'Ride Along 2' and 'Revenant' Look to Remove 'Star Wars' from Its Perch
SATURDAY UPDATE: Ride Along 2's Friday estimates came in at $12 million, $2.4 million short of the original. Similarly, the film fell short of its predecessor's "A" CinemaScore, pulling in a "B+" from opening day audiences. Depending on your source, estimates for the four-day weekend range from $35-40 million, putting it anywhere from $8-13 million short of the original's impressive 2014 performance and possibly push the comedy sequel to second place for the weekend behind our next film.

With an estimated $9.3 million, The Revenant took second on Friday, but could score a #1 finish for the weekend as it targets a $37-38 million over the four-day.

Michael Bay's 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi took in an estimated $5.9 million on Friday. The film scored an "A" CinemaScore from opening day audiences, which should keep it on track for a $20-21 million four-day.

The weekend's final newcomer is Lionsgate's Norm of the North, which appears to be doing slightly better than our projections, pulling in an estimated $1.58 million on Friday. The "B-" CinemaScore doesn't bode well for its holdover, but if it can hang on through the weekend it could top to around $8 million or so.

You can see the full Friday estimates chart right here and we'll be back tomorrow morning with a complete look at the weekend.

FRIDAY UPDATE: Ride Along 2 scored $1.26 million at Thursday night preview screenings in 2,381 theaters. This is a slight bump over the first film's Thursday night, $1.06 million performance in 2014, but the first film also played in 1,727 theaters on Thursday and screenings began an hour later at 8 PM. Suffice to say, these numbers don't give us too much of a clue as to how the sequel will perform over the weekend other than to presume, like the Thursday previews, it may improve on the first film's performance ever so slightly.

Also screening last night, Michael Bay's 13 Hours secured $900,000 from 1,995 theaters. Again, it's hard to glean much information from this opening, though Friday estimates tomorrow morning should give us a much clearer picture.

FORECAST: Martin Luther King weekend arrives amid the awards season hustle and bustle and The Revenant looks to take advantage following its monster wide release last weekend, Golden Globe wins and 12 Oscar nominations on Thursday. That said, just as good during awards season is a strong bit of counter-programming, which Universal is delivering with the action/comedy sequel Ride Along 2. The film has been marketed just about everywhere, from ABC's "The Bachelor", to the NFL, Adult Swim, BET and any other imaginable outlet that would offer the star, comedy duo Ice Cube and Kevin Hart a little face time.

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The weekend also offers up Michael Bay's 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, which looks to take advantage in a timeframe where recent military dramas have succeeded. Additionally, Lionsgate delivers their low budget animated pick-up, Norm of the North. Meanwhile, Star Wars: The Force Awakens enters its fifth frame and will finally be knocked from its perch after four straight weeks atop the weekend box office.

Taking that top spot from Star Wars will be Ride Along 2, the sequel to the 2014 comedy that previously held the January, three-day opening weekend record with $41.5 million until American Sniper came along last year and more than doubled that number. Ride Along, however, only opened in a mere 2,663 theaters in 2014, but with the sequel Universal is pulling out all the stops, opening the film in a whopping 3,175 theaters. That's a significant number as January is not known for films opening in over 3,000 theaters. In fact, only 29 films have ever opened wide in over 3,000 theaters in January, and 17 of those have been in the last seven years... Ride Along 2 makes 30.

The additional 513 theaters, along with audience adulation for stars Kevin Hart and Ice Cube, should help the film top the original's opening three and four-day weekend. If anything might suggest Ride Along 2 won't live up to the original's opening, which certainly wasn't expected to be as big as it was, is to look at films such as Think Like a Man Too, Horrible Bosses 2, Anchorman 2 and Ted 2, suggesting comedy sequels don't perform as well as their predecessor. However, for every such comparison there's a counter argument, which, in this case, includes Pitch Perfect 2, 22 Jump Street, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 and Dumb and Dumber To. Which way the pendulum swings could mean the difference between a $35 and $45 million three-day weekend, but market penetration and goodwill for the film's two leads suggests good fortune in Universal's future, though early reviews aren't exactly favorable.

Whether it comes in around $35 million or north of $45 million it will still secure the weekend top spot. Mojo's forecast has it coming in just a shade over the original's three-day opening with a four-day around $50 million. If it can rise above these projections and top out around $55 million in its first four days it would challenge Avatar for second place on the four-day Martin Luther King weekend chart. It would also give it a shot for a top ten opening versus previous live-action comedy sequels.

Looking at a second place finish is last weekend's tremendous wide release, The Revenant. Hot on the heels of three Golden Globe wins and a chart-topping 12 Oscar nominations, the Leonardo DiCaprio-led feature is looking at a stellar second weekend in wide release. When it comes to apt comparisons, the best are American Sniper, Zero Dark Thirty and Lone Survivor, a trio of strong performing January features that were also campaigning heavily for awards attention. Those three films dropped 27.6%, 35.4% and 41.7% respectively during their second weekends in wide release and any kind of drop less than 35% or so for The Revenant should be looked at as spectacular. Fox is also adding a little extra to its release this weekend that should help pad the stats.

It was announced on Wednesday that The Revenant will begin screening in select IMAX theaters starting today, January 14. Fox has announced the film has added 184 theaters this weekend and while it's not clear how many of those are IMAX screens, this does mean not only will The Revenant see a bump in ticket prices for those screens, but Star Wars will finally be losing a few IMAX theaters, which it has dominated since its mid-December release.

Speaking of, Force Awakens is losing a total of 312 theaters this weekend and likely to finish third. Nominated for five Oscars this morning, Star Wars has now grossed over $820 million domestically and will look to add another $27 million or so over the three-day. It is already the only film to have grossed over $800 million domestically and is now pushing toward $900 million. Internationally it's just shy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 and by the time the weekend rolls around it will be the fifth highest grossing international release of all-time as its worldwide gross pushes toward $1.8 billion.

The weekend's next new wide release is Michael Bay's 13 Hours, which is getting a series of mixed reviews, though the negative ones seem to be really negative. This should probably be expected for what could be considered a politically divisive film, which will likely end up having an effect on its overall box office performance. Whether that effect is positive or negative is yet to be seen.

Budgeted at $50 million, 13 Hours will begin playing in approximately 1,700 theaters on Thursday night before playing in 2,389 over the weekend. First instinct would be to look at recent military-driven features opening in January for a comparison, but American Sniper, Zero Dark Thirty and Lone Survivor all had more juice behind them, both in terms of the awards race and star power. John Krasinski is the biggest name among the 13 Hours cast and he's known more for his comedic chops than any kind of action star persona, though his transformation into an action star did make the cover of "Men's Health".

As for its likely box office performance, Bay has had only two films open with less than $20 million - The Island ($12.4M) and Bad Boys ($15.5M) - and this one may be added to that list. A three-day weekend around $18.6 million is a good bet with the four-day tallying somewhere around $21.4M. There is a chance this one finds more traction than expected, but as of right now that's a tough bet to make.

The weekend's final new wide release is the animated feature Norm of the North. The low risk title, which Lionsgate acquired and is only on the hook for distribution and P&A costs, isn't likely to make much of a dent as it arrives with a limited marketing push and on the heels of several recent animated films. It should finish somewhere around $4 million for the three day and a four day total around $5.5 million.

Finally, hoping to take advantage of this morning's Oscar nominations, Brooklyn, which scored three nominations including Best Picture, Actress (Saoirse Ronan) and Adapted Screenplay, is adding 393 theaters. Additionally, Spotlight, which scored six nominations, is adding 617 theaters for a total of 985. Neither will make the top ten, but continued success at the box office could definitely help their chances at a gold statue come the end of February.

Both three-day and four-day predictions for this weekend are below.

  • Ride Along 2 (3,175 theaters) - $42.88 M
  • The Revenant (3,559 theaters) - $27.88 M
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens (3,822 theaters) - $24.56 M
  • 13 Hours (2,389 theaters) - $18.51 M
  • Daddy's Home (3,322 theaters) - $7.51 M
  • The Forest (2,509 theaters) - $4.84 M
  • The Big Short (1,765 theaters) - $4.32 M
  • Norm of the North (2,411 theaters) - $4.22 M
  • The Hateful Eight (2,385 theaters) - $3.97 M
  • Sisters (2,313 theaters) - $3.67 M

  • Ride Along 2 - $50.16 M
  • The Revenant - $32.06 M
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens - $29.48 M
  • 13 Hours - $21.31 M
  • Daddy's Home - $8.74 M
  • The Forest - $5.6 M
  • The Big Short - $5.71 M
  • Norm of the North - $5.57 M
  • The Hateful Eight - $4.72 M
  • Sisters - $4.58 M

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