Fox's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" starring James Franco is neither a sequel nor a prequel, but it does have built-in brand recognition and a fresh interpretation of the original series. So expect no monkeying around with these apes as they rise to the top of the weekend box office chart with an opening gross approaching $35 million.
Sony's "The Smurfs" scared the boots off some high-profile Western dudes this past weekend when it ended up a very close second behind the favored "Cowboys & Aliens" from Universal/Dreamworks. This time around, look for "The Smurfs" to leave "Cowboys" in the dust for a second-place finish around $20 million, compared to the high teens for the third-place "Cowboys."
Actually, "The Smurfs" has already pulled ahead of "Cowboys" in the midweek box office race and now has a higher North American gross than its competitor. By Sunday night, that total could be nearing $75 million.
Universal's debuting "The Change-Up," starring Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman, puts a new spin on an old twist and is expected to land in fourth place in the low to mid teens. From "Freaky Friday" to "17 Again" _ and countless films in between _ the body-switching movie is a cinema staple, and this time the formula gets the R-rated treatment, which should give "The Change-Up" solid date-crowd appeal.
This weekend's fifth-place position features three possible contenders, each with the potential to make around $10 million: Paramount's "Captain America: The First Avenger," Warner Bros.' "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2," and Warners' R-rated comedy "Crazy Stupid Love."
Paul Dergarabedian is president of the Box Office Division of Hollywood.com and a box office analyst for The Associated Press.