Jaden Smith, After Earth

Hey box office nerds, I’m back! What have I missed? Oh, just the highest grossing Memorial Day weekend in history? Well, it’s not like I was irrationally excited about the Fast & Furious 6 vs. The Hangover Part III showdown or anything…

But the box office waits for no one. It’s a new weekend with new releases — namely, the Will/Jaden Smith adventure After Earth and the magician thriller Now You See Me — and the former has a shot at taking out Fast & Furious 6 as the number one movie in America. (Meanwhile, The Hangover Part III seems likely to plummet out of the Top 5 altogether.)

Here’s how the frame may play out:

1. Fast & Furious 6 – $40 million

The blockbuster clobbered the competition on opening weekend, but it’s headed for a hefty drop in its sophomore frame — partly due to the fact that the Memorial Day holiday inflated grosses last weekend. A drop in the 60-percent range would still give Fast about $40 million, which would bring its 10-day total to a terrific $175 million.

2. After Earth – $34 million

Sony has wisely kept director M. Night Shyamalan’s name out of the marketing of this $130 million post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama, which stars Will Smith and his 14-year-old son, Jaden. Instead, the studio has focused on the father/son dynamic as the story’s main selling point, and that gimmick should draw in quite a few people (and an increased number of families) to the theater. Many will be turned off by the dismal reviews (and film buffs are likely to steer clear of a movie by the director of recent flops The Happening and The Last Airbender), but Will Smith’s appeal is formidable — even if his once-sterling status has taken a few hits in the press recently.

The last time Will and Jaden teamed up was in 2006’s The Pursuit of Happyness, which opened with $26.5 million and finished with $163 million. Based on the rough reviews, After Earth won’t reach that high a take overall (though Will Smith’s international appeal will lift the worldwide total), but it should fare better on an opening weekend in the summer season. Out in 3,401 theaters, the film could earn about $34 million this weekend.

3. Epic – $21 million

The family film opened lower than The Hangover Part III last weekend, but it will almost certainly outgross the R-rated comedy when all is said and done. Right now, Epic is the only animated film in the marketplace, and as The Croods already learned, that can mean big business for weeks at a time. A 40-percent drop would give the $100 million Fox film about $21 million in its second weekend and lift its total to just under $70 million.

4. Star Trek Into Darkness – $20.5 million

The J.J. Abrams-directed film held up very well in the face of Fast & Furious 6 last weekend, dipping just 46 percent. Another 45-percent drop would give the film $20 million more for the weekend and nearly $185 million after three frames — certainly a lower total than Paramount must have been expecting.

5. Now You See Me – $20 million

Summit’s magician thriller starring Jesse Eisnberg, Morgan Freeman, Mark Ruffalo, Isla Fisher, and Dave Franco has always looked intriguing, but buzz hasn’t swelled to must-see levels. Fortunately, solid reviews have raised Now‘s prospects quite a bit, and it stands out as an original story in a summer stuffed with sequels. The film cost about $80 million to produce, and it will need to pull a lot more than a rabbit out of its hat to earn back that investment domestically. Still, Now You See Me may open in the same range as mid-level thrillers like Limitless ($18 million) and The Adjustment Bureau ($21 million) and take in $20 million from 2,925 theaters.

How do you think the weekend will play out? Can the Smith family eke out the win, or is Fast & Furious 6 simply too big of a box office brute?

For more box office coverage, follow me on Twitter: Follow @gradywsmith

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