Box-Office Preview: 'Pacific Rim Uprising' Set to Stomp Past 'Black Panther'

The marquee will get very crowded as 'Sherlock Gnomes,' 'Paul, Apostle of Christ,' 'Midnight Sun' and Steven Soderbergh's 'Unsane' also open nationwide, while Wes Anderson's 'Isle of Dogs' prances into select theaters.

A glut of films open at the pre-Easter box office this weekend, including Legendary and Universal's big-budget Pacific Rim: Uprising, which should finally be the film to unseat the blockbuster Black Panther.

Pacific Rim 2, unfurling in roughly 3,700 theaters, is tracking to open to a modest $25 million or less in North America. The mega robots movie is expected to have a much bigger footprint overseas, where the sequel has a shot at crossing $100 million in its launch. The $150 million film is opening day-and-date in most major markets, including China (Legendary East has sole distribution duties in the Middle Kingdom).

The first Pacific Rim, directed by Guillermo del Toro, earned a sizable $309.2 million overseas in 2013, including $111.9 million in China. Domestically, it topped out at $101.8 million after a $37.3 million bow.

This time out, the human-piloted bots go up against otherworldly monsters of mass destruction. John Boyega leads the cast, with Steven S. DeKnight helming in his feature directorial debut. Legendary and Universal greenlighted the sequel prior to Legendary getting new leadership and a fresh infusion of funding. Legendary put up the majority of the production budget.

In its sixth weekend, Black Panther is expected to earn between $17 million and $18 million as it passes fellow Marvel film The Avengers ($623 million) to become the top-grossing superhero film of all time in North America, unadjusted for inflation.

MGM and Paramount's new animated family film Sherlock Gnomes has a shot at battling Black Panther for second place if it comes in on the high end of expectations. Paramount is predicting a debut in the low- to mid-teen millions from 3,660 theaters, but some tracking services show it earning more.

A sequel to Gnomeo and Juliet (2011), Sherlock Gnomes features the voices of returning castmembers James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Stephen Merchant and Ozzy Osbourne, plus Johnny Depp as Sherlock Gnomes, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Watson and Mary J. Blige as Irene.

The story follows Gnomeo and Juliet as they call upon the famous detective, Sherlock Gnomes, to find out why garden gnomes all over London, including the inhabitants of their beloved garden, have going missing. The movie, directed by John Stevenson, continues to roll out internationally after launching in a handful of markets last weekend.

Steven Soderbergh returns to theaters with Unsane, a psychological horror-thriller shot with an iPhone 7 and reportedly costing a mere $1.5 million to make. Bleecker Street and Soderbergh's Fingerprint Releasing will open the film in approximately 2,000 theaters, with tracking services projecting a debut of $3 million to $6 million.

Unsane stars Claire Foy (The Crown) as a troubled businesswoman who lands in a mental institution after she's stalked by her former boyfriend. Juno Temple, Joshua Leonard, Jay Pharoah, Aimee Mullins and Amy Irving co-star. The pic had its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in February.

Sony's faith-based label Affirm will open Paul, Apostle of Christ in 1,400 locations. Box-office observers are projecting a launch of $3 million to $5 million, although last weekend, faith-based title I Can Only Imagine, which was expected to open to no more than $5 million, zoomed to $17.1 million.

Directed and written by Andrew Hyatt, Paul, Apostle of Christ stars Jim Caviezel, Olivier Martinez, Joanne Whalley, John Lynch and James Faulkner.

Midnight Sun, the fifth new movie opening nationwide, is tracking to debut in roughly the same range as Unsane and Paul, Apostle of Christ. The romantic drama, directed by Scott Speer, stars Bella Thorne, Patrick Schwarzenegger and Rob Riggle and was financed by the Boies/Schiller Film Group. Open Road/Global Road is distributing the movie, which will play in north of 2,000 locations.

At the specialty box office, Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogs will prance into 27 theaters in select markets across the country. Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum and Greta Gerwig are among the voice cast of Anderson's stop-motion animated adventure about a boy and his faithful pet out to stop a canine genocide.

Isle of Dogs, rated PG-13, debuted at Berlin, as did Final Portrait, which Sony Pictures Classics will open in New York and Los Angeles. Stanley Tucci directed the period drama, which stars Armie Hammer as James Lord, the American art writer painted by Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti (Geoffrey Rush).