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'Death Day' not expected to bring life to box office

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'Death Day' not expected to bring life to box office

It is a Friday the 13th weekend at the box office, and exhibitors are spooked.

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After a slow summer, horror remake "It" dragged ticket sales out of the sewer in September, but then the muted response to "Blade Runner 2049" caused another fright. For the weekend of Oct. 13, horror flick "Happy Death Day" from Blumhouse Productions is expected to lead among new releases.

Blumhouse is the independent studio that scared up big wins on "Split" and "Get Out," but projections look a little more pallid for "Happy Death Day." BoxOffice.com forecasts a $20 million opening weekend. TheWrap expects "Happy Death Day" to rack up between $18 million to $20 million. Variety is looking for a similar range of $15 million to $20 million. The film's distributor, Comcast Corp.'s Universal Pictures, has expectations for a mid-teens opening.

While an opening nearing $20 million should yield profitability for the micro-budget "Happy Death Day," made for $4.8 million, it would fall well below openings for Blumhouse's "Get Out" ($33 million) and "Split" ($40 million). "Happy Death Day" is tracking well with a majority critics, however, with a 66% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, as of 12 p.m. ET, Oct. 13.

A list of five comparisons from Kagan analyst Wade Holden — including "Ouija," "The Visit," and "The Lazarus Effect" — averaged a production budget of $3.3 million and an opening gross of $16.2 million, in range of estimates for "Happy Death Day." Those comparisons yielded an average profit margin of 13.8% on average total revenue of $83.3 million.

"Happy Death Day" will run against "Blade Runner 2049" for the top spot over the Oct. 13 weekend. The $150 million "Blade Runner" sequel fell far short of expectations in its debut Oct. 6 weekend, bringing in $32.8 million against forecasts well into the $50 million or more range. The underperformance of the big-budget, high-expectations film coincided with a general decline in theater stocks for the week, with AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. shares off by over 13% for a week of trading ended Oct. 12.

Other new releases include drama "The Foreigner," starring Jackie Chan in a break from his recent comedic characterizations. The film about a businessman seeking revenge for the killing of his teenage daughter will deliver plenty of kicks and is already drawing some comparisons to "Taken," but it will not likely match the financial results of the Liam Neeson blockbuster. Forecasters are looking for an opening in the $10 million-plus range. "Taken" opened to $24.7 million.

The $35 million "Foreigner" production will look to avoid the fate of "The Spy Next Door," which opened in 2010 to $9.7 million against a $30.8 million production budget. It exited theaters with $81.7 million in total revenue and a profit loss margin of 38.5%.

The weekend's other two debut wide release films, "Marshall" and "Professor Marston & The Wonder Women," are not expected to make it into the 10 highest-earning titles of the weekend, according to BoxOffice.com's forecast. For "Marshall," TheWrap projects a $3 million to $4 million opening; Variety goes as high as $5 million.

"Marshall," which tracks the life of Thurgood Marshall during one of his early cases as a lawyer before becoming a Supreme Court justice, had a production budget of $12 million. A list of five comparisons to the title compiled by Holden — including "Lee Daniels' The Butler," "42" and "Selma" — showed mixed results and an average profit loss margin of 13.7%, though "Marshall" ran at a much lower budget than the $31.6 million average for the group. Also, critics are on board with "Marshall," with reviews settling to an 85% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, as of 12 p.m. ET, Oct. 13.

"Professor Marston" will likely track well below the other debut films, even though the dramatic real-life origin story behind the comic book superhero "Wonder Woman" was well received, running an 88% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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