With a 31 percent overall first-choice tracking score among opening and released films, Universal and Imagine Entertainment's PG-13-rated comedy sequel "Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps" is clearly heading for first place.
Among African-American moviegoers, "Nutty 2" is a 48 percent overall first choice. Adding to its potential strength is the fact that Universal is launching "Nutty 2" extremely wide - with 3,242 theaters and 4,430 screens.
"It's huge," says one studio executive. "It's going to do north of $30 million."
"Based on the fact that the original opened to $25 million and (the similarly-focused PG-13) 'Big Momma's House' opened to $25 million, and this one is PG-13, I don't know why this wouldn't be in the $25-30 million range," observes a slightly more cautious insider.
The original "Nutty" opened June 28, 1996, to $25.41 million at 2,115 theaters ($12,015 per theater). It went on to do $128.8 million in domestic theaters.
Will the success of 20th Century Fox's Martin Lawrence comedy "Big Momma's House," which grossed over $111 million its first eight weeks in theaters, hurt "Nutty 2?" "It worked, so why wouldn't you want more of it?" a studio source asks. "A good many of the people who liked it - and obviously a lot of people did - saw the 'Nutty' trailer with it, I'm sure. It's Eddie Murphy, and the original was successful. I don't know why 'Big Momma' would hurt it."
Directed by Peter Segal, it stars Eddie Murphy, Janet Jackson and Larry Miller.
"Nutty's" arrival should send the R-rated supernatural thriller "What Lies Beneath" down one peg to second place in its second weekend.
"Beneath," a co-production of DreamWorks and Fox (which is releasing it abroad), opened to $29.7 million. "If they're down in that 30 percent-40% range, they'll do $18-20 million," a distribution executive speculates.
"They should be looking for a 40 percent-50% drop based on the way pictures are opening and dropping," insists another insider.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis, it stars Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer.
20th Century Fox's "X-Men" should drop from second to third place in its third weekend. The PG-13-rated sci-fi action adventure took a 57 percent plunge last weekend to $23.5 million.
"Let's say it's only down 40 percent-50% this week, it's in the $13-15 million range," a source suggests.
"I imagine 'X-Men' will continue to fall at least 40 percent," another insider predicts.
Directed by Bryan Singer and produced by Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter, "X-Men's" extensive cast is headed by Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman and Ian McKellen.
Warner Bros.' G-rated Japanese animated feature "Pokemon The Movie 2000" opened in third place to $19.6 million last week. It's likely to finish fourth this time.
"You've got to figure that they're going to be down at least 50 percent and that's going to put them around $9-10 million," a distributor maintains.
Dimension Films' R-rated gross-out comedy horror film spoof "Scary Movie" was fourth last week, falling 42 percent to $15.1 million. If it drops around 45 percent, it comes in fifth with $8-9 million.
Directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans, it stars Carmen Electra and Shannon Elizabeth.
Destination Films' G-rated family film "Thomas and the Magic Railroad," combining live action and animation, looks like it could just miss pulling into the Top Five. "Thomas" opened Wednesday to about $1.4 million at 2,054 theaters.
"Do I think it will make the Top Five?" repeated one studio source. "Maybe not. It'll do about $2.3 million for two days. It could do $6-8 million for the weekend."
"If 'Thomas' gets to $8-10 million, it could knock out 'Scary Movie' or 'Pokemon,'" a distributor points out, noting that kids movies don't track well, so it's very hard to predict what they're going to do at the box office.
Directed by Britt Allcroft, it stars Alec Baldwin, Peter Fonda and Mara Wilson.
Warner Bros.' PG-13-rated adventure drama blockbuster "The Perfect Storm" should continue to lose steam in its fifth week. It was fifth last weekend with a 43 percent drop to $9.7 million. Another 43 percent skid would give it about $5.5 million.
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen, "Storm" stars George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg.
Filling out lower rungs this weekend: "Disney's The Kid," "The Patriot" and "Chicken Run."
On this weekend's limited release front: USA Films' R-rated drama "Wonderland-USA" opens in New York and Los Angeles.
Directed by Michael Winterbottom, it stars Ian Hart and Stuart Townsend.
Paramount Classics' R-rated drama "The Girl On the Bridge" opens in limited release.
Directed by Patrice Leconte, it stars Daniel Auteuil and Vanessa Paradis.
Looking ahead to films opening Aug. 4, mid-week overall tracking numbers showed Warner Bros. "Space Cowboys" with a 6 percent first choice, Buena Vista/Touchstone's "Coyote Ugly" with a 10 percent first choice and Columbia's "Hollow Man" with a 10 percent first choice. Tracking scores typically increase as films' openings get closer and more television ads run on their behalf.