In one of the most crowded movie weekends of the summer, three high-profile new releases will take on returning hits ''Bad Boys II'' and ''Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.'' And by the time Sunday comes around, expect one tough mother to emerge on top.
Angelina Jolie's ''Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life'' brings back the Oscar-winning actress' popular Lara Croft character, who led ''Lara Croft: Tomb Raider'' to a $47.7 million opening two years ago. With the sequel coming after 11 other action flicks this summer, Jolie probably won't see as high a debut, despite widespread buzz that the second film is better than the first. But with a release in more than 3,200 theaters, ''Tomb Raider'' should be able to steal the top spot with a $38 million score.
The race for second place could be extremely close. My money is on the surprise smash ''Pirates of the Caribbean,'' which should see another small drop, perhaps in the 35 percent range, to $22 million, bringing its three-week total to near $175 million. Close behind will likely be last week's No. 1 film, ''Bad Boys II,'' which will see a bigger decline of about 55 percent to $21 million.
Also opening this weekend is ''Seabiscuit,'' the adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand's equestrian book starring Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, and recent Oscar winner Chris Cooper. Audience anticipation for this one is huge, particularly among older moviegoers who don't feel the need to rush out and see a film in its opening weekend. So while I expect ''Seabiscuit'' to outgross ''Tomb Raider 2'' in the long run, it should place fourth this weekend with an opening of $20 million.
Rounding out the top five will be yet another sequel, ''Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over.'' The second ''Spy Kids'' movie premiered with $25 million over five days last summer, but with increased competition -- I'd bet many families would rather see ''Pirates of the Caribbean'' -- this one won't even come close. A debut of about $10 million seems in order. If that's the case, it might be ''Game Over'' for this franchise.