For the past two months, Disney’s Planes has had the animated field to itself, but some new family competition is ready to storm the box office this weekend. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 should easily top the chart in its first three days, outgrossing newcomers Don Jon and Baggage Claim — as well as Rush, which races into wide expansion. Here’s how the Top 5 might look:
1. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 – $43 million
On this weekend last year, Sony Pictures Animation’s Hotel Transylvania broke the September opening weekend record with a $42.5 million debut. This time around, the studio’s sequel Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 could set a new high point out of 4,001 theaters. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs opened to a solid $30.2 million in 2009, and thanks to that film’s great reception, the sequel is poised to reach a much larger audience. Add in the lack of current animated competition in the marketplace, and Cloudy 2‘s innovative story line, which features food that has come to life, and the film could score $43 million in its first three days. That would put it over halfway to earning back its $78 million budget.
2. Rush – $13 million
Last weekend, Ron Howard’s car-racing drama, which stars Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl, pulled in a solid $187,000 from five theaters. In its expansion into 2,297 theaters the film may drive away with a reespectable total — though not a gigantic one. Fortunately, reviews of the film are great, which should pull in more adult audiences craving serious fall fare. And Hemsworth should draw loyal Thor fans to the theater as well. All told, Rush could earn about $13 million this weekend, though it would need to rely on word-of-mouth to turn Universal’s release (which was financed by Cross Creek Pictures and Eclusive Media for $38 million) into a legitimate hit.
3. Prisoners – $12 million
After an excellent $20.8 million debut, the well-received Prisoners should have a strong second-weekend hold. Warner Bros.’ $46 million drama starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal could drop by about 40 percent to $12 million, giving it nearly $39 million total after ten days.
4. Don Jon – $11.5 million
EW’s current cover star, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, has starred in some beloved films over the past few years — 50/50, (500) Days of Summer, and Looper — though none of them have truly dominated at the box office. Now his directorial debut, Don Jon, a tale about porn addiction, seems poised to perform similarly. In other words, expect a respectable (but not spectacular) box office start. Of course, given the Relativity-released film’s $6 million budget, it doesn’t need to notch huge numbers to be a huge winner. Strong reviews work in Don Jon‘s favor, as does Relativity’s aggressive marketing campaign and the considerable appeal of Gordon-Levitt and co-star Scarlett Johannson. The film may score a debut just above $11 million from 2,422 theaters.
5. Baggage Claim – $8 million
The airport-hopping rom-com starring Paula Patton may struggle to take off on opening weekend, though it will likely connect with its target audience of African-American women. Fox Searchlight is releasing the film into 2,026 theaters, though its poor reviews (it stands at just 6 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) may hold it back. Baggage Claim appears likely to earn only about half of what Patton’s last rom-com, 2011′s Jumping the Broom, earned on opening weekend. That film scored $15.2 million on the way to a $37 million finish. Baggage Claim, meanwhile, could falter with an unremarkable $8 million.