Box Office Preview: 'Ouija' Calls on Spirits to Defeat Gun-Toting Keanu Reeves

The adaptation of the spooky Hasbro game goes up against Reeves' violent action-thriller 'John Wick'; Bill Murray's 'St. Vincent' expands nationwide

Pre-Halloween entry Ouija looks to win the North American box office race this weekend ahead of shoot-'em-up pic John Wick, Keanu Reeves' first film to hit theaters since the ill-fated 47 Ronin in December 2013.

Ouija, based on Hasbro's seance board game, is expected to open in the $18 million to $20 million range. Universal is erring on the low side ($18 million), while rivals think it could cross $20 million. John Wick is tracking to earn far less, or a muted $7 million to $8 million. The male-skewing Wick, however, could overperform, thanks to stellar reviews and a berth in Imax theaters.

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Blumhouse Productions, home of the microbudget horror film, and Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes produced Ouija for Universal in tandem with Hasbro. The film, targeting teenagers and younger adult females, follows a group of friends who uncover the dark powers of the Ouija board when trying to summon their recently deceased friend's spirit. Universal's marketing campaign included organizing a screening and seance at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Stiles White directed the movie, which stars an array of young television actors, including Daren Kagasoff and Bianca A. Santos. 

Among critics, John Wick has certainly improved Reeves' standing, and currently boasts a 100 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But whether the movie will work at the box office is another question, although positive word-of-mouth could give it strong legs, both in North America and overseas. Lionsgate acquired rights to the movie, so it has limited financial exposure.

Read more 'John Wick': Keanu Reeves, Willem Dafoe Talk "Fantasy" Drifting and Gun Fu Stunts

Directed by Chad Stahelski, the R-rated action film stars Reeves as an ex-hitman who comes out of a peaceful retirement to hunt down the gangsters who have taken everything from him. Michael Nyqvist, Alfie Allen, Adrianne Palicki, Bridget Moynahan, Dean Winters, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo and Willem Dafoe also star.

Also this weekend, Theodore Melfi's St. Vincent, starring Bill Murray, expands nationwide after opening two weeks ago in select theaters, earning just under $1 million to date for The Weinstein Co.

A slew of high-profile films open at the specialty box office, including Lynn Shelton's Laggies, starring Keira Knightley, Chloe Grace Moretz and Sam Rockwell, and Gregg Araki's White Bird in a Blizzard, starring Shailene Woodley. Both films played at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and were produced by Anonymous Content.

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Following its world premiere at the New York Film Festival earlier this month, Laura Poitras' high-profile Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour goes out in five theaters.