My goodness, an EW.com box office savant goes on vacation for a few weeks and the world turns upside down. Back in the world of multiplexes and Internets now, I'm learning that Star Wars is no longer the No. 2 top domestic grosser of all time, Seth Rogen may have to wait a little longer before his coronation as the next Will Ferrell, and Hollywood has started to dump a whole bunch of crapola in theaters now that we're in the end of August.
Oh, yes, it's gonna be a bummer of a weekend in box office land, as four of the seven major movie companies are releasing films they couldn't fit anywhere else on the calendar. I could hit you with my usual ''there'll be something for everyone this weekend,'' since the new releases include an R-rated action flick (Death Race), a family sports film (The Longshots), a college comedy (The House Bunny), and a farce featuring a star of The Office (The Rocker). But who would I be kidding? Most folks are going to be finishing their summer breaks and watching the end of the Olympics. Or playing EW.com's Summer Box Office Challenge game.
THE (LIKELY) TOP FIVE
Universal · R · 2,531 theaters · NEW
Jason Statham and three-time Oscar nominee Joan Allen (a.k.a. the former future Meryl Streep) star in a remake of the 1975 Roger Corman cult classic Death Race 2000. Sweet! Much as I poop on the August-September movie doldrums, Statham has emerged as the king of the late summer in recent years, with $10 million-ish debuts each for 2004's Cellular, 2005's The Transporter 2 (a $16.5 mil opener, in fact), 2006's Crank, and 2007's War. His Bank Job was also a $30.1 mil word-of-mouth success earlier this year. And if he's not enough of a draw, there's always this: exploding cars!
Weekend prediction: $17 million
Paramount/DreamWorks · R · 3,352 theaters · 2nd weekend
Despite (or, perhaps, because of?) all that controversy, Ben Stiller's ensemble satire rolled into theaters and unseated The Dark Knight with a $25.8 mil premiere. But no need to quit while it's ahead, the comedy should hold strong with little substantial direct competition this weekend.
Weekend prediction: $14 million
MGM/Dimension · PG · 2,089 theaters · NEW
Keke Palmer, so great in the 2006 gem Akeelah and the Bee, plays a girl who leads a Pop Warner youth football team to victory in this fact-based tale, which stars Ice Cube as the coach. The gross could go either way here: Ordinarily, I'd say this low-buzz movie doesn't sound like much of a winner, but Ice Cube's devoted following and the success of similar fare (see: Dwayne Johnson's The Game Plan) mean it could score a touchdown.
Weekend prediction: $13 million
The Dark Knight
Warner Bros. · PG-13 · 3,163 theaters · 6th weekend
So completely dominant, with about $480 mil domestically and more than $800 mil worldwide, Christian Bale's comic-book movie is like the Usain Bolt of the multiplex.
Weekend prediction: $11 million
The House Bunny
Columbia · PG-13 · 2,714 theaters · NEW
In this high-concept comedy from Adam Sandler's production company and the writers of Legally Blonde, Anna Faris is a Playboy Bunny who teaches a lame sorority about boys. I can imagine it now, the debate that'll rage in your head this weekend: ''Shall I stay home to watch the team handball final tonight, or should I go see The House Bunny? Team handball or House Bunny? Uh...team handball!''
Weekend prediction: $6 million
THE OTHER NEW RELEASE
Fox · PG-13 · 2,784 theaters · NEW
The Office's Rainn Wilson plays a former would-be hair-metal rock god (got that?) who gets a second chance at awesomeness when he hooks up with his nephew's garage band. I'd go on, but the movie debuted on Wednesday to an abysmal $577,343, so it sure sounds as if Wilson will be jamming unplugged through Sunday.
Weekend prediction: $5 million