‘Now You See Me’ and ‘After Earth’ Battle for 2nd Behind ‘Fast 6′ at Box Office

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The magic thriller and Will and Jaden Smith's sci-fi adventure are both on pace for $27 million weekends as cars-and-criminals sequel eyes $35 million

"Fast and Furious" is cruising to a second-week victory at the box office and should hit $35 million over the weekend, but "After Earth" and "Now You See Me" are in a tight battle for the runner-up spot.

That's good news for the magic-themed heist thriller from Lionsgate's Summit Entertainment and bad news for sci-fi adventure tale from Will and Jaden Smith, both of which are looking at three-day totals in the $27 million range. 

“After Earth” took in $9.8 million Friday but failed to ignite the retro rockets, and is looking like summer’s first major misfire at the box office. At its current pace it will come in with about $10 million under what analysts and distributor Sony had expected for the weekend.

The M. Night Shyamalan-directed “After Earth,” in which the father and son play space travelers stranded on Earth 1,000 years after humanity has left, had been expected to challenge reigning champ “Fast and Furious 6″ for No. 1 this weekend. But coupled with blistering reviews, weak word of mouth and a hefty $130 million production budget, the slow start adds up to a big disappointment for Sony and Overbrook Entertainment.

Also read: Can Will Smith Turn His Son Jaden Into the Next Fresh Prince of Hollywood? (Video)

The weekend’s other wide opener, “Now You See Me,” brought in $10 million for Lionsgate’s Summit Entertainment on Friday, and is on pace to come in nearly $10 million above pre-release projections for the weekend. It got off to a good start with $1.5 million from its late Thursday shows, which started at 7 p.m., and audiences gave it an “A-” CinemaScore.  “After Earth” got a “B,” not good, as first-night crowds generally grade high.

Also read: 'Now You See Me' Reviews: Were Critics Enchanted?

“Now You See Me” had the highest per-screen average, with $3,405 from 2,925 theaters. “After Earth” took in an average of $2,865 from its 3,401 locations and “Fast 6″ averaged $2,855 in 3,686 theaters.

The PG-13 "Now You See Me" follows an FBI agent and Interpol detective tracking a team of illusionists who pull off bank heists during their performances and reward their audiences with the money. Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Common, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman top the ensemble cast, which is directed by Louis Leterrier ("Clash of the Titans").

If Universal’s cars-and-criminals sequel stays on its current pace, it will finish down roughly 64 percent drop from its record Memorial Day weekend debut, a standard drop for the films in the franchise, which have fallen off sharply from debut weeks in the past. Its domestic total is now $170.9 million.

It's tight for fourth place, too.

The movie in the most theaters was Fox’s “Epic,” at 3,894. The animated family film from Blue Sky Studios brought in just over $4 million Friday, which puts it on pace for a $15 million second week. It is neck-and-neck with Paramount's "Star Trek Into Darkness," which started its third weekend with $4.4 million from 3,585 theaters on Friday, and "The Hangover Part 3," which begain its second weekend with $5.1 million from 3,565 locations.

Disney's Marvel superhero blockbuster "Iron Man 3" brought in $2.2 million Friday and will wind up at around $8 million for the weekend. Its domestic total is $379 million now, with the worldwide figure at $1.15 billion after five weeks.

"The Great Gatsby," "Mud" and "Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani," a romantic comedy from India, round out the top ten.