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'Aquaman' leaves little 'upside' for January box office competition

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'Aquaman' leaves little 'upside' for January box office competition

"Aquaman" is expected to continue to outswim its competition at the box office, as overall January ticket sales trend lower compared to a year ago.

Two debut films will challenge the $200 million comic hero production from Warner Bros.' DC Films over the Jan. 11 weekend: family-friend "A Dog's Way Home" and dramedy "The Upside" starring Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston.

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"A Dog's Way Home"
Source: Columbia Pictures

Variety and The Hollywood Reporter each give the new titles a range that tops out at $12 million, predicting a definite win for December holdover "Aquaman" in its fourth weekend, during which Variety believes "Aquaman" could collect as much as $18 million. BoxOffice.com is a bit more bullish for "A Dog's Way Home," which it tags with a $14.5 million opening forecast compared to $12.5 million for "The Upside." BoxOffice.com also expects "Aquaman" to lead the weekend, harpooning a $19.5 million forecast for the Justice League hero.

"The Upside," based on French hit "Les Intouchables," follows the friendship between a disabled billionaire and an ex-con hired to assist him. The debut release compares with films like Will Smith-led "The Pursuit of Happyness" and the classic 1992 dramedy "Scent of a Woman," about the growing camaraderie between two different generations of men. A group of comparisons that also includes 2007's "Reign Over Me" and 2014's "About Last Night" saw an average opening gross of $15.2 million lead to average net profits of $30.8 million, according to Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence.

"The Upside" was picked up by STX Entertainment after it debuted at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and was subsequently shelved by The Weinstein Co. following sexual assault allegations against co-founder Harvey Weinstein.

Critics are not providing much upside for the title, tagging it with a 36% "rotten" rating as of 12:30 p.m. ET, Jan. 11.

"A Dog's Way Home" adds to a long-standing Hollywood catalog of heartrending canine dramas, this time featuring man's best friend crossing hundreds of miles to reunite with her lost human. Critics are loyal to that title, giving it a 67% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes at the same time.

The film should offer some counter-programming to the action-packed "Aquaman" and PG-13 "The Upside," but not enough to outpace the prior year. BoxOffice.com expects a 27% drop in ticket sales year over year in the second weekend of January. "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" led that 2018 weekend at $38.6 million in receipts, with "The Post" in second position with $20 million, according to Kagan.

That is not to say the 2018 holiday flicks disappointed. "Aquaman" has been on an all-out butterfly stroke globally, with forecasters expecting it to cross $1 billion during its theatrical run, making it DC's best performing title internationally.

Sophomore production house Entertainment Studios offers "Replicas" as the third wide release over the Jan. 11 weekend. The studio expects the film to bow with $6 million to $7 million, but Variety and The Hollywood Reporter believe it could go as low as $4 million. A list of Kagan comparisons including recent Reeves cult hit "John Wick," as well as fellow sci-fi thrillers like "Ex Machina," "The Island" and "Transcendence" generated an average opening of $9.7 million. Only two of the five — "John Wick" and "The Island" — turned a profit. Rotten Tomatoes had "Replicas" pegged with an 8% "rotten" critical rating as of 12:30 p.m. ET Jan. 11.

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