One of Hollywood's biggest box-office stars will take a back seat to "Fast & Furious 6" at the multiplex this weekend.
"After Earth," the sci-fi action flick starring Will Smith and his 14-year-old son, Jaden, could start off with as little as $33 million this weekend, according to those who have seen prerelease audience surveys. Sony is more confident in the film, projecting a launch of around $38 million.
Either way, the sixth installment in the action-heavy "Fast" franchise will speed past it. After launching with a massive $117 million over the long Memorial Day weekend, the film is expected to collect an additional sum of around $40 million.
The only other film hitting theaters this weekend, the crime thriller "Now You See Me," isn't generating much interest among moviegoers. The picture, which features an ensemble cast including Jesse Eisenberg, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, is likely to open with a weak $17 million.
Both of the weekend's new films have fairly substantial budgets. Sony says it spent $135 million to produce "After Earth," while Summit Entertainment's "Now You See Me" cost roughly $75 million to make.
There's a good chance that "After Earth" will do well overseas, where the elder Smith has long proven intriguing to foreign audiences. Nearly every movie the 44-year-old has starred in over the last decade has done better overseas than domestically. Last summer, his most recent film "MIB 3" collected 75% of its $624-million global total internationally.
"After Earth" opens only in South Korea this weekend, with most major foreign territories set to follow over the next couple of weeks. And how the movie will go over with Americans is a different story.
Sony did not screen the movie for critics until the eleventh hour on Wednesday, and reviews trickling out a day later were not kind. On Thursday afternoon the film had notched just a 14% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The picture, based on a story by Will Smith and made by his production company, is set 1,000 years in the future, when Earth has become uninhabitable. A spaceship carrying a veteran warrior and his neophyte son crashes on the planet, where the young boy is tasked with traversing dangerous terrain. The movie was directed by M. Night Shyamalan, who has in recent years struggled to recreate the success of his breakout hit, 1999's "The Sixth Sense."
"Now You See Me," meanwhile, has been met less harshly by critics, with a 67% Rotten Tomatoes score. The movie, which is so far appealing mostly to older females, follows a group of illusionists who use magic to rob banks and then give the stolen money to their audiences.
The film was directed by Louis Leterrier, whose most recent projects were bigger-scale movies like "Clash of the Titans" and "The Incredible Hulk." In recent weeks, the filmmaker and his cast -- which also includes Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson and Isla Fisher -- have been doing the media rounds. One joint local TV interview featuring Caine and Freeman received a flood of attention after Freeman fell asleep in the middle of it.