March 20, 2009 at 12:00 PM EDT

It’ll be a tight fight for supremacy at the box office this weekend, as three big new releases — the buzzy R-rated comedy I Love You, Man, the Julia Roberts spy movie Duplicity, and the Nicolas Cage sci-fi flick Knowing — compete against formidable reigning champ Race to Witch Mountain. And all have an equal chance to win. I mean, to call this weekend wide open is like calling Watchmen a box office disappointment (you know, because it is). Anyway, here’s how I see the battle shaping up.

1. I Love You, Man — $21 million
Paul Rudd and Jason Segel (pictured, with Rashida Jones) star in this raw “bro-mantic” comedy, which should be catnip for the fellas out there. You know, the same guys who gave Rudd’s Role Models a $19.2 mil debut last fall, the same dudes who helped propel Segel’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall to a $17.7 mil first-weekend take 11 months ago. Certainly, from where I stand, it’s the most talked-about new film of the weekend. And you can never underestimate one other thing it has going for it during these tough times in the world: I Love You, Man is filled with laughs, and right now people want to laugh.

2. Race to Witch Mountain — $16 million
As the weekend’s only big family film, Dwayne Johnson’s Disney update (which opened with a super-solid $24.4 mil) may just sneak in there and win another round.

3. Duplicity — $15 million
With this romantic thriller (rom-thrill?) from Michael Clayton‘s Tony Gilroy, Julia Roberts has her first major leading role since…gosh, 2004’s Closer or 2003’s Mona Lisa Smile, depending on how you want to argue it. Point is, America’s sweetheart has been out of the conversation for quite a while, popping up only in supporting roles in the Ocean’s movies and Charlie Wilson’s War or lending her voice to Charlotte’s Web. Her costar Clive Owen, meanwhile, has compiled an impressive resume since he, too, appeared in Closer, but the poor $25.2 mil take of The International earlier this year shows that the jury’s still out on him as a box office force. All of which is to say that this movie could do well if Roberts’ core fan base of older women turns out in droves (as they’ve done for He’s Just Not That Into You, Sex and the City, and other recent releases). Or, more likely, it’ll face some problems.

4. Knowing — $12 million
Nicolas Cage’s latest mindbender is playing in the most theaters this weekend (3,332), so it has an edge, right? Maybe, maybe not. The key here is whether this relatively unheralded film, from sci-fi auteur Alex Proyas and indie distributor Summit (yes, the folks who brought you Twilight), will play out more like Cage’s Ghost Rider ($45.4 mil debut) or Next ($7.1 mil opening). My gut is that it’ll wind up much like the latter.

5. Watchmen — $8 million
Good news: Zack Snyder’s superheroes will probably hit the $100 million mark this weekend. Bad news: Really, they should have gotten there already.

Now, it’s your turn! What do you think will happen? Does Julia Roberts have another hit in her? What about Nic Cage? Weigh in below?

More Box Office News:
‘Race to Witch Mountain’ casts a spell at No. 1
‘Watchmen’ wins the weekend with $55.7 mil
‘Madea’ tops ‘Jonas Brothers’ for a second box office win
‘Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail’ wins big at the box office
‘Friday the 13th’ slashes records’s Box Office Chart

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