''Scooby-Doo'' should top Matt Damon and Nic Cage. When it comes to the weekend's box office battle, expect the lovable cartoon canine to win more fans than two very different action flicks
Matthew Lillard, Scooby-Doo
Credit: Scooby-Doo: Jason Boland

How’s this for a spring cleaning? In the last weekend before the official start of summer, three big new movies targeting very different audiences will sweep away the top spots at the box office.

No. 1 will surely go to ”Scooby-Doo,” the anticipated live-action version of the classic cartoon, starring real-life couple (and current EW cover subjects) Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze, Jr. With its strong family drawing power (not to mention the curiosity of adults who grew up on the toon), ”Scooby” should have no trouble topping the $31.2 million earned by ”The Sum of All Fears” two weeks ago but won’t come close to an opening of ”Star Wars” or ”Spider-Man” proportions. Look for the PG-rated film to earn about $40 million in its first three days.

The race for second place could be close between the week’s two other debuts, ”The Bourne Identity” and ”Windtalkers.” The one that seems to have more buzz going into the weekend is ”Bourne,” the Matt Damon spy thriller based on the Robert Ludlum novel. Despite the film’s troubled shoot — including script rewrites, additional photography, and battles over editing — ”Bourne,” directed by ”Swingers” and ”Go” filmmaker Doug Liman, has earned mostly good early reviews. Damon is largely untested as a box-office draw in this kind of film, but ”Bourne’s” PG-13 rating means a larger audience, so the thriller could pull off a $21 million opening.

That leaves Nicolas Cage’s ”Windtalkers” the possible third-place finisher. The World War II drama, which has an audience-limiting R rating, had its release date delayed from last fall, though MGM execs say it had nothing to do with the Sept. 11 attacks. Whatever the case, the change has meant a marketing and publicity campaign that was spread out over almost a year. And Cage seems to be in a slump dating back to 1997 (true, ”Gone in 60 Seconds” reached $100 million in 2000, but it wasn’t exactly a crowd-pleaser). Expect ”Windtalkers” to settle for an $18 million debut.

The trio of premieres will certainly push last week’s top two films, Ben Affleck’s ”The Sum of All Fears” (the guy movie) and Sandra Bullock’s ”Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” (the chick flick), to Nos. 4 and 5, respectively. Both films have been neck-and-neck during the week, and each should fall to about $12 million this weekend. The battle of the sexes continues….

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
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