Box office preview: Johnny Depp's 'Transcendence' heads for an Earth-bound debut

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Image Credit: Peter Mountain

Johnny Depp is back in theaters this weekend for the first time since last summer’s The Lone Ranger – but his $100 million sci-fi thriller Transcendence isn’t the only movie with a shot at the box office crown. There’s strong competition from both last week’s champ Captain America: Winter Soldier and the animated Rio 2, which could get an additional boost from kids who aren’t school-bound on Good Friday. The inspirational Heaven Is for Real and the profane A Haunted House 2 are also in the running.

Here’s how the weekend could go:

1. Rio 2 – $26 million
The top spot will be a close race, but Good Friday — and the young audiences that it liberates from school — could give an edge to Fox’s animated adventure sequel. The original Rio opened at $39.2 million and fell 32.9 percent to $26.3 million during its second frame in April 2011. Rio 2 opened to a near-identical $39.3 million; a similar second-week drop should bring it in for a gentle landing around $26 million, and a cumulative haul around $80 million.

2. Transcendence – $22 million
A classy, high-profile cast — led by Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, and Morgan Freeman — should guarantee a 20-something opening for this sci-fi tale about a murdered scientist (Depp) whose brain is transformed into a body-free artificial intelligence. Financed by Alcon Entertainment and distributed domestically by Warner Bros., Transcendence probably won’t pull in the blockbuster numbers that Depp has mustered in the past. The actor has had rough luck at the box office lately: 2013′s The Lone Ranger and 2012′s Dark Shadows were both expensive underperformers domestically (though both made over $200 million globally). And Depp has generally pulled in fewer crowds when he isn’t in costume as Captain Jack or Willy Wonka: The actor’s last two natural-face outings — 2010′s The Tourist ($67 million total) and 2011′s The Rum Diary ($13 million) – both fell well short of hit status.

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier – $21 million
Strong reviews and a lack of action competition should keep Cap above $20 million after three weekends in theaters. With a $170.6 million domestic tally so far, the film has already racked up $505 million worldwide — significantly ahead of last November’s Thor: The Dark World, which had made $145 million Stateside after two weeks.

4. Heaven Is for Real – $16 million
Aiming for the same faith-based audiences who turned God’s Not Dead into a surprise hit last month, this based-on-a-true story drama follows a preacher (Greg Kinnear) whose 4-year-old son says he met Jesus in Heaven while unconscious during an appendix operation. Released on Wednesday, the film made $3.7 million on its first day and earned an A+ CinemaScore — a strong sign of box office potential this weekend.

5. A Haunted House 2 – $12 million
2013′s A Haunted House scared up $18 million on its opening weekend. This sequel, which once again unleashes Marlon Wayans’ comic sensibility on horror pics like Paranormal Activity and The Conjuring, could see a slim drop from that number. But with a budget of $4 million, the film should easily turn a profit.

The weekend’s other wide release, Disneynature’s cuddly doc Bears, could pack on around $10 million this weekend — similar to the label’s 2012 release Chimpanzee.

Check back at EW.com this weekend for estimates and analysis.

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