Holiday holdovers “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and “Sing” are in a tight race for first at the North American box office with a surprisingly strong expansion from “Hidden Figures,” early estimates showed Friday.
“Rogue One” came in with the top estimate of about $25 million for the Friday-Sunday weekend while “Sing” was in the $24 million range and “Hidden Figures” early projections ranged from $20 million to $24 million — including as much as $9 million on Friday. The opening of “Underworld: Blood Wars” looks likely to finish fourth with about $17 million and Lionsgate’s expanded “La La Land” should follow in fifth with about $13 million at 1,515 sites.
But Focus Features’ expansion of family drama “A Monster Calls” was showing scant traction with a projected $1.8 million at 1,523 locations.
“Hidden Figures” took in a solid $1.2 million from 2,250 new locations on Thursday night previews as it expands into wide release. Centered on a group of female African-American mathematicians and scientists in the early days of America’s space program, “Figures” has been performing well in limited release with $2.9 million from only 25 locations since Dec. 25.
“Hidden Figures” is performing well above forecasts, which range ranged between $16 million to $18 million this weekend as it moves to 2,471 locations Friday. The awards season contender has a modest $25 million budget with a cast including Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae and Kevin Costner. Spencer is up for a Golden Globe in the supporting actress category on Sunday.
“Rogue One” has hit $838.3 million worldwide after three weeks and is opening Friday in China. The eighth “Star Wars” movie grossed $3.8 million domestically at 4,157 locations on Thursday, giving it $455.2 million in its first 21 days.
The Disney-Lucasfilm tentpole is already the 11th-highest earner of all time at the domestic box office, trailing the total cume of “Avengers: Age of Ultron” by less than $4 million.
Animated comedy “Sing,” playing at 3,941 sites, has generated an impressive $190 million domestically in its 15 days as a family alternative to “Rogue One.” It’s the second 2016 hit for Illumination-Universal following the outsize success of “The Secret Life of Pets.”
Sony’s “Underworld: Blood Wars,” the fifth entry in the franchise, is opening at 3,065 sites through the Screen Gems label and is performing at the top end of forecasts, which had pegged a $15 million debut. The franchise has racked up more than $500 million globally with Kate Beckinsale returning to the Selene vampire hunter role in the new installment, directed by Anna Foerster.
Lionsgate’s awards contender “La La Land” is also in the mix this weekend as it doubles its location count to 1,515. The musical comedy-drama, starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, showed plenty of drawing power during the four-day New Year’s weekend with $12.6 million at only 750 sites. It’s already crossed the $40 million mark in domestic grosses since its Dec. 9 opening.
Two other awards contenders — Roadside’s “Manchester by the Sea” and Paramount’s “Fences” — remain respectable draws, noted Paul Deragarabedian, senior media analyst with com.Score. “It’s an incredibly crowded early year marketplace,” he added.
“Fences” has hit $36 million in three weeks and “Manchester” has topped $31 million in seven weeks.