Box Office: 'Ben-Hur' Tracking for Alarming $14M-$15M U.S. Debut

Paramount Pictures
'Ben-Hur'

MGM and Paramount still have three weeks to make their final marketing push, including targeting faith-based moviegoers.

Another big-budget 2016 summer event film could be in trouble at the U.S. box office.

Early tracking suggests Ben-Hur will open in the $14 million to $15 million range over the Aug. 19-21 weekend, a sobering start for the faith-centric ancient epic, which reportedly cost just under $100 million to produce.

However, MGM and Paramount still have three weeks to make their final marketing push, including targeting faith-based moviegoers. Two of the film's executive producers are Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, who are active Christians and the producing team behind the hit movie Son of God and the miniseries The Bible.

Russian director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) helmed Ben-Hur. The movie is a reimagining of Lew Wallace's 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, not a remake of the classic 1959 film starring Charlton Heston. (Burnett has billed the movie as a "story of forgiveness with an underlying story of Jesus.")

The plot follows a disgraced nobleman (Jack Huston) who becomes a Roman slave after he's betrayed by his adoptive brother. Years later, he challenges his accuser to a great chariot race but is changed forever after a series of meetings with Jesus of Nazareth.

Morgan Freeman, Toby Kebbell, Nazanin Boniadi and Rodrigo Santoro star opposite Huston.

It's hardly the first time Wallace's ancient epic has been adapted for the big screen. There were two silent films, one in 1907 and the other in 1925. The 1959 film won 11 Oscars for MGM (a record at the time), including best picture.

MGM partnered with Paramount on the latest movie, which was originally set to open Feb. 26, 2016. It was pushed to Aug. 12, and then to Aug. 19. Ben-Hur will also make a major push overseas.

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