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Will ‘Lego Batman’ Spank ‘Fifty Shades Darker’ at the Box Office?

”John Wick Chapter 2“ is also looking to earn in the mid-to-high teens this weekend

“The Lego Batman Movie,” featuring the voice of Will Arnett as the Caped Crusader, is expected to be number one at the box office for at least the next two coming weeks, starting with a debut weekend of $64 million to $70 million this weekend.

That means “Fifty Shades Darker,” the sequel to “Fifty Shades of Grey,” will be no match for the animated film — According to Universal, the erotic thriller is looking at three-day opening of just under $40 million. Although, trackers are split and can see the film grossing anywhere in the $39 million to $57 million range this weekend.

Warner Bros. is a little more conservative with its estimates for “Lego Batman,” anticipating a $60 million gross for the animated film when it opens in 4,000 plus theaters this weekend. It currently holds a score of 98 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Written and directed by Chris McKay, the spin-off from 2014’s “The Lego Movie” also stars the voices of Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson and Ralph Fiennes.  Its budget was $80 million, compared to the $60 million budget for “The Lego Movie,” which earned $69 million its opening weekend and went on to pull in $257.8 million domestically.

“Lego Batman” will also play in 376 domestic IMAX screens, all in 2D. It’s the first animation title IMAX has been all in for in a while — over the course of the last year, IMAX has shied away from family titles and has focused more on Marvel movies like “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

Despite being largely panned by critics and audiences, “Fifty Shades of Grey” opened to a stellar $85 million in February, 2015, going on to earn $166 million domestically and $571 million worldwide off its $40 million budget.

While estimates vary widely, we’re told that the budget for “Fifty Shades Darker” is “in line” with its predecessor. But that its expected opening weekend haul is lower than for “Grey” is, so sources say, just a matter of timing, as Valentine’s Day, which fell on a weekend in 2015, happens on a Tuesday this year.

Based on the erotic novel series by E. L. James, “Fifty Shades Darker” sees Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan reprising their roles as main characters Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey. Marcia Gay Harden, Rita Ora, Luke Grimes, Kim Basinger and Bella Heathcote also star. James Foley directs “Fifty Shades Darker,” while Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti return to produce alongside James.

The Keanu Reeves-starring “John Wick Chapter 2” opens in over 3,000 locations this weekend and is already being hailed by critics – it currently holds a score of 94 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Even so, the studio conservatively expects it to earn in the mid-to-high teens. Box office experts however have the Lionsgate/Summit film at $19 million to $22 million, with the possibility of going even higher.

If so, it’ll top “John Wick,” which opened to $14.4 million in 2014. (It eventually made $86 million off its $20 million budget.) That film currently holds a score of 85 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Directed by Chad Stahelski from a script by Derek Kolstad, “John Wick Chapter 2” sees legendary hitman John Wick (Reeves) back, once again, from retirement and heading off to Rome to face off against some of the world’s deadliest killers. John Leguizamo, Common, Ian McShane and Lance Reddick also star.

Box office hit “Split,” starring James McAvoy, will take the fourth place this weekend after having incredible legs since its debut on Jan. 20. The $9 million production has earned almost $100 million.

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