Box-Office Preview: 'Maze Runner: The Death Cure' Eyes $20M U.S. Debut
Elsewhere, Christian Bale's 'Hostiles' expands nationwide, while a flurry of films landing Oscar nominations look for a bump.
Maze Runner: The Death Cure should have no trouble sprinting to the top of the North American box office this weekend with a debut of $20 million or more.
The threequel is the final installment in the successful YA film series adapted from James Dashner's dystopia-themed books.
From 20th Century Fox, Death Cure was originally set to hit theaters a year ago, but its release was delayed when franchise star Dylan O'Brien suffered an injury while filming. Wes Ball directed all three films, the last of which, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, launched to $30.6 million in September 2015. The first outing, The Maze Runner, opened to $32.5 million in September 2014.
This time out, the Gladers travel to the villainous WCKD headquarters to rescue their friends.
Death Cure is also making a play overseas, where it took in a solid $15 million from a handful or markets.
Sony's holiday hit Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which heads into its sixth weekend, has won the domestic box-office race the past three frames.
Elsewhere, Scott Cooper's gritty Western Hostiles, starring Christian Bale and Rosamund Pike, rides into 2,813 theaters across the country after playing in select cinemas since Christmas. Distributor Entertainment Studios is hopeful that the period pic, which has grossed $1.6 million to date, will garner upwards of $10 million this weekend.
While Hostiles was shut out of the Oscar race earlier this week, a flurry of films picking up top nominations will look for a boost this weekend, including Steven Spielberg's The Post (20th Century Fox) and Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water (Fox Searchlight), both of which were among the nine titles to land best picture noms.
Shape of Water, which has been rolling out slowly, will swim into roughly 1,600 locations, an uptick of more than 600 theaters. The adult fairy tale, which has earned $21 million to date, scored 13 Oscar nominations, the most of any movie.
Other best picture nominees that could see an uptick in sales include Call Me by Your Name (Sony Pictures Classics), Darkest Hour (Focus Features), Lady Bird (A24), Phantom Thread (Focus Features) and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. All of those titles, along with Shape of Water, are the sort of specialty films that rely on awards season to heighten their profiles.