In something of a box-office surprise, the once iron-clad star
As one of the world's biggest box office stars, Will Smith would seem to be more of a sure thing, "Now You See Me" a less likely contender, with its oddball magicians-as-criminals premise and a cable-menu hodgepodge cast that includes
Neither film looks likely to contend with "Fast & Furious 6," which should cruise to its second weekend in the winner's circle with an estimated $40 million. And though estimates earlier this week had put "After Earth" somewhere around $35 million to $38 million for the weekend, according to people who have seen early returns and updated tracking surveys, the film could end up neck and neck with "Now You See Me," with each possibly landing somewhere between $20 million and $25 million.
The Thursday success of "Now You See Me" may also be another sign of the opening-day creep that has affected recent box office tallies. "Now You See Me" began its Thursday night shows at the prime-time slot of 7 p.m., while shows of "After Earth" didn't start until 9 p.m. slot.
Neither film has fared well with critics. As of Friday afternoon, "Now You See Me" was at 44% on the Rotten Tomatoes review aggregation site; "After Earth" ranked an abysmal 13%. Writing for the L.A. Times, critic Gary Goldstein declared of "Now You See Me" that "there's little magic to be had" as "the movie just doesn't deliver." Of the Smith family adventure, L.A. Times critic Betsy Sharkey asked, "If you're still wondering whether 'After Earth' is a disaster, the question is not if, but how big?"
If "After Earth" loses at the weekend box office to the less likely "Now You See Me," those same kinds of questions -- how did this happen? -- may be reverberating through Hollywood.
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