Forecast: 'Dragon,' 'Jump Street' Set for Sequel Showdown This Weekend
Friday Update: 22 Jump Street earned an awesome $5.5 million from late Thursday shows beginning at 7 p.m. The comedy sequel, starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, was playing at 2,746 locations.

22 Jump Street earned over twice as much as R-rated hits Ted ($2.63 million at midnight) and Neighbors ($2.56 million at 8 p.m.). It also compares favorably to last June's The Heat, which earned $1 million at late Thursday shows.

Before assuming 22 Jump Street is on its way to $80 million this weekend, it's worth keeping in mind that this is an R-rated comedy sequel primarily targeting 17-34 year-olds opening at 8 p.m. after nearly all schools have dismissed for the Summer. That's to say there's a good chance that Thursday night accounts for a disproportionately high amount of the movie's overall business this weekend.

Still, this virtually guarantees an opening of at least $50 million, which would make this one of the biggest R-rated comedy debuts ever.

Meanwhile, How to Train Your Dragon 2 earned $2 million from late Thursday shows. In comparison, last June's Monsters University took in $2.6 million.

Forecast: Two highly-anticipated sequels reach theaters this weekend, and both have a legitimate shot at opening north of $50 million.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is debuting at 4,253 locations, which is one of the widest releases ever. Meanwhile, comedy sequel 22 Jump Street reaches 3,306 theaters.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 flies in to theaters four years after the original How to Train Your Dragon, which opened to $43.7 million in March 2010. The movie held remarkably well from there, and wound up with $217.6 million. Outside of the Shrek series, that's the biggest total ever for a DreamWorks Animation movie. That strong hold can be chalked up to the movie's warm reception from critics and audiences: it scored an impressive 98 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and has a spot in the IMDb Top 250 (a rare feat for animated movies).

Considering how well-liked the first movie is, it's fair to assume that the second movie will open higher. Marketing has focused on the movie's action, which seems to be significantly bigger this time around. It's also made clear that Hiccup's mother will be involved, which is an interesting twist (though many have complained that it's a pretty big spoiler as well).

The most successful animated movies tend to have marketing campaigns that focus heavily on laughs: that was the case, at least, with recent hits Monsters University, Despicable Me 2 and The LEGO Movie. While Dragon 2's marketing does have some humor, it isn't front-and-center, which calls in to question whether it can attract the younger audience that's needed to push it to the next level.

The four-year gap between installments is also slightly concerning. The franchise has managed to stay relevant in part thanks to the DreamWorks' Dragons TV show, which has aired 40 episodes since 2012. That's a double-edged sword, though: while it keeps the brand in people's minds, it also turns the movie in to less of an event.

Still, Dragon should benefit from a lack of competition: with Pixar taking the year off, Dragon is one of only two major animated movies this Summer. While Maleficent did reach some families in the past two weekends, Dragon does seem well-positioned on the schedule. The movie is also riding strong reviews: as of Thursday afternoon, it had a 92 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Dating back to 2008, six animated movies have opened in the month of June. DreamWorks Animation's Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted had the lowest opening of the bunch—$60.3 million—and it's hard to imagine Dragon starting off below that level. At the same time, it would be surprising if it wound up close to last year's Monsters University ($82.4 million).

There is a chance that Dragon does wind up below $60 million this weekend. Fox is modestly expecting mid-to-high $40 million this weekend. Meanwhile, Fandango says Dragon is selling better than Rio 2, The Croods and Hotel Transylvania, none of which opened above $45 million.

While Dragon might not make big strides at the domestic box office, it is poised to improve immensely on the first movie's $277 million foreign total. The international marketplace has grown significantly in the past four years, and 20th Century Fox's international division is particularly adept at selling animated movies (the last two Ice Age movies earned over $690 million each).

22 Jump Street is also opening this weekend, and could theoretically take first place ahead of Dragon 2. The respective studios, at least, seem to think that's possible: Sony is expecting $45 to $50 million for 22 Jump, which is the same range Fox is predicting for Dragon.

When 21 Jump Street was first announced, it was greeted with plenty of cynicism: do we really need a big-screen version of the hokey 80s cop drama? Instead of doing a straightforward remake, though, directors and Phil Lord turned it in to an R-rated buddy comedy starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. Audiences responded to this approach, and the movie wound up earning an impressive $138.4 million (off a $36.3 million opening).

That movie ended with the promise that Hill/Tatum would be heading to college next, and 22 Jump Street is delivering on that set-up. Aside from plenty of laugh-out-loud humor—both of the college and cop variety—marketing has emphasized the camaraderie between the two leads, both of whom have seen their stars rise a bit in recent years.

Tatum gained some more credibility with 2012's Magic Mike, while Hill received his second Oscar nomination for December's The Wolf of Wall Street. Both actors have been active in promoting their new movie in recent weeks; a noteworthy NBA Finals spot has featured the two of them (along with co-star Ice Cube) joking around with NBA legends.

Among R-rated comedies, The Hangover Part II holds the record with $85.9 million. Sex and the City, Ted and Jackass 3-D all opened between $50 and $60 million, while last month's Neighbors—another college-set comedy—came close to that level ($49 million). According to Fandango, 22 Jump Street is outselling Ted and Neighbors, which suggests $50 million is possible.

If both movies open over $50 million, this will be only the fourth time in history that has happened. The other three times were also in June: Monsters University and World War Z in June 2013, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted and Prometheus in June 2012, and WALL-E and Wanted in June 2008.

Forecast (June 13-15)

1. How to Train Your Dragon 2 - $67 million

2. 22 Jump Street - $55 million

3. Maleficent - $20.6 million (-40%)

4. Fault in our Stars - $19.7 million (-59%)

5. Edge of Tomorrow - $13.5 million (-53%)

Bar for Success

The last six June animated movies opened over $60 million, and How to Train Your Dragon 2 should be reaching that level as well. 22 Jump Street is in good shape if it opens over $40 million.

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