Weekend Box Office: 'The Meg' Shows Sharp Teeth, Swims Toward $40M Debut

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

The Meg

Hollywood's latest summer shark pic is doing far better than expected; Spike Lee's 'BlacKkKlansman' nabs an A- CinemaScore, while horror-thriller 'Slender Man' gets slapped with a D-.

What would the summer be without a shark movie?

Warner Bros.' shark pic The Meg, starring perennial action star Jason Statham, is showing some reel teeth at the the box office for a possible $40 million domestic debut, double what tracking had suggested and the best domestic opening in history for a live-action shark pic, not adjusted for inflation. The movie earned $16.5 million from 4,118 theaters on Friday, including $4 million in previews.

The Meg is also showing strength overseas. China's Gravity Pictures, which put up a significant portion of the budget, is handling distribution duties in the Middle Kingdom, where the movie debuted Friday to $16.2 million (by the end of Saturday, that will grow to $32.4 million). In other foreign markets, The Meg finished Friday with a three-day foreign tally of $34.5 million for an early global total of $77.4 million.

That's good news for Warner Bros. and Gravity, which paid at least $150 million to produce the long-in-the-making film, directed by Jon Turteltaub (the studio says the net budget was $130 million).

The Meg will easily come in No. 1, while Mission: Impossible — Fallout will fall to No. 2 in its third weekend with an estimated $19 million-$20 million from 3,888 theaters for a domestic total of roughly $161 million.

Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao and Cliff Curtis co-star in the film, which follows a group of scientists trying to stop a mammoth shark from causing destruction.

In summer 1975, director Steven Spielberg made history with the classic shark film Jaws. More recently, Sony's The Shallows, starring Blake Lively, revived the genre by grossing $119 million globally against a modest $25 million budget. That was followed by 47 Meters Down last summer, which garnered $44.3 million against a $5.5 million budget.

Several other movies opened nationwide opposite The Meg, including Spike Lee's high-profile Cannes Film Festival entry BlacKkKlansman, which tells the true story of two Colorado cops, one black (John David Washington) and one Jewish (Adam Driver), who infiltrated their local KKK chapter in the early 1970s.

From Focus Features, BlacKkKlansman is projected to gross in the $9 million-10 million range from 1,512 theaters, a solid start for a specialty film launching in summer versus during the fall awards season. The movie nabbed an A- CinemaScore, compared to a B+ for The Meg.

Sony's Screen Gems enters the August fray with the low-budget Slender Man, a supernatural horror film looks to come in just ahead of Lee's film with $10 million-$11 debut from 2,358 theaters after earning $4.8 million on Friday. One question mark is whether a D- CinemaScore will hurt word of mouth on Saturday. The pic follows a group of friends fascinated by the internet lore of the boogeyman known as the Slender Man. When they try to prove he doesn't exist, one of them mysteriously disappears.

The weekend's fourth new nationwide offering is the indie film Dog Days, from LD Entertainment. The family comedy, about the intersection of humans and canines, grossed $770,000 on Friday from 2,357 locations for a debut in the $3 million range. The ensemble cast includes Eva Longoria, Nina Dobrev, Vanessa Hudgens, Lauren Lapkus, Thomas Lennon, Adam Pally, Ryan Hansen and Rob Corddry.

Aug. 10, 1:50 p.m. Updated with early Friday estimates.
Aug. 11, 7:30 a.m. Updated with Friday grosses and revised weekend estimates.