If there's one lesson to learn from a summer in which The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian has underperformed and The Happening opened north of $30 million, it's that the box office is a funny place. And if you don't believe me, just consider this weekend, when Hollywood will be wondering if there are enough laughs to go around as two high-profile comedies Get Smart and The Love Guru debut. It's sure to be a hard-fought battle filled with blood, sweat, and poop jokes.
But who'll wind up laughing all the way to the bank? I've got my picks below, and you can make yours in EW.com's Summer Box Office Challenge, chuckle bunnies.
THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE
Warner Bros. · PG-13 · 3,911 theaters · NEW
Will this remake of a classic 1960s TV show suffer the same fate as Speed Racer did last month? Don't bet on it. For one thing, Mel Brooks and Buck Henry's Get Smart was a much more mainstream hit than those Speed Racer cartoons were, back in the day. For another: This movie features several actors on the cusp of major superstardom. Steve Carell. Anne Hathaway. Dwayne Johnson. All three of them have enjoyed increasing box office grosses during the past few years; more importantly, each attracts a different demographic. Sure feels like a winner one that'll open with a gross somewhere in between the first-weekend takes of You Don't Mess With the Zohan ($38.5 mil) and Sex and the City ($57 mil).
Weekend prediction: $46 million
The Love Guru
Paramount · PG-13 · 3,012 theaters · NEW
This prediction is a tough one. On paper, Mike Myers is the kind of superstar that Carell, Hathaway, and Johnson are aiming to be. He's got three hit franchises on his resume (Wayne's World, Austin Powers, and Shrek), and his lifetime domestic gross is nearly $2 billion...on the strength of just 12 movies. Then again, it has been almost five years since he starred in a live-action flick (2003's The Cat in the Hat, which disappointed with $101.1 mil), and his non-franchise films (View From the Top, 54, So I Married an Axe Murderer) all tanked. Oh yeah, and the reviews for this comedy, in which Myers plays a kooky self-help leader, have been pretty brutal. So while I'm sure there's a lot of residual affection for Myers and excitement that he's got a new movie coming out, I don't expect The Love Guru to debut too well.
Weekend prediction: $30 million
The Incredible Hulk
Universal/Marvel · PG-13 · 3,508 theaters · 2nd weekend
That big $55.4 mil win last weekend was impressive indeed. But what now? Ang Lee's 2003 Hulk dropped a stunning 70 percent in its second frame. Hulk '08 isn't likely to follow suit but it could come close, seeing as how it has been running neck-and-neck with the seven-day-older Kung Fu Panda during the middle of this week.
Weekend prediction: $22 million
Kung Fu Panda
Paramount/DreamWorks · PG · 4,053 theaters · 3rd weekend
With $130 mil and counting, Jack Black's animated hit could pass Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! ($153.4 mil) this weekend, to become the year's No. 3 top domestic earner.
Weekend prediction: $21 million
Fox · R · 2,986 theaters · 2nd weekend
Wow. That robust $30.5 mil premiere last time not many people saw that coming. But it might be a bit soon to start trumpeting the return of M. Night Shyamalan: Judging from the movie's awful CinemaScore grade of D, all interest may already be gone. The thing to look for this weekend is whether The Happening will match the 68 percent second-frame decline that The Village suffered back in 2004. The thriller's mid-week numbers have stayed steady, but Friday through Sunday could be a true horror show.
Weekend prediction: $11 million