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'Despicable Me' and 'Predators' battle for box office gold

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despicable-me3Image Credit: Illumination Entertainment/Universal PicturesOne person who won’t be having a despicable weekend? Producer Chris Meledandri (Ice Age, Horton Hears a Who!), whose latest film, Despicable Me — released under his new company Illumination Entertainment — will almost certainly end up on top of the box-office this weekend. The film, Universal Pictures’ first foray into 3-D/CGI animation, has luckily generated solid reviews, a must considering the crowd of family films it’s jumping into. (Not only will it have a hot Toy Story 3 to contend with, but other hit family films as well, such as The Karate Kid and The Last Airbender) In contrast, Predators will be supplying starving action-horror fans just the meal they’ve been waiting for. Reviews have been mixed, but that shouldn’t stop audiences from coming out to support Adrien Brody’s dip into the genre. Read on for my predictions.

1. Despicable Me: $35 million

The studio is trying to lower expectations, considering the $69 million movie isn’t a sequel with a built-in audience. Still, with 1,500 3-D locations and terrific reviews, I think it will nab the No. 1 slot with more than $30 million in receipts. More likely, the film should fall in between two recent original animated hits: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs — which opened to $30 million — and How to Train Your Dragon, which bowed to close to $44 million. The fact that Steve Carell’s voicing Despicable‘s lead character will help, as will those cute little yellow minions that kids can’t seem to get enough of.

2. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse: $26 million

In the past seven days, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse has generated close to $200 million in box-office receipts. Its predecessor, New Moon, lost 70 percent of its value last year on its second weekend in theaters, but that film wasn’t released in the summer. Eclipse should hold in a bit better, simply because its giant opening day doesn’t figure into the weekend gross. Expect a 60 percent fall off for the frame.

3. Predators: $25 million

This predication may be high, considering 2004’s Alien vs. Predators is the only film in the 23-year old franchise to open beyond $20 million. Still, with nothing like it in the marketplace, this R-rated flick couldn’t come at a better time. The brand itself will be the biggest draw, as the cast — which includes Adrien Brody, Topher Grace, and Alice Braga — won’t do much to move the needle. Nimród Antal directed it, but the film’s producer, Robert Rodriguez, is getting most of the attention.

4. Toy Story 3: $17 million

With $313 million already in its coffers, Toy Story 3 will surely become Pixar’s highest-grossing film. Whether or not it surpasses Finding Nemo’s $339 million gross this weekend will depend on how hard it is hit by Despicable. Universal is aiming squarely at Toy Story’s audience and should have some success hitting it. As such, Toy Story will likely fall around 45 percent for the frame. It may just have to wait until sometime next week to cross Nemo’s milestone.

5. The Last Airbender: $16 million

The fact that M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender has grossed nearly $80 million is a remarkable feat, considering the hate dumped on it by critics. And, perhaps because of those poor reviews, it’s unlikely the movie will hold up well its second weekend in theaters. In fact, a 60 percent drop seems quite rational. Most of the fans of the Nickelodeon’s anime series on which the film was based clearly showed up on opening weekend. Whether or not they’ll return remains to be seen. Either way, the film will surely gross over $100 million domestically and should signal a reprieve for Shyamalan, who’s already written a first draft of the second installment of what is supposed to be a trilogy.

In limited release, Focus Features opens the highly-anticipated The Kids Are All Right from Lisa Cholodenko (Laurel Canyon), Paramount Pictures opens its Grease: Sing-A-Long in 12 theaters across the country (some are already sold out), and Music Box Films bows the second installment of the Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Played With Fire.

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