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Box Office Preview: ‘Pacific Rim’ Rebound Sets Up Summer’s Closest 3-Way Race

Guillermo del Toro's surging monster movie, reigning champ "Despicable Me 2" and "Grown Ups 2" are all looking at around $40M

“Pacific Rim” has sudden momentum and reigning champ “Despicable Me 2” has the family crowd locked up — but “Grown Ups 2” could just as easily beat both in a weekend that's shaping up to be the closest box office race of summer.

All are projected to wind up at $40 million or above for the three days, analysts say — though the volume of social buzz for “Pacific Rim” has been foretelling an opening that could creep up to $50 million, according to social media-based estimates.

That Guillermo del Toro‘s monster epic in even the No. 1 discussion represents an impressive turnaround — just a week ago it was tracking at below $30 million. 

“Buzz has been good for the last four months, which is disappointing because they haven’t managed to translate that to the mainstream,” Kristen Longfield, who analyzes social-media data as Director of Fanthropology at The Cimarron Group, told TheWrap.

The problem is that much of that buzz is coming from fanboys — and there are only so many of those to go around.

“‘Pacific Rim’ has been strong in social, and it’s gotten stronger,” said Ben Carlson, of the social-media analytics firm Fizziology. “But it’s a very concentrated group of fanboys who are talking very loudly.”

Also read: 'Pacific Rim' Surge? Film Has 60% of Fandango Presales

The lack of A-list stars and extremely high-concept had to present marketing challenges for Warner Bros., but it seems to be connecting now. Online ticket broker Fandango reported Thursday morning that it was accounting for 60 percent of presales.

Some analysts believe that the early numbers were skewed because the film’s core demographic targets – young boys and devoted Del Toro followers – are tough to track and will turn out in force. The studio is also hoping for a boost from the Mexican director’s Hispanic fans.

But word-of-mouth could make or break the PG-13-rated film this weekend, and the signs are positive. It had a 76 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes on Thursday.

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‘I think it’s going to pop,” said BoxOffice.com editor-in-chief Phil Contrino. “If it connects with the late Thursday-Friday night crowds, and I think it will, then look for it to take off on Saturday.”

Warner Bros is counting on a big international performance from "Pacific Rim," which should get a boost from Del Toro's significant international following. The studio is releasing it in 38 foreign markets this weekend, including the U.K., Russia, Mexico, South Korea and Australia. France and Germany will come next week, followed by China on July 31.

Contrino said he's giving "Grown Ups 2" a slight edge in the domestic race. It will be in 3,491 theaters this weekend, with "Pacific Rim" in more than 3,300.

"But I wouldn't be surprised by any of the top three films taking the weekend," he said.

“Grown Ups 2” looks like the perfect spot for Adam Sandler to get his box-office groove back.

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He voiced Dracula in Sony’s surprising animated hit “Hotel Transylvania,” but his last two live-action efforts – “Jack and Jill” and “That’s My Boy” – have disappointed. The latter film was R-rated and a bid by Sandler to broaden his youthful base, but it came up short.

Reteaming with Kevin James, Chris Rock and David Space (Rob Schneider is sitting this one out) in the PG-13-rated sequel should turn that around.

“Grown Ups 2,” which has an $80 million production budget, has been tracking in line with the original, which opened to $40 million in June 2010 and went on to make $270 million globally.

Director Dennis Dugan is back, as is Fred Wolf, who co-wrote the screenplay with Sandler and Tim Herlihy. Salma Hayak and Maya Rudolph co-star.

Universal and Illumination Entertainment's "Despicable Me 2" has played strongly all week, and the animated family has now rung up more than $175 million domestically and $326 million globally, after last weekend's $83 million debut.