Box Office Preview: ‘White House Down’ and ‘The Heat’ Battle for Second Place

Disney/Pixar's "Monsters University" expected to hold on to No. 1 spot with around $40 million

So who's going to win this weekend's box office showdown between openers "White House Down,” with Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx, and "The Heat,” with Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock?

Would you believe "Monsters University,” with Mike and Sully?

Disney-Pixar's 3D animated family film is a good bet to top them both and repeat as box office champ, bringing in around $40 million, the analysts say. That would be a roughly 50 percent drop from its $82 million opening, and would be an accomplishment given the competition.

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Both Sony's action epic and Fox's female cop comedy are projected to come in at around $35 million, and Paramount's zombie thriller "World War Z” will likely have a second weekend just under that. Those movies and Warner Bros.' Superman offering "Man of Steel” will compete for the same audiences, while ‘Monsters U” will have the family field to itself, and that's what gives it the edge.

Both of the openers will debut in more than 3,000 theaters, and both are buddy films, at least to a degree.

Tatum and Foxx play a cop and the President, respectively, teaming up to fight a terrorist attack in "White House,” while McCarthy and Bullock are reluctant and mismatched cop partners in pursuit of a drug lord, in "The Heat.” 

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Both have directors with significant followings and both have the potential to break out.

"The Heat” is directed by Paul Feig of "Bridesmaids,” and reviews indicate it has earned its R rating with loads of the raunchy humor that made his 2011 comedy a hit. "Bridesmaids," which also featured McCarthy, took in more than $170 million at the domestic box office.

"The Heat" is at 86 percent positive on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes.

Also read: 'The Heat' Review: Buddy-Cops Get the Foul-Mouthed, Big-Laughs 'Bridesmaids' Treatment

"The Heat" is also the summer's first – and only – major movie with two female leads. McCarthy in particular is red-hot. Her January release "Identity Thief” is still the year's highest-grossing comedy with $135 million domestically, and many critics saw her supporting turn as the best part of "The Hangover Part 3.”

Online ticket broker Fandango reported Thursday that sales for "The Heat" were pacing more than 50 percent ahead of sales for "Bridesmaids" and "Identity Thief."

Roland Emmerich, who blows things up with the best of them, is the director of the PG-13-rated "White House Down.” He has a track record of opening action epics big, from 2009's "2012” ($65 million) and 2004's "The Day After Tomorrow” ($68 million) to 1996's "Independence Day” ($50 million). But he's had his misses as well, including 2011's "Anonymous.”

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An X factor for "White House Down” is the impact of "Olympus Has Fallen,” a similarly themed president-in-peril movie that has taken in nearly $100 million since March for FilmDistrict.  The Facebook numbers are encouraging for Sony; "White House Down” had nearly 294,000 "likes” three days prior to its release, as compared to the 159,000 that "Olympus Has Fallen" had.

The critics aren't impressed – it's a 44 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes – but that's never been a big factor with Emmerich movies.

On the specialty front, IFC Films is opening "Byzantium,” a creepy thriller directed by Neil Jordan (TVs "The Borgias”), in six theaters across the country. Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton (right) star in the tale of two mysterious women who seek shelter at a small-town resort.

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Writer-director Pedro Almodovar's R-rated comedy "I'm So Excited” will make its limited debut for Sony Classics. The Spanish import takes place almost entirely on an airplane, and stars Javier Camara, Cecilia Roth, Lola Duenas and Raul Arevalo. Antonio Banderas, Penelope Cruz and Paz Vega make cameo appearances.

Tribeca Films is opening Adrian Grenier's documentary "How to Make Money Selling Drugs” in five cities this weekend. It debuted earlier this month on iTunes and Demand, and on Wednesday at the IFC Center in New York. 

Written and directed by Grenier's longtime collaborator and friend Matthew Cooke, the documentary is an insider's look at the drug industry, told from the perspective of former drug dealers. It features interviews with rappers 50 Cent, Rick Ross and Russell Simmons, as well as rights advocates and filmmakers Susan Sarandon and Woody Harrelson.