Box-Office Preview: Big-Budget 'Gods of Egypt' Imperiled

GODS OF EGYPT Still 1 - Gerard Butler - H 2016
Courtesy of Lionsgate

Superhero sensation 'Deadpool' will have no trouble staying at No. 1 in its third weekend; 'Eddie the Eagle' and 'Triple 9' open alongside 'Gods of Egypt.'

Lionsgate's Gods of Egypt is likely to become the first big-budget miss at the 2016 box office, at least in North America, where it launches over Oscar weekend.

The fantasy epic, starring Gerard Butler, cost a hefty $140 million to produce, yet is tracking to open to only $12 million to $15 million domestically. That means the film will have to wow overseas, where it rolls out in 68 markets this weekend (it doesn't debut in China until March 11).

Lionsgate insiders say the studio's exposure on the production budget is reduced to roughly $10 million after hefty Australian tax rebates and selling off foreign rights. However, that doesn't include tens of millions in marketing costs.

Directed by Alex Proyas, Gods of Egypt stars Butler as the Egyptian god of darkness Set, who usurps the throne, prompting a mortal hero, Bek (Brenton Thwaites), to team with the god Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and save the empire.

Last fall, Proyas and Lionsgate apologized after a loud outcry over the film's predominately white cast. (Ridley Scott faced similar criticism over Exodus: Gods and Kings).

Ancient epics have a checkered track record at the box office of late. In 2014, Lionsgate's The Legend of Hercules fell flat, topping out at under $63 million worldwide after costing $70 million to make. That same year, Paramount's Hercules, starring Dwayne Johnson, fared somewhat better, grossing $244 million, but it sported a hefty production budget of $100 million. And the $100 million Pompeii also was a huge loss in 2014, topping out at $117.8 million globally.

It's possible Gods of Egypt won't do much more than the two other films opening this weekend, even though both of those are much smaller in scope: Fox's sports dramedy Eddie the Eagle and John Hillcoat's indie crime-thriller Triple 9.

Eddie the Eagle, starring Hugh Jackman and Taron Egerton, recounts the tale of real-life British ski jumper Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards and his coach.

Triple 9, which centers on a group of criminals and bad cops at odds with the Russian mafia, stars Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet, Teresa Palmer and Gal Gadot, among others. Open Road Films is releasing the movie in the U.S.

Fox's superhero blockbuster Deadpool will easily stay at No. 1 in its third weekend. It raced past the $500 million mark at the global box office on Monday after less than two weeks in release.