Box office preview: 'Jack the Giant Slayer' hopes to climb higher than '21 And Over'

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Image Credit: Warner Bros.

The difference in the budgets of this weekend’s top two contenders, Jack the Giant Slayer and 21 And Over, is over $170 million, but they may finish within $5 million of each other at the box office this weekend. Sound troubling? It is.

Here’s how the box office may shake out this weekend:

1. Jack the Giant Slayer – $23 million

Based on poor tracking and weak social media buzz, this Warner Bros. and New Line production, which was originally scheduled for a June 2012 release, looks like it may be 2013′s first major bomb — one on par with Battleship or John Carter. (Read the full write-up on Jack‘s financial woes, published earlier this week, here.) New Line claims the Bryan Singer-directed picture cost $185 million to produce, though chatter among insiders suggests the budget actually climbed to at least $200 million. Earlier this month, star Nicholas Hoult scored a modest hit with Warm Bodies, which has earned $59 million after four weeks, but his presence is unlikely to draw many to theaters. Distressingly, Jack isn’t guaranteed to do much more business than Warm Bodies, either. The film, opening on about 3,500 theaters, looks headed for a very un-giant $23 million frame.

2. 21 And Over – $18 million

Take The Hangover and cross it with Project X (the teen party movie opened on this weekend last year to $21.1 million) and what have you got? 21 And Over, Relativity’s raunchy R-rated college comedy, which is hoping to connect with comedy fans who haven’t been treated to anything new since Identity Thief four weeks ago. The film’s R-rating could limit audiences, but its great trailer and youth-savvy marketing campaign could make up the difference. There’s no real star to draw audiences, though Skylar Astin has likely amassed a cult following thanks to Pitch Perfect. But the film should easily earn back its $13 million budget. Relativity is expecting an opening in the $13-15 million range, but I think the movie’s “cool” factor pushes prospects higher. I’m saying $18 million from about 2,500 theaters over the Friday-to-Sunday period.

3. The Last Exorcism Part II – $9.5 million

The Last Exorcism was a modest hit for Lionsgate in August 2010, when it grossed $41 million against a teensy $1.8 million budget (though, as with most horror films, the film required a substantial marketing investment), so it’s no surprise that it wasn’t actually the last Last Exorcism. This sequel, which drops the found-footage conceit and consequently carries a higher $5 million budget, was acquired for distribution by CBS Films for $3 million, and seems headed for modest numbers. Fortunately, CBS’ investment on the film is low, so Part II doesn’t need to be a gigantic hit. Possession movies are a reliable sell at the box office, but marketing on the film has looked generic, and as Dark Skies proved last weekend, that won’t cut it with audiences — especially as we move out of the horror-stuffed winter months and into the Spring. That generic-ness is exacerbated by the film’s shift away from found footage, which gave its predecessor a “based on a true story” (it wasn’t) feel that audiences go gaga for. Plus, horror sequels are just customarily weak. Give it $9.5 million from about 2,600 theaters.

4. Identity Thief – $9.1 million

After topping the box office in its third weekend, the Melissa McCarthy/Jason Bateman comedy will once again abdicate the throne. Still, a 35-percent drop would give Identity Thief a $9 million weekend and push it right past the $100 million mark.

5. Escape from Planet Earth – $7 million

Weinstein’s $40 million animation still has one more weekend before Oz comes along to steal away all the families. Another drop in the 35 percent range will give the film about $7 million and $43 million total.

Also entering theaters this week is the submarine drama Phantom, but despite opening in about 2,000 locations, the thriller will likely finish outside the Top 10 due to a weak marketing campaign, which has been so invisible, you’d need a periscope to see it.

Stay tuned to EW to find out how all these films fare throughout the weekend.

Follow Grady on Twitter: @EWGradySmith

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