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‘Alita: Battle Angel’ on track for a weak box office opening

“Alita: Battle Angel,” a big-budget science-fiction spectacle produced by James Cameron, represents the famed “Avatar” filmmaker’s latest against-the-odds gamble for 20th Century Fox.

But all signs suggest the new film, directed by Robert Rodriguez (“Sin City”) and based on a manga series about a female cyborg warrior, is headed for a rough reception at the box office. “Alita” is expected to open with a weak $20 million to $30 million in the U.S. and Canada, according to people who have reviewed prerelease audience surveys.

Given its hefty production costs, that would make it the biggest Hollywood flop so far this year. “Alita” cost $170 million to produce, not counting the studio’s spending on a formidable global marketing campaign. By comparison, Universal Pictures’ low-risk horror sequel “Happy Death Day 2U” could debut with more than $20 million this weekend, on an estimated production budget of $9 million.

Risky business

In a risk-averse studio business that increasingly depends on well-known intellectual property and safe-bet sequels and reboots, “Alita” is about as big of a swing as they come.