Jumanji back at North American box office top spot

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LOS ANGELES — Sony’s “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” managed the rare feat this weekend of regaining the No. 1 spot in North American box offices in its seventh week out, according to industry estimates.

Taking in $11 million for the three-day weekend — as competition with football’s Super Bowl depressed ticket sales — “Jumanji” became the first film since “Titanic,” in 1998, to win a February weekend after a nationwide release in December, HollywoodReporter.com reported.

The family flick, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jack Black and Kevin Hart, shows how four high school teenagers are transported into a Jumanji video game as adult avatars and find themselves pursued by jungle creatures and motorcycle assailants, jumping into waterfalls and encountering perilous caves.

The first “Jumanji” told the story of a boy trapped in the magical board game for 26 years. He is released as a grown man (Williams) when two children discover the game.

As they start playing again, stampeding elephants and wild creatures escape from the Jumanji jungle into the real world, causing havoc in a small town.

In the sequel, viewers are meant to get a sense of being pulled back into the alternative world of the board game jungle.

“This has the original energy and magic of the classic that everyone saw 20 years ago but this time, I like to tell people it’s in the game,” Black told a foreign agency in interviews from the Hawaii set of the film.

“I’d say that our movie is on a grander scale because it’s a whole universe of Jumanji,” he added.

To kick the sequel off, four high school teenagers forced to clean out their school’s basement while in detention come across an old Jumanji video game. They soon wind up being transported into the game, as the adult video game avatars that they pick.

A nerdy teen becomes the muscle-bound Johnson, a blonde cheerleader transforms into the bespectacled Black, an introverted girl becomes a skimpily-clad Gillan, while a buff football player transforms into the diminutive Hart.

Johnson said the sequel pays homage to Williams, who committed suicide in 2014.

“In terms of Robin and our story, it’s done with so much love and respect that I think we’re putting ourselves in a really good position, and I think fans will love it,” he said.

Its domestic cumulative take of just over $350 million makes it only the third Sony film to reach that mark.

Last weekend’s North American leader, Fox’s “Maze Runner: The Death Cure,” slipped to second place with a take of $10.2 million, according to the Exhibitor Relations website. The dystopian sci-fi film follows the harrowing adventures of three teens who have survived a destructive virus infecting the world.

In third spot was a new release, “Winchester” from Lionsgate, with takings of $9.3 million despite abysmal reviews.

The movie, a gothic thriller, was inspired by the real-life story of Sarah Winchester, the 19th-century heiress to the Winchester gun-making fortune, who built an enormous, spookily elaborate mansion in California to appease the spirits of people killed by her family’s firearms.

Despite the draw of Helen Mirren in the title role, the film scored a paltry 9 percent on the Rotten Tomatoes website. Even she could not “class up… this super-silly feature,” The New York Times said.

Fox’s “The Greatest Showman,” with Hugh Jackman as larger-than-life circus impresario P.T. Barnum, clung to fourth spot, taking in $7.8 million.

And in fifth was Entertainment Studios’ “Hostiles,” starring Christian Bale in a gritty Western about a US cavalry officer who escorts a Cheyenne chief and his family to Montana in 1892. It took in an estimated $5.5 million.