By Amy Kaufman
4:57 PM EDT, May 23, 2013
This weekend will see one of the biggest box office face-offs of the summer as two big-budget franchises aiming to attract male moviegoers go head-to-head at the multiplex.
The action-heavy "Fast & Furious 6" and the raunchy comedy "The Hangover Part III" arrive in theaters over the long Memorial Day weekend. But it doesn't seem like there will be much competition for the No. 1 spot.
The latest installment in the series featuring hot cars and hot girls should easily take the top spot, raking in a robust $100 million over the four-day weekend, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys.
The final entry in Todd Phillips' party franchise, meanwhile, is projected to gross about $80 million by the end of Monday -- far less than the $135 million the second movie made between Thursday and Monday in 2011. The third "Hangover" opened late Wednesday evening, when it collected a lackluster $3.1 million -- a fraction of the $10.4 million the second film collected from late-night screenings when it launched midweek two years ago.
The only other film hitting cinemas this weekend is "Epic," a 3-D animated family film that will probably gross $45 million over the four-day holiday.
"Fast & Furious 6," co-financed by Universal Pictures and Elliot Inc. for $160 million, has received relatively strong reviews. The third "Hangover," meanwhile -- which cost Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures $103 million to produce -- has been panned by critics.
It's likely that the latest "Fast" film will end up performing even better at the box office than its predecessors. Established in 2001, the movies starring an ensemble, multi-ethnic cast have become one of Universal's biggest success stories as the franchise has grown in popularity over the years. The fifth film, released two years ago, grossed a whopping $626.1 million worldwide. A seventh installment in the series is already slated to hit theaters in July 2014.
The film's stars, including Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Michelle Rodriguez, turned up this month for the movie's world premiere in London, where the picture is primarily set. Last weekend the sixth "Fast" film debuted with a strong $13.2 million in Britain.
The final "Hangover" film is also likely to grow in popularity with audiences overseas, though it remains to be seen how American moviegoers will respond to it. Though the second movie made $586.8 million worldwide, the film was not received nearly as well as the 2009 original, which became a surprise word-of-mouth phenomenon.
The movie reunites Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis for another night of debauchery -- this time back in Las Vegas, where it all began. Because the movie tends to attract mostly young males, it is expected to lose some of its audience to "Fast & Furious 6" this weekend.
As for "Epic," 20th Century Fox is releasing the $100-million-plus production from its animation company, Blue Sky Studios. The movie, which includes the voices of Amanda Seyfried and Colin Farrell, follows a teenage girl who uncovers a war between good and evil being waged deep in the forest.
Because it is not part of an existing franchise, it's possible that "Epic" may face challenges at the international box office, where it opens this weekend in 21 countries. Last weekend the film launched in 16 foreign markets, including Mexico and Brazil, and sold $14.7 million worth of tickets.
The last film from Blue Sky, "Ice Age: Continental Drift," was a massive hit abroad, making 81% of its $877.2 million total overseas.
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