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The Rock will be crowned ''King''

The Rock will be crowned ”King.” The WWF star’s ”Scorpion King” will easily defeat big-name competitors Sandra Bullock and Ben Affleck

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Dwayne ''The Rock'' Johnson, The Scorpion King
The Scorpion King: Bruce Burmelin

It may be only mid-April, but most of the country is already experiencing a heat wave. So how about a summer blockbuster?

This year the hottest season starts with this weekend’s release of ”The Scorpion King,” the prequel to the hugely successful ”Mummy” movies featuring, in his first leading role, WWF megastar Dwayne ”The Rock” Johnson. Can an April action flick bring in summertime bucks? When the Rock is involved, you bet.

Last year, ”The Mummy Returns,” which featured The Rock (as the Scorpion King) in a small role, grossed an amazing $68.1 million. Without the ”Mummy” name and the built-in hype that goes with it, don’t expect ”Scorpion” to pull off those numbers. But thanks to the Rock’s huge popularity and fans who are frothing at the mouth for this movie, it’ll certainly be the ”King” of the box office with about $45 million.

Far behind in second place will be the weekend’s other new release, the Sandra Bullock thriller ”Murder by Numbers,” in which she plays against type as a homicide detective tracking two teenage killers. Following the Ashley Judd drama ”High Crimes,” which managed a $14 million opening earlier this month, Bullock should earn bigger ”Numbers,” premiering with about $15 million. (Bullock has loyal fans: Her last seven films all opened with double digits).

That’ll push her ”Forces of Nature” costar, Ben Affleck, back to third place with last week’s No. 1, the road-rage drama ”Changing Lanes.” Strong critical notices should give the film some legs, but mixed audience reviews don’t bode too well. A 40 percent drop would result in another $10 million take.

Rounding out the top five will be ”Panic Room” and ”Ice Age,” which, in their fourth and sixth weeks, respectively, will gross another $6 million. This puts these fan favorites on their way to becoming the two top-grossing films so far this year. That is, until the country smells what the Rock is cooking.

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