'Monkey Man' Fights Off 'First Omen' in Box Office Previews

Dev Patel‘s highly anticipated feature directorial debut Monkey Man bested 20 Century’s supernatural franchise horror pic The First Omen in Thursday night previews at the domestic box office.

Monkey Man earned $1.4 million in previews, compared to $725,000 for The First Omen, a prequel to Richard Donner’s 1976 film. For the full weekend, tracking has been predicting a close race between the two films for second place with $12 million to $14 million each (there were more Thursday presales for Patel’s film).

Legendary and Warner Bros.’ Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire is expected to easily stay No. 1 in its second outing after opening to a notable $80 million, well ahead of expectations. On Thursday, it jumped past the $100 million mark domestically and could near or clear $300 million globally by Sunday.

Universal is distributing Monkey Man at the behest of Jordan Peele, who was so impressed with Patel’s film that Peele’s Monkey Paw Productions boarded the project and brought it to Universal, his home studio on the movie side. (Monkey Man was originally set up at Netflix, but the filmmakers were eager to secure a traditional theatrical release).

A revenge-thriller set in India, Patel’s critically acclaimed film is inspired by the legend of Hanuman, an icon embodying strength and courage, as well as by the John Wick series. In addition to directing, Patel stars in the violence-laced, R-rated film as an anonymous young man wearing a gorilla mask who ekes out a meager living working night after night in an underground fight club when he discovers a way to infiltrate the elite group responsible for his mother’s death and exact his retribution. In doing so, he also helps rescue the city’s poor and powerless.

Monkey Man sparked major buzz when debuting at SXSW and earned rave reviews. Its Rotten Tomatoes score initially hovered around 94 percent; is is currently at 86 percent after more reviews came in. The First Omen‘s RT score isn’t too far behind at 81 percent.

Male moviegoers will be in big demand this weekend, particularly when it comes to Monkey Man and Godzilla. First Omen hopes to lure younger female moviegoers as well.

The First Omen stars Nell Tiger Free as a young American woman who is sent to Rome to begin a life of service to the Catholic church when she encounters a darkness that causes her to question her own faith and uncovers a terrifying conspiracy to bring about the birth of evil incarnate.

Filmmaker Arkasha Stevenson directed First Omen from a script she wrote with Tim Smith and Keith Thomas. Ben Jacoby has a story by credit, while the the film is based on characters created by David Seltzer. The cast also includes Tawfeek Barhom, Sonia Braga, Ralph Ineson and Bill Nighy.

Overseas, Stevenson’s film is opening in almost every key market this weekend, while Monkey Man will roll out more slowly, beginning with 27 markets timed to its North American release.

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