Box-Office Preview: 'Murder on the Orient Express,' 'Daddy's Home 2' Set to Battle

Neither film lacks for star power.

Director Kenneth Branagh's Murder on the Orient Express and the comedy sequel Daddy's Home 2 could find themselves in a close race for the box-office crown this weekend, with both tracking to open in the low-$20 million range.

Neither movie lacks for star power. Daddy's Home 2, from Paramount, sees the return of Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell, with Mel Gibson and John Lithgow joining the budding franchise. This time out, Dusty (Wahlberg) and Brad (Ferrell) join forces to provide their kids the best Christmas, but their newfound union is put to the test when their own fathers show up.

Daddy's Home 2 launches on the heels of another comedy sequel, Bad Moms Christmas, which posted a five-day debut of $21.3 million last week.

Comedy follow-ups can be a tough business, and Daddy's Home 2 won't come close to matching the $38.7 million bow of Daddy's Home over Christmas weekend in 2015. At the same time, it hopes to appeal to audiences through Thanksgiving and into the year-end holidays. Paramount is in dire need of a box-office win following the dismal performance of Darren Aronofsky's mother! and George Clooney's Suburbicon.

Murder on the Orient Express, from 20th Century Fox, likewise is counting on a long run over the holidays. The ensemble mystery stars Branagh opposite Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Willam Dafoe, Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Leslie Odom Jr. and Daisy Ridley. The movie marks the fourth big-screen or television adaptation of Agatha Christie's classic tale.

New offerings at the specialty box office include Fox Searchlight's awards contender Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, starring Frances McDormand.