The latest Liam Neeson thriller and a New Testament retelling could finally knock over "The Lego Movie" during Oscar weekend as the 3-D animated hit continues to build on its big box office take.
"Lego Movie," the irreverent comedy from Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow, should generate an additional $20 million in ticket sales Friday through Sunday in the U.S. and Canada, which would push it past the $200-million mark domestically.
"Lego" has dominated the multiplex over the last three weekends, but the No. 1 box office spot looks like a tossup with "Non-Stop" and "Son of God" poised for solid openings, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys.
"Non-Stop" stars Neeson as a federal air marshal in a race against time to save an airliner on a transatlantic flight. The movie from Silver Pictures and StudioCanal should continue Neeson's run as a reliably bankable action star by grossing roughly $20 million through Sunday.
The film cost an estimated $50 million to make, while Universal Pictures paid $13 million for domestic distribution rights.
Neeson's signature 2008 action-packed success "Taken," which opened with $25 million and went on to take in $145 million domestically, also opened during the weekend of the Academy Awards. A $20-million weekend would be in line with Neeson's 2012 effort "The Grey."
"Non-Stop" also stars Julianne Moore, Oscar nominee Lupita Nyong’o of "12 Years a Slave" and Michelle Dockery, who is best known as Lady Mary Crawley of the period TV drama "Downton Abbey."
Reviews have been mixed, but lukewarm critical reception didn't stop "Taken" or its sequel "Taken 2" from raking in cash.
Box office prophecies are more difficult for "Son of God," the biblical saga getting its wide release from 20th Century Fox.
Husband-and-wife producing team Mark Burnett and Roma Downey made the Christian tale out of footage from their hit 10-hour History Channel miniseries "The Bible." The picture could sell more than $20 million in tickets, though Fox is projecting a lower range of $12 million to $15 million.
"Son of God" is leading advance ticket sales for the online company Fandango, as churches and other religious groups have helped build anticipation by purchasing passes in bulk and renting out cinemas.
Coming a decade after Mel Gibson's controversial hit "The Passion of the Christ," "Son of God" is the first of several Bible movies coming to theaters this year, including Darren Aronofsky's "Noah" and Ridley Scott's "Exodus."
"Son of God" has received generally negative reviews from film critics, with a 29% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Paramount Pictures is releasing the R-rated extended version of "Anchorman 2" in more than 1,300 theaters.
In limited release, Lionsgate's Codeblack will debut "Repentance," a thriller starring Forest Whitaker. The 3-D Russian film "Stalingrad" will open in the U.S. and "The Wind Rises," the final film from Japanese animation filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, will expand to additional theaters after opening on 25 screens last weekend.
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