Kevin Hart is set to again prove his box-office power with the arrival of "Think Like a Man Too" this weekend.
The Screen Gems sequel should gross $30 million or more in ticket sales through Sunday, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys. If it does as well as expected, the PG-13 comedy will probably unseat last week's victor "22 Jump Street" as the No. 1 movie in the U.S. and Canada.
The jukebox musical "Jersey Boys," directed by Clint Eastwood, looks softer. The older-skewing Warner Bros.' film is headed for an opening of around $13 million.
In director Tim Story's $24-million "Think Like A Man Too," the couples of his 2012 hit "Think Like A Man" return for a weekend in Las Vegas where things quickly get out of hand. The ensemble cast includes Michael Ealy, Jerry Ferrara, Meagan Good, Regina Hall and Gabrielle Union.
The new movie's box-office run should start off much like its predecessor.
Inspired by Steve Harvey's dating advice book "Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man," the 2012 original debuted to $33.6 million in ticket sales on its way to a domestic haul of $91 million.
The sequel should take advantage of the rising popularity of Hart, the fast-talking comic who acted in the first "Think Like A Man" and has since delivered winners including the stand-up special "Let Me Explain" and "Ride Along."
It should provide another strong launch for Hart and Story, who previously worked together on "Ride Along" from earlier this year. That buddy cop comedy, co-starring Ice Cub, opened with about $49 million over the long Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend and went on to gross $134 million domestically.
Hart's last movie, the rom-com remake "About Last Night," flirted with $26 million in its Valentine's Day weekend debut and eventually tallied up $49 million.
Last week's openers will rematch for second place. The R-rated Columbia Pictures-MGM comedy "22 Jump Street" and DreamWorks Animation's "How to Train Your Dragon 2" could generate around $25 million each.
Meanwhile, Eastwood's "Jersey Boys," adapted from the highly successful Broadway show about the 1960s rock 'n' roll group the Four Seasons, is poised to lag behind that pack. The $40-million music biopic has received generally mixed review from critics and lacks major stars other than Christopher Walken.
Musicals have proved a tricky business at the box office.
"Les Miserables" opened with $27 million in 2012 and ended up with a $149-million domestic haul, and "Mamma Mia!" took in $144 million at home starting with a $28-million launch. Faring much worse was the 1980s-themed "Rock of Ages," which debuted with just $14.4 million.
But Warner Bros. is betting that Eastwood's wide appeal, the popularity of the source material and its older target audience will give it a long life at the multiplex and a solid total result.
The stage play won four Tony Awards in 2006.
Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter: @rfaughnderCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times