Box Office Preview: 'Captain America' to Battle 'Harry Potter' This Weekend

Paramount Pictures

Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis also hit theaters Friday in "Friends With Benefits."

As Captain America: The First Avenger plants its flag in movie theaters across the nation this weekend, another Marvel superhero will test his might at the box office. The Paramount release, starring Chris Evans as the quintessential 90-pound-weakling-turned-super-soldier, is on a trajectory to become the weekend’s dominate new wide release, while the sexy rom-com Friends With Benefits from Sony Pictures/Screen Gems is looking to make a more modest score.

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But Captain America faces a formidable challenge in attempting to capture the top spot, since it will be running smack into the second weekend of Warners’ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, which broke all sorts of records last weekend when it bowed to $169.2 million in North America.

The newest Potter movie has continued to exhibit lots of strength in its midweek showings: The movie crossed the $200 million mark Tuesday -- it reached $202.6 million, to be precise -- becoming just one of three movies that have captured $200 million domestically that quickly. (The other two are 2008’s The Dark Knight, which ranks first with $203.8 million in five days, and 2008’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which now occupies the third spot, just below Potter, with $200.1 million in five days.)

VIDEO: 'Captain America: The First Avenger' Trailer Hits

Even with the latest Potter movie still working its magic, though, Captain America will be plenty visible.

In one final bit of focussed promotion -- before midnight screenings kick off around the country Thursday night --  Paramount and Marvel are treating the fans assembled in San Diego for Comic-Con to a full day of screenings Thursday.

Evans himself will be on hand to introduce the movie, which screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely penned based on the comics by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, at its first 10 a.m. showing at the UA Horton Plaza, where it will play exclusively throughout the day.

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For everyone else, the PG-13-rated movie will be playing in 3,700 locations -- 2,500 of which will offer the film in 3D -- on Friday. Expectations are that the movie, produced for about $140 million, will open on one side or the other of $60 million mark -- somewhere in between the $55.1 million that Fox’s X-Men: First Class, based on another Marvel property, opened to in June and the $65.7 million that the Marvel-produced Thor bowed to in May.

Directed by Joe Johnston, who earned fantasy-film cred with 1991’s The Rocketeer, and also starring Hayley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones and Hugo Weaving, the movie will make an added bid for fan boys with a final tag that sets up next summer’s The Avengers -- in which Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, Mark Ruffalo’s The Hulk and Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury all join forces.

While Captain America, set during World War II, should attract male moviegoers, Friends With Benefits will be looking to seduce female moviegoers.

VIDEO: Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis in 'Friends With Benefits' Trailer

Its premise -- a guy and a girl make a pact to keep romance out of their sexual relationship -- is reminiscent of the January release No Strings Attached, starring Ashton Kutchner and Natalie Portman.

This time around, it’s Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis who will be doing the nasty in the R-rated movie directed by Will Gluck (Easy A) from a screenplay by Keith Merryman, David A. Newman and Gluck from a story by Harley Peyton, Merryman and Newman.

Shot for about $30 million, Friends will be setting up shop in 2,925 locations and looks to be aiming for an opening in the low $20 million range.

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Earlier this year, No Strings bowed to $19.7 million. And Friends should benefit from the fact that both Timberlake’s and Kunis’ stars are in the ascendant. He got good notices last year for his performance as Sean Parker in The Social Network and he also had a comedic supporting role this summer in Bad Teacher, while she earned a lot of buzz for her turn last year in Black Swan. Plus, Friends has been heavily trailered this summer in theaters that have played the other R-rated comedies that have been connecting with audiences.

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