'Monkey Man' Hopes to Crucify 'The First Omen'

Legendary and Warner Bros.’ Godzilla v Kong: The New Empire is virtually assured of remaining No. 1 at the box office this weekend with $35 million or more — but that doesn’t mean things will be boring.

There’s a potentially close showdown brewing between Monkey Man — Dev Patel‘s feature directorial debut — and The First Omen, a prequel to the classic supernatural horror pic The Omen.

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 also stars in the 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.

Tracking suggests Monkey Man will open in the $13 million to $14 million range; ditto for the First Omen. The two films will compete with each other — as well as with Godzilla x Kong — for younger male moviegoers, while 20th Century’s First Omen hopes to lure younger female moviegoers as well.

The First Omen, a prequel to Richard Donner’s 1976 film, 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 The 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, The First Omen 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.

Last weekend, Godzilla x Kong opened to a huge $80 million domestically — the second-best showing of the five titles in Legendary and Universal’s MonsterVerse series — and has already jumped the $200 million mark globally.

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