Two very different action pics blast into theaters this weekend: the period epic Pompeii and the tick-tock spy thriller 3 Days to Kill. Despite boasting directors who have proven themselves somewhat reliable box office quantities — Resident Evil‘s Paul W.S. Anderson and Charlie’s Angels‘ McG — neither will hold a candle to The Lego Movie, which will enjoy a third weekend at the top of the charts.
Tiny animated toys aren’t the only obstacle for the action pics. The new contenders also have to compete with the still-formidable competition of About Last Night and Monuments Men. This weekend’s wild card is RoboCop. After a modest domestic debut, and a generally positive audience response (B+ CinemaScore), it now has to face two brand-new movies vying for the same action-hungry audience.
Here’s how things might play out.
1. The Lego Movie — $45 million
I have drastically underestimated Lego‘s returns over the past two weekends — both of which were over $60 million (thanks to last week’s holiday). The 3-D romp has already passed the $200 million mark and doesn’t seem in danger of slowing down too much. 2009′s Up had a similar debut in the summer and dropped around around 30 percent in its third weekend in theaters. Frozen, the latest animated pic to beat, only dropped 13 percent in its third weekend, but it was also making about a third of Lego‘s second-week earnings. That’s all to say that a slight drop is coming, and it’ll probably be in the 20 to 25 percent range.
2. About Last Night — $16 million
Kevin Hart looks poised to continue his 2014 box office success story with two solid hits in as many months. Sony’s About Last Night exceeded opening-weekend expectations with $27.8 million on the four day — comparable to Hart’s Think Like a Man opening. If Think Like a Man is any indication, the $12.5 million comedy will probably experience a 40 percent drop in its second weekend.
3. Pompeii — $12 million
Game of Thrones star Kit Harington leads up the cast of Paul W.S. Anderson’s Mount Vesuvius pic Pompeii. Harington plays Milo, a slave-turned-gladiator who falls for a betrothed rich girl (Emily Browning) made only more complicated by that pesky volcano. The reviews so far are pretty poor (31% on Rotten Tomatoes). Sony is distributing the Constantin Film and Impact pic domestically and analysts are predicting a $12 -$15 million opening from 2,500 theaters. The budget is being kept under wraps, but Pompeii’s success will likely be determined by overseas earnings.
4. The Monuments Men — $11 million
George Clooney’s star-studded WWII pic held up quite well over Presidents Day weekend, dropping about 19% on the four day with a $17.9 million weekend. This is fairly similar to Argo’s trajectory in the fall of 2012, which fell around 27% in its third weekend. Zero Dark Thirty, which had a better debut than Monuments Men, fell more drastically in its third week at nearly 40%. It’s likely that Sony’s adult-targeted heist pic will enjoy at least a few more solid weekends.
5. 3 Days to Kill — $10 million [Updated]
McG directed Kevin Costner, Hailee Steinfeld and Amber Heard in this mid-budget action-thriller about a spy with an eye towards retirement and quality family time. As the story always seems to go, before he can retreat to peace he has to take on one last mission, while also caring for his teenage daughter. Critics have not been taking to the Relativity movie, though. When we published, its Rotten Tomatoes score was 17% (it raised to 28% later in the day). Costner’s more expensive Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit opened to a less-than-stellar $15.4 million in late January, which had the benefit of a known character and two stars (Coster and Chris Pine). 3 Days to Kill could open in the $11 -$13 million range.
In the specialty box office world, Roadside Attractions is releasing its Elizabeth Olsen/Oscar Isaac romantic thriller In Secret in 250 theaters, and the Evan Rachel Wood/Scott Speedman dramedy Barefoot in 18. Also, Hayao Miyazaki’s Oscar-nominated The Wind Rises — featuring the (dubbed) voices of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Krasinski, and Emily Blunt — finally opens stateside in about 21 theaters.
Check back in throughout the weekend for estimates and analysis.