It's a sequel slugfest at the multiplexes this weekend as "How to Train Your Dragon 2" and "22 Jump Street" battle for no. 1 at the box office.
Both films will capitalize on residual goodwill for the first installments in the franchise, and should benefit from two very different movie-going audiences.
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum hang out with college spring-breakers in the R-rated "22 Jump Street," while families will scurry to check out a hapless Viking and his fire-breathing friend in PG-rated "How to Train Your Dragon 2."
"These movies are perfectly counter-programmed," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. "When you have a variety of entertainment options in the marketplace, it enhances the marketplace."
When the dust settles, "How to Train Your Dragon 2" will likely wear the box office crown, with a gross that analysts say could hit $60 million. Sources close to Twentieth Century Fox, which is distributing the DreamWorks Animation film, are more conservative, pegging the debut in the $50 million range.
Reviews for the sequel have been sterling, and it currently holds a 95% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It also represents one of the few animated offerings in the marketplace this summer, making it one of the default family-friendly choices.
"22 Jump Street," a Sony Pictures and MGM release, is also looking at a debut north of $50 million, and is benefitting from strong critical notices (94 % Rotten Tomatoes "fresh" score) and the best test screening results for any R-rated comedy in Sony's history. It will bow in more than 3,300 locations.
"It's absolutely hilarious and it hits on all levels," said Rory Bruer, Sony Pictures president of worldwide distribution. "As much as people liked the first one, they're liking this one even better."
Among the holdovers, last weekend's champ, "The Fault in Our Stars" will probably see its $48.2 million gross cut in half, leaving it with a $20 million second weekend. In its third weekend, "Maleficent" will rack up an estimated $18 million and "Edge of Tomorrow," the big-budget Tom Cruise actioner, will add $15 million to its total.
Unlike many front-loaded major releases, the first "Dragon" and "21 Jump Street" slow burned at the box office, capitalizing on strong word-of-mouth. The first "Dragon" opened to $43.7 million in 2011, but had a strong hold on the box office, grossing roughly five times its opening weekend and ending up at $217.6 million domestically.
Likewise, 2012′s "21 Jump Street" more than quadrupled its $36.3 million opening, ending its domestic run with $138.4 million.
"It's important not to forget how leggy the last ('Jump Street') was," said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. "There's a lot of positive feelings about the movie right now. It's not all that different from the enthusiasm that existed for the second 'Hangover.'"
"22 Jump Street" opened last weekend in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, where it earned $8.8 million.
Internationally, "How to Train Your Dragon 2" will open in 20 markets this weekend on approximately 3,750 screens, the bulk of them coming courtesy of Russia. Other territories include India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Greece and Egypt.
Box Office: 'How to Train Your Dragon,' 'Jump Street' Sequels to Jockey for No. 1
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