Credit: Claudette Barius

Princess Merida hit the bullseye during her first weekend at the box office, but she’s got a new bear to fight this time around.

His name is Ted. He’s a stuffed animal. And he’s the main character in just one of four new wide releases hitting theaters this weekend. Also opening is stripper showcase Magic Mike, Tyler Perry offering Madea’s Witness Protection, and family drama People Like Us.

Will any of them be able to take out Brave? It’s going to be close. Here’s how I think the box office may shake out:

Channing Tatum’s passion project, stripper movie Magic Mike, which follows a…actually, you’re reading this on EW, so I probably don’t need to explain. The Steven Soderbergh-directed film has been dominating ticket pre-sales heading into the weekend. Fandango reports that Magic Mike accounted for 61 percent of Thursday’s daily ticket sales, signifying that Warner Bros. has successfully marketed the film as a must-see event for large groups of women. The $7 million privately financed project, which Warner Bros. acquired, is tapping into the same female-centric demographic that has helped make Fifty Shades of Grey a steamy bestseller.

Out in 2,930 theaters, Magic Mike may dance away with $34 million over the Friday-to-Sunday period, which would continue Tatum’s blockbuster year following The Vow ($125 million total gross) and 21 Jump Street ($138.3 million total). Of course, it’s very likely that Magic Mike will be quite frontloaded (no, not like that — get your mind out of the gutter!), and fall quickly after opening weekend.

Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane’s first feature film, Ted, which stars Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis, also has a shot at finishing at the top of the chart. Audiences are exhibiting clear excitement for the comedy, which boasts an easily (and effectively) communicated storyline, and a strong ad campaign, which includes a bawdy red-band trailer that got the Internet buzzing.

The teddy bear flick could play like the aforementioned 21 Jump Street, another raunchy R-rated comedy, which opened with $36.3 million earlier this year, or Wahlberg’s last major comedy, The Other Guys, which started with $35.5 million in 2010. Young men — especially Family Guy fans — will likely snuggle up with Ted, driving it to a possible $28 million weekend.

Despite the strong prospects for those two openers, Brave has the best shot at the number one ranking. The film has held up well during the week following its $66.3 million bow, and its “A” CinemaScore grade signals strong word-of-mouth. The Pixar princess adventure may drop by about 40 percent to $39 million, which would give it a ten-day total of $140 million.

Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection will likely have to settle for fourth place. Though Perry’s films were consistently underestimated during his first few years on the film scene, the shine has started to wear off on the oft-cross-dressing director’s films. The most recent Madea picture, Madea’s Big Happy Family, started with $25.1 million in 2011 — a 39 percent decrease from the $41 million debut of 2009’s Madea Goes to Jail. On top of that, Perry’s last non-Madea picture, Good Deeds, gave the writer/actor/director the second-worst box office returns in his career, earning $15.6 million on its first weekend on the way to a $35 million finish.

Fortunately, Perry keeps his budgets low, and the Lionsgate film will still do serious business with Perry’s core African-American audience, although Witness Protection has a more diverse cast thanks to Eugene Levy and Denise Richards. In 2,161 venues, Protection may witness a $22 million weekend.

The only other new wide release is Disney’s $16 million family drama People Like Us, which has one of the most unfortunate titles of the year. The film, which stars Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks, doesn’t look likely to become 2012’s version of The Help, an earnest tale that drew mass crowds. Audiences don’t have a clear sense of the story, and it’s facing heavy competition from new releases. People could earn about $5 million from 2,055 theaters.

1. Brave – $39 million

2. Magic Mike – $34 million

3. Ted – $28 million

4. Madea’s Witness Protection – $22 million

5. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted – $11.5 million

Keep checking EW for full box office coverage during the weekend, and follow me on Twitter for up-to-the-minute box office updates.

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