‘Aqua­man’ set to earn $1 bil­lion

Warner Bros.’ sur­prise block­buster, aided by pop­u­lar­ity in China, is ex­pected to be No. 1 for a fourth week.

Los Angeles Times - - COMPANY TOWN - By Ryan Faugh­n­der ryan.faugh­n­[email protected]­times.com

Be­fore the re­lease of “Aqua­man,” any­one pre­dict­ing the Warner Bros. su­per­hero film would be­come the high­est-gross­ing DC Comics block­buster since “The Dark Knight Rises” would have been laughed out of the room.

But “Aqua­man,” star­ring Ja­son Mo­moa as the At­lantean war­rior once rel­e­gated to ju­nior var­sity sta­tus in DC’s comic book canon, is poised to reach $1 bil­lion in world­wide ticket sales as soon as Saturday, ac­cord­ing to an­a­lysts. The movie has col­lected more than $970 mil­lion as of Thursday, in­clud­ing $700 mil­lion from over­seas sales, ac­cord­ing to stu­dio es­ti­mates.

“Aqua­man’s” suc­cess rep­re­sents a much-needed win for the Bur­bank stu­dio and its su­per­hero movie strat­egy, which has weath­ered in­con­sis­tent re­sults at the box of­fice with mar­quee char­ac­ters in­clud­ing Batman and Su­per­man. “Jus­tice League,” Warner Bros.’ would-be an­swer to Marvel Stu­dios’ “Avengers” fran­chise, foundered in 2017, lead­ing ex­ec­u­tives to fo­cus on mak­ing in­di­vid­ual hits rather that try­ing to con­jure a cine­matic uni­verse.

Here’s what to watch this week­end.

A box-of­fice whale

The James Wan-di­rected “Aqua­man,” which cost roughly $200 mil­lion to pro­duce, is ex­pected to gen­er­ate about $15 mil­lion in re­ceipts Fri­day through Sun­day in the U.S. and Canada. That should make it the No. 1 movie do­mes­ti­cally for the fourth week­end in a row, beat­ing Sony Pictures’ “A Dog’s Way Home” and STX Films’ Kevin Hart com­edy “The Up­side.” Last year’s “Black Pan­ther” was the most re­cent film to hold the top spot for four weeks.

“Aqua­man” partly owes its com­mer­cial suc­cess to a more fun and over-the-top ap­proach to the su­per­hero genre, with im­pres­sive un­der­wa­ter vi­su­als. The film has played es­pe­cially well in China, the world’s sec­ond­largest box-of­fice mar­ket, where it has grossed $285 mil­lion. DC’s movie strat­egy will face an­other test in April with the de­but of “Shazam,” which the film­mak­ers have de­scribed as “Big” (the 1988 Tom Hanks com­edy) meets “Su­per­man.”

Puppy love

As “Aqua­man” makes waves, Sony Pictures will try to at­tract ca­nine-lov­ing movie­go­ers with the feel­good “A Dog’s Way Home,” which fol­lows a mixed res­cue pooch named Bella who must travel 400 miles to find her hu­man com­pan­ions. The movie, which cost an es­ti­mated $18 mil­lion to pro­duce, is ex­pected to fetch $9 mil­lion to $10 mil­lion from Thursday evening through Sun­day. “A Dog’s Way Home” joins a lit­ter of re­cent pet-themed films, in­clud­ing 2017’s “A Dog’s Pur­pose” from Uni­ver­sal ($205 mil­lion in global box-of­fice sales) and its up­com­ing se­quel, “A Dog’s Jour­ney.”

STX Films’ lat­est re­lease, “The Up­side,” star­ring Hart as a man on pa­role who gets a job as­sist­ing a par­a­lyzed bil­lion­aire (Bryan Cranston), will also prob­a­bly open with about $10 mil­lion in box-of­fice rev­enue.

The movie comes with some bag­gage. Hart, a re­li­able box-of­fice draw known for his roles in “Ride Along” and “Night School,” was re­cruited to host this year’s Os­cars cer­e­mony but dropped out af­ter get­ting blasted online for his past ho­mo­pho­bic com­ments. “The Up­side” was one of the films left in the lurch by the Weinstein Co. bank­ruptcy. STX made a deal with Lantern En­ter­tain­ment, the firm that bought the re­mains of Weinstein Co., to re­lease the film.

No­to­ri­ous R.B.G.

“On the Ba­sis of Sex,” Fo­cus Fea­tures’ drama about the rise of Ruth Bader Gins­burg, will em­bark on its wide re­lease this week­end. The film, pro­duced by Par­tic­i­pant Me­dia and star­ring Felic­ity Jones as the lib­eral Supreme Court jus­tice, fo­cuses on Gins­burg’s law ca­reer and strug­gle for women’s rights. It has grossed $4 mil­lion in lim­ited re­lease since its Christ­mas de­but.

Mean­while, En­ter­tain­ment Stu­dios is un­veil­ing its sci-fi thriller “Repli­cas,” star­ring Keanu Reeves. The pic­ture is ex­pected to open with a weak $6 mil­lion.

Warner Bros.-DC En­ter­tain­ment

JAMES WAN, sec­ond from left, di­rects a scene in “Aqua­man” with, from left, Am­ber Heard, Ja­son Mo­moa and Willem Dafoe.

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