It’s Easter weekend, which means that families are together, candy is getting unwrapped, and off-of-work Americans across the country are planning to hop on over to the movies. Family films tend to thrive on Easter weekend, thanks mostly to the Sunday holiday and the fact that extended family members visiting one another need something to do — other than argue. This year, Easter falls in the thick of March Madness, which may keep basketball fans on the bench couch, but a trio of high profile new releases will help counteract that distraction, and the box office should earn a respectable sum.
Here’s how the weekend rankings might shake out:
1. G.I. Joe: Retaliation – $35 million ($43 million four-day total)
Many were surprised when Paramount ordered a sequel to the 2009 under-performer G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. The action film, which starred a pre-A-list Channing Tatum, earned $150.2 million domestically ($302 million worldwide) against a $175 million budget. Certainly no great shakes. But Paramount, MGM, and Skydance Productions pressed on with a follow-up, shifting Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson into the lead role (Tatum was reportedly killed off in the original version of the film, which was mysteriously pushed back from summer 2012 to 2013 following Tatum’s breakout spring in The Vow and 21 Jump Street so paramount could “add 3D”) and tightening up the budget to $130 million.
Given the original’s lukewarm reception, it’s unlikely that G.I. Joe Retaliation will open in the same range as Cobra, which started with $54.7 million in August. But brand appeal, the star power of Tatum (regardless of how much he’s in the movie), and the presence of The Rock, who has proven to be an asset in franchise films like Fast Five and Journey 2, should give the sequel/reboot an audience. G.I. Joe is opening on Thursday, and it may take in about $43 million over its four-day debut. For the traditional weekend frame, it may earn about $35 million out of 3,719 theaters.
2. The Croods – $30 million
Last weekend’s stone-age champ has a prosperous road ahead of it due to the fact there is not new animated or family-oriented fare hitting theaters until the release of Epic on May 24. Easter weekend will soften the second weekend decline, as The Croods is the clear top choice for families out right now. Fox’s $135 million film may dip 30 percent to $30 million, which would lift its total to $92 million.
3. Tyler Perry’s Temptation – $18 million
The most successful Tyler Perry films involve his cross-dressing grandmother character Madea — Temptation (the full title is Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor) does not. Still, Perry is a reliable draw with African-American women, and Lionsgate, which produced the film on a $20 million budget, says the film is tracking well with that demographic. The studio has also targeted church-going audiences — somewhat ironically given much of the film’s sexified marketing — by distributing Temptation faith guides at 85 African-American churches across the country and inviting faith leaders (not to mention urban DJs) to the film’s Atlanta premiere. That Easter falls during Temptation‘s premiere weekend should boost business with that demographic.
Three of Perry’s previous films have premiered on Easter weekend. In 2011, Madea’s Big Happy Family opened with $25.3 million, and in 2010, Why Did I Get Married Too? debuted to $29.3 million, but those were both sequels. So perhaps the best comparison is his 2008 Easter release, Meet the Browns, which earned $20.1 million in its first three days. Despite having Kim Kardashian in a starring role (which, admittedly, has given the film ample press), Temptation may not climb as high. An $18 million weekend from 2,047 theaters sounds right.
4. Olympus Has Fallen – $15.2 million
The White House thriller exceeded expectations with $30.4 million during its debut weekend. This time around, Olympus is facing direct competition from G.I. Joe, but its “A-” CinemaScore grade and strong word-of-mouth with patriotic crowds will save it from being totally cannibalized. A 50 percent drop would give the $70 million production a $15 million frame and $57 million total.
5. The Host – $15 million
In the post-Twilight YA-craze, there have been some massive successes (The Hunger Games), some massive misfires (Beautiful Creatures), and some respectable mid-level performers (Warm Bodies). The Host, based on Twilight author Stephenie Meyer’s alien invasion novel, seems likely to fall somewhere between the misfire and mid-level camps. Open Road Pictures will release the film, which Open Road says cost about $40 million, into 3,202 theaters. The Host stars Saoirse Ronan, Max Irons, and Jake Abel, but the young trio hasn’t drummed up the same kind of fan fervor that Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and Taylor Lautner did with Twilight (the same can be said of the novel). Without much buzz, The Host may earn about $15 million
Check back to EW all weekend for full box office coverage, and follow me on Twitter for up-to-the-minute box office updates as the roll in.