Box office preview: The Martian eyes a stellar debut

The Martian is set to leave its competition behind this weekend, as Ridley Scott’s return to sci-fi is expected to debut to about $45 million.

Adapted from Andy Weir’s best-selling novel and starring Matt Damon, The Martian will handily top the box office and lead a trio of new releases, with Sicario expanding nationwide and The Walk opening exclusively in IMAX. At the specialty box office, the Julianne Moore and Ellen Page-led drama Freeheld and the documentary He Named Me Lalala will also debut. 

Here’s how this weekend’s top five at the box office might shape up:

1. The Martian — $45 million

Fox’s The Martian is expected to open somewhere in the low- to mid-40s, although some are predicting it could go as high as $50 million. Another stranded-in-space film holds the current record for the all-time best October opening: Gravity, which also opened the first weekend in October in 2013, earning $55.8 million. The Martian isn’t expected to reach that high, especially because Gravity saw less competition that weekend and earned a lot of its debut from IMAX locations. (Instead of The Martian, IMAX screens will be showing The Walk this weekend.) But The Martian has earned a lot of critical buzz, with a 92 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and according to Fandango, presale tickets for The Martian are outpacing presale tickets for Gravity.

2. Hotel Transylvania 2 — $31.5 million

Genndy Tartakovsky’s animated Dracula adventure swooped into theaters last weekend with a $48.5 million debut, setting a new record for the largest September opening ever and marking Sony’s biggest debut of the year. The first Hotel Transylvania, also starring Adam Sandler, opened the same weekend last year, falling about 35 percent in its second weekend. If the sequel does the same, it’ll bring in about $31.5 million this weekend.

3. Sicario — $9 million

Directed by Denis Villeneuve and starring Emily Blunt and Benicio del Toro, Lionsgate’s drug war thriller also boasts a 92 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and since it debuted two weeks ago, it’s generated plenty of positive buzz. Sicario originally opened in six theaters, earning more than $400,000 for a theater average of almost $67,000 — the best of the year. Last week, it expanded to 59 theaters, cracking the top 10 with $1.7 million. Now, Sicario is going wide, and it’s eyeing a debut between $8 and $10 million.

4. The Intern — $8.5 million

Director Nancy Meyers’ first film since 2009 opened in second place last weekend with $17.7 million, making it Meyers’ third-best opening of all time, after 2000’s What Women Want and 2009’s It’s Complicated. Led by Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro and distributed by Warner Bros., The Intern will likely see a standard 50 percent drop, which should give it about $8.5 million in its second weekend.

5. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials — $7.8 million

Now entering its third weekend, the adaptation of James Dashner’s hit YA novel has already grossed $54.1 million domestically and $183.1 million worldwide. So far, Scorch Trials has performed slightly under the first Maze Runner, which opened the same weekend last year, and it’s been dropping at a slightly faster rate. If it continues that trend, it should bring in about $7.8 million this weekend.

Outside of the top five, The Walk, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and directed by Robert Zemeckis, opened Wednesday exclusively on 448 IMAX and large-format screens, earning about $240,000. The PG-rated story of French high wire artist Philippe Petit has also scored overwhelmingly positive reviews, with an 87 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Distributed by Sony/TriStar, The Walk is expected to bring in about $3 million for five days before expanding nationwide next weekend.