Box office preview: 'Ninja Turtles' fights 'Guardians' for No. 1 spot

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Image Credit: Industrial Light & Magic/Paramount

Nostalgia can be a powerful force in driving audiences to theaters, but this weekend the ’90s heroes in a half shell have to contend with a foe more deviant than Shredder: great buzz. Last weekend’s record-shattering debut of the once obscure Marvel property Guardians of the Galaxy will have a major impact on how Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fares out of the gates, and it might not be the most positive one.

This weekend also sees the debut of The One-Hundred Foot Journey, Into the Storm, and Step Up All In, all of which open in 2,000+ theaters, and limited releases such as What If, The Dog, and James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge 3D.

Here’s how things might play out across this packed weekend at the theaters.

1. Guardians of the Galaxy – $42 million
Guardians far exceeded analyst and studio expectations last weekend with its $94.3 million opening. But, like most superhero movies, that also means a steep fall is coming despite the buzz and critical love. In terms of Marvel launches, there’s no perfect comparison since this is the first new set of characters we’ve seen post-Avengers (which has been credited for helping all subsequent Marvel releases). Captain America: The Winter Soldier opened to $95 million this past April and fell 56.6 percent in weekend two, which is a decent model, but Cap 2 also didn’t have competition as direct as TMNT. It’s a bit of a wild card at this point as to whether or not Guardians or TMNT will end up on top—especially with the Turtles winning in pre-ticket sales, according to a report from Fandango.

2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles $40 million
Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies launch TMNT in approximately 3,800 North America locations this weekend. Based on Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman’s classic characters, this version tells a sort of origin story about the four turtles who are destined to save New York with reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox) from Shredder and his influential goons. With an estimated $125 million production budget, the Jonathan Liebesman-directed and Michael Bay-produced pic is expected to open in the low $40 millions. It’s also opening in 17 international territories this weekend, including Russia and Mexico. Critics have been pretty tough on this one, though. It’s only inspired a 17 percent on Rotten Tomatoes while EW‘s Kyle Anderson gave at a C+. He writes: “It can revel in this tiny victory: In the battle between Bay-produced jumbles of ’80s kid nostalgia, Turtles is head-and-shell better than Transformers.

3. Into the Storm — $17 million
New Line and Warner Bros. are reinvigorating the tornado genre nearly 20 years after Twister with the effects-heavy Into the Storm, from director Steven Quale. Opening in 3,434 locations this weekend, Into the Storm, which cost a reported $50 million to produce, is likely to bring in upwards of $17 million. Critics aren’t fond of it (11 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), but this is one genre where that doesn’t seem to matter to audiences. Twister, for comparison’s sake, currently has a 58 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and opened to $41 million in 1996. But that film also had recognizable stars.

4. The One-Hundred Foot Journey — $13 million
The too-good-to-be-true producing team of Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey are responsible for the big-screen adaptation of Richard C. Marais’ 2010 novel about competing restaurants and cultures starring Helen Mirren and Manish Dayal and directed by Lasse Hallström. Opening in 2,023 theaters, Disney is distributing the DreamWorks Pictures and Participant Media film that cost a reported $22 million to produce. It’s expected to open in the modest $10 million range. Critics are mixed-to-positive on this one, which currently has a 59 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. In his B review, EW‘s Chris Nashawaty writes that “the battle unfolds with all the predictability of a train-station timetable.”

5. Step Up All In — $10 million
The Step Up team heads to Vegas for the fifth film in the franchise, which has generated nearly $600 million at the worldwide box office to date. Opening in 2,072 North American locations on Friday in 2-D and 3-D, Step Up All In has already made $27.3 million from 26 territories. Summit is overseeing distribution both domestically and abroad. This latest endeavor, though it has a 57 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, will likely open in the $8 to $10 million range. Each film in the franchise has seen a steady decline in opening weekend revenues, from a $20 million high in 2006 to an $11.7 million low in 2012.

Finally, in limited release, CBS Films is debuting the unconventional romantic comedy What If in 20 theaters. Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, and Adam Driver, critics are fond of the movie overall (73 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), which provides some nice alternative programming to the loud summer releases, but EW‘s Joe McGovern was not won over in his D+ review. James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge 3D also opens in 304 theaters.

Check back this weekend for estimates and analysis.

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