Disney (“The Creator”), Paramount (“PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie“), and Lionsgate (“Saw X“) will fight for #1 this weekend — and it’s anyone’s to win to earn.

These three titles, along with the third-week expansion of “Dumb Money” (Sony), should easily place ahead of “Nun II” (Warner Bros.) and “Expend4bles” (Lionsgate), which were the top two last week — AKA the worst box-office weekend of the year. Any new release that exceeds $20 million will likely prevail, since that is at the high end of expectations. Industry sources place the range for the three new films range between $10 million-$20 million.

Stakes are highest for “The Creator.” With a budget around $80 million-$90 million, it’s an economic production compared to most of Disney’s high-end FX extravaganzas (this one comes from Fox Studios).

A scene still from 20th Century Studios’ THE CREATOR. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2023 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.
“The Creator”Courtesy of 20th Century Studios

It’s also the rare Disney original. Directed by Gareth Edwards, he first drew Hollywood’s attention with the well-received British independent “Monsters” before making “Godzilla” and “Rogue One.” With “The Creator,” Disney is testing whether mainstream science fiction can succeed.

Reviews have been positive (66 on Metacritic, generally favorable). It will get the bulk of IMAX screens this weekend, as well as Wednesday early-access shows along with Thursday previews to enhance its gross.

Shot in Thailand with a cast that includes John David Washington, Gemma Chan, and Ken Watanabe, it doesn’t look like most sci-fi. That could be a tremendous advantage, or it could add to the narrative that there’s safety in numbers.

“PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie” is a sequel to “PAW Patrol: The Movie,” which opened in August 2021 alongside Paramount+ same-day streaming and grossed $40 million domestic and $100 million worldwide. It’s based on a Canadian animated TV series (shown on Nickelodeon in the U.S.).

This time it’s theater-exclusive and as the first-post summer kids’ animated feature, it should be able to equal the previous film‘s $13 million opening. The budget is a thrifty $30 million.

“Saw X” is #10 in the franchise and the first with a standalone “Saw” in the title in 13 years. “Spiral,” the most recent entry, opened in spring 2021 when theaters were still in recovery mode. It was a spin-off from the core characters (the only one without Tobin Bell; he returns here). It was the lowest-grossing installment of the series with $23 million domestic and $41 million worldwide.

With a budget of $13 million, “Saw X” has a clear shot at profit and an even longer franchise life, which would be great news for the franchise-dependent Lionsgate (“John Wick,” “Hunger Games”). It didn’t finance “Expend4bles,” which flopped last weekend.

Paul Dano stars as Keith Gill in DUMB MONEY.
“Dumb Money”Claire Folger

By Friday, “Dumb Money” will have grossed around $4 million after two weeks in theaters. It goes from 616 screens to 2,750 this week; the response will reflect the whether Sony’s staggered release plan, designed to boost word of mouth, worked. Budgeted at $30 million, Craig Gillespie’s Wall Street meme stock story is the first of the big festival releases to reach adult audiences. (t premiered in Toronto.)

With an underpopulated mainstream October ahead (although “The Exorcist: Believer” from Universal October 6 should perform better than any of these), and “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” dominating thereafter, some of this week’s titles could sustain better holds even with modest openings. The opportunity will be there.

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