'Proud Mary' and 'The Commuter' also debut, while 'The Post' expands nationwide.
Paddington 2 kicked off its opening weekend by earning $325,000 in preview screenings on Thursday night.
The family film from Warner Bros. — which bought North American distribution rights from the beleaguered Weinstein Co. and producer StudioCanal — again centers on the plucky Peruvian bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) as he and the Brown family team to unmask the thief. The animated/live-action sequel, based on Michael Bond's children’s books series that launched in 1958, also stars Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson. Paul King again directs the movie, which is expected to gross close to $20 million in its U.S. debut. Already out in the U.K., it has already collected $125.2 million abroad to date.
Paddington 2's initial numbers beat those of the first installment, which earned $175,000 in previews when it opened over the same weekend in 2015. It went on to gross $25.5 million domestically in its debut weekend, and altogether collected $268 million in its theatrical run.
Sony also kicks off the year with Proud Mary, starring Taraji P. Henson as an assassin whose life is altered by a pivotal kill. Babak Najafi (London Has Fallen) directed the R-rated action pic, which is opening in about 2,100 locations. Jahi Di'Allo Winston, Billy Brown, Danny Glover, Neal McDonough, Xander Berkeley and Margaret Avery are also featured in the Screen Gems movie. While the studio is eyeing a debut in the low- to mid-teen millions, Proud Mary also could climb to top the $20 million mark.
And Lionsgate launches The Commuter in around 2,800 locations, including select Imax theaters. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows), the PG-13-rated action movie stars Liam Neeson as a businessman who gets caught up in a frenzied criminal conspiracy when he meets a stranger (Vera Farmiga) on a train. The first entry in a new, long-term partnership between Lionsgate and StudioCanal, The Commuter is projected to open in the low- to mid-teen million range.
Expanding wide this weekend is Fox's The Post, the Steven Spielberg-direct drama recounting how Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) joined forces to defy the government and publish the Pentagon Papers. Playing in just a handful of theaters, the $50 million film, which opened Dec. 22, has grossed $4.2 million per date. This weekend, the Amblin Entertainment and Participant Media pic moves into 2,820 theaters and could take in about $18 million to $20 million.
Despite the handful of new releases, Sony’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is expected to claim the top spot at the domestic box office for the Martin Luther King holiday weekend. Directed by Jake Kasdan, the PG-13-rated adventure comedy stars Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan as the adult avatars of the magical game, based on Chris Van Allsburg's 1981 children's book and first played onscreen in the 1995 movie. Last weekend — its third — the pic demonstrated real staying power as it took in $37.2 million and conceivably could attract another $25 million-$30 million over the coming four-day weekend. It has already crossed the $250 million mark domestically.
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