The Accountant box office predictions: Ben Affleck chases top spot | EW.com

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Box office preview: Ben Affleck chases No. 1 with The Accountant

(Chuck Zlotnick; Universal)

Kevin Hart and Ben Affleck are set to duke it out for the top spot at the domestic box office, as the leading men both have high-profile releases hitting wide release this weekend. Beginning with Thursday night previews, Warner Bros.’ The Accountant goes toe-to-toe with Universal’s Kevin Hart: What Now?, with both films on-track to gross a healthy number in the mid-teens. 

Here’s what the weekend box office chart could look like on Sunday:

1. The Accountant - $15 million

Middling reviews didn’t stop Emily Blunt’s The Girl on the Train from bounding past the $20 million mark last weekend, and The Accountant’s similarly soft critical reception shouldn’t derail its chances at unseating the Tate Taylor thriller from the No. 1 position as it opens on approximately 3,300 screens this weekend.

From Argo ($19 million opening) to The Town ($23.8 million), Affleck has a steady track record of driving thrillers to solid openings, and The Accountant, directed by Gavin O’Connor, won’t buck the trend. With an appealing ensemble cast (Oscar nominees Anna Kendrick and J.K. Simmons have supporting roles) and little competition in the genre, The Accountant should take in roughly a third of its estimated $45 million budget this weekend. 

2. Kevin Hart: What Now? - $14 million 

Over the years, Hart has established himself as one of Hollywood’s most bankable actors. Though he consistently fronts top-grossing comedies like Central Intelligence ($127.4 million), Get Hard ($90.4 million), and Ride Along ($134.9 million), his box office appeal is most evident in the performance of his standup comedy specials. Laugh at My Pain registered an astounding $19,474 per-screen average on 98 screens in 2011, while Let Me Explain followed with an $11,450 per-theater average in 2013.

What Now? carries a hefty budget (for a concert film) of $9.9 million, and combines scripted material (featuring actors like Halle Berry and Ed Helms) with previously recorded scenes from Hart’s Aug. 30, 2015 standup performance before a crowd of 53,000 at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field. The film has thus far received positive reviews from movie critics (it currently has an 89 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes) as it opens at 2,550 locations, making it one of the best-reviewed wide releases on the market. 

What Now? is looking at an opening weekend in the $12-$16 million range. 

3. The Girl on the Train - $11 million 

As the reigning box office champion, The Girl on the Train raked in a decent $24.5 million across its opening weekend. It was enough to score a No. 1 debut, but audiences weren’t as impressed with the thriller as its numbers might suggest. The film registered a troubling B- grade on CinemaScore, and numerous fans have expressed distaste with the film’s ending on social media. This doesn’t bode well for Girl’s second weekend in wide release, as bad word of mouth (especially from displeased fans of Paula Hawkins’ source novel) and negative critical reviews could spell a sharp decline in the 50-60 percent range for the $45 million picture.

4. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children - $8 million 

Continuing its slow descent down the box office ladder, Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will again fall roughly 40-50 percent throughout its third weekend, finishing in fourth place with $7-$9 million after notching $15.1 million over its sophomore frame. The $110 million live-action fantasy has grossed just under $99 million around the world thus far, bringing its global total to $154.3 million.

5. Deepwater Horizon - $6 million

Mark Wahlberg’s $110 million action-drama, based on the real-life events leading up to the 2010 BP oil spill, slipped a relatively soft 43 percent during its second weekend, and a similar slump over the next three days is likely. With strong reviews and an A- rating on CinemaScore, Horizon’s sturdy legs should prop it up to the tune of $6-$8 million by Sunday’s end.

Open Road’s Max Steel will find itself hovering around the back half of the top 10 domestic earners this weekend. The superhero flick, based on the Mattell action figure line, features a promising cast (Maria Bello and Andy Garcia have supporting roles), though the film was reportedly not screened for movie critics, which is never a good sign. With minimal cross-demographic appeal, look for Max Steel’s opening weekend numbers to fall in line with something like Mechanic: Resurrection in the $4-$7 million range.