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‘First Man’ Expected to Launch to $20 Million Box Office Opening

Strong reviews could give Damien Chazelle’s ”La La Land“ follow-up a high trajectory in theaters

A week after WB fires the first big salvo at the awards season box office with “A Star Is Born,” Universal will enter the fray with the Apollo 11 biopic “First Man,” directed by “La La Land” filmmaker Damien Chazelle and starring Ryan Gosling as famed astronaut Neil Armstrong.

Early tracking for the film dropped on Thursday, with independent trackers projecting an opening weekend in the low $20 million range. The film is reported to have a net production budget of $60 million after tax incentives, double the budget Chazelle had for “La La Land.”

However, that opening projection could easily rise to $30 million or higher as the film’s release gets closer. “First Man” has already received strong reviews from its premiere at the Venice Film Festival last month, with critics praising the film’s gritty depiction of the famed mission to send a man to the moon, as well as Gosling’s portrayal of an astronaut preparing to risk his life going where no one has gone before. Currently, the film has an 86 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, with more reviews still to come.

IMAX is also planning to promote the film intensely in the coming weeks, having provided the film with their cameras to film the space scenes. IMAX held a similar campaign last year for Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk,” which got a strong boost from premium screening sales en route to grossing $190 million domestically after a $50 million opening, with $527 million grossed worldwide. “First Man” will hope to have a similar trajectory at the box office, trying to use the IMAX campaign and strong reviews to convince moviegoers that this is a film that must be seen on the biggest screen possible.

Also releasing that weekend, are the family horror comedy “Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween” and the Drew Goddard thriller “Bad Times at the El Royale.” “Goosebumps,” which is based on R.L. Stine’s YA horror novel series and will be distributed by Sony, is projected for an opening of $17-22 million, with Sony projecting a $13-14 million opening against a $35 million budget.

“Bad Times at the El Royale” stars Jeff Bridges as a criminal disguised as a priest who is one of seven unsavory people that check into a hotel on the California-Nevada state line. The film is projected for an opening in the mid-teens, which would match the $14.7 million for Goddard’s critically-acclaimed 2012 horror film “Cabin In The Woods.”