Box office preview: How high will 'Man of Steel' fly on opening weekend?

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It’s finally here. The most talked-about film of summer 2013. Man of Steel.

The Superman reboot isn’t just anticipated from a creative standpoint. With a $225 million budget, an image-overhaul by producer Christopher Nolan, and lingering memories of Superman Returns‘ less-than-stellar box-office run in 2006, Man of Steel‘s financial prospects have become almost as big of a story as the film itself.

Expectations for Man of Steel‘s opening weekend vary wildly. Warner Bros. is trying to keep forecasts around $75-80 million. Meanwhile, prognosticators’ predictions range from $84 million all the way to $115 million. But those all seem low to me. Yes, low.

I’ll admit: franchise reboots are a tougher sell than superhero sequels. Batman Begins earned $48.7 million when it opened in 2005. The Amazing Spider-Man found $62 million when it opened in 2012. And, not to be forgotten, Superman Returns grossed $52.5 million when it opened in 2006. To be fair, each of these films opened on Tuesday/Wednesday, so interest had diminished by the time the weekend rolled around. Still, not exactly Avengers-sized debuts.

But in many ways, Man of Steel doesn’t feel like a Superman reboot at all. It feels more like a sequel to The Dark Knight, which opened with $158.4 million. Its Nolan-induced makeover, which places Clark Kent (played by the untested but undeniably dashing Henry Cavill) into a serious narrative complete with grey-blue settings and surrounded by pedigreed actors like Russell Crowe, Amy Adams, and Kevin Costner, has given the film a certain fanboy “cred” before its release. Zach Snyder, a keen visualist, has imbued Man of Steel with eye-popping visuals, which have proven incredibly effective in marketing efforts.

Fandango last week reported that Man of Steel was leading all other summer releases — Iron Man 3 included — in advance ticket sales. I don’t necessarily think that that means it will outdo Iron Man 3, which opened with $174 million, but it seems Man of Steel‘s appeal is being underestimated.

The original Iron Man opened with $98.6 million and proved that franchise kickoffs can draw massive audiences. Of course, that film garnered stellar reviews, while Man of Steel‘s have been decidedly middling, but those don’t usually effect box-office prospects on opening weekend. With 3-D and IMAX ticket sales added into the mix, Man of Steel should be able to outdo that number with ease. It’s now a question of how high it can soar past that.

Man of Steel will open in 4,207 theaters, and now that Iron Man 3 and Fast & Furious 6 have already passed their box office heydays, it has room to own the market. I’m feeling very bullish about Man of Steel‘s prospects (those Fandango stats are hard to ignore), so I’m going to say it earns $132 million on opening weekend. Is that too high? Perhaps. But I’m much more concerned with that being too low. After all, according to Variety, Warner Bros. exec Jeff Robinov believes Man of Steel will be the studio’s most successful performer ever. (But honestly, that sounds extreme.)

Also expected to make a splash in theaters this weekend is This is the End, which opened on Tuesday night and has already taken in $7.8 million so far. Featuring Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, James Franco, Danny McBride, and Craig Robinson, the comedy finds the actors playing themselves during the apocalypse. It’s a strange concept, but also one that feels fresh alongside a generic comedy like The Internship and an under-performer like The Hangover Part III. Man of Steel will provide major competition on opening weekend, but This is the End has huge holdover potential, and may become a surprise $100 million hit. Weekday business suggests that This is the End it might take in about $34 million in its first five days, meaning it may earn about $22 million for the three-day weekend.

Alright, over to you box office junkies. What are you predicting for Man of Steel? Let us know both in the comments and on my Twitter. And stay tuned to EW all weekend long for full box office coverage of Man of Steel‘s debut frame.

RELATED ‘Man of Steel: EW Review


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