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'Dora' explores a box-office breakthrough, haunted by 'Scary Stories'

An expedition of debut films will venture into the box office over the weekend of Aug. 9, likely led by the beloved rambler Dora the Explorer and a young-adult horror title looking to scare up its own receipts.

Forecasters put "Dora and the Lost City of Gold" and "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" neck and neck, with most giving an edge to "Dora." Variety forecasts opening ranges that top out at $19 million for both films. Deadline does not see either cresting the $17 million mark, though it notes that "Dora," which is based on a popular cartoon from the early 2000s, could break out due to its strong brand recognition. BoxOffice.com posts a more bullish $22-million forecast for "Dora," citing brand awareness and demand from family audiences. The site projects "Scary Stories" will debut to $15.9 million.

Looking at other cartoon-to-feature film properties, forecasts for "Dora" place it roughly on-par with "Yogi Bear," which opened to $16.4 million in 2010. However, "Yogi Bear" cost $81.0 million to produce, where "Dora" cost Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures just $49 million. The difference in production costs could help "Dora" boost profitability. "Yogi Bear" ultimately ended its run with $23.2 million in total net profit, according to Kagan.

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"Dora and the Lost City of Gold"
Source: Paramount Pictures

Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. did not release a budget for "Scary Stories," but horror films have generally been tracking well lately. The new title could perform similarly to 2014's "Ouija," which opened to $19.9 million and summoned $33.9 million in net profits, by Kagan's estimates. If it underperforms, it could disappoint like 2018's "Slender Man," which bowed to $11.4 million and exited with a $10.0 million net loss.

Critics do not stand in the way of either title, with both running "fresh" ratings of 80% for "Dora" and 81% for "Scary Stories" on critical review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, as of 1 p.m. ET, Aug. 9.

Three other Aug. 9 wide releases may struggle to break beyond the seven-figure mark in their first weekend.

Forecasters give Melissa McCarthy-led action film "The Kitchen" the best chances, even if it will be taking the leftovers. BoxOffice.com tags "The Kitchen" with an $8.5 million forecast, but both Variety and Deadline give it a shot to climb over $10 million. Variety believes the film could open as high as $14 million on its "high-wattage" cast.

Among Kagan's comparisons are other female-led action thrillers like "Ocean's 8," "Widows" and "Proud Mary." "The Kitchen" will look to avoid the fate of "Widows" and "Proud Mary," which opened to $12.4 million and $10.0 million, respectively, and went on to run losses over $37 million each.

Critics were not helping either, giving "The Kitchen" a 21% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, as of 1 p.m. ET, Aug. 9.

Feel-good canine-narrated drama "The Art of Racing in the Rain" will try to round the eight-figure as well, but forecasters are dubious, with expectations generally landing at $10 million or below for the novel adaptation.

Kagan compares the film to other dog adventures like "Marley and Me," "A Dog's Purpose" and "Max," but expectations put "The Art of Racing in the Rain" closer to 2018's "Alpha," which launched to $10.4 million and exited with a $55.3 million loss against a $51.5 million production budget.

Rotten Tomatoes gave "The Art of Racing in the Rain" a 49% "rotten" score, as of 1 p.m. ET, Aug. 9.

Sports drama "Brian Banks" will run second-string to the weekend's other wide releases, with an opening over $3 million unlikely, according to forecasts. The title compares to other gridiron flicks "The Blind Side" and "Concussion," according to Kagan, but opening forecasts put it closest to fellow wrongfully accused story "If Beale Street Could Talk," which launched in 2018 to $2.4 million and drove a $16.8 million net loss. Rotten Tomatoes gives "Brian Banks" a 57% "rotten" rating, as of 1 p.m. ET, Aug. 9.

None of the debuts are expected to outpace holdover Fast & Furious franchise spinoff "Hobbs & Shaw" from Universal, which BoxOffice.com gives a $29.0 million forecast for the weekend.

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