LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Spy comedy "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" is heading for a solid $40 million opening weekend at 4,003 North American sites, estimates showed Saturday.
The third weekend of horror blockbuster "It" continues to scare up impressive business with a projected $30 million at 4,007 locations, followed by the launch of Warner Bros.' animated comedy "The Lego Ninjago Movie" with about $21 million at 4,047 locations -- well under recent forecasts. Still, with three films over $20 million, the overall box office represents a continued rebound for the movie business following a dismal late summer.
Independent horror movie "Friend Request" is showing little traction in its launch weekend with an estimated $2.2 million at 2,550 venues. Jake Gyllenhaal's "Stronger," a biopic on Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman, is opening with a moderate $1.6 million at 574 sites for Roadside Attractions.
Fox's "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" is performing in line with expectations, two years after "Kingsman: The Secret Service." The sequel brings back original stars Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, and Mark Strong, and adds newcomers Julianne Moore, Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, Halle Berry, and Elton John. Matthew Vaughn returns to directs the whimsical story of survivors of a secret British spy agency teaming up with their American counterparts after Moore's drug cartel threatens the world.
"Kingsman: The Secret Service" debuted domestically with a $36.2 million opening weekend and went on to gross $128.2 million Stateside and $414 million worldwide. The original also scored well with critics with a 74% rating on Rotten Tomatoes while reception for "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" has been mixed with a 51% rating.
New Line's "It" is showing plenty of staying power in its third weekend after dominating the domestic box office. "It" took in more than $9 million on Friday, its 15th day in theaters, and should wind up the weekend with about $266 million domestically.
Should the "It" estimate hold, it will join the ranks of 34 other films that have taken in more than $30 million in their third weekend domestically. "It" has already become the highest-grossing horror movie of all time, eclipsing the $233 million domestic total for "The Exorcist."
"The Lego Ninjago Movie," based on the toy line, is the third film in the Warner Animation Group franchise. Its opening will finish well behind "The Lego Batman Movie," which launched to $53 million earlier this year, and 2014's "The Lego Movie," which opened with $69.1 million. The computer-animated "Ninjago" stars the voices of Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, Fred Armisen, Abbi Jacobson, Olivia Munn, Kumail Nanjiani, Michael Pena, Zach Woods and Jackie Chan.
The second weekend of "American Assassin" is on track for a fourth-place finish with $6.2 million in 3,154 locations, which will lift the CBS Films/Lionsgate co-production to $26 million by the end of the weekend.
Fox Searchlight's comedy-drama "Battle of the Sexes," a potential awards contender, launched strongly in limited release with an estimated $460,000 at 21 venues. Emma Stone and Steve Carell star in the story of the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs.
"With the post-Labor Day period 2017 running a whopping 37.1% ahead of last year, September up 16.8% and the year-to-date deficit shrinking by the week, this is already a September to remember," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at comScore.
As of Sept. 19, the year-to-date domestic total was running 5% behind 2016 at $7.92 billion. That decline had been 6.5% before "It" opened on Sept. 8.