Box office preview: Fantastic Four leads crowded weekend race

August may be one of the slower months at the movies, but with four new releases opening wide this weekend, it should be a crowded weekend at the box office.

The reboot of Fox’s Fantastic Four, only 10 years after the original, is practically guaranteed the top spot with a predicted debut of about $45 million. Last week’s winner, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation also has the second-place spot on lock. Outside of that, there are a lot of films, both new releases and otherwise, jockeying for a place in the top five, each one expected to land somewhere in the high single-digits. Of the new releases, thriller The Gift and Meryl Streep’s Ricki and the Flash are both eyeing a debut around $8 million.

Also opening this weekend? Shaun the Sheep Movie, the latest claymation release from Aardman, the studio responsible for Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run. Based on a British TV show, Shaun the Sheep Movie has already earned $59.7 million internationally, and after opening Wednesday in the states, it’s eyeing a five-day total of about $5 to $6 million. It isn’t expected to crack the top five, but it is the first real kid-friendly release since Minions opened July 10, and critics have overwhelmingly praised how Shaun conveys charm and heart with a complete lack of dialogue. (It’s got a 99 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.)

Here are our predictions for how this weekend’s box office race might play out:

1. Fantastic Four — $45 million

The superhero reboot has been dogged by bad reviews (it’s currently got a 9 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes), but it’s still eyeing a debut in the mid-40s. That’s well under the debuts of the original Fantastic Four movies: 10 years ago, the first Fantastic Four opened to $56.1 million, and 2007’s Rise of the Silver Surfer brought in $58.1 million. Still, none of Fantastic Four’s competition is expected to come anywhere close, so it should win the box office by a mile this weekend.

2. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation — $27.8 million

The return of Ethan Hunt handily won last weekend, debuting to $56 million. It’s hard to predict exactly what Rogue Nation will do next, especially because it’s so difficult to compare it to what past Mission: Impossible movies did at the box office. Still, it’s expected to see a standard 50-percent drop, which will put it somewhere in the mid- to high-20s. 

3. Ricki and the Flash — $8.5 million

Ricki, which stars Meryl Streep as an aging rocker chick, is only opening on 1,600 screens, but it’s expected to attract an older audience, which should help it debut around $8.5 million. That’s about what The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel opened to earlier this year, and it also skewed older, opening on about 1,600 screens. 

4. The Gift — $8 million

Joel Edgerton stars and also makes his directorial debut with STX Entertainment’s The Gift, a psychological thriller from Blumhouse Productions (which is responsible for other thrillers like The Boy Next Door and The Lazarus Effect). The Gift has scored some excellent reviews (with a 92 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes), and it’s expected to launch with about $8 million. 

5. Vacation — $7.3 million

After opening on a Wednesday, the National Lampoon reboot fell flat with a three-day total of only $14.7 million and a five-day total of $21 million. That’s well under initial predictions, which expected Vacation to open with a three-day total closer to $20 million, if not higher. A standard second-weekend drop of about 50 percent would put Vacation around $7.3 million, but reviews haven’t been great, and there’s a chance the fifth-place spot could go to holdovers like Ant-Man or Minions instead. 

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