I'll make you a deal, readers: I'll write this whole article, pretending that the box office hasn't been a huge cluster-bleep the past several weeks full of films that can't decide whether they want to be hits or not (Bee Movie) and sure things that have wound up surely disappointing (Fred Claus). And you'll read this whole article, pretending to forget how pathetic my recent prediction track record has been. Fair's fair, right?
Well, I'm here to tell you that despite all that I remain optimistic, largely because this weekend's big release, the motion-capture computerized thingy Beowulf, feels like a winner, and, thus, so do I. But what about you? Log on to EW.com's Fall Box Office Challenge to give this pesky prognostication game a shot for yourself.
THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE
Paramount · PG-13 · 3,153 theaters · NEW
Sing in me, Muse.... Oh, wait, wrong epic poem. But can you blame me for being distracted by that cheer coming from every 7th grader on the planet, psyched that there's finally a movie version of the classic adventure yarn and classroom staple? Just listen to them: ''Yay!'' they're shouting. ''No more CliffsNotes!'' Hey, it only took Robert Zemeckis 1,300 years or so to get his sorta-animated film into theaters lines will be around the block for it, right? I'm not so sure. While this flick may ultimately help a lot of kids with their homework (sorry, teachers), audiences may avoid it because it feels too much like homework. Then again, I don't remember any school texts that included a scantily clad digitized version of Angelina Jolie.... But I digress. The last Zemeckis-directed motion-capture adventure, The Polar Express, debuted with a slightly disappointing $23.3 mil before sprouting some of the strongest legs in history and totaling $176.6 mil domestically. Add to its family crowd a few fantasy fans, some older viewers, and the 3-D factor (Beowulf is playing on several hundred 3-D screens), and an opening that's a touch better is in store.
Weekend prediction: $26 million
Paramount · PG · 3,984 theaters · 3rd weekend
I don't care how cute Jerry Seinfeld's Barry B. Benson is. If that bee (who has brought about $80 mil worth of honey back to the hive so far) flies to No. 1 again this week and screws up all my box office picks, I'm breaking out the Raid.
Weekend prediction: $17 million
Universal · R · 3,111 theaters · 3rd weekend
I know, I know. The trailer was better than the movie. It's true. I can't lie: I agree with you. Still, the film's pretty good no wonder it's going to pass the $100 mil mark this weekend.
Weekend prediction: $15 million
Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium
Fox · G · 3,164 theaters · NEW
Eight fun facts about this children's fantasy flick:
1. It's about a magical toy store.
2. It stars Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, and Jason Bateman.
3. It was written and directed by Stranger Than Fiction scribe Zach Helm.
4. With a G rating and family-friendly premise, it looks great on paper.
5. The last new family film that looked great on paper, Fred Claus, disappointed.
6. Critics loathe it; it could wind up one of the year's worst-reviewed movies.
7. My computer's spell-check doesn't recognize ''magorium.'' Cheap computer.
8. It's not going to do very well at the box office.
Weekend prediction: $12 million
Warner Bros. · PG · 3,603 theaters · 2nd weekend
See: Magorium, item No. 5, above.
Weekend prediction: $10 million
THE OTHER NEW RELEASE
Love in the Time of Cholera
New Line · R · 852 theaters · NEW
Dreadful reviews likening director Mike Newell's melodramatic take on the Gabriel García Márquez romance saga to the plague are one thing. But on a weekend with so many other movie options as well as Saturday's Big Game, duh I can't imagine that many moviegoers will be ponying up their pesos.
Weekend prediction: $2 million