Update: 'Star Wars' Opens in China; 'Revenant' & 'The Forest' Make Domestic Bows
SATURDAY MORNING UPDATE: The Revenant is blowing the doors off the box office, bringing in an estimated $14.4 million on Friday (including $2.3M from Thursday night previews) with early estimates pegging the overall weekend around $38.5 million. While this crushes BoxOfficeMojo's weekend forecast, it won't likely be enough to take down Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which is now estimated to bring in $40M+. It could, however, be a close race depending on word of mouth as The Revenant has scored a "B+" CinemaScore.

The weekend's other new wide release, The Forest, generated an estimated $4.9M on Friday with the studio estimating around $11.7 million for the weekend. The film has earned very poor reviews and a weak, "C" CinemaScore from opening day audiences. You can browse the complete Friday estimates here.

As for Star Wars, it brought in an estimated $14.4 million domestically on Friday while Disney is reporting an estimated $33 million from its first day in China. If estimates hold, that would tie with Avengers: Age of Ultron for the second largest China opening day for an imported title. Ultron went on to make over $240 million in China.

FRIDAY UPDATE: The Revenant expanded early last night and took in an impressive $2.3 million from 2,501 locations. This is a very good sign for the film and means BoxOfficeMojo's prediction below could be blown away within the first couple days. At this point a $30M+ weekend might be easily in hand. In fact, even though it's nearly impossible to compare Thursday previews and expect similar results, most comparisons in this range went significantly higher. The Martian kicked its Thursday off with $2.5M before opening with $54.3 million and we all remember American Sniper last year, which expanded in January and started off its Thursday preview session with $3.1 million before smashing the January opening weekend record with $89.2 million. Tomorrow morning's Friday estimates will be something to look out for.

Additionally, the Natalie Dormer thriller The Forest brought in an estimated $515,000 from 1,700 locations. Yesterday's original weekend preview follows...

Star Wars: The Force Awakens enters its fourth weekend as the newly crowned king of the world. While we still don't have official numbers, by the end of today it will have passed, by the end of Wednesday it will have passed Avatar to become the highest grossing domestic release of all-time. Its domestic haul this weekend, however, may be of secondary interest to its Saturday, January 9 release in China, the second largest movie market in the world.

It wasn't until June of 2015 that the first three Star Wars films were first screened in China and the prequels only grossed a combined $18.7 million upon their 1999, 2002 and 2005 release. Disney, however, has gone all out with their marketing efforts in China for Force Awakens and, this weekend, the result of their efforts will be revealed.

The Force Awakens' international take so far has accounted for 51.3% of its overall box office. By comparison, 72.7% of Avatar's worldwide box office came from overseas and 60.9% of Jurassic World's total came from international territories. Both grossed over $200 million in China. Whether Star Wars will meet or exceed their success is a question it seems no one is ready to answer with any confidence.

On the domestic side, this weekend sees the wide expansion of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's The Revenant into over 3,300 theaters along with the continued expansion of Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight. Additionally, Focus will release the Gramercy thriller The Forest starring "Game of Thrones" star Natalie Dormer into 2,450 theaters as it hopes to capture the early year horror crowd that turned out to see films such as The Woman in Black 2 and Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones.

It goes without saying that at the top of the box office for a fourth straight weekend will be The Force Awakens and, once again, by a significant margin. Though, this weekend we'll be looking at its largest drop yet as the holidays have ended. Over New Year's weekend it dropped 39.5%, which was a bit more than projected, but it still resulted in an impressive $90.2 million weekend. The likely range for this weekend's drop is anywhere from 42-50% and anything less than a 44.2% drop would be enough to give the film the largest fourth weekend of all-time, a record currently held by Avatar at $50.3 million. Either way, by the time Sunday rolls around we will have our first ever domestic release to make over $800 million.

Targeting second position is The Revenant. With a reported budget around $135 million, Fox is hoping for big things, though this tense, harsh environment dramatic thriller may be a hard sell to a wide audience. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy, it certainly has star power going for it and its limited, four theater run was also impressive as it averaged over $110k per theater the past two weekends. Fox is going big with the release, targeting 3,375 theaters, but you don't have to look too far into the past for an awards contender that performed well in limited release only to falter once it went wide.

Back in October, Universal released Steve Jobs in four theaters and amassed an impressive, $130,381 per theater on its opening weekend. From there, however, it was a steep decline, resulting in only $9.8 million during its first weekend in nearly 2,500 theaters. The Revenant isn't likely to suffer a similar fate, but its 2.5 hour running time and intense nature may make it a harder first decision for moviegoers. All told, the studio is hoping for a $20 million opening and anything north of that would be spectacular as it would signal positive word of mouth and suggest a strong holdover as Oscar nominations will be announced next Thursday, heading into Martin Luther King weekend.

One factor that could limit The Revenant's returns are what would seem to be some measure of direct competition with The Hateful Eight. Hateful may feature more cartoonish, over-the-top violence versus The Revenant's real world, visceral approach, but the caustic nature of the two films, their lengthy running times and likely similar demographics could cause for a bit of a box office tussle, though don't expect a photo finish between the two.

Hateful had a bit of a disappointing first wide release weekend. Expecting to make $20 million or more upon its expansion into 2,474 theaters, the film topped out at $15.7 million along with a so-so "B" CinemaScore compared to the "A-" and $30 million opening for Django Unchained. It's difficult to project just what that means for its overall run considering it had a strong, 100 theater limited opening, but it could struggle to reach $52 million. This weekend will be a big test as The Weinstein Co. is adding 400-500 theaters, which will definitely improve its second weekend holdover. Thing is, a 30% drop still means a $10.9 million weekend and without strong legs it's going to run out of room to run pretty quick.

Focus' The Forest will be competing for a spot in the top five alongside The Hateful Eight and the continued expansion of The Big Short, though that's where the comparison ends. The Forest should play to crowds similar to that of last year's The Woman in Black 2, which opened with $15 million, and Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, which opened with $18.3 million in 2014, but don't expect it to reach such heights. Both of those films were sequels with baked in audiences and both also fell off a cliff in their second weekends, dropping more than 65% each. The Forest is more likely to open around $9-10 million.

Also opening this weekend is The Masked Saint from Freestyle Releasing. The new faith-based feature is based on a true story and tells of a pastor's mission to help his community by risking his identity and returning to his former life as a wrestler. As always, these are tough films to predict as this could range anywhere from $1-3 million, though it seems unlikely it will crack the top ten.

Here's a look at predictions for this weekend.

  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens (4,134 theaters) - $50.36 M
  • The Revenant (3,375 theaters) - $18.56 M
  • Daddy's Home (3,483 theaters) - $18.11 M
  • The Hateful Eight (2,938 theaters) - $10.68 M
  • The Big Short (2,529 theaters) - $9.97 M
  • The Forest (2,451 theaters) - $9.51 M
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip (2,972 theaters) - $8.45 M
  • Sisters (2,860 theaters) - $7.66 M
  • Joy (2,513 theaters) - $5.62 M
  • Concussion (2,056 theaters) - $3.92 M

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