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‘Arrival,’ ‘Almost Christmas’ Won’t Beat ‘Doctor Strange’ at Box Office

Holdover ”Trolls“ to remain buoyant

Predictions for the opening of Paramount Pictures’ sci-fi drama “Arrival” are neck and neck with Universal’s holiday-themed comedy “Almost Christmas” for this weekend’s new wide releases.

But Disney-Marvel’s holdover hit starring Benedict Cumberbatch, “Doctor Strange,” is poised to magically emerge in the No. 1 spot at the box office for its second weekend in a row, trouncing the two new titles in the process.

The newbies will also have a tough time beating DreamWorks Animation’s “Trolls” in its second weekend. “Doctor Strange” earned $85.1 million last weekend and “Trolls” grossed $46.6 million. Both would have to experience extremely steep percentage declines to lose to any new wide releases.

Meanwhile, new EuropaCorp thriller “Shut In,” may eke out a place in the top five if it performs in line with expectations. But that all depends on how holdover “Hacksaw Ridge” performs.

Also worth noting: New York and Los Angeles audiences will be treated to high-tech screenings of Sony’s “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” directed by Ang Lee. Shot in 120 frames per second, the film, starring newcomer Joe Alwyn, along with Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund and Vin Diesel, will play in 12o fps 4k 3D — an emerging technology using one-of-a-kind projectors — during the film’s very limited opening before it expands the following weekend.

Here’s the breakdown:

“Arrival” is tracking to open at $17 million, though Paramount is expecting slightly lower numbers in the low-to-mid teens. It’s set to play in roughly 2,200 locations this weekend and was made for $47 million, not counting marketing costs. (Paramount acquired U.S., Canadian and China distribution rights out of the Cannes Film Festival in 2014 for $20 million.)

It stars Amy Adams as a language expert who risks her life in an attempt to communicate with the inhabitants of a mysterious spacecraft. The film also features Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg and Mark O’Brien, and was directed by Denis Villeneuve (“Prisoners”).

“Arrival” passed with flying colors when it screened on the festival circuit earlier this year and currently has a perfect 100-percent score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Experts predict “Almost Christmas” will debut to $16 million, though Universal is being more conservative with estimates in the low-to-mid teens.

Written and directed by David E. Talbert (“Baggage Claim”), the comedy stars Kimberly Elise, Omar Epps, Danny Glover, Romany Malco, Mo’Nique, Nicole Ari Parker, J.B. Smoove, Gabrielle Union, Jessie Usher and DC Young Fly. The film is tracking strongest among African-American women.

“Almost Christmas” was produced for $17 million and is opening in 2,372 theaters. It centers on the family patriarch’s one wish as his family gathers for five days over the holiday: to get along.

In EuropaCorp’s “Shut In,” Naomi Watts plays a child psychologist whose son (Charlie Heaton of “Stranger Things”) becomes bedridden following a car accident that killed her husband.

The movie is expected to debut to $9 million, according to recent estimates.

“Room” star Jacob Tremblay is also in the PG-13 thriller. He plays a young patient who goes missing, is later presumed dead, and appears to haunt her home in rural New England during a dangerous winter storm.