Universal’s “U-571” should rule the Easter Weekend box office waters.

The PG-13 World War II submarine drama, opening at 2,584 theaters, was a 17% first choice in studio tracking studies late in the week. With adult men making it a 29% first choice, it’s on track to blast the adult male-driven drama “Rules of Engagement” out of first place.

“They could certainly do $18-20 million,” predicts one insider. But that sounds high to another source, who cautions: “No females under 25 want to go see this movie. It’s Nazis and subs and World War II.”

“I don’t know what the market will bear this weekend,” says a distribution executive. Good Friday is typically a very strong box office day, but Saturday should only be fair, and Easter Sunday is never a great day for moviegoing.

A key factor affecting Easter weekend ticket sales, adds another studio source, “is the weather in the northeast. I don’t think of it as being a substantial weekend necessarily. I don’t think the holiday affects it that much. It’s basically just another weekend. Where you really (benefit) is in mid-week business. You’re seeing it this week and you’ll see it next week when a lot of kids are out of school.”

Directed by Jonathan Mostow, “U-571” stars Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel and Jon Bon Jovi.

New Line’s “Love & Basketball” looks like a slam dunk for second place.

Opening at over 1,100 theatres, its core audience will be young African-Americans. The PG-13 rated urban appeal drama was a 15% first choice in the tracking and could score about $11 million. With African-Americans 25 and under, its first-choice tracking is 57% with males and 64% with females. In terms of all moviegoers 25 and under, “Basketball’s” first-choice numbers are 18% with males and 24% with females.

Written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, it stars Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan.

Paramount’s “Rules of Engagement” should retreat to third place in its third week. A 30% drop would give it about $7.6 million.

Directed by William Friedkin, “Rules” stars Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L Jackson.

Columbia’s PG-13 rated dramatic comedy “28 Days” should slide to fourth place in its second week. If it holds up well and only drops 30%, it will do about $7 million.

Directed by Betty Thomas, “Days” stars Sandra Bullock and Viggo Mortensen.

Universal’s Julia Roberts blockbuster comedy drama “Erin Brockovich” should round out the Top Five. If it falls 30%, it will do about $5 million in its sixth week.

The Jersey Films production, co-financed by Universal and Columbia, is directed by Steven Soderbergh and also stars Albert Finney and Aaron Eckart.

Warner Bros.’ R rated drama “Gossip,” opening at 1,525 theaters, isn’t likely to have much to shout about. With a first-choice tracking of 5%, it will be a struggle for it to crack the Top Five.

“It’s probably very young (and female in its appeal),” says an insider. “With movies like that, the marketing does its work in the last few days.” He sees “Gossip” benefiting from kids being out of school for Good Friday.

Directed by Davis Guggenheim, it stars James Marsden, Lena Headey, Norman Reedus, Kate Hudson, Marisa Coughlan and Joshua Jackson.

Filling out lower rungs on the chart: “American Psycho,” “Keeping the Faith” and “The Road to El Dorado.”

Paramount Classics’ R rated drama about teen suicide, “The Virgin Suicides,” goes into limited release with limited prospects.

Written and directed by Sofia Coppola, it stars James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Kirsten Dunst and Josh Hartnett.