Box Office Preview: 'Ride Along' Set to Out-Gun 'Jack Ryan'

The long Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend is set to be one of the most crowded on record with four new films and a crush of award contenders looking for a boost after Oscar nominations.

If prerelease tracking is correct, Universal's African-American buddy cop pic Ride Along is poised to scream past Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit with a debut in the low- to mid-$30 million range over the long Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, marking a major win for Kevin Hart as he stars for the first time as a comedy lead.

STORY: 'Ride Along' Film Review

Tracking for director Kenneth Branagh's Jack Ryan -- starring Chris Pine as the iconic character created by author Tom Clancy -- is on the soft side, with Paramount putting the movie's four-day debut in the $15 million to $19 million range. The studio and partner Skydance Productions are looking to the film to resurrect Paramount's marquee spy franchise. Jack Ryan was originally set to open on Christmas Day, but its release was pushed back to make room for fellow Paramount film The Wolf of Wall Street.

Also opening over the holiday is animated film The Nut Job and R-rated horror pic Devil's Due.

VIDEO: 'Ride Along' Trailer 

That's not to mention a slew of award films going back into theaters after earning top Oscar nominations -- Gravity, Captain Phillips, 12 Years a Slave and Dallas Buyers Club. They'll have to compete for award-minded moviegoers with holdovers American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street, Her, Philomena and Nebraska, which also landed Oscar best picture nods.

Ride Along, the latest film to target African-American consumers, stars Hart opposite Ice Cube and was directed by Tim Story (Think Like a Man). Last year, Hart took the box office by storm with stand-up comedy concert pic Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain, which took in north of $32 million. Universal believes Ride Along, which is showing the strongest interest among young men, will play to other demographics as well.

Universal should also take the No. 2 spot at the holiday box office with holdover Lone Survivor, which could gross $30 million for the four-day weekend thanks to a continued strong showing in America's heartland.

STORY: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart Bring Humor to 'Ride Along' Premiere

Jack Ryan, which is also getting a run in Imax theaters, opens more than a decade after the last film in the franchise, The Sum of All Fears, played in theaters and more than two decades after The Hunt for Red October launched the film series. Sum of All Fears, starring Ben Affleck as the title character, debuted to $31.2 million.

Also starring Branagh, Kevin Costner and Keira Knightley, Jack Ryan opens day-and-date in 31 international territories, including key markets China, Australia, Korea, Mexico and Russia, where the film is set. This time out, the analyst-turned-agent is caught between his handler, his fiancee and a fearsome Russian oligarch.

Nut Job, tipped to gross in the $15 million range for the four-day weekend, is voiced by Will Arnett and follows the adventures of a squirrel who plans to rob the town's biggest nut shop in order to help his friends survive the winter. The animated pic will face competition from Disney's runaway hit Frozen, which continues to be a player nearly two months into its run.

Devil's Due is expected to post a four-day gross in the $7 million-plus range, which would match its budget. Still, that would be on the low side for a horror film. From 20th Century Fox, the film stars Allison Miller and Zach Gilford as a couple who experience strange and supernatural events as they are expecting their first child.