Forecast: 'Purge,' 'Sex Tape' Challenge 'Apes'
Friday AM Update: Playing at 2,194 locations, The Purge: Anarchy earned an estimated $2.6 million from late Thursday shows.

In comparison, the first Purge grossed $3.4 million on Thursday night. This drop suggests that The Purge: Anarchy will fall short of the first movie's $34 million opening weekend.

Meanwhile, Sex Tape earned $1.1 million on Thursday night. That's less than half of the $2.56 million that Neighbors took in on Thursday, but is also on par with last year's The Heat ($1 million). Sex Tape will likely finish with over $20 million this weekend.

Forecast: The Purge: Anarchy, Sex Tape and Planes: Fire & Rescue could all open north of $20 million this weekend. Still, it's likely that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes holds on to first place for the second week in a row.

Major releases have been falling hard this Summer: The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Godzilla, X-Men: Days of Future Past and Transformers: Age of Extinction all dropped at least 60 percent in their second frame. In comparison, 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes fell 49 percent in its second weekend.

Based on Dawn's strong mid-week numbers, it will probably wind up somewhere in between: a decline in the 52-57 percent range is likely. That would put the movie over $31 million, which is likely enough to hang on to first place.

The strongest competitor appears to be The Purge: Anarchy, which will be playing at 2,805 theaters. Last June, the first Purge opened to $34 million, which was the biggest debut ever for an original R-rated horror movie (though it was soon surpassed by The Conjuring). Universal did a great job selling the movie's intriguing set-up—12 hours a year in which all crime is legal—though audiences were disappointed to find out that the movie itself was more of a standard home invasion thriller.

On poor word-of-mouth, The Purge plummeted 76 percent in its second weekend, and wrapped up with a so-so $64.5 million. Typically, this kind of response would foreshadow lower interest in a sequel (fool me once, etc.). The Purge: Anarchy also has less star power on its side: while Frank Grillo has recently gained a bit of a following, he still isn't much of a substitute for Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey.

It also doesn't help that 2014 has been a horrible year for horror movies so far: Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, Devil's Due, Oculus, The Quiet Ones all earned less than $35 million, and Deliver Us From Evil will likely fall short of that as well.

Remarkably, though, it's now starting to look like The Purge: Anarchy has a chance at replicating the first movie's success. Universal has indicated that some tracking services are forecasting over $30 million, while Fandango reports that the movie is actually out-performing its predecessor in pre-sales.

Credit goes to another strong marketing effort from Universal: posters and billboards once again play up the propaganda angle ("United We Purge," "An American Tradition," etc.), while commercials and trailers make clear that this installment actually takes the action to the streets (which is what moviegoers seemed to want the first time around). It's entirely possible that The Purge: Anarchy opens over $30 million, and it could even upset Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

R-rated comedy Sex Tape opens at 3,062 theaters this weekend, and should take third place behind Apes and The Purge. The movie reunites Bad Teacher stars Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel with director Jake Kasdan, though it's going to be tough to recreate that movie's $100.3 million haul.

Sex Tape's marketing has positioned the movie as a strong date night option, and it's tough to argue with that: how often does a comedy give equal billing to its male and female stars? Advertisements have also done a nice job establishing the movie's story, which finds Diaz and Segel trying to find and delete all copies of their leaked sex tape.

Unfortunately, previews are fairly light on laughs, and early word isn't particularly good (as of Thursday afternoon, it was at a dismal 13 percent on Rotten Tomatoes). Sex Tape does seem strong enough to match Diaz's The Other Woman ($24.8 million), though it will likely fall short of Bad Teacher ($31.6 million).

Planes: Fire & Rescue is set to counterprogram to family audiences at 3,826 theaters. The animated movie is a sequel to last August's Planes, which was a spin-off of Disney/Pixar's popular Cars franchise.

The first Planes opened at the end of a Summer packed with animated movies, two of which combined to earn over $600 million (Monsters University and Despicable Me 2). This Summer has been a different story: the only major animated effort is How to Train Your Dragon 2, which is going to struggle to reach $170 million.

This is a double-edged sword. On the positive end, it appears the market is wide open for an animated hit. At the same time, after coughing up big bucks from June 2013 to March 2014, family moviegoers may be staying away from theaters until there's something truly worthwhile. The Planes sequel doesn't seem to have enough going for it, and the fire and rescue angle makes this feel more like a direct-to-video spin-off (which is what the first Planes was supposed to be anyway).

Planes: Fire & Rescue should still open around $20 million—roughly on par with the first movie—but it probably won't break out beyond that level.

Millennium Entertainment is releasing indie thriller Persecuted at 736 locations this weekend. The movie seems geared toward Christian moviegoers, who turned out in droves for God's Not Dead earlier this year. While it does seem to hit on some relevant themes, it's unclear how extensive the marketing effort has been. An opening north of $2 million is possible, but it would be surprising if Persecuted wound up much higher than that.

Zach Braff's Wish I Was Here opens at 68 locations this weekend. The movie arrives in theaters a decade after Braff's Garden State, which earned an impressive $26.8 million and went on to gain even more of a following in its post-theatrical run.

Braff was able to get those fans to contribute over $3 million on crowd-funding site Kickstarter; that financing strategy has generated a ton of publicity, some of which has been negative. Regardless, the fanbase is strong enough that Wish I Was Here is poised to do solid business in its first few weeks of release. Unfortunately, the movie's poor reviews (29 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) suggest it won't have the legs necessary to match Garden State's total.

Forecast (July 18-20)

1. Dawn/Apes - $33.4 million (-54%)

2. The Purge - $30 million

3. Sex Tape - $24 million

4. Planes - $22 million

5. Transformers - $8 million (-51%)

Bar for Success

The Purge: Anarchy doesn't necessarily have to match its predecessor's $34 million debut; anything over $25 million is a fine result. Sex Tape also ought to be reaching $25 million, while Planes: Fire & Rescue gets a pass above $20 million.

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