'Maze Runner' & 'Hostiles' Debut as Oscar Nominees Hope for Oscar Bump
SATURDAY AM UPDATE: With an estimated $8.4 million, Fox's Maze Runner: The Death Cure led the Friday box office and is looking at an opening just above expectations, targeting $22-23 million.

Entertainment Studios' Hostiles expanded into 2,816 locations and delivered a solid $3.4 million on Friday and is looking at a wide opening just a bit below the studio expectations, but well above Mojo's forecast, looking at around $10-11 million for the three-day.

You can check out all of the Friday estimates right here and we'll be back tomorrow morning with a complete look at the weekend.

FRIDAY AM UPDATE: Maze Runner: The Death Cure grossed $1.5 million from Thursday night previews at 2,860 locations starting at 7PM last evening. Based on our forecast below and expectations, this compares favorably to the $1.7 million Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials brought in from preview showings before opening with $30 million back in 2015.

As for Hostiles, it brought in $370k from preview showings at 1,893 locations on Thursday night. This is $170k ahead of what The Promise brought in before opening with $4.1 million and virtually on par with the $365k brought in by Free State of Jones before it opened with $7.5 million.

We'll take a closer look at things tomorrow morning once Friday estimates come in. For now you can check out our weekend preview below.

WEEKEND PREVIEW: At this time last year Universal's Split was entering its second weekend after a breakout debut while this year we're coming off a soft third weekend and the week's two new wide releases aren't looking to bring much heat. Fox's Maze Runner: The Death Cure is arriving nearly a year later than originally intended as a result of star Dylan O'Brien's onset injury, while Entertainment Studios is going big with their expansion of Hostiles, though it doesn't look like it will have too much of an impact. As a result, a lot of eyes will turn to this year's Oscar nominated features looking for an Oscar bump, and while there should be some strong showings don't look for any of them to have the kind of impact La La Land had last year.

Set to top the weekend box office and dethrone Jumanji, Fox's Maze Runner: The Death Cure will debut in nearly 3,800 locations with sights set on an opening around $20 million. Reasoning for the modest expectations compared to the first two films stems from the two-and-a-half-year gap since the last film and what appears to be somewhat dwindling interest outside the core fanbase.

The Maze Runner debuted in September 2014 with $32.5 million and went on to gross just over $100 million domestically and while the sequel managed a respectable $30.3 million opening one year later, it finished just over $80 million domestically. At the same time, critical opinion dwindled as did audience reception from one film to the next, and reviews for Death Cure aren't much better. The film currently holds a score of 52 on Metacritic, which isn't much better than Scorch Trials (43) and a few notches below the 57 for the original.

While there is a chance dedicated fans prop the Death Cure's opening a bit higher, and it doesn't hurt the film's 3,768 theaters is the second widest January opening ever, it's tough to see this one doing too much better than $25 million on the high end. On the low end, should it perform similarly to how Allegiant dropped compared to Insurgent look for an opening around $17 million. All things considered, we're anticipating a $19-22 million debut and a #1 finish.

Slipping to second after three weekends in a row at #1 is Sony's Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which should drop around 33% or so, bringing in another $13 million this weekend. This should push the film's domestic cume over $334 million, topping Spider-Man: Homecoming ($334.2m) to become the studio's fourth largest release all-time.

Steven Spielberg's The Post should finish in third, taking advantage of its Best Picture and Best Actress nomination. The film should, more or less, hold steady compared to last week and bring in around $11-12 million, pushing its domestic cume over $60 million.

The next three spots on the weekend chart could shift depending on how things shape out. Last weekend's two new wide releases — 12 Strong and Den of Thieves — should gross anywhere from $7-9 million each, while another Oscar-nominated Fox film, The Greatest Showman, should continue its strong performance pulling in around $8.5 million as its domestic cume climbs over $125 million.

While those three films jockey for position we come to the weekend's other new wide release in Entertainment Studios' Hostiles. The film expands into 2,815 locations (+2,696) this weekend with the studio currently bullish when it comes to the film's chances, anticipating a $12 million weekend. Over the last couple of weeks we've had a hard time deciding just where exactly Hostiles would place, but early indication was for a performance around $4-6 million with the outside chance it reached $10 million at best.

One issue Hostiles faces is attempting to go wide over the weekend following Oscar nominations. As a result, the film will be competing for the same audience as many of the nominees, many of which see their theater counts expanding this weekend. However, we are seeing promising numbers upon inspection of the film's IMDb page view performance, which would make a more optimistic forecast a bit easier. Nevertheless, we're still hedging our bets, anticipating a modest $5 million opening.

Speaking of this year's crop of Oscar nominees, online ticket retailer Fandango.com reported strong growth in ticket sales the day after nominees were announced for the seven Best Picture nominees currently in the theatrical window. Of the lot The Shape of Water saw sales increase nearly 250% compared to the previous day, while Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri and Lady Bird saw sales double.

Virtually all the Best Picture nominees will see an increase in theaters this weekend including the return of Get Out into 468 theaters. Of the bunch, look for The Shape of Water and Three Billboards to compete for a spot in the top ten while Phantom Thread should also put up a fight for a spot, though it isn't gaining as many theaters as the other two.

Of that group, Shape of Water looks as if it will be the one to land a spot in the top ten as it expands into 1,854 locations (+1,001), looking at a weekend around $6 million if not higher. The film topped all Oscar nominees with 13 total nominations including nominations for Picture, Director, Actress and both supporting categories. Along with Phantom Thread and Three Billboards, Shape of Water has seen gains ever since nominations were announced and that shouldn't slow down this weekend.

This weekend's forecast is directly below. This post will be updated on Friday morning with Thursday night preview results followed by Friday estimates on Saturday morning, and a complete weekend recap on Sunday morning.

  • Maze Runner: The Death Cure (3,768 theaters) - $21.0 M
  • Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (3,553 theaters) - $13.1 M
  • The Post (2,640 theaters) - $11.7 M
  • The Greatest Showman (2,663 theaters) - $8.5 M
  • 12 Strong (3,018 theaters) - $8.4 M
  • Den of Thieves (2,437 theaters) - $7.5 M
  • The Shape of Water (1,854 theaters) - $6.0 M
  • Paddington 2 (2,792 theaters) - $5.3 M
  • Hostiles (2,815 theaters) - $5.0 M
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi (1,745 theaters) - $4.3 M

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