Weekend Box Office: 'Jack Reacher,' 'Boo! A Madea Halloween' in Close Friday Battle

Chiabella James/Paramount Pictures

Elsewhere, horror prequel 'Ouija: Origin of Evil' is scaring up solid business, while comedy 'Keeping Up with the Joneses' stalls; 'Moonlight' shining bright in its debut at the specialty box office.

As predicted, Tom Cruise-starrer Jack Reacher: Never Go Back and Tyler Perry's Boo! A Madea Halloween are in a close race at the Friday box office, with both films pacing to earn in the $20 million range for the weekend, according to early returns.

Some box-office analysts are giving Cruise's film a slight edge, since the action-packed sequel is opening in far more theaters, or 3,780 locations. Never Go Back's Friday projected take of $8 million will include $1.3 million in Thursday-night previews.

A sequel to the 2012 film, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is an adaptation of Lee Child's book series about an ex-military policeman fighting for justice wherever he goes. The Paramount and Skydance Productions film, directed by Edward Zwick and costing $60 million to make, also stars Cobie Smulders and Aldis Hodge.

The first Jack Reacher opened to $15 million over the Dec. 21-23 weekend in 2012 and ultimately earned $218.3 million worldwide.

Never Go Back also is opening day-and-date in 40 international territories — including China, where the studio has struck a major local partnership — and those behind the movie expect it to do strong business overseas, where Cruise remains a big star.

Perry wrote, directed and stars in Boo! A Madea Halloween, a comedy-horror film that originated from a fake Madea movie featured in Chris Rock's Top Five. The movie, playing in 2,260 locations is the latest collaboration from Perry and Lionsgate. Madea is expected to earn $7.5 million-8 million Friday, including $722,000 in Thursday-night previews, which will be folded into Friday's gross.

The film, which also stars Bella Thorne, Diamond White and Cassi Davis, follows Perry's Madea character as she spends a haunted Halloween fending off killers, paranormal poltergeists, ghosts, ghouls and zombies while keeping a watchful eye on a group of misbehaving teens.

Universal and Blumhouse Productions' horror prequel Ouija: Origin of Evil is likewise opening pre-Halloween. The supernatural horror prequel is projected to open in the $13 million-$14 million range from 3,167 theaters, a decent start for a film costing less than $9 million to make. It's coming in behind the $19.9 debut of the first Ouija in 2014, but hopes to be scare up strong business through Halloween since there are no other horror movies opening.

Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes and Hasbro, maker of the classic board game Ouija, are also partners on the film, which took in $722,000 in Thursday-night previews for an estimated Friday gross of $5 million-$6 million. Directed by Mike Flanagan, the film is set in 1967 in Los Angeles where a widowed mother and family fake seances as part of a scam for a living.

This weekend's fourth new nationwide offering, Fox 2000's Keeping Up With the Joneses, doesn't have much to laugh about. Despite its high-profile ensemble cast — Zach Galifianakis, Isla Fisher, Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot — it may not crack $6 million-$7 million in its debut. The $40 million comedy, directed by Greg Mottola, is playing in 3,022 theaters.

The story follows a suburban couple who discover that their seemingly perfect new neighbors are government spies.

As awards season heats up, the big headline at the specialty box office is filmmaker Barry Jenkins' Moonlight, which is off to a shining start as A24 opens the critically acclaimed drama in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles. Early returns suggest Moonlight could post a theater average of $70,000, one of the best showings of the year to date.

Moonlight traces the life of a young black gay man struggling with his sexuality from his troubled childhood growing up in a tough Miami neighborhood to maturity. Naomie Harris, Andre Holland, Janelle Monae, Ashton Sanders, Jharrel Jerome and Mahershala Ali also star.

Oct. 21, 1:30 p.m. Updated with weekend predictions.

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