Box office preview: Rogue One to blast off in theaters – Entertainment Weekly

After three weeks at No. 1, Disney’s Moana will take a step back to make room for another picture from the Mouse (and from a galaxy far, far away).

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is Disney’s last major release of the year, and it will push the studio’s record-setting box office year even higher by the end of its run. It faces virtually no competition for the top spot, as Warner Bros.’ Will Smith drama Collateral Beauty limps into 3,028 theaters with scathing reviews, while the awards-bound drama Manchester by the Sea guns for the mature set ahead of its first weekend in wide release.

Here’s what the Dec. 16-18 box office chart could look like on Sunday:

It won’t rocket to the heights of The Force Awakens, but Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will still be a box office winner in its own right. The Felicity Jones-starring picture is currently Fandango’s top preseller of 2016, and the No. 2 preselling film in the company’s history, taking a back seat only to The Force Awakens. The last Star Wars film currently holds the record for the biggest opening weekend of all time with $248 million, unadjusted for inflation; Rogue One will miss that mark (it’s a prequel to A New Hope, not a direct continuation of the last film’s story), though it should blast off anywhere between $150 million and $200 million across its first three days in wide release thanks to high fan anticipation and solid critical reviews backing it up.

The three-time animated champ will relinquish her title in the days ahead. Moana, Disney’s first film to feature a Polynesian princess, has performed a solid run on North American screens so far. While not reaching the heights of previous releases like Frozen or Finding Dory (it won’t even reach half of those film’s grosses by its close date), Moana has amassed $244 million worldwide since its Nov. 23 premiere. Its legs should carry it a little further on the domestic chart in the weeks ahead. Moana should make $10 million-$14 million this weekend.

Audiences proved they were in the mood for a holiday banger last weekend, pushing the ensemble comedy to $16.9 million last weekend. Though its critical reviews could be better, the film will hold on strong in its second weekend, thanks to its likeable cast (Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, and Vanessa Bayer) and seasonal relevance (Boo! A Madea Halloween showed us critics have little-to-no influence on audience’s desire to see timely, holiday-themed laughers). Office Christmas Party should shed around 40 percent of its debut gross for a finish between $9 million and $12 million.

On the heels of Suicide Squad, his highest-grossing film to date (unadjusted for inflation), Smith faces what could be an embarrassing tumble if his critically savaged drama Collateral Beauty fails to catch on with audiences this weekend. With an average score of 3.4/10 from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, the ensemble film — co-starring Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet, Naomie Harris, and Edward Norton — enters the box office arena against a solid slate of well-received titles; in fact, every film in last week’s top 10 except Office Christmas Party registers a fresh rating on the reviews aggregate, meaning audiences might steer clear of a bad apple poisoning the mix.

Smith has had a rough time at the box office without the help of a major franchise backing him up. One year ago, he opened the football drama Concussion to just over $10.5 million, with the film being sold largely on his name alone. Though Collateral Beauty features heavy-hitting star power, its critical reception will hinder it in the long run. Look for it to pull in anywhere between $6 million and $10 million by Sunday’s end.

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter spin-off continues its descent down the top 10 after an impressive run; the David Yates-directed fantasy pushed past $200 million in the U.S. on Tuesday. In its fifth weekend in theaters, the film should do anywhere between $3 million and $6 million.

Oscar-bound drama Manchester by the Sea should give Fantastic Beasts a run for its money — literally — in the race to break the top five, likely closing in on the $5 million mark as it expands to 1,203 theaters this weekend. The prestige festival favorite, starring Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams, has performed well on the specialty front, grossing almost $10 million in just under a month’s time despite never reaching more than 366 theaters. Bolstered by some of the best movie reviews of the year, the Kenneth Lonergan-helmed weeper will skew older and earn $4 million-$6.5 million over the weekend.

Also looking to make a splash with cinephiles is the Denzel Washington-directed August Wilson adaptation Fences, which has garnered significant awards buzz for its cast, namely Washington and supporting actress Viola Davis. The period picture, set in 1950s Pittsburgh, could tally one of the highest per-screen averages of the year from four locations before opening nationwide on Christmas Day.

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