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Timur Bekmambetov’s Ben-Hur is faring dismally at the North American box office, where it’s destined for an $11 million-$12 million debut despite a major push targeting faith-based moviegoers. The summer’s final big-budget title earned a meek $4.1 million on Friday.
That’s a dismal start for a movie that cost just under $100 million to make. To boot, the MGM and Paramount release looks to lose the chariot race to a pair of smaller films, War Dogs and Kubo and the Two Strings.
Ben-Hur, which has been slammed by critics but earned an A- CinemaScore from audiences, has aggressively targeted Christian and faith-based audiences. Mark Burnett and Roma Downey (the producing team behind the 2014 hit movie Son of God and the 2013 miniseries The Bible), are among the executive producers. MGM took the lead on the project and has a larger financial stake than Paramount.
Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell, Rodrigo Santoro, Nazanin Boniadi and Morgan Freeman star in the film based on Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. It follows a man who is falsely accused of treason by his childhood friend and adoptive brother. He spends years in slavery and then challenges his adoptive brother to a chariot race.
As a way of comparison, Parmount’s Noah debuted to $47 million. Fox’s attempt to capture faith-based consumers with Exodus: Gods and Kings fared worse, opening to $24 million.
Overall, Warner Bros.’ Suicide Squad will stay No. 1 in its third weekend, grossing $6 million on Friday from 3,924 theaters for a projected $20 million weekend and pushing the tentpole’s domestic total to $261 million-plus.
The R-rated animated movie Sausage Party, from Sony and Annapurna, continues to cash in, earning $4.9 million on its second Friday from 3,103 locations for an estimated $15 million-$16 million weekend. That will put the movie’s North of America cume at $65.8 million through Sunday.
Todd Phillips’ new war dramedy War Dogs will take No. 3 with an estimated $14 million-$15 million debut from from 3,258 theaters. The movie, earning only a B CinemaScore, grossed $5.5 million Friday.
War Dogs stars Miles Teller and Jonah Hill is loosely based on the true story of two Florida friends who became international arms dealers during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
The well-reviewed Kubo and the Two Strings, grabbing an A CinemaScore, centers on a young boy who embarks on a quest to unlock the secret of his legacy and fulfill his heroic destiny. Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, George Takei, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Rooney Mara and Matthew McConaughey star as the voice cast.
Aug. 20, 7:40 a.m. Updated with Friday numbers and weekend predictions.
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