"Think Like a Man Too" is eyeing first place at the weekend box office, but in order to snare its prize, the Sony Pictures/Screen Gems comedy must hold off two other well-received sequels, "22 Jump Street" and "How to Train Your Dragon 2."
Currently, the film is on pace to debut in the $32 million range, with "22 Jump Street" and "Dragon 2" circling second weekends of $30 million or more. Sony says it will be happy with a debut of anything in the mid-$20 million range and up, given the film's low cost.
"It's a close three-way race for first," said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com.
If "Think Like a Man Too" manages to usurp the crown from last weekend's champ, "22 Jump Street," it will be the ninth weekend in a row with a new release at the top of the box office charts. That's a record in the modern summer blockbuster era.
It's also a sign of how critical opening weekends have become, with one high-priced film after another premiering to scorching numbers before cooling off quickly. Films like "Godzilla" and "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" are huffing and puffing their way to the $200 million mark domestically after hovering at the $100 million mark in their inaugural frames.
"That's a big shift in what we're used to," said Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations. "The opening weekend is so important because you really don't have a chance to hang around as a blockbuster."
Part of the reason is that the massive advertising assaults that presage a film's release shrink dramatically after it opens, he argued.
"Studios are marketing more efficiently and they're reaching their audience more effectively, so these become week to week events," said Bock. "After a movie opens, it's kind of out of sight, out of mind, and on to the next thing."
For now, that next thing looks to be "Think Like a Man Too." The film will unspool across 2,200 screens and follows up on 2012′s surprise hit, "Think Like a Man." This edition finds the cast, which includes Taraji P. Henson, Regina Hall and Kevin Hart, rolling the dice on a Las Vegas wedding.
"It just feels like the timing is perfect for the film," said Rory Bruer, Sony Pictures president of worldwide distribution. "There's so much love for the first one and it so over-performed our expectations the first time around, and there's such a great ensemble cast, so we seem to be set up for success."
The first picture grossed $33.6 million in its opening weekend, and given that Hart's profile is on the rise thanks to the success of "Ride Along" and his concert film "Let Me Explain," analysts think the follow-up may be able to surpass that figure. It would be a solid start for a film that cost an economical $24 million to produce.
"Think Like a Man Too" opens in a handful of island countries such as Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago and Aruba, but will begin its international rollout in earnest on August 14, when it opens in Australia.
The weekend's other new release, Clint Eastwood's adaptation of the Broadway musical "Jersey Boys," is looking to bow to a modest $12 million across 2,905 screens.
Reviews for the film have been middling, with the story of the ups and downs of the Four Seasons currently holding a 57% rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes, but it has tested well. The crooners have an avid fan base and there isn't a lot of competition for older audiences' attention, so it could be a film that plays into the summer.
"With movies aimed at audiences over 35 years old, there's not a huge rush out mentality and they tend to have good multipliers [on opening weekends]," said Contrino.
At $40 million in production costs, "Jersey Boys" represents a modest bet for Warner Bros. and Eastwood.
Among holdovers, "Maleficent" should shoulder into the top five, picking up $12 million in its fourth week of release, while "The Fault in Our Stars" will dim slightly to between $8 million to $12 million.
There are also a flurry of limited releases hoping to attract the art house set, such as Roman Polanski's adaptation of the play "Venus in Fur" and Paul Haggis' "Third Person," a sprawling story of three couples in as many cities that stars Liam Neeson and James Franco.
In the end, this weekend may just serve as a palate cleanser before "Transformers: Age of Extinction" lands in theaters on June 27, offering up an assault on the senses and moviegoers' wallets.
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