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Can ‘Creed’ Knock Out ‘Hunger Games’ at Box Office?

Ryan Coogler, Michael B. Jordan and Sly Stallone give the ”Rocky“ spinoff a fighting chance to upset ”Mockingjay – Part 2“ in its second week

“Creed” has an underdog’s shot at an upset that Rocky Balboa would be proud of, potentially knocking out reigning champ “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2” at the box office over the Thanksgiving weekend.

But the smart money says no. Pre-release tracking is unusually split on MGM/New Line Cinema’s “Creed,” which Warner Bros. will distribute in more than 3,350 theaters starting Wednesday: The estimates on the PG-13 boxing reboot range from $27 million to $35 million for the five-day Thanksgiving weekend.

Even that high-end figure doesn’t match the $50 million-plus that Jennifer Lawrence and “The Hunger Games” should ring up, providing its second weekend comes in at nearly half of its $102 million first weekend.

The Disney-Pixar Animation film “The Good Dinosaur” is very much in the mix, too. It opens Wednesday as well, and should pull in more than $60 million over the five days.

The weekend’s other wide debut, Fox’s “Victor Frankenstein,” is not expected to be much of a factor in the box office ring.

Still, the soft response for “Mockingjay – Part 2” has been a surprise. The finale in Lionsgate Entertainment’s $2.5 billion “Hunger Games” franchise opened roughly $20 million under both projections and last year’s debut weekend of “Mockingjay – Part 1.” Its first-weekend worldwide haul of $247 million was 10 percent lower than the last film’s.

“That puts it on track for a domestic box office total as much as $100 million below our model,” B. Riley analyst Eric Wold said Monday.

While he and other analysts scaled back projections for the overall foreign and domestic gross of “Mockingjay – Part 2,” Lionsgate stock fell off roughly 4 percent on Monday before leveling off at a flat $35 per share.

And that makes the “Hunger Games’ film vulnerable to a newcomer like “Creed,” which reteams writer-director Ryan Coogler and star Michael B. Jordan — who first worked together on the critically acclaimed low-budget 2013 indie hit “Fruitvale Station” — and brings them together with Rocky Balboa himself, Sylvester Stallone.

Arriving nearly 40 years after the original “Rocky” became an indie sensation that surprised with a Best Picture Oscar win, the $35 million production is already a hit with critics (93 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes).

“It’s the right film at the right time,” said Exhibitor Relations media analyst Jeff Bock. “It’s an inspiring story, a brand that people know in ‘Rocky,’ with an actor people love in Stallone, in a role that people like him best in.”