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Oct. 23, 2015, 11:24 a.m. EDT

‘Steve Jobs’ seeks No. 1 as Paramount tries controversial launch for ‘Paranormal’

‘Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension’ is challenging traditional theatrical release windows

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By Trey Williams, MarketWatch

Everett Collection Inc.
Michael Fassbender is an early Oscar favorite for his portrayal of contentious Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

“Steve Jobs,” which has generated both Oscar buzz and criticism, will make the jump from 60 to 2,493 theaters this weekend.

The film, directed by Danny Boyle, penned by Aaron Sorkin and starring Michael Fassbender, follows the Apple Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +2.56%  co-founder’s story through three product launches.

Analysts at BoxOffice, led by Phil Contrino, expect the film to lead the weekend, earning $21 million for Comcast Corp.’s /zigman2/quotes/209472081/composite CMCSA +2.00%  Universal Studios. Since its limited New York and Los Angeles opening on Oct. 9, “Steve Jobs” has garnered $2.6 million, on a reported $30 million budget, according to data gathered by Box Office Mojo.

“Strong reviews and an encouraging run in limited release have built up very positive early momentum,” Contrino wrote. “But with so many films and documentaries about Jobs over the past few years, casual viewers may not be as immediately interested as those in the film community. To that end, the film’s legs will be far more important than its opening weekend.”

The industry has been buzzing about Viacom Inc.-owned  Paramount Pictures’ release of “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” this weekend as well. In July, Paramount struck a deal with AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/200235402/composite AMC +5.10%  and Canada’s Cineplex Inc. /zigman2/quotes/201832697/delayed CA:CGX +7.24%  to make “The Ghost Dimension” available for video on demand 17 days after the film drops to fewer than 300 theaters.

As part of the deal, which is a major test of theatrical release windows, Paramount will give a share of the on demand proceeds to AMC and Cineplex when the film heads to households. The nation’s largest film exhibitor, Regal Entertainment Group was critical of during its second-quarter earnings call, The Wall Street Journal reported . Some theater chains have refused to carry the film.

Contrino expects the film will garner $10.5 million in its 1,656-theater debut, noting the experimental release with the video on demand deal will likely mute box office grosses.

Weekend top 10 box office estimates
Rank Title Distributor Weekend estimate (millions) Estimated domestic gross (millions)
1 “Steve Jobs” Universal $21.0 $23.7
2 “Goosebumps” Sony $15.0 $43.3
3 “The Last Witch Hunter” Lions Gate $14.0 $14.0
4 “The Martian” Fox $12.5 $162.9
5 “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” Paramount $10.5 $10.5
6 “Bridge of Spies” Disney $10.0 $31.2
7 “Hotel Transylvania 2” Sony $8.7 $148.0
8 “Crimson Peak” Universal $5.9 $22.8
9 “Rock the Kasbah” Open Road $4.0 $4.0
10 “Jem and the Holograms” Universal $3.8 $3.8

Other films set to open wide this weekend are Bill Murray’s “Rock the Kasbash,” from independent film company Open Road, Universal’s “Jem and the Holograms” and Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.’s  “The Last Witch Hunter,” starring Vin Diesel. Though expected to break the top five films at the box office this weekend, Contrino said reviews for “The Last Witch Hunter” are heading south quickly.

“We’re due for a market cool-off after so many hits this past month, and more to come next month,” he said.

BoxOffice analysts expect the weekend box office’s top 10 films to rake in about $105.4 million, up 8.5% from with the same weekend a year ago, which was led by Universal’s $19.9 million debut for horror flick “Ouija.”

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Trey Williams reports for MarketWatch from New York. You can follow him on Twitter @Trey3Williams.

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