larson. It is earning praise from critics, with an 81% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of 12 p.m. ET on Jan. 10.

Despite the positive critical reception, "Just Mercy" is not expected to do big business in theaters, with BoxOffice.com predicting a weekend gross of $8.4 million.

That is in line with a list of five comparable titles from Kagan that includes "The Lincoln Lawyer" and "If Beale Street Could Talk." That group of films saw an average opening gross of $8.8 million and all generally struggled to turn a profit, earning an average net loss of $18.0 million.

For moviegoers in the mood for something lighter, ViacomCBS Inc.'s Paramount Pictures released "Like a Boss," a comedy starring Rose Byrne and Tiffany Haddish as best friends who run a makeup company.

Rotten Tomatoes noted that although Byrne and Haddish are each "powerful comedic talents," the film overall fails to impress, earning a 24% rating on the site as of 12 p.m. ET on Jan. 10.

Targeted toward young women, the movie is expected to take in $12.8 million over the Jan. 10 weekend, according to BoxOffice.com. Variety similarly predicted an opening bow between $10 million and $15 million.

Such a performance would be in line with another recent Haddish-led comedy, "Nobody's Fool." That film earning an opening gross of $13.7 million and ultimately ended in the red with a $38.8 million net loss.

The box office prospects for the fourth wide release, "Underwater" from Disney's Twentieth Century Fox, are looking similarly grim. The science-fiction horror flick does not seem to be catching on with audiences and had earned a middling 50% rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of 12 p.m. ET on Jan 10.

BoxOffice.com predicts a $6.5 million opening, below the $10 million studio estimate. Variety similarly expects the title to earn "a tepid single-digit debut around $8 million."

That would be roughly in line with the $8.9 million opening earned by the adventure horror film "The Descent." But while that earlier picture was ultimately able to turn a profit thanks to its tiny production budget, "Underwater" will have no such advantage, having reportedly cost $50 million to make.

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