posted April 19, 2012 02:41 PM
"The Hunger Games" will finally cede control of the No. 1 spot at the box office this weekend, though it's unclear to which contender.
Both the romantic tear-jerker "The Lucky One" and the ensemble comedy "Think Like a Man" are poised to open to around $20 million, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys.
Meanwhile, after four weeks in the lead position, "The Hunger Games" is expected fall behind with a weekend gross of between $10 million and $15 million. The blockbuster, based on Suzanne Collins' popular book, has already collected $341 million.
The third new film hitting theaters this weekend, the nature documentary "Chimpanzee," will likely start with under $10 million.
Not surprisingly, "The Lucky One" is appealing strongly to young females — the fan base for its star, Zac Efron. Based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, the movie features the 24-year-old actor as a marine trying to track down the female subject of a photograph he believes kept him out of harm's way during wartime. The picture, which has earned tepid reviews, was financed by Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow for around $25 million.
Efron rose to stardom after the success of the "High School Musical" franchise, which began with two television movies and later spawned a feature film that grossed $90 million domestically. The teen pinup's most successful big-screen turn came in another musical, 2007's "Hairspray," which raked in $119 million.
His more recent efforts to tackle more serious fare have been less well received: the weepy 2010 release "Charlie St. Cloud," about a young man struggling to come to grips with his brother's death, grossed only $31 million.
But this time, Efron has Sparks on his side. "The Lucky One" is the seventh of the author's books to be adapted for the big screen, and Sparks' saccharine tales of romance have proven to be reliable successes at the box office. His biggest hit has been 2010's "Dear John," starring Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried, which took in $80 million.
"Think Like A Man" is also based on literature — a relationship advice book penned by comedian Steve Harvey. The actor stars in the film about five couples as part of an ensemble cast that includes Kevin Hart and Regina Hall. Sony's Screen Gems label spent about $13 million to produce the film.
Aimed at an African American audience, "Think Like A Man" is expected to perform best in cities such as Atlanta and Memphis. The movie should start with at least $15 million more than the comedy "Jumping the Broom" — which also featured an ethnically diverse group of actors — debuted with last May. That movie ultimately collected $37 million.
"Chimpanzee," which follows a baby chimp and his family over the course of four years, is the fourth production from Walt Disney Studios' Disneynature. The division, which produces inexpensive documentaries about nature and wildlife, has yet to see one of its films open to more than $10 million or gross more than $32 million.