January 23, 2009 at 10:40 PM EST

Get ready for another screwy, unpredictable weekend at the box office, as the expanded releases of several Oscar-nominated movies (notably, Slumdog Millionaire, Frost/Nixon, Revolutionary Road, and The Wrestler) battle two formidable freshman flicks (Underworld: Rise of the Lycans and Inkheart). Oh, and let’s not forget the current No. 1 movie in the land, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, which may well repeat as champ once the dust settles. Without further ado, my picks.

1. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans — $20 million
Kate Beckinsale, hubby/director Len Wiseman, and Scott Speedman pretty much sat out this prequel to the hit action series, whose first two installments opened at $21.8 mil and then $26.9 mil. Now, Rhona Mitra, Bill Nighy, and Frost/Nixon star Michael Sheen are the big names on the marquee — so, yeah, expect grosses to be a little lower this time around. But not too much: Judging by the $62.3 mil total take of 2006’s Underworld: Evolution, the franchise seems to have plenty of bite left in it.

2. Inkheart — $16 million
It’s a family film based on a popular kids’ book starring successful-family-film veteran Brendan Fraser (Journey to the Center of the Earth). I mean, what more do you need to know?! Okay, here’s a few more facts. Last year around this time, The Spiderwick Chronicles opened with $19 mil; two years ago, Bridge to Terabithia premiered with $22.6 mil. Inkheart may not have the broad brand-name appeal that those predecessors boasted, but it shouldn’t come in far behind where they did.

3. Paul Blart: Mall Cop — $15 million
Yeah, yeah, I got blindsided last week. But I have an excuse! It wasn’t so much that I didn’t see the Kevin James comedy’s huge $31.8 mil debut coming from a mile away. It’s that I simply refused to believe it.

4. Gran Torino — $13 million
A total Oscar shut-out should slow Clint Eastwood’s latest as it approaches the $100 mil mark.

5. Slumdog Millionaire — $11 million
Danny Boyle’s 10-time Academy Award nominee is already a big millionaire at the box office, having grossed $44.7 mil in merely medium release since November. It gets its widest run yet this weekend, more than doubling its screen count to 1,411 theaters, and should draw crowds interested in seeing what all the fuss has been about. Fellow expanding Oscar nominees Frost/Nixon (which is a great movie but has to do with a period in time that filmgoers either aren’t familiar with or may not want to revisit), Revolutionary Road (which got just one major-category nomination, despite its pedigree), and The Wrestler (which is playing in a still-relatively small 566 cinemas) are likely to trail.

So that’s what I’m thinking. Time for you to make your predictions below!

More Box Office News:

EW.com’s Box Office Chart

Paul Blart: Mall Cop wins the weekend
Gran Torino drives away with a win
Batman was a blockbuster, but did 2008 bomb?
Marley & Me wins for a second straight week

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