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Box office predictions: Girl on the Train on track for top debut

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Though it leaves the station with middling reviews from movie critics, Tate Taylor’s adaptation of the bestselling Paula Hawkins novel, The Girl on the Train, has its sights set on snatching the box office crown from Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children this weekend.

The film faces little competition across its debut three-day frame, though strong holdovers like Deepwater Horizon and Storks will put up a fight as Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation and the family flick Middle School jockey for freshman finishes in the top five.

Here’s how the Oct. 7-9 box office battle could play out: 

1. The Girl on the Train – $28.5 million

Looking to tap into the same audience that made fellow book adaptations Gone Girl and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo $100 million hits at the box office in recent years, Universal’s The Girl on the Train opens on 3,135 screens this weekend.

The film got off to a rocky start earlier this week as critical reviews were, in general, divided between lambasting the film’s predictable plot and praising Emily Blunt’s powerhouse performance in the lead role. 

Still, the film, produced for around $45 million, has a strong pre-established audience waiting to buy tickets, as Hawkins’  novel was a massive success (film rights were purchased before the book even hit shelves) upon its release in 2015. If reviews are to be trusted, however, fans of the book might quickly lose interest if Taylor’s translation of the beloved mystery fails to live up to expectations.

High-profile releases like The Girl on the Train tend to fare better at the top of fall, as early October titles like Gravity, Gone Girl, The Martian, and Taken 2 each grossed well over $40 million across their freshman runs at the weekend box office. While The Girl on the Train won’t reach such lofty heights, it could push (and might even exceed) the $30 million mark by Sunday’s end. 

2. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – $15 million

Miss Peregrine, Tim Burton’s first live-action fantasy since 2012’s Dark Shadow, debuted to a decent $28.9 million last weekend, coming in just under Shadows‘ $29.7 million opening gross.

While Shadows was seen by many as a domestic disappointment, Peregrine has better critical reviews and seems to be generating better word-of-mouth than the Johnny Depp vehicle, meaning stronger legs and a higher North American total by the end of the film’s run. 

Look for Miss Peregrine to slip to the runner-up slot after pulling in around $14-$16 million this weekend. 

3. Deepwater Horizon – $11 million

Mark Wahlberg’s latest fact-based action-drama, Deepwater Horizon, debuted to a solid $20.2 million last weekend, and has thus far performed decently throughout the week, pulling in $1.6 million and $2.2 million on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. The film, which also stars Kate Hudson, Kurt Russell, and Gina Rodriguez, is on track to drop in the 40-50 percent range, as Wahlberg spectacles tend to do (Lone Survivor, his previous collaboration with director Peter Berg, fell 41 percent from week-to-week after debuting to $37.9 million in 2013).

Look for Deepwater Horizon to fall in the $10-$12 million range this weekend. 

4. The Birth of a Nation – $9 million

Though the film’s media profile has largely been defined by the controversy surrounding its director, Nate Parker, The Birth of a Nation remains one of the most buzzed-about films to come out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival. 

Fox Searchlight, seemingly assuming they had a potential awards season contender on their hands, purchased the film for $17 million in January, though they bypassed the traditional pre-Oscar festival circuit (the film did, however, screen at TIFF in September) as new details emerged regarding a 17-year-old rape case, which saw Parker accused (and later acquitted) of raping a woman while he was a student at Penn State in 1999. 

The Birth of a Nation, which enters 2,100 theaters on Friday, has thus far received positive reviews from critics (it stands at 80 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), while Fox has planned in-theater voter registration events for the film’s first weekend in wide release.

While distributor projections indicate the film could wind up with around $7-$7.5 million by Sunday, it’ll likely push past that number, ending its debut weekend run in the $8-$9 million range. 

5. Storks – $8 million

After debuting to a mild $21.3 million over its opening weekend, Warner Bros. Animation’s Storks showed signs of staying power after dropping a mere 37 percent for a second weekend gross of $13.5 million. With few other family-targeted films in wide release (its only competition, at this point, is the live-action comedy Middle School), Storks should finish the week with another soft drop as it closes in on the $50 million domestic mark on a $70 million budget. Additionally, Storks will post solid numbers in the weeks ahead, as it remains the only major animated movie on the market until Trolls hits theaters on Nov. 4.

Outside the top five, Lionsgate’s $8.5 million Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life — starring Griffin Gluck, Lauren Graham, Rob Riggle, Adam Pally, Retta, Efren Ramirez, and Isabela Moner — enters wide release on approximately 2,812 screens. The film faces little in the way of competition, though this week’s darker, adult-oriented releases will eclipse its grosses.

Look for Middle School to make a healthy (for its budget) $5-$8 million this weekend. 

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