‘Richard Jewell’ could mark one of worst nationwide openings of Clint Eastwood’s directing career and the lowest in two decades. ‘Black Christmas’ is also getting scrooged.

Sony’s year-end event pic Jumanji: The Next Level is off to a merry start at the pre-holiday box office, where it grossed $19.4 million on Friday for a revised weekend debut of $50 million or more, ahead of expectations.

The Dwayne Johnson-Kevin Hart sequel will have no trouble topping the chart despite a crowded marquee that includes new offerings Richard Jewell, from director Clint Eastwood, and slasher remake Black Christmas, both of which are in serious trouble.

Jumanji‘s Friday haul included $4.7 million in Thursday previews. Heading into the weekend, Sony erred on the side of caution in predicting a $35 million domestic opening, while most thought it would open to $40 million-$50 million. The film earned an A- CinemaScore from audiences.

With the holidays approaching, mid-December isn’t known for huge openings, outside of the recent Star Wars pics. Rather, titles count on strong multiples throughout the Christmas to New Year’s stretch, when kids and college students are sprung from school.

This time out, Jumanji opted to bow a week before Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, whereas Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle rode into theaters Dec. 20, 2017 with a $36 million domestic debut a week after Star Wars: The Last Jedi opened to $220 million.

Heading into the weekend, both Black Christmas and Richard Jewell were expected to open in the $10 million range, if not higher.

As it stands now, Richard Jewell may only take in $5.2 million despite an A CinemaCore, making it one of the worst nationwide starts ever for a pic directed by Eastwood, and the lowest in a two decade, not adjusted for inflation. The film grossed $1.6 million on Friday to place No. 4 behind Jumanji 2, Frozen 2 and Knives Out.

Richard Jewell recounts the real-life story of the security guard, played by Paul Walter Hauser, who was initially celebrated as a hero for saving lives after a bombing during the 1996 Summer Olympics, then vilified when he became an FBI target and was reported as a suspect by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In recent days, Eastwood’s biographical drama became engulfed in controversy after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution objected strenuously to the pic’s portrayal of the late journalist Kathy Scruggs (Olivia Wilde), who in the film seduces an FBI agent and is implied to have sex with him in order to get information.

On Thursday, Wilde weighed in on Twitter. “Contrary to a swath of recent headlines, I do not believe that Kathy ‘traded sex for tips.’ Nothing in my research suggested she did so, and it was never my intention to suggest she had. That would be an appalling and misogynistic dismissal of the difficult work she did,” she said. 

In a statement earlier this week, Warner Bros. said, “It is unfortunate and the ultimate irony that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, having been a part of the rush to judgment of Richard Jewell, is now trying to malign our filmmakers and cast. Richard Jewell focuses on the real victim, seeks to tell his story, confirm his innocence and restore his name. The AJC‘s claims are baseless, and we will vigorously defend against them.”

Black Christmas — timing its opening to Friday the 13th — earned $1.8 million on Friday for a projected debut of $4.5 million. The good news: the Universal and Blumhouse microbudgeted pic cost a reported $5 million to make before marketing.

The film is the second remake of the 1974 cult horror classic about a cadre of sorority sisters who must fend off a campus killer during the deserted holidays. Imogen Poots, Aleyse Shannon, Lily Donoghue, Brittany O’Grady, Caleb Eberhardt and Cary Elwes star in the Sophia Takal-directed pic, which earned a D+ CinemaScore.

With awards season in full swing, two-high profile open in select theaters at the specialty box office: Jay Roach’s Fox News sexual harassment saga Bombshell, produced by and starring Charlize Theron alongside Nicole Kidman and Margot Robbie; and Josh and Benny Safdie’s Uncut Gems, starring Adam Sandler.

Uncut Gems (A24) opening in five cinemas in New York and Los Angeles, is headed for a sensational location average of $120,000, followed by an equally impressive $90,000-plus from four theaters for Bombshell (Lionsgate).

Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life is also debuting in N.Y. and L.A. this weekend, albeit to soft numbers.

Dec. 13, 1 p.m.: Updated with revised weekend estimates.
Dec. 14, 7:45 a.m.: Updated with revised weekend estimates.

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