Box Office Preview: ‘Jumanji’ Rules as ‘The Post’ Courts a Wider Audience

Three new national releases — ‘Paddington 2,’ ‘Proud Mary’ and ‘The Commuter’ — also will enter the crowded marketplace.

While Steven Spielberg’s The Post expands into theaters across America this weekend and three new films also are entering wide release, Sony’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, going into its fourth weekend, is expected to easily outdistance the new challengers and claim the top spot at the domestic box office for the Martin Luther King holiday weekend.

Jumanji, a PG-13-rated comedy/adventure starring Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, demonstrated real staying power last weekend as it took in $37.2 million and conceivably could attract another $25 million to possibly as much as $30 million over the coming four-day weekend. It has already crossed the $250 million mark domestically.

The Post, released by Fox, will be aiming for adult audiences interested in its politically relevant account, written by Liz Hannah and Spotlight screenwriter Josh Singer, of how Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, played by Meryl Streep, and editor Ben Bradlee, portrayed by Tom Hanks, joined forces to defy the government and publish the Pentagon Papers.

Playing in just a handful of theaters, the $50 million film, which opened Dec. 22, has grossed $4.2 million per date. This weekend, the production, from Amblin Entertainment and Participant Media, moves into 2,820 theaters and could take in about $18 million to $20 million.

The pic will be rubbing elbows, though, with a trio of new films, all jostling for attention.

Warner Bros., which bought North American distribution rights from the beleaguered Weinstein Co. and producer StudioCanal, will be bowing Paddington 2, the animated/live-action continuation of the adventures of a plucky Peruvian bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw). Paul King, who directed the PG-rated sequel from a screenplay he wrote with Simon Farnaby, also helmed the original, which bowed to $25.5 million when it debuted over the Martin Luther King weekend in 2015. David Heyman, who produced the Harry Potter movies for Warners, served as producer on the whimsical British film.

The new Paddington, which has already opened in the U.K., has collected $125.2 million abroad to date. It could be looking at a $20 million bow in the U.S., although studio estimates peg it a few million dollars lower.

Meanwhile, Sony will introduce Proud Mary, in which a gun-toting Taraji P. Henson plays a hitwoman in Boston whose life changes when she meets a young boy. Babak Najafi (London Has Fallen) directed the R-rated action pic, which is opening in about 2,100 locations. The screenplay was written by John Stuart Newman, Christian Swegal and Steven Antin from a story by Newman and Swegal, and the film was produced by Paul Schiff and Tai Duncan, with Glenn S. Gainor and Henson serving as executive producers. 

While the studio is eyeing a debut in the low- to mid-teen millions, Proud Mary also could climb to top the $20 million mark.

Finally, Lionsgate will launch The Commuter in around 2,800 locations, including select Imax theaters. The latest action movie starring Liam Neeson finds the actor playing a businessman who gets caught up in a frenzied criminal conspiracy when he meets a stranger (Vera Farmiga) on a train. Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows) directed the PG-13-rated actioner, which was written by Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi and Ryan Engle from a story by Willinger and de Blasi and produced by Alex Heineman and Andrew Rona for StudioCanal. The first entry in a new, long-term partnership between Lionsgate and StudioCanal, The Commuter is projected to open in the low- to mid-teen million range.