Can ‘Mother!’ or ‘American Assassin’ Poke a Hole in ‘It’ Box Office Balloon?

Scary movie about Pennywise the Clown expected stay afloat at No. 1 this weekend

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Last week, “It” became horror’s biggest box office hit ever, making more than $123 million and on pace to blast into 2017’s top 10 highest domestic gross list. The scary Stephen King adaptation is also expected to stay in the No. 1 spot this weekend without any serious competition, even from another, far more disturbing film that’s coming out.

That would be Paramount’s “mother!,” the highly polarizing psychological thriller from Darren Aronofsky that has had critics buzzing since it premiered at the Venice Film Festival. The film currently has a 77 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with reviews calling it a piece of audacious, extreme cinema. While “It” aims to provide fun scares with a sewer-dwelling, sharp-toothed clown, “mother!” aims to genuinely disturb its audience.

To protect that unnerving experience, Paramount has staged a very secretive marketing campaign featuring a bare-bones synopsis: “A couple’s relationship (Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem) is tested when uninvited guests (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.” Because of its intense material and opaque advertising, “mother!” isn’t built for the masses like “It.” Instead, it’s aiming for moviegoers looking for a more challenging and unexpected horror ride. Projections have the film earning an opening in between $12 million to $14 million from 2,369 locations, against a production budget of $30 million.

Also releasing this weekend is Lionsgate/CBS Films’ “American Assassin,” an action film based on the Mitch Rapp novel series by Vince Flynn, starring Dylan O’Brien (the “Maze Runner” series), Michael Keaton and Taylor Kitsch. Like “mother!”, it is also projected to earn a $12-14 million opening from more than 3,000 screens, with a similar budget of $33 million. Studio insiders tell TheWrap that a $14 million start would be considered a success for this film, as it would match the opening made by “John Wick” in 2014.

“mother!” is written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, with Scott Franklin and Ari Handel producing. “American Asssassin” is directed by Michael Cuesta and written by Stephen Schiff, Michael Finch, Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz. Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Nick Wechsler are producing.