Updated Saturday morning:
Audiences wanted to “Think Like a Man” on Friday: Sony’s Screen Gems comedy well exceeded expectations on Friday, grossing an estimated $12.2 million at domestic locations to surpass fellow romantic newcomer “The Lucky One” on opening day.
The African-American ensemble “Think,” based on an advice book by comedian Steve Harvey, is now on track to open in the $30 million range, well above studio estimates of $17 million, and beyond more aggressive estimates to $24 million.
Coming into the weekend, box office watchers said that the movie could perform in line with a successful Tyler Perry movie, and “Think” now appears in line with Perry’s “Why Did I Get Married Too,” which opened to $29.3 million in 2010. According to Sony, the romantic comedy essentially made up its negative costs its first full day of release.
“The Lucky One” also got off to a strong start, grossing an estimated $9.1 million from 3,155 locations. The Warner Bros. movie starring Zac Efron, based on a Nicholas Spark romance novel, is expected to bring in more than $20 million opening weekend.
“The Hunger Games” slipped to third after four weeeks of dominating the box office. It grossed around $4 million on Friday. It is expected gross in the mid-teens this weekend at the domestic box office. Lionsgate's adaptation of Suzanne Collins' young adult novel has already grossed well over $300 million at the domestic box office.
“The Hunger Games” will surely lose its box-office crown this weekend – and it’s going to be to a romance.
The question is, Will it be the Zac Efron military sudser “The Lucky One” or the African-American ensemble “Think Like a Man”?
Both are based on books by authors with devoted followings: Warner Bros.’ “Lucky One” on a novel by romance king Nicholas Sparks, and Sony’s Screen Gems release on an advice book by comedian Steve Harvey.
After four consecutive victories, “The Hunger Games” is expected to come in third with $13 million to $14 million.
Also read: 'Hunger Games' Box Office: A Rare Four-Peat
“Think” is projected to gross between $17 million to $24 million, with “Lucky One” projected in the low $20 million range. It all comes down to whether Sony is able to pull strong Tyler Perry numbers at significantly fewer locations than its competition.
Boxoffice.com editor Phil Contrino, for one, thinks that Sony can. But he concedes “Think Like a Man” is no slam-dunk winner.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes down to the wire on Sunday with $500,000 separating them,” Contrino told TheWrap.
He predicts “Think” will come out on top with $24 million, based on strong pre-sales and the fact that the African-American audience is underserved. Plus, he contends that it is more of a date movie than “The Lucky One,” an estro-driven tale about a woman romanced by a handsome soldier.
However, Jeff Bock, senior box office analyst for Exhibitor Relations, gives the edge to "Lucky One." He predicts "low-20s" for the Efron movie and upper-teens for “Think Like a Man,” in line with Sony $17 million-plus projection for the movie, which stars Kevin Ealy, Meagan Good, Taraji P. Henson and Gabrielle Union.
He said that while Sony and Lionsgate have pulled off $20 million openings for Tyler Perry movies with similar appeal in the past, that barrier will be tough for "Think Like a Man" to pass in 2,015 locations.
"Lucky One" is opening in more than 3,000 theaters.
Bock considers Kevin Hart the X-factor in “Think Like a Man,” noting that Hart’s documentary “Laugh at My Pain” grossed more than $7.7 million last year.
As for "The Lucky One," Bock said that author Sparks could prove more of a draw than Efron, who’s still relatively untested as an adult leading man and whose previous efforts to toss off the teen-idol image have faltered. “Somewhere in the low-20s should be the sweet spot,” Bock said.
The movie isn’t getting great reviews, but Sparks movies -- "The Notebook," "Dear John" -- don’t depend on them, he noted. “This one will get left up to the audiences,” he said.
Thursday afternoon, “The Lucky One” was registering at 28 percent at Rotten Tomatoes, 42 percent on Metacritic and 44.1 percent on Movie Review Intelligence.
“Think Like a Man,” by contrast, was rated at 58 percent at Rotten Tomatoes, 47 percent by Metacritic and 60.1 percent at Movie Review Intelligence.
The other big newcomer, Disney's G-rated nature documentary “Chimpanzee,” should land in the top 10. It's projected to gross between $6 million to $8 million during the weekend in a strong showing for an environmentally themed documentary debuting in time for Earth Day.
Next weekend, “The Five Year Engagement,” “The Pirates! Band of Misfits,” “The Raven,” “Safe” and “Bernie” all debut. But the fireworks really begin the following weekend, when “Avengers” is expected to take the box office by storm.