Between Seth Rogen’s wise-cracking E.T. in Paul and the trigger-happy invaders of Battle: Los Angeles, this month’s box office alien invasion (which included mega-dud Mars Needs Moms) shows no signs of stopping this weekend. But don’t expect receipts to be equally out of this world. Holdover Battle: L.A. could face a steep drop after last week’s strong debut, and it’ll have stiff competition from the new Bradley Cooper thriller Limitless, which looks set to do medium-hot business. Meanwhile, Paul could be a draw as the first big comedy in a few weeks, and Matthew McConaughey is looking to make a return to form with the legal thriller Lincoln Lawyer. Here’s how things might play out:
1. Battle: Los Angeles: $18 million
Last week’s champ should lose some serious steam (look for a 50-55 percent drop) as first-week fanboys go looking for fresh entertainment. But as the sole blow-em-up actioner released this month, it could still cash in on audiences who go to the theaters looking for escapist thrills.
2. Limitless: $16 million
The first real, post-Hangover test of Bradley Cooper’s solo star power, this slick-looking thriller is a bit of a box-office wild card. With a king-of-the-world storyline appealing to guys, and the Coop’s chiseled features calling to the ladies, there’s a chance Limitless could bust into the high teens or even low twenties. But there’s no proof so far that Cooper can reel in crowds without his Wolf Pack: Last summer’s The A-Team made the box-office D-List, while 2009′s All About Steve was one of that year’s biggest duds.
3. Paul: $13 million
This sci-fi romp mixes live action actors (Kristen Wiig, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Jason Bateman) with a CG-d alien emcee (voiced by Seth Rogen). It’s the only comedy among the new releases, which gives it a clear leg up with moviegoers who want yuks for their bucks. But with an opaque title and a marquee star hidden in a little-grey-man body, Paul could generate a lot of puzzled looks at ticket counters. Look for it to skew young and male, though it’ll have to fight over that slice of the audience with both Limitless and Battle: L.A.
4. Rango: $12 million
This animated adventure (with Johnny Depp voicing the star chameleon) dropped about 40 percent last weekend and should be headed for a similar decline this time around, though family audiences (who don’t have much else to pick from) will keep it from falling out of the top five.
5. Lincoln Lawyer: $10 million
Matthew McConaughey’s first dramatic lead since 2006′s We Are Marshall is earning solid reviews and plenty of comparisons to his 1996 blockbuster A Time to Kill. But it’s been a long time since the actor has had a non-comedic hit: Marshall made just $43.5 million, while 2005′s Two for the Money topped off at a measly $22.9 million. Still, for the modestly-budgeted Lawyer, an eight-figure opening would be enough to make the case that McConaughey is a legitimate leading-man.
Outside of the wide-release race, watch for Sundance fave Win Win — starring Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan as parents who take in a runaway teen — to emerge as a specialty crowd pleaser, while the Ed Helms comedy Cedar Rapids finally cracks the $5 million mark five weeks after its debut.