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'The Meg' looks to swallow forecasts after early bite

An action thriller featuring an oversized shark is in the running for top box office billing over the Aug. 10 weekend, though it will need to make a big splash to profit given its whale of a budget.

"The Meg," the title of which is a riff on the real star of the film, a prehistoric man-eating megalodon shark, comes from Warner Bros., which AT&T Inc. recently acquired as part of its Time Warner acquisition. The Jason Statham-led action film has been years in the making and took a big bite out of Warner Bros.' wallet at $150 million or more in production costs, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

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"The Meg"
Source: Warner Bros

BoxOffice.com forecasts an opening weekend of $22.0 million, just slightly behind receipts for holdover "Mission: Impossible — Fallout." Variety and the Reporter generally agree, each putting a range of $20 million to $22 million on the film's debut weekend. The opening estimates compare well against other recent sea-born thrillers like "The Shallows" and "47 Meters Down." A list of comparisons compiled by Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence, saw an average opening of $13.4 million leading to average net profits of $10.1 million. However, the average budget for those comparables was just $24.3 million.

Warner Bros. will likely lean heavily on its successes around the globe to recoup production expenses. That includes a $16 million opening in China, according to Deadline Hollywood. There could be some upside to forecasts after the "The Meg" swam to $4 million on a limited Thursday-night release, on par with "Kong: Skull Island," which went on to a $61 million opening weekend.

Statham-led action films are not necessarily known for their critical acclaim, and the "The Meg" was no exception, running a middling 51% "rotten" score on Rotten Tomatoes, as of 3:30 p.m. ET, Aug. 10.

The weekend is also expected to see surprisingly strong results for one limited release debut: "BlacKkKlansman," produced by Jordan Peele and Jason Blum and directed by Spike Lee. The film could open as high as $12.2 million, according to BoxOffice.com. The action film about two police officers who infiltrate a local Ku Klux Klan chapter in the 1970s also serves up some biting social commentary on the present. "BlacKkKlansman" was running a whopping 98% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Elsewhere among wide releases, horror title "Slenderman" and canine comedy "Dog Days" will also have wide releases.

Tracking for "Slender Man" is anything but narrow: Variety offers a fat opening range of $8 million to $16 million, while BoxOffice.com expects $10.8 million and the Reporter is looking for $8 million to $12 million.

The boogeyman feature compares with other horror titles like "The Ring," "Lights Out" and "The Bye Bye Man." Kagan's comparisons saw an average opening weekend of $19.3 million leading to an average net profit of $42.3 million.

"Slender Man" was running a 16% "rotten" score on Rotten Tomatoes, as of 3:30 p.m. ET, Aug. 10.

Canine romp "Dog Days" debuted early in the week and is expected to sweep up the remainder of audiences with an opening in the mid-single digits, according to BoxOffice.com and the Reporter. The film compares with other canine classics like "Marley & Me," "Must Love Dogs" and "The Truth About Cats & Dogs," but it will have a hard time reaching $25.1 million average opening gross for its group of comparisons.

The title fetched a 56% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, as of 3:30 p.m. ET, Aug. 10.

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