Orcs will do battle with magicians and supernatural investigators when a crowded slate of new movies debut in theaters across the U.S. this weekend.
So, who will come out on top? Warcraft, the live-action and CGI adaptation of popular video game World of Warcraft, is off to a strong start overseas. The movie, distributed in most countries by Comcast’s (CMCSA) Universal Pictures, has already made back its reported $160 million production budget by pulling in $168 million in a few weeks of limited international release, including a record-setting opening in China earlier this week.
Warcraft hopes to draw on its millions of gaming fans around the world to continue that box office roll in domestic theaters, but it faces a big obstacle in the form of negative buzz from an all-around scathing critical reception. Critics have described the film as anywhere from “rather tacky” to “unwatchable”, to the tune of just a 22% rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes.
Another new movie dealing with sub-par reviews is Now You See Me 2, a sequel to 2013’s surprise hit from Lionsgate (LGF) and Summit Entertainment. The magic-centric thriller boasts a star-studded cast—Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Jesse Eisenberg, and Woody Harrelson, among others—but the movie’s critical reception hasn’t been much more pleasant than Warcraft‘s. Still, lukewarm reviews didn’t stop the film’s predecessor from a $351 million global haul just three years ago, according to Box Office Mojo.
The other major new release this weekend is another sequel, Warner Bros.’ (TWX) The Conjuring 2. The first installment, about a pair of paranormal investigators in the 1970’s, was another sleeper hit that made $318 million worldwide in 2013, including a solid $41 million for its domestic opening weekend. The sequel easily has the best reviews of this weekend’s new releases, scoring a 71% rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, and it features a similar premise and the same co-leads (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) as the original, so it could stand a chance to repeat its success.
According to analysts, both Warcraft and Now You See Me 2 are expected to open in the U.S. in the $20 million to $25 million range. Meanwhile, The Conjuring 2 will likely top $30 million while approaching the opening tally of the first Conjuring against a crowded field that also includes several blockbuster holdovers, such as X-Men: Apocalypse and Captain America: Civil War, as well as last weekend’s box office winner, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.