Greetings this week from New York, the ''Greatest City in the World'' and also, it seems, a living, breathing, 24-7 billboard for this weekend's major movie release, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Yes, the funny folks over at Fox have pulled out all the stops in their stunt-filled marketing campaign, advertising on billboards everywhere, as well as on quarters and that big Ferris-wheel thing in London. Will their devilishly ingenious work pay off? Of course it will. FF:ROTSS is a guaranteed first-place finisher this weekend. But just how well will it do? Ah for that answer, you have to read on.
THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
Fox · PG · 3,957 theaters · NEW
Two years have passed and I'm still trying to figure out how this sequel's 2005 predecessor opened with a super-solid $56.1 mil. I mean, I'm totally dumbfounded. Critics hated that film. Buzz seemed to be pretty low. Its biggest star was Jessica Alba. And then it bowed brilliantly. Whole thing didn't make sense. Oh, but then there was this mind-boggling tidbit: Remember the Big Box Office Slump of 2005, when Hollywood was in a rut for 19 straight weeks? Fantastic Four was the movie that brought that to an end. Fantastic Frickin' Four! So, hell, I can't explain it, except to say that this franchise clearly has some mysterious, unseen mojo going for it. And that's what should help this sequel in which our heroes encounter a cross between Laird Hamilton and the Tin Man bring in a bundle this weekend, too. As a comic-book franchise, Fantastic Four seems to be a notch below marquee brands like Spider-Man, so this flick's gross won't come anywhere near the webslinger's many $100 mil-plus premieres. But it still should do mighty fine.
Weekend prediction: $61 million
Warner Bros. · PG-13 · 3,565 theaters · 2nd weekend
Odds are that the gambling heist farce which has been earning a steady $3 mil to $4 mil per day during the week will decline a standard 50 percent from its $36.1 mil opening. At least, that's my bet.
Weekend prediction: $18 million
Warner Bros. · PG · 2,612 theaters · NEW
It's a franchise flick, sure, but there are no superheroes or clever crooks or guitarists from the Rolling Stones here. Just a charming girl (Emma Roberts) who solves crimes. Simple. So what's gonna happen when it opens against a bunch of blockbusters? Now, there's a mystery. I'd like to believe that young girls are desperate for a movie of their own, after several weeks of adult- and boy-skewing fare. If the anticipation really is that high, Nancy Drew should debut way better than, say, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, which did a decent $9.8 mil back in 2005.
Weekend prediction: $15 million
Universal · R · 2,905 theaters · 3rd weekend
Thanks to this hit comedy (expected to hang onto two-thirds of its audience again this weekend), I have a new greatest fear in my life: pink eye!
Weekend prediction: $12 million
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Walt Disney · PG-13 · 3,329 theaters · 4th weekend
News flash! POTC:AWE cleared the $500 million mark at the overseas box office in record time: 20 days! Next step, for the movie that's earned a quarter of a billion bucks worldwide: Profitability! Yep, by my estimation, it's still got about $50 million doubloons to go.
Weekend prediction: $10 million