Peter Jackson's new fantasy adventure Mortal Engines is expected to fail at the box office, according to Variety.

With a production budget just over US$100 million (NZ$147m) and marketing costs in the tens of millions, the publication says the film could lose up to US$100 million, citing estimates from executives at rival studios.

Some reportedly project the loss could even rise to more than US$125 million.

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Mortal Engines, produced by Peter Jackson and directed by Christian Rivers, has so far made a global total of US$42 million. It took a measly US$7.5 million on its opening weekend in the US.

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"This is a true Christmas disaster and a lump of coal for Universal," Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations, told Variety. "They took a big swing, and they struck out."

The film opened against Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Clint Eastwood's The Mule.

Variety says Mortal Engines has proved a marketing challenge for Universal, its distributor; the film is based on a series of novels by Philip Reeve which are not well known in the US.

The cast features largely unknown actors and reviews have been mixed, with the film receiving a 28 per cent core on Rotten Tomatoes.

Mortal Engines was shot in Wellington and stars Hugo Weaving and Hera Hilmar.