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A three-way battle for box office supremacy is brewing between Pacific Rim, Grown Ups 2, and Despicable Me 2 — all of which could potentially earn grosses in the mid-$40 million range this weekend and continue the film industry’s winning streak. The biggest question mark stomping into theaters is undoubtedly Warner Bros.’ ultra-expensive robot adventure Pacific Rim, whose earning potential has proven notoriously difficult to predict. But predict, I must! So without further ado, here’s how I think the box office might look this weekend:

1. Pacific Rim – $52 million

Look, people. I know that tracking for this $190 million Guillermo del Toro-directed tentpole has been woefully weak — down in the $25 million to $35 million range. I know Warner Bros. has repeatedly said it only expects $30 million for it this weekend. I know that everyone on the Internet has already declared Pacific Rim a bomb. But I just don’t believe it. Fandango reports that over 60 percent of daily sales are for Pacific Rim and that the film is outselling World War Z, which opened with $66.4 million, at the same point in its pre-release cycle. Of course, Pacific Rim‘s core demographic of male geeks is exactly the type that would purchase online tickets en masse — but even so, those sorts of pre-sales do not suggest an embarrassing opening.

Pacific Rim has surged on social media this week, which makes sense, since Warner Bros. saved most of its marketing budget for the release phase, and awareness is rising quickly. Plus, the film has earned strong reviews overall, which should lead to solid word-of-mouth. Though there are no bona fide movie stars in Pacific Rim‘s cast (the film has been advertised mostly with robots and monsters), the appeal of Del Toro may connect with film buffs. With 3-D and IMAX prices factored in — plus the groundswell of excitement for an original story — I think Pacific Rim could earn $52 million out of 3,275 theaters this weekend. I’m very aware that might be too high, but really, who knows where this film ends up?

2. Despicable Me 2 – $49 milion

After its $143 million five-day debut, the well-liked family film has easily topped the chart every day this week, and it has a shot at repeating in first place over the weekend if Pacific Rim fails to match my prediction. Despicable Me 2 might fall by about 40 percent — if there weren’t two big releases threatening to cut into its earnings, that percentage would be even smaller — to $49 million this weekend, which would give it an incredible $233 million after just 12 days.

3. Grown Ups 2 – $38 million

It may only have a 5 percent “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but Grown Ups 2 will likely be a substantial force at the box office this weekend. The film reunites the cast of the 2010 hit Grown Ups, which starred Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Kevin James, and David Spade, and grossed a great $162 million. But Sandler’s popularity has waned in recent years, as evidenced by the weak performances of That’s My Boy and Jack and Jill, and it’s not likely that many viewers are dying to find out what happened to the Grown Ups crew, since there were no high stakes (or especially likable characters) involved. Still, Grown Ups 2, which cost Sony $80 million, has gotten a huge marketing push, and it could get a boost from families as well. Out in 3,491 theaters, the film may earn about $38 million.

4. The Heat – $15 million

With its predominantly female audience, the Sandra Bullock/Melissa McCarthy comedy shouldn’t be too badly affected by Grown Ups 2. The Heat may cool by 40 percent to $15 million, giving it an impressive $113 million after three weekends.

5. Monsters University – $13 million

Assuming The Lone Ranger plummets this weekend (and I think it’s safe to say that it will), Monsters could notch a final week in the top five, pulling in $13 million and bringing its total to $240 million.

What movie do you think will top the weekend box office? Is my Pacific Rim prediction crazy, or is it just so crazy it might be right? Sound off in the comments, and check back to EW all weekend to see how the box office plays out.

Despicable Me 2
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