Forecast: 'Expendables' To Battle 'Turtles,' 'Guardians' This Weekend
Friday AM Update: The Expendables 3 earned an estimated $875,000 from Thursday night shows beginning at 7 p.m. In comparison, the first Expendables grossed $870,000, while The Expendables 2 took in $685,000. In both of those earlier cases, though, showings didn't begin until midnight.

A better comparison might be last week's Into The Storm, which took in $800,000 from late Thursday shows. That went on to earn $17.3 million in its opening weekend; a tally closer to $20 million seems like a likely outcome for The Expendables 3.

Forecast: The Expendables 3 storms in to theaters this weekend, though this gang of geriatric action stars will probably lose out to a bunch of teenage turtles.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will likely wind up with $25 to $30 million in its second weekend. That should be enough to fend off the latest installment in the Expendables series, which could open as low as $20 million.

Other new releases include young-adult adaptation The Giver and R-rated comedy Let's Be Cops, which opened to a strong $5.2 million on Wednesday. Both movies should earn under $20 million for the three-day frame.

The Expendables franchise has become a bit of a mid-August tradition at this point. The first movie opened around the same time in 2010; it earned an impressive $34.8 million in its debut, and went on to close with over $100 million total. Two years later, the sequel wasn't quite as successful. Following a $28.6 million debut, the movie wrapped up with $85 million total.

While the franchise has plenty of fans, general reactions to the previous two installments seemed to be mixed. The expectation, then, is that The Expendables 3 would experience another drop off.

Lionsgate has attempted to mitigate that by freshening up the franchise a bit. Out of the 17 names listed on the poster, only seven of them appeared in the early movies. New members like Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas and Ronda Rousey have been featured more prominently in the marketing campaign than original team members like Jason Statham, Jet Li and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The movie is also differentiated from its predecessors by its PG-13 rating (the previous installments were both rated R). That's a blessing and a curse: while it broadens the potential audience, it could serve to alienate some fans who took pleasure in the more graphic content previously featured. To compliment this, the movie is being portrayed as a funnier, more light-hearted version of The Expendables; in comparison, the earlier movies were more self-serious in tone.

Still, this probably isn't enough to prevent The Expendables 3 from becoming the latest victim of franchise fatigue. If it takes the same fall as The Expendables 2, it will wind up with less than $24 million this weekend (that falls in line with Lionsgate's expectation of $20 to $25 million).

Much has been made about the fact that a pristine copy of The Expendables 3 was leaked online a few weeks ago; in the time since, it's been reportedly downloaded over two million times. While it's likely that this cuts in to ticket sales, it's unclear exactly how much.

A recent similar situation occurred with 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which had an unfinished cut leaked around a month ahead of its release. The movie still managed to open to $85.1 million, which was down 17 percent from the previous X-Men movie. Wolverine was a redundant spin-off, though, whereas X-Men: The Last Stand was a trilogy conclusion featuring all of the X-Men characters; a noticeable drop seemed logical in this case.

Regardless of how The Expendables does in the U.S., it has major upside overseas. The franchise is extremely popular in China; the last installment earned over $53 million, and this one should take in quite a bit more. Ultimately, look for this to gross well over $200 million overseas.

Over two decades after author Lois Lowry's The Giver hit bookshelves, a big-screen adaptation is finally reaching theaters this weekend. The book has been read by many during that time; while it's not nearly as popular as a Harry Potter or Twilight, it likely has more fans than the source material for recent young-adult flops like Beautiful Creatures and The Host.

Unfortunately, the movie has struggled a bit when it comes to connecting to those fans. Positives include the fact that some of the movie is in black-and-white, while the presence of stars Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep lend the adaptation some credibility. On the downside, some of the production design seems to mimic recent young-adult hits like Divergent and The Hunger Games. More controversially, the main character has been aged up significantly: Jonas is 12 years old in the book, but is portrayed by 25-year-old actor Brenton Thwaites in the movie.

Compounding these issues is the fact that The Giver is receiving largely poor reviews; as of Thursday afternoon, it was sitting around 30 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. The fan base is strong enough to essentially guarantee a $10-million debut, but $20 million seems like a stretch at this point.

R-rated comedy Let's Be Cops could actually open above The Giver, and that's after burning off some demand on Wednesday and Thursday. The movie features New Girl stars Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. as two friends who inadvertently realize the benefits of pretending to be police officers. Fox's has nicely highlighted the premise—it's there in the title and in the ever-present tagline "Fake Cops, Real Trouble"—and all of the jokes in the trailer and commercials align well with it.

The movie also enters a marketplace that's oddly devoid of R-rated comedies; the last major release was Sex Tape, which is poised to earn well under $1 million this weekend.

Let's Be Cops got off to an early start on Wednesday, taking first place with $5.2 million. While that's lower than We're the Millers ($6.8 million) and Tropic Thunder ($6.5 million), it's still an impressive number for a low-budget comedy without any big stars. If Let's Be Cops follows the same pattern as those two movies, it will wind up with around $29 million by Sunday.

The audience for Let's Be Cops is probably a bit younger, though, which tends to lead to more front-loaded openings. Additionally, poor reviews (10 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) could slow it down over the five-day frame. Fox is expecting $25 to $27 million, which seems reasonable.

Three limited releases are expanding nationwide this weekend. Woody Allen's Magic in the Moonlight reaches 964 theaters; the movie has performed moderately so far ($2.4 million), and has received mixed reviews. In 2012, To Rome with Love expanded to 806 theaters and earned $3.1 million. It's likely that Magic in the Moonlight winds up a bit below that level.

After a week in limited release, Daniel Radcliffe/Zoe Kazan rom-com What If expands to 786 theaters. Meanwhile, Boyhood expands to 771 theaters after earning over $11 million in limited release.

Forecast (August 15-17)

1. Ninja Turtles - $26.2 million (-60%)

2. Guardians - $24.9 million (-41%)

3. Expendables 3 - $24 million

4. Let's Be Cops - $17 million ($26 million 5-day)

5. The Giver - $16.5 million

Bar for Success

The Expendables 3 doesn't quite need to match The Expendables 2 ($28.6 million), but it really ought to be opening to at least $25 million. Anything over $20 million for the five-day opening is a win for Let's Be Cops, while The Giver needs a minimum of $15 million to get a pass.

Discuss this story with fellow Box Office Mojo fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @boxofficemojo, and follow author Ray Subers at @raysubers.

Related Stories:

Last Weekend's Report: 'Turtle' Power

Last Weekend's Forecast: Will 'Ninja Turtles' Take Down 'Guardians' This Weekend?

Summer 2014 Forecast