It's looking like a forgettable weekend at the box office in the lull before summer gets underway on May 5 with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Holdover The Fate of the Furious is expected to clobber a handful of new films that open Friday: Katherine Heigl's erotic thriller, Unforgettable; Armenian genocide drama The Promise, starring Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac; action-comedy Free Fire; and sci-fi thriller Phoenix Forgotten. Disney also opens its latest nature documentary, Born in China.
Fate of the Furious is expected to earn $45 million or more in its second weekend after scoring the biggest global launch of all time with $535 million. (All eyes will be on the Universal film to see how much it drops.)
Prerelease tracking suggests Unforgettable, from Warner Bros., will open to $7 million against a modest $12 million budget. That's likely to be the biggest showing of any of the new films, unless Born in China overperforms.
Helmed by veteran producer Denise Di Novi in her feature directorial debut, Unforgettable stars Heigl as a jilted woman whose jealousy of her ex-husband's new wife turns pathological. Rosario Dawson and Geoff Stults also star in the film, which marks Heigl's first major studio title since Warner Bros./New Line's New Year's Eve in 2012.
The forecast for director Terry George's The Promise is dismal, considering it is tracking to open in the $4 million range after costing a hefty $100 million to produce. The late Kirk Kerkorian, who was of Armenian descent, fully financed the epic via his Survival Pictures.
Producers of The Promise say the goal isn't to make back the movie's budget but ensure that all proceeds from the theatrical run go to nonprofits, including the Elton John AIDS Foundation and other human rights and humanitarian groups.
The Promise, which premiered at 2016's Toronto International Film Festival and has since been screened at the Vatican, had a tough time finding a distributor because of its subject matter, according to Eric Esrailian, who now runs Survival. "It became clear that the government of Turkey was going to have an influence on this movie," he said in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter. "One of the most insidious realities of our existence in the United States is that foreign governments can control art. I would say at the highest levels from different studios, we were just basically told that no matter how good the film would be, it was never going be released by certain companies. I think that that's truly shameful, but it's just a reality that we had to deal with."
Open Road Films picked up domestic rights to The Promise in December.
Born in China is projected to open to $5 million, but there's room for upside. Among past Disney nature docs, Monkey Kingdom bowed to $4.6 million and Bears debuted to $4.8 million.
British helmer Ben Wheatley's Free Fire, a send-up of vintage action movies, is projected to open in the $3 million range for indie powerhouse A24. The pic, which likewise made its world premiere at TIFF, stars Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy and Jack Reynor.
Phoenix Forgotten, which is eyeing a $2 million debut, tells the story of three teenagers who disappear after trying to solve the mystery behind the 1997 UFO phenomenon knows as the Phoenix Lights. Ridley Scott, Wes Ball, Courtney Solomon and Mark Canton produced the movie, with Cinelou distributing.
Elsewhere, period adventure The Lost City of Z, starring Charlie Hunnam and Robert Pattinson, expands into more than 500 theaters after opening in a limited run last weekend.