21 Jump Street
Credit: Scott Garfield

After John Carter’s disappointing opening frame, this weekend brings moviegoers only one new wide release, 21 Jump Street, which looks like a potential smash that could birth a franchise. Although a number of limited releases — Will Ferrell comedy Casa De Mi Padre (382 theaters), Nicholas Cage thriller Seeking Justice (230 theaters), and Jason Segel/Ed Helms comedy Jeff, Who Lives at Home (250 theaters), — are hitting multiplexes, they aren’t likely to make much impact on the box office. Friends With Kids‘s expansion from 369 to 640 theaters might give it a small boost, but on the whole, the chart will likely look very similar to last weekend. Here’s how things may shake out:

1. 21 Jump Street – $34 million

Last summer, R-rated comedies were on fire. Bridesmaids‘ success in May kicked off a box office hot-streak for films like The Hangover Part II, Horrible Bosses, and Bad Teacher. The trend quickly waned, and by the dog days of summer, titles like Friends with Benefits, The Change-Up, and 30 Minutes or Less were routinely underperforming.

21 Jump Street is the first R-rated comedy since last summer that appears to have a legitimate shot at recapturing that raunchy box office magic. Sure, Jonah Hill’s last R-rated comedic effort, The Sitter only earned $30.4 million, and Channing Tatum’s most recent hit, The Vow ($118.7 million) is a weepy romantic drama, but together, the two stars look like they might have a comedy smash in their collaboration.

Indeed,the $42 million 21 Jump Street, which is being released in 3,121 theaters, has all the makings of a breakout success. It’s based on a popular 1980s television show (For comparison, 2005’s Dukes of Hazzard adaptation opened to $30.8 million), Tatum’s level of fame has never been higher, Sony has given the film a huge advertising push that clearly communicates the story, reviews are proving exemplary (EW’s Lisa Schwarzbaum gave it an A-), and above all else, the film just looks like a whole lot of fun. All these factors should add up to a number one debut (although The Lorax is still a force to be reckoned with) and a possible $34 million weekend..

2. The Lorax – $27 million

The Dr. Seuss adaptation fell by a larger-than-average 45 percent last weekend, mostly due to the fact that it opened to a gargantuan $70.2 million. With no new family movies entering theaters, expect 2012’s biggest hit to drop by a slimmer 30 percent down to $27 million, which will give it a running total above $160 million.

3. John Carter – $15 million

The $250 million adventure grossed a hugely troubling $30.1 million last weekend, and although most analysts don’t want to stamp a big, fat “BOMB” over the title just yet, the reality is, there’s no reason why the Disney sci-fi film should hold any better than other fanboy-targeting titles. Cowboys and Aliens dipped 58 percent in its sophomore frame, so even if John Carter holds better with a 50 percent decline, the film is still looking at a sad $15 million weekend.

4. Project X – $5.8 million

The $12 million party flick should keep raging for one more weekend, passing the $50 million mark in the process.

5. Act of Valor – $3.9 million

The patriotic Navy SEAL pic may dip by about 45 percent and enjoy one final weekend in the Top 5 — and a gross above $60 million.

What are you planning on seeing this weekend?

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21 Jump Street
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