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‘Best Man Holiday’ Fans to Party Like It’s 1999 at Box Office, but ‘Thor’ Will Roar

Writer-director Malcolm D. Lee’s sequel has African-American moviegoers planning reunion parties around the comedy

“Thor: The Dark World” will dominate the box office again this weekend, but that’s not going to stop “The Best Man Holiday” fans from partying like its 1999.

That’s when the original “The Best Man” opened at No. 1, and Malcolm D. Lee – who writes, directs and produces with Sean Daniel – has reassembled the ensemble of the first film for this holiday sequel, the week’s only wide release, which is expected to land in the mid- to high-teen millions.

Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs, Regina Hall, Terrence Howard, Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long, Monica Calhoun and Melissa De Sousa reprise their career-launching roles; Eddie Cibrian joins the ensemble in a supporting role.

The film aims directly at African-American audiences, women in particular, and signs suggest it’s connecting.

Also read: Harvey Weinstein on Rise of African-American Film: ‘It’s the Obama Effect’ (Exclusive)

Forty-nine percent of Thursday’s sales at Fandango were for “Best Man Holiday,” and a survey conducted by the online ticket broker suggests its becoming something of an event. Forty percent of the ticket buyers said they’ll see it with a group of four or more.

“Moviegoers are treating ‘The Best Man Holiday’ like a highly-anticipated reunion of old friends, and making it a real social event, which is translating to strong ticket sales,” says Dave Karger, Fandango’s chief correspondent.

Advance sales for the R-rated comedy are outpacing those of other African American comedies “Think Like a Man,” “Kevin Hart’s Let Me Explain,” and “Tyler Perry‘s Madea Goes to Jail” at the same point in their sales cycles, he said.

“A lot of people who loved the first movie have grown up and they want to see how these characters have grown up, too,” said Universal’s head of distribution Nikki Rocco, who sees the movie doing mid-to-high teen millions this weekend.

Also read: ‘The Best Man Holiday’ Review: Yuletide Sequel Indulges Too Heavily in Plot and Preaching (Video)

With a budget of $17 million — it was filmed entirely in one large estate and there aren’t any special effects — and the potential to play for an under-served audience through Christmas, it looks a winner for the studio.

“The Best Man” opened to $9 million in October of 1999. More recent comparable openings for African-American films, outside of the Tyler Perry-branded comedies, include “Baggage Claim” ($9 million), “Jumping the Broom” ($15 million) and “For Colored Girls” ($19.5 million).

Critics like it (75 percent at Rotten Tomatoes) and it will be on roughly 2,000 theaters.

“Thor: The Dark World” has made its mark already. Disney’s $170 million Marvel superhero sequel will go into its second weekend with more than $101 million banked domestically and a worldwide total of more than $345 million.

The question is how big a second-week tumble the God of Thunder takes.

Also read: How Martin Scorsese Helped Thor Get Ready for His Box-Office Date With Katniss Everdeen (Video)

Its “A-” CinemaScore, solid reviews and slightly older audience skew suggest it could keep 50 percent of its $85 million opening crowd, which would put it around $42 million for the weekend.

It will get a boost from picking up a number of Imax screens this weekend, and roughly 80 percent of its 3,000-plus theaters are 3D.

“Iron Man 3,” another post-“Avengers” Marvel sequel, dropped 58 percent from its $174 million opening on its second weekend. And “Skyfall,” which opened about this time last year to $88 million, fell 53 percent, and that was against the opening of “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II.”

But “The Dark World” has the field largely to itself this weekend. That will end on Nov. 22, when another teen-driven Lionsgate blockbuster, “The Hunger Games Catching Fire,” rolls out.

On the specialty front, Paramount is rolling out its Oscar hopeful “Nebraska” on two theaters in New York and two in Los Angeles.

Also read: ‘Nebraska’ Review: Bruce Dern, Alexander Payne Deliver Nuanced Portrait of Small-Town Life

Director Alexander Payne’s black-and-white Heartland drama follows a disheveled patriarch (Bruce Dern) and his son (Will Forte) as they journey to Lincoln, Neb., to collect $1 million the older man believes he won in a Publisher’s Clearing House-type sweepstake. Bob Nelson wrote the screenplay.

Dern was named Best Actor at this year’s Cannes film festival, and he’s in the discussion for the Oscar. The critics like it, as evidenced by an 88 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The $12 million project is a Paramount Vantage presentation, in association with FilmNation Entertainment, Blue Lake Media Fund and Echo Lake Entertainment of a Bona Fide production. Albert Berga and Ron Yerxa are the producers.

Paramount plans to expand “Nebraska” to the top 10 markets on Nov. 22.