"Ice Age: Continental Drift" will float to the top of the box office chart this weekend, as the animated 3-D sequel is expected to freeze out all of the competition.
The fourth installment in the popular series featuring a group of prehistoric mammals will probably debut with a solid sum of between $50 million and $55 million, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys. Twentieth Century Fox is predicting a softer domestic opening of $35 million to $40 million.
Meanwhile, "The Amazing Spider-Man" -- which has already pulled $160 million into its web -- should maintain a solid hold during its second weekend in theaters. Audiences who saw the movie upon its debut assigned it an average grade of A-, according to market research firm CinemaScore. That means word-of-mouth should be good, and the film will probably gross another $30 million this weekend.
Though "Ice Age 4" is the only new film hitting theaters this weekend, it will still face competition from two animated movies still playing at the multiplex. While DreamWorks Animation's "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" is slowing down as it enters its sixth weekend with about $200 million in ticket sales, Pixar Animation's "Brave" is still a viable competitor. The movie about a feisty Scottish princess has sold about $180 million worth of tickets, and took third place at the box office last weekend during its third week in release.
"Ice Age 4" has so far earned middling critical reviews, notching a 50% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes -- only a tad better than the 45% score the third entry received. The latest movie follows the group of animal friends as they get lost at sea when the world breaks up into different continents and features such celebrity voices as Ray Romano, Queen Latifah and Drake.
The new "Ice Age" is the latest film from Fox's Blue Sky Studios, which has produced a number of hits for its corporate parent. Blue Sky's last release was 2011's "Rio," which grossed $484.6 million worldwide.
Overseas, the fourth "Ice Age" is already on its way to becoming a massive hit. As of Tuesday, the film had collected an impressive $211.9 million and was doing especially brisk business in Germany and Mexico. This weekend, the movie will debut in an additional 29 foreign markets, including the United Kingdom and Russia.
Animated films featuring talking animals have traditionally performed particularly well abroad. The third entry in the "Ice Age" series made 78% of its worldwide gross internationally, grossing $690.1 million abroad in 2009. Last year "Kung Fu Panda 2 " raked in $500 million outside of the U.S. and Canada, while "Cars 2" -- which didn't star any animals -- sold $368.4 million overseas.