Weekend Forecast (Update): ‘Tomb Raider’ & ‘Love, Simon’ Set to Debut As ‘Black Panther’ Chases More History; ‘I Can Only Imagine’ Could Overperform

March 15 Update: Signs continue to look up in a noticeable way for I Can Only Imagine as social media activity heats up in the final hours before opening day. Group sales reports from various ticketing outlets are also quite robust. Faith-based films are notorious for being difficult to track even this close to release due to their appeal among audiences not always surveyed in the most efficient or representative means, but our current models now suggest a debut in the upper-single-digit millions looks very possible, with a shot at topping $10 million.

Our final weekend forecast has been updated in the table below.

March 15 Correction: The original publication of this report incorrectly stated that The Sixth Sense was the last film to spend five straight weekends in first place at the box office. The last film to do so was Avatar in 2009/2010, when it spent seven consecutive weekends atop the chart. Prior to that, The Sixth Sense was the most recent to claim at least five in a row. We apologize for the confusion.

Original Report: Marvel’s Black Panther has reigned for four consecutive weekends at the box office, but Warner Bros.’ Tomb Raider reboot will hope to give it a challenge this weekend. The major point of competition for many films in the market, though, will be the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament as it kicks into full gear.

Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander takes over the Lara Croft role made famous by the 1990s/2000s era video game franchise and big screen adaptations led by Angelina Jolie. The film has tracked relatively well across traditional metrics (comparing with Maze Runner: The Death Cure and even Power Rangers),  leading Warner Bros. to expect between $23 million and $25 million this weekend. However, Facebook activity is closer to that of Atomic Blonde, while Twitter activity has been comparable to Ghost in the Shell.

In other words, the film’s range has grown wider than expected in recent weeks.

While the appeal of a female-driven action film could attract a diverse crowd with some teen appeal, the film’s mixed reviews (49 percent on Rotten Tomatoes currently) could be the tipping point working against any type of breakout weekend for the reboot — not to mention the continued staying power of Black Panther, which our current models suggest will become the first film in over eight years to hold the top spot for a fifth consecutive weekend — Avatar being the last to do so (seven weekends) in late 2009/early 2010.

In addition, Panther appears poised to become just the seventh film in history to cross the $600 million threshold domestically, which should occur on Sunday.

Aiming primarily for a teenage audience this weekend, Love, Simon is garnering strong reviews (90 percent currently) as the adaptation of Becky Albertalli’s novel builds momentum ahead of release. Twitter activity is currently pacing far ahead of Everything, Everything (which also starred Nick Robinson) and even this past November’s Wonder, although Facebook activity has been a weak spot in direct comparison to those films. There are considerable arguments for a breakout weekend given the unique nature of the film and it’s strong teen/LGBTQ community appeal, although a performance in line with fellow YA properties like the aforementioned Everything, Everything and Paper Towns wouldn’t be surprising either.

Meanwhile, I Can Only Imagine is slated for a wide debut in an estimated 1,620+ locations, but has been trending modestly — perhaps in large part due to Sony’s high profile faith-based film Paul, Apostle of Christ tracking well ahead of its opening next weekend. That said, Imagine‘s social growth is outpacing that of I’m Not Ashamed and has generated encouraging group sales. With a production budget of $7 million, Imagine should be a relative success if it opens in the $3-4 million range, which seems to be the low-end of potential at this point.

Lastly, with an estimated theater count of 800, we’re currently expecting 7 Days In Entebbe to open outside the top ten.

Top 10 Comparison

Boxoffice currently forecasts this weekend’s top ten films will combine for approximately $116.6 million. That would represent a 54 percent decline from the same weekend last year when Disney’s Beauty and the Beast live action remake shattered March records during a mammoth $174.8 million opening weekend, part of an overall $252.2 million top ten frame.

Weekend Forecast

Film Distributor 3-Day Weekend Forecast Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, March 18 % Change from Last Wknd
Black Panther Disney / Marvel $29,000,000 $606,500,000 -29%
Tomb Raider Warner Bros. $21,500,000 $21,500,000 NEW
A Wrinkle In Time Disney $17,100,000 $60,700,000 -48%
Love, Simon Fox $14,300,000 $14,300,000 NEW
I Can Only Imagine Roadside Attractions $9,000,000 $9,000,000 NEW
Game Night Warner Bros. / New Line $6,400,000 $55,100,000 -19%
Peter Rabbit Sony / Columbia $5,900,000 $102,700,000 -13%
Red Sparrow Fox $5,100,000 $40,200,000 -40%
Strangers: Prey at Night Aviron $4,700,000 $18,300,000 -55%
Death Wish MGM $3,600,000 $30,100,000 -45%

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