Box office preview: Can 'Captain Phillips' sail past 'Gravity'?

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Gravity scored an out-of-this-world $55.6 million on its opening weekend, and it’s held up remarkably well over the Monday-to-Thursday period. The Sandra Bullock/George Clooney spectacle has already earned over $73 million in its first six days, and it’s destined to soar past $100 million this weekend. Of course, the Oscar-hopeful Captain Phillips and the couldn’t-care-less-about-an-Oscar title Machete Kills will both hit theaters this weekend, but neither has much of a chance of dethroning the sci-fi blockbuster. Here’s how the chart might look this weekend.

1. Gravity – $40 million
Warner Bros.’ $100 million hit has earned an average of $6 million over the past three weekdays, which suggests it’s headed for big numbers this weekend. Thanks to incredible word-of-mouth, Gravity could dip by less than 30 percent this weekend to about $40 million, which would give it over $120 million total after only 10 days.

2. Captain Phillips – $19.5 million
Tom Hanks has had a rough couple years at the box office since 2009′s Angels and Demons. Larry Crowne, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and Cloud Atlas all under-performed badly — but Captain Phillips appears likely to break the trend. Sony’s $55 million picture, which was directed by the Bourne trilogy’s Paul Greengrass, has the cachet of being based upon the true story of a U.S. cargo ship captain who protected his crew from Somali pirates in 2009. Thanks to positive reviews and early awards buzz, the film should click with older moviegoers. Expect Captain Phillips to capture nearly $20 million this weekend.

3. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 – $15 million
Another week of no family competition means another week that Cloudy can keep scoring at the box office. The film cost $78 million for Sony Pictures Animation to make, and if it takes in another $15 million this weekend, its total will be about $78 million as well.

4. Machete Kills – $7 million
Robert Rodriguez’s Machete earned just $26 million in 2010, and although the Danny Trejo-starring flick garnered a passionate fanbase, its $20 million sequel, which is being distributed by Open Road Films, won’t slash up much money this weekend. As Kick-Ass 2 taught us, sequels that play to niche fanboy audiences often perform worse than their predecessors, and considering Machete opened to just $11.4 million, Machete Kills may be looking at a rough $7 million weekend.

5. Runner Runner – $3.6 million
Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck’s $30 million online poker drama got dealt a rough hand on opening weekend, earning only $7.7 million. A drop just above 50 percent may give it about $3.6 million for the weekend. Ouch.

Check back to EW all weekend long to see how things turn out!

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