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Jumanji sequel to fight pre-holiday competition anchored by Disney

Sony Corp.'s latest Jumanji sequel swings into theaters over the Dec. 13 weekend, setting up a holiday box office battle among big franchise films, including The Walt Disney Co.'s "Frozen II" and soon-to-release "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker."

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"Jumanji: The Next Level"
Source: Columbia Pictures

Sony projects "Jumanji: The Next Level" to rake in $35 million over its domestic debut, though outside projections run higher, in the $40-million to mid-$50-million range. Variety, which predicts an opening of $45 million to $55 million, notes that a few bullish prognosticators are looking for "Next Level" to open to $60 million.

Even if "Next Level" opens at the higher end of expectations, it will need to survive well past its opening weekend to recoup a $125 million production budget, plus print and advertising costs. There is some precedent for such a feat. "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" opened in 2017 to $36.2 million against a $91.2 million budget, and it rolled to $1.06 billion in total revenue, according to Kagan, a media market research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence. "Welcome to the Jungle" ended its run with estimated net profits of $615.4 million.

Looking at other Dwayne Johnson-led action films, 2015's "San Andreas" opened to $54.6 million in 2015 and worked its way past a $111.4 million budget to collect total revenue of $594.7 million. That led to net profit of $202.5 million, according to Kagan.

Critics give "Next Level" a 69% "fresh" rating on critical review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, as of 1:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 13.

Two other titles also open wide over the Dec. 13 weekend, though each is expected to open just above $10 million. Forecasters expect a neck-and-neck battle for a third-place Dec. 13 box office finish between Clint Eastwood-directed biographical drama "Richard Jewell" and holiday horror title "Black Christmas." Disney's returning "Frozen II" is expected to come in just behind "Jumanji: The Next Level" over the weekend for a second-place finish with $20 million in receipts.

"Richard Jewell" from AT&T Inc.'s Warner Bros. follows the tragic story of a man falsely identified as being behind the 1996 Olympics bombing. Kagan compares it with other moody biopics like "American Sniper," "Sully" and "J. Edgar." Those titles, along with two other comparisons, saw an average opening of $32.3 million and mixed success at turning a profit. In 2011 "J. Edgar" opened to $11.2 million and ran to $116.3 million in total revenue, ending in the red with about $600,000 in net losses.

"Black Christmas," distributed by Comcast Corp.'s Universal Pictures, may have better financial chances with its small $5 million budget. Kagan comparisons include holiday horrors like 2018's "Halloween," the original 2006 "Black Christmas" and the 2015 title "Krampus." That list saw a variety of results, but an average opening gross of $28.2 million against an average production budget of $8.6 million landed average net profits of $34.7 million, according to Kagan.

Of the two smaller new releases, critics were more thrilled by "Richard Jewell," which was running a 76% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, compared to a 42% "rotten" rating for "Black Christmas" as of 1:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 13.

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