Box Office: ‘Gran Turismo’ and ‘Barbie’ Lead Unusual Weekend as Sunday Ticket Prices Slashed to $4

Box Office: ‘Gran Turismo’ and ‘Barbie’ Lead Unusual Weekend as Sunday Ticket Prices Slashed to $4

Start your engines.

Hollywood’s latest go at at an auto racing movie — Sony’s Gran Turismo — expanded into thousands of theaters on Friday after hosting two full weekends of sneak previews and several fan events.

Directed by Neill Blomkamp, Gran Turismo had been set to launch on Aug. 11 but switched up its release plans because of the actors strike and the resulting prohibition on the cast, led by Orlando Bloom and David Harbour, doing any press. The studio instead used the sneaks to build buzz before opening the movie everywhere on Aug. 25.

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Based on Friday traffic, early estimates show Gran Turismo opening in first place with $16.5 million, including a hefty $3.9 million in grosses from the previous sneaks. It’s certainly not the first time that a Hollywood studio has added such grosses to an opening weekend number, but the early Gran Turismo screenings were far more robust than is the norm.

Put another way: Warner Bros.’ mega-blockbuster Barbie would otherwise top the weekend chart. Early estimates show Barbie earning $15.7 million in its sixth weekend as it gets ready to jump the $600 million mark domestically either this weekend or early next week.

Earlier this year, Warners’ Shazam: Fury of the Gods would have posted an opening weekend of $56.8 million instead of $53.5 million had the studio folded in $3.3 million from special sneaks.

Overall, box office analysts caution that numbers for all films could shift between now and Monday because of the second annual National Cinema Day on Sunday, when tickets will be slashed to $4 for any film in any format at thousands of theaters across the country. “It will be a wild day in theaters,” says one Hollywood studio distribution chief.

Gran Turismo earned a glowing A CinemaScore from audiences and, not surprisingly, is skewing male.

DC’s Blue Beetle is planning a third-place finish with $9.5 million to $10 million in its second outing

Taking fourth place is Universal’s summer sensation Oppenheimer, which is eying a weekend gross of $8 million for a domestic total of $299 million — becoming Christopher Nolan’s thrid-highest grossing film at the domestic box office ahead of Inception and behind only The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.

A number of indie distributors are also making a play this weekend. Roadside Attractions is opening Liam Neeson’s latest action pic, Retribution. Current estimates suggest the pic will come in No. 8 with $3.2 million, in line with expectations for the indie film. One bummer: It got slapped with a C CinemaScore from audiences.

Briarcliff is opening The Hill, an inspirational sports drama starring Dennis Quaid. The movie is pacing to open at roughly $2.5 million.

Bleecker Street’s specialty film Golda, starring Helen Mirren as former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, is looking to take in $2 million despite playing in far fewer theaters than The Hill.

Numbers will be updated Sunday morning.