Weekend Box Office: 'Pacific Rim 2' Beating 'Black Panther' With Muted $25M-Plus

Pacific Rim Uprising Still 6 - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of Legendary Pictures/Universal Pictures

Elsewhere, Steven Soderbergh's 'Unsane' finds little love, while Wes Anderon's 'Isle of Dogs' barks loudly at the specialty box office.

The bots are looking a bit rusty — at least in the U.S.

Legendary and Universal's big-budget release Pacific Rim: Uprising may have the distinction of being the film to finally unseat blockbuster Black Panther atop the box office, but the big-budget tentpole may not open to much more than $26 million in its domestic debut, according to early Friday returns. The first Pacific Rim, released in summer 2013, opened to $37 million in Nrth America.

Stomping into 2,850 theaters, Pacific Rim 2 grossed $10.4 million on Friday, including $2.4 million in Thursday previews.

Pacific Rim 2 is expected to be a far bigger player overseas, where the $150 million film is opening day-and-date in most major markets, including China (Legendary East has sole distribution duties in the Middle Kingdom). Early estimates show the film opening to $120.5 million internationally, including $65 million from China, for a global launch of $146 million.

The first Pacific Rim, directed by Guillermo del Toro, earned a sizable $309.2 million overseas all in (China's contribution was $111.9 million). Domestically, it topped out at $101.8 million after a $37.3 million bow.

This time out, the human-piloted bots go up against otherworldly monsters of mass destruction. John Boyega leads the cast, with Steven S. DeKnight helming in his feature directorial debut. Legendary and Universal greenlit the sequel prior to Legendary getting new leadership and a fresh infusion of funding. Legendary put up the majority of the production budget.

In its sixth weekend, Black Panther is banking another $16 million and $17 million as it passes up fellow Marvel film The Avengers ($623 million) to become the top-grossing superhero film of all time in North America, unadjusted for inflation.

Among the glut of new offerings on the marquee, MGM and Paramount's new animated family film Sherlock Gnomes looks to earn roughly $10 million, putting it at the low end of expectations.

A sequel to Gnomeo and Juliet (2011), Sherlock Gnomes features the voices of returning castmembers James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Stephen Merchant and Ozzy Osbourne, plus Johnny Depp as Sherlock Gnomes, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Watson and Mary J. Blige as Irene.

The story follows Gnomeo and Juliet as they call upon the famous detective, Sherlock Gnomes, to find out why garden gnomes all over London, including the inhabitants of their beloved garden, have going missing. The movie, directed by John Stevenson, continues to roll out internationally after launching in a handful of markets last weekend.

Sony's faith-based label Affirm opens Paul, Apostle of Christ in 1,400 locations. The film is on course to open to roughly $5 million from 1,473 theaters.

The film faces formidable competition in holdover I Can Only Imagine, which opened to a rousing $17.1 million last weekend. In its second weekend, I Can Only Imagine looks to come in No. 3 with as much as $14 million for Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate.

Directed and written by Andrew Hyatt, Paul, Apostle of Christ stars Jim Caviezel, Olivier Martinez, Joanne Whalley, John Lynch and James Faulkner.

Midnight Sun, a new romantic drama, is headed for a $4 million-$5 million debut. Playing in 2,173 locations, the movie is directed by Scott Speer and stars Bella Thorne, Patrick Schwarzenegger and Rob Riggle. Open Road/Global Road is distributing the movie, which was financed by the Boies/Schiller Film Group.

That puts Midnight Sun ahead of Steven Soderbergh's Unsane, a psychological horror-thriller shot with an iPhone 7 and reportedly costing a mere $1.5 million to make.

Unsane, starring Claire Foy (The Crown), is projected to gross $3.5 million-$4 million from 2,023 theaters. Bleecker Street and Soderbergh's Fingerprint Releasing are handling the film, which stars Foy (The Crown) as a troubled businesswoman who lands in a mental institution after she's stalked by her former boyfriend.

Juno Temple, Joshua Leonard, Jay Pharoah, Aimee Mullins and Amy Irving co-star. The pic had its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in February.

At the specialty box office, Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogs prances into 27 theaters in select markets across the country. Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum and Greta Gerwig are among the voice cast of Anderson's stop-motion animated adventure about a boy and his faithful pet out to stop a canine genocide.

Isle of Dogs, rated PG-13, is barking loudly for a projected $1.7 million weekend and per screen average of $63,000.

March 23, 12:20 p.m. Updated with revised weekend estimates.
March 24, 7 a.m. Updated with revised weekend estimates.