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'Escape Room' expected to be trapped behind holiday holdovers

It looks like the first debut title of the new year, "Escape Room," will be trapped in a cage of Aquaman's making.

SNL Image
"Escape Room"
Source: Columbia Pictures

Historically, January is a slow month for theaters, but with schools still out on vacation, the Jan. 4 weekend could see an unseasonable pop. But forecasters expect that pop to be dominated largely by holdovers. expects horror thriller "Escape Room" to be the third-largest ticket seller at $13.6 million. Box Office Mojo offered a range of $11 million to $12 million for the film's debut. Variety, meanwhile, put a firm $10 million forecast on the title.

The film is far off from recent highbrow hits in the genre such as "Get Out" and "A Quiet Place," with Rotten Tomatoes giving it a 51% "rotten" rating as of 1:00 p.m. ET on Jan. 4. Still, with a sub-$10 million budget, the movie could cut a decent profit for Sony Corp.'s Columbia Pictures.

A list of comparisons from Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence, puts "Escape Room" next to other suspenseful bloodbaths like "Saw," "Hostel" and "The Cabin in the Woods." But most of those movies saw openings larger than what is predicted for "Escape Room," averaging $19.2 million against an average production budget of $10.3 million. Those numbers penciled out to average profits of $41.3 million, giving the debut horror flick a little room to avoid blood red margins.

The January chill comes after a hot box office year in 2018. The full year closed with $11.9 billion domestically, eclipsing the 2016 record by about 4%, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Globally, the theatrical film business hit a record $41.7 billion, with Walt Disney Co. again leading the charge.

While the final weeks of the year came in short of prior years due to a lack of Star Wars-sized blockbusters, "Aquaman" provided a boost with a $68.0 million opening weekend, according to Kagan. While that is the lowest opening gross among the six films in the DC Extended Universe, the film stayed afloat through the holidays. expects it to collect $28 million in its third weekend. Internationally, the movie has pulled in over $600 million.

Holdover "Mary Poppins Returns," meanwhile, is expected to take the second spot with a $19.0 million second weekend.

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