Sorry, folks. No cutesy salutation this week. I just want to get straight to the point: Speed Racer isn't going to beat Iron Man. It may not even come close. So that's one thing. The other issue of concern is this: Will Speed Racer, the weekend's biggest new release, manage to cross the finish line ahead of the weekend's second-biggest new release, What Happens in Vegas? For the purposes of this column, I'm saying that it will but I'll have you know that, privately, I'm telling friends and family and the mirror that it might not.
What gives? Read on for my analysis of this very interesting weekend in the annals of boxofficedom, and then click on over to EW.com's Summer Box Office Challenge to make your own predictions known. Go, box office fans, go!
THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE
Paramount/Marvel · PG-13 · 4,111 theaters · 2nd weekend
That $98.6 mil debut was some kick in the head, huh? I mean, good for Robert Downey Jr., Jon Favreau, the folks at Marvel, everyone involved. Bravo! Box office aside, they've made the first widely beloved blockbuster since, oh, Spider-Man 2, a film that has done more than just earn critical praise it has, as Downey told EW.com, already ''become part of the cultural fabric.'' So a giant second weekend is a certainty, of course, but just how well will it do? The superhero movie's midweek numbers have been strong: It has been banking around $6 mil per day. Which shows that Iron Man should be able to offset its still-weak female appeal (it is hard to sprout legs when only about one third of your audience is women) and the sizable week-2 dropoff that huge releases tend to experience after their ridiculously monstrous debuts. Last year, Spider-Man 3 fell 62 percent in its second frame, Shrek the Third was off 56 percent, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End dropped 62 percent, and so on. But in this case, a decline around 52 percent seems about right.
Weekend prediction: $47 million
Warner Bros. · PG · 3,606 theaters · NEW
There's plenty of nostalgia for the campy cartoon that used to run on TV. Problem is, the folks who have been yearning for a big-screen adaptation of the anime classic are, like, in their 40s and this PG-rated movie is supposedly geared toward people in their early teens. Already, reports have trickled out that the movie is tracking poorly. Already, reviews have been pretty bad. Already, studio insiders have lowered expectations. I think they're hoping for the kandy-kolored movie the first flick both written and directed by the wildly talented Wachowski Brothers since the much more adult Matrix franchise wrapped up to finish somewhere in the $30 mil range. But all the signs on this highway show danger ahead.
Weekend prediction: $24 million
What Happens in Vegas
Fox · PG-13 · 3,215 theaters · NEW
The high-concept romantic-comedy counterprogramming option for this week features Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher as two strangers who get drunk and married in Sin City, and are then are forced to live with each other after they win a slot-machine jackpot. (Ah, those Hollywood slices of real life.) Think of it as Made of Honor (opening gross: $14.8 mil) or Baby Mama (opening gross: $17.4 mil) or Forgetting Sarah Marshall (opening gross: $17.7 mil) with greater star power.
Weekend prediction: $20 million
Made of Honor
Columbia · PG-13 · 2,734 theaters · 2nd weekend
Patrick Dempsey's latest performed admirably if ever-so-slightly unimpressively opposite Iron Man last weekend. Despite increased direct competition from What Happens in Vegas and audience fatigue, it should stay in the game thanks to the warm fuzzies that Mother's Day will send across the nation on Sunday. (And, hey, don't forget to do something nice for your mom!)
Weekend prediction: $8 million
Universal · PG-13 · 2,627 theaters · 3rd weekend
Direct competition. Audience fatigue. Mother's Day. Same drill. (It's not too late to order flowers.)
Weekend prediction: $6 million