Box-Office Preview: 'Fantastic Four' to Lead Jam-Packed Weekend

Fantastic Four Trailer Still - H 2015

Meryl Streep's 'Ricki and the Flash,' Joel Edgerton's 'The Gift' and Aardman's 'Shaun the Sheep' also open this weekend.

Superheroes, a singing Meryl Streep, actor Joel Edgerton in the directing chair for the first time and a British animated sheep will make for a diverse crop of offerings at the North American box office this weekend, although all of Hollywood is nervous after another theater attack on Wednesday.

Fantastic Four, based on the Marvel Comics superhero team, is expected to win the weekend with a debut of $40 million or more from more than 3,800 theaters, although that would be well behind the launch of the first two films, Fantastic Four ($56.1 million) and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer ($58.1 million). Director Josh Trank (Chronicle) was tasked with rebooting the franchise and giving it a new feel, casting Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Kate Mara and Jamie Bell as the four superheroes.

Garnering scathing reviews, Fantastic Four cost $120 million to produce and endured behind-the-scenes drama when reshoots were required amid unhappiness with Trank.

Still, Fantastic Four is expected to do far more business than the weekend's three other new films, including Jonathan Demme's Ricki and the Flash, starring Meryl Streep as an aging rock star opposite Mamie Gummer, her real-life daughter, Kevin Kline and Rick Springfield. Tom Rothman, who is now chairman of Sony Pictures' film studio, made the project a priority when taking over Sony's TriStar, and it's the first of his movies to hit theaters since arriving at the Sony lot from Fox.

Ricki and the Flash, costing $18 million, was never intended to be a big studio commercial offering, and instead hopes to take hold among adults. As such, it is only opening in 1,600 theaters, a conservative footprint. Tracking has been soft, and Ricki may launch in the $8 million range, one of the lower debuts for Streep in a leading role. Earlier this summer, another adult-fueled title, The Second Best Marigold Hotel, debuted to $8.5 million from 1,573 theaters. Demme directed from a script by Diablo Cody, and there are plans to expand the film's theater count in the coming weeks.

Just as Ricki and the Flash marks Rothman's first box-office test at Sony, The Gift is the first test for Bob Simonds' flush STX Entertainment. The psychological thriller also marks the feature directorial debut of Australian actor Joel Edgerton and is a throwback to adult thrillers including Fatal Attraction.

The Gift is likewise expected to open in the single digits and may have to compete with Ricki for females. The Blumhouse entry, opening in upwards of 2,500 theaters, cost $5 million to make, in line with other films from the Jason Blum stable. STX's exposure on the budget is $2.5 million. In the film, Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall play a young married couple whose lives go into a tailspin after they encounter a high-school acquaintance of the husband's (Edgerton).

STX is releasing the film in the U.S., while Blumhouse has international rights.

In terms of reviews, The Gift and Shaun the Sheep are scoring best with critics.

Shaun the Sheep, from Aardman Entertainment and Lionsgate, opened Wednesday to take advantage of kids being out of school and is the only new family friendly offering. By Friday, it will be playing in 2,320 theaters. The movie is a spinoff of the hugely successful, dialogue-free British TV series, and sees the core farmyard characters on an urban adventure. Mark Burton and Richard Starzack co-directed and wrote.

The movie played at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.