By Adam Markovitz
Updated June 09, 2011 at 08:54 PM EDT
Super 8
Credit: Francois Duhamel

This week, one of summer’s most hotly anticipated titles will be put to the box office test, pitting the allure of childhood nostalgia against the challenge of marketing a movie without a major star. I’m referring, of course, to Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer. Kidding, hush, take your finger off the mouse. J.J. Abrams’ Super 8 should easily take the weekend’s top spot, kicking X-Men: First Class down a grade. But just how super will Super 8‘s gross be? Here’s a look at our predictions for the top five:

1. Super 8: $45 million

All eyes are on J.J. Abrams’ sci-fi spectacle, which opens Friday at 3379 sites, including 239 IMAX theaters. It’s got enormous fan-boy buzz thanks to the pairing of Abrams’ and producer Steven Spielberg, but the movie’s trailers have emphasized its suspense and mystery elements without giving any money shots of the alien/monster — a bold tactic when you’re dealing with seen-it-all summer moviegoers. Early reports indicated that the movie was tracking surprisingly low — in the 30’s — which might explain why Spielberg descended from Olympus (or Pacific Palisades, same difference) to plug the movie at last week’s MTV Movie Awards. Paramount also made a last-minute decision to open the movie on 300 screens tonight, giving an extra 24 hours of (hopefully) positive word of mouth to motivate Friday moviegoers. Still, without any huge stars or a recognizable brand name, Super 8 is unlikely to open to out-of-this-world numbers.

2. X-Men: First Class: $22 million

Despite strong reviews, this slick preboot opened to a franchise-low last weekend. Even worse: Super 8 is going to steal 105 percent of its fanboy audience this frame. (I’m alotting the extra five percent for the die-hard Spielberg geeks who will probably see it more than once.) Look for a steep drop of around 60-65 percent, bringing the weekend total to something like $22 million.

3. The Hangover Part II: $15 million

The bromantic comedy had a hard time hanging over to its second weekend (see how I did that?), losing 63 percent of its audience. It might get a slight break this time around since there’s still no other comedic competition in theaters, but a drop around 55 percent looks likely.

4. Kung Fu Panda 2: $14 million

Kid pics tend to hold better than most genres, especially in summer when parents will gladly fork over another $14 for a couple hours of quiet, air-conditioned down time. Judy Moody (see below) is going after the same audience, but Panda‘s brand awareness and megabudget marketing campaign should give it the advantage.

The tide is ebbing for the fourth Pirates movie, which, at $196 million domestically, is underperforming in the U.S. only by the overperforming standard of its own money-minting franchise. (International grosses are a different story: Cap’n Jack’s brought in a whopping $614.9 million overseas.) Look for another 50 percent drop this weekend.

Other new releases: Woody Allen’s sleeper hit Midnight in Paris could be a potential top-five party crasher this weekend as it expands to 750 screens. Relativity’s Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer (starring Heather Graham) opens on 2,000 screens and will likely score around $7 million from kids who’ve already seen Kung Fu Panda 2. And IFC’s Steve Coogan-Rob Brydon britcom The Trip should do strong per-screen numbers in a limited release.

Pirates of the Caribbean

  • Movie