Box Office Preview: 'Jumanji 2' to Lead Early Christmas Crush With $40M-$50M

Jumanji the next level, Richard Jewell and Black Christmas - Publicity Stills - Split - H 2019
Courtesy of Films

Clint Eastwood's drama 'Richard Jewell' and the slasher pic 'Black Christmas' also open nationwide, while 'Bombshell' and 'Uncut Gems' are among the award hopefuls launching at the specialty box office.

Let the caroling begin.

The year-end holidays get underway in earnest this weekend with the debut of Sony's all-audience event sequel Jumanji: The Next Level, Clint Eastwood's drama Richard Jewell and the microbudgeted Blumhouse/Universal slasher remake Black Christmas.

Jumanji 2 is expected to top the chart with a bow in the $40 million-$50 million range, although Sony is being more conservative in suggesting $35 million.

Movies opening close to Christmas aren't traditionally known for big launches — outside of the recent Star Wars pics — but rather count on strong multiples during the final two weeks of the year.

This time out, Jumanji 2 opted to bow a week before Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, whereas Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle rode into theaters on Dec. 20, 2017, with a $36 million domestic debut a week after Star Wars: The Last Jedi opened to $220 million.

Despite competition from The Last Jedi and other titles, Welcome to the Jungle went on to earn $404.5 million in North America and $962.1 million globally. (The challenge for Jumanji: The Next Level — which sees the return of stars Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart — is to avoid being infected by the sequelitis bug that has doomed a number of franchise installments this year.)

Black Christmas, which opens Friday (yes, the 13th), is the second remake of the 1974 cult horror classic about a cadre of sorority sisters who must fend off a campus killer during the deserted holidays.

Imogen Poots, Aleyse Shannon, Lily Donoghue, Brittany O'Grady, Caleb Eberhardt and Cary Elwes star in the Sophia Takal-directed pic, which is projected to open between $10 million and $12 million against a $5 million budget before marketing.

Eastwood's latest big-screen outing, Richard Jewell, is likewise tracking to bow in the $10 million range. The well-reviewed film is the veteran director's take on the real-life story of the security guard (Paul Walter Hauser) initially celebrated as a hero for saving lives after a bombing during the 1996 Summer Olympics, then vilified when he was reported as a suspect by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other outlets.

Produced by Warner Bros., Richard Jewell is based on a 1997 Vanity Fair article by Marie Brenner. Olivia Wilde, Jon Hamm, Sam Rockwell and Kathy Bates also star.

In recent days, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has objected strenuously to the pic's portrayal of the late journalist Kathy Scruggs (Wilde), who, in Eastwood's film, is implied to have traded sex for information from an FBI agent.

In its own statement this week, Warner Bros. said, "It is unfortunate and the ultimate irony that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, having been a part of the rush to judgment of Richard Jewell, is now trying to malign our filmmakers and cast. Richard Jewell focuses on the real victim, seeks to tell his story, confirm his innocence and restore his name. The AJC's claims are baseless, and we will vigorously defend against them."

Richard Jewell isn't the only film with awards ambitions hitting theaters this weekend.

Opening in select theaters at the specialty box office are Jay Roach's Fox News sexual harassment saga Bombshell, produced by and starring Charlize Theron alongside Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie; Josh and Benny Safdie's Uncut Gems, starring Adam Sandler; and Terrence Malick's A Hidden Life.