Box Office Report: Early Friday Returns Show 'Pacific Rim,' 'Grown Ups 2' in Tight Race

"Pacific Rim"
"Pacific Rim"
 Warner Bros. Pictures

There's a fierce race going on at the North American box office as Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim and Adam Sandler comedy Grown Ups 2 jockey for position.

Universal's Despicable Me 2, however, could beat both and stay at No. 1 in its second weekend with a gross as high as $48 million.

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Defying soft prerelease tracking, Pacific Rim is certainly doing better than expected, but the film could see a precipitous drop-off on Saturday once fanboy traffic slows. It took in $3.6 million in Thursday night shows, with 23 percent coming from fanboy-friendly Imax theaters.

Some believe the 3D sci-fi epic, from Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros., could gross in the mid-$40 million range for the weekend, though most box-office experts believe it will top out at between $35 million and $40 million, a so-so number considering the tentpole's $190 million-plus budget.

Sony's Grown Ups 2 is tipped to debut in the $40 million range and earned a surprisingly strong $2.3 in Thursday night runs. The sequel, costing $80 million to produce, opens three years after the original film turned into a box-office hit, bowing to $40.5 million and ultimately grossing $271.4 million worldwide.

The ensemble comedy, receiving blistering reviews, reteams Sandler with Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Salma Hayek, Maya Rudolph and Maria Bello.

Prerelease tracking for Pacific Rim was notably soft, but Warners and Legendary say stellar reviews and word of mouth are fueling a better-than-expected performance. Legendary took the lead on the movie, including paying for most of the budget.

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Pacific Rim, pitting giant robots against alien monsters, stars Charlie Hunnam, Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi and Charlie Day.

Overseas, Pacific Rim is off to a strong start in Asia, Russia and Argentina, though it fared dismally in Australia on Thursday, coming in No. 4 behind the the opening day of The Heat, Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University (the two animated films are benefiting from school holidays).

Pacific Rim grossed $7.8 million from 25 markets on Thursday, led by Russia with $2 million. It also prospered across Asia, taking in $1.5 million in South Korea, marking Warners' third-largest opening day of all time in that market.

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So far internationally, the epic is outpacing a slew of films that went on to gross between $300 million and $400 million overseas, including Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Clash of the Titans and Prometheus. It's also pacing on par with World War Z, which has earned more than $200 million to date at the foreign box office.

Pacific Rim opens just as Thomas Tull's Legendary and Warners prepare to part ways. This week, Legendary announced it had struck a new co-financing and production deal with Universal.

Despicable 2 has already earned well north of $316 million worldwide.

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