Box Office Preview: 'Scary Movie 5,' '42' to Face Off for Top Spot

Scary Movie 5 Ashley Tisdale - H 2013
The Weinstein Company

Scary Movie 5 Ashley Tisdale - H 2013

UPDATE: The Jackie Robinson biopic went up to bat ahead of the horror movie parody featuring Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan by collecting $500,000 at Thursday night shows.

Scary Movie 5, a parody of horror movies, and 42, a biopic about a baseball legend Jackie Robinson, will battle it out for the box-office title this weekend, with pre-release tracking suggesting a close game that might not be decided until the final innings. At the moment, surveys suggest both movies are on track to pull in somewhere around $17.5 million each. 42 got a jumpstart on the weekend with a series of 10 p.m. showings Thursday night that pulled in $500,000.

Scary Movie is the latest installment in the long-running franchise from The Weinstein Co.’s Dimension label that dates back to 2000. Malcolm D. Lee, who last directed 2008’s Soul Men, has taken over the directing reins, and the cast is something of a rogue’s gallery of bold-faced names including Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, Simon Rex and Ashley Tisdale. Rated PG-13, it will open in 3,402 locations.

The previous film in the series, Scary Movie 4, opened to $40 million in April 2006. But there have been a lot of variations on the horror spoof since then -- like A Haunted House, starring Marlon Wayans, which opened to $18.1 million this past January -- so Dimension isn’t looking for Scary Movie 5 to post the kind of numbers its predecessors saw. The new Scary cost just $19.5 million, and the company is looking for an opening in the mid-to-high teen millions.

Also in the on-bat circle -- get ready for lots of baseball metaphors this weekend -- is 42, financed by Legendary Pictures, whose CEO Thomas Tull personally produced, and distributed by Warners. Written and directed by Brian Helgeland (A Knight’s Tale), the film stars Chadwick Boseman as Robinson, who integrated baseball when he joined the Brooklyn Dodger line-up in 1947. Also on hand is Harrison Ford as the Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey.

PHOTOS: '42' L.A. Premiere: Hollywood Celebrates the Legend of Jackie Robinson

Warners has paved the way for the movie, which carries a $40 million price tag, with an extensive word-of-mouth screening program -- it showed it to various teams, including the Los Angeles Dodgers during spring training. The PG-13-rated movie will be playing in 3,002 locations throughout North America, and the studio is anticipating an opening weekend gross of about $15 million.

It may not be immediately clear, though, which of this weekend’s two new wide releases will ultimately have the upper-hand. Appealing to younger moviegoers, Scary is likely to be the top film on Friday. But then 42 -- which is expected to attract older male sports fans but could also expand to include African-American audiences and women drawn to its love story -- could play stronger on Saturday.

Sony/Tristar’s Evil Dead, which led the list last weekend with a $25.8 million bow, is expected to drop the 45 to 50 percent that is typical of horror movies. So that should leave room for Scary and 42 to contest for the top two spots.