Joshua Rich
September 23, 2008 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Now that Hollywood has gone through its annual late-summer slump and is heading into the fall season, things are getting interesting. Last weekend, for example, four big new movies opened, all with dubious prospects — and, wouldn’t you know, all of them fared pretty well. Surprise, surprise!

So, this weekend, four more big movies are coming out, and again they all look a bit weak. Will the box office throw another curveball at prognosticators like me and the players in EW.com’s Fall Box Office Challenge (of whom you could be one, ya know)? G’head, see what I have to say.

THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE

Lakeview Terrace
Sony/Screen Gems · PG-13 · 2,464 theaters · NEW
Why is Samuel L. Jackson so cool? One reason: His movies have grossed more than $2 billion combined, making him one of the most bankable stars around. But will audiences want to see him play a nefarious police officer who harasses his new neighbors (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington) in this thriller? That’ll be interesting to see, since Jackson doesn’t play really bad guys very often. I mean, even when he’s starring as a not-so-nice dude (see Pulp Fiction or Unbreakable), he’s still kinda cuddly, right? Either way, dark genre movies (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Resident Evil: Extinction, Flightplan, etc.) have performed well during recent early autumns, so Lakeview Terrace should do well enough to win the weekend.
Weekend prediction: $14 million

My Best Friend’s Girl
Lionsgate · R · 2,604 theaters · NEW
Dane Cook has a bajillion friends on MySpace, but I’m getting the sense that people don’t like him too much. Film critics, that is. Well, and many moviegoers, too. The caustic comedian has yet to topline a major hit movie, and this romantic comedy, costarring the less-popular-than-they-used-to-be pair of Kate Hudson and Jason Biggs, doesn’t seem likely to reverse the trend. Cook’s somewhat similar Good Luck Chuck debuted to $13.7 mil on this weekend last year. I’d say the folks behind this film would be very glad to open with $13.7 mil.
Weekend prediction: $13 million

Burn After Reading
Focus · R · 2,657 theaters · 2nd weekend
A surprise winner a week ago, the Brad PittGeorge Clooney comedy scored the best bow of the Coen Brothers‘ 14 films. And now, with about $25 mil in the bank after just seven days, it’s already their No. 5 grosser ever.
Weekend prediction: $10 million

Ghost Town
Paramount/DreamWorks · PG-13 · 1,505 theaters · NEW
The fact that big-budget action and thriller writer David Koepp (Spider-Man, Mission: Impossible, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and so on and so forth) has cowritten and directed a dark comedy is fascinating to me. But I’m guessing that non-film geeks won’t be interested in this flick — about a jerky dentist (Ricky Gervais) who gains the power to communicate with ghosts (like a deceased jealous husband played by Greg Kinnear) following a near death experience — for the same reason. Or, quite possibly, for any other reason.
Weekend prediction: $8 million

Igor
MGM/Weinstein · PG · 2,339 theaters · NEW
In Hollywood’s latest postmodern animated tale, John Cusack voices a stereotypical henchman to mad scientists who enters a science fair. Kids often have a way of tracking down such low-buzz family films and convincing their parents to take them (as they did with Hoodwinked, which opened with $12.4 mil and went on to bank $51.4 mil). Of course, as, oh, Space Chimps ($7.2 mil debut) demonstrated earlier this summer, sometimes they don’t.
Weekend prediction: $8 million

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