Hollywood is anticipating a powerful Memorial Day weekend at the box office, led by hoped-for blockbusters "X-Men: Apocalypse" and "Alice Through the Looking Glass."
The convergence of the two sequels, both belonging to popular franchises, could thrust the industry to one of the biggest Memorial Day weekends ever, providing a momentum boost to the movie business during the key summer months.
That would be a welcome result for the studios and movie theater chains that rely on summer tent poles to draw big crowds.
This year's box office is off to a solid start, thanks to hits including Walt Disney Co.'s "The Jungle Book" and "Captain America: Civil War." Ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada have reached $4.24 billion so far this year, up nearly 6% from the same period in 2015.
"Memorial Day weekend is very symbolic," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior analyst at the data firm ComScore. "There's no question this could be a really big weekend and supercharge the box office."
The biggest Memorial Day weekend remains 2013, with $314 million in U.S.-Canada ticket sales, largely fueled by the popularity of "Fast & Furious 6," according to ComScore. The second-highest Memorial Day weekend was 2011, with nearly $277 million in ticket sales from "The Hangover 2" and other movies, followed by 2007's $255 million, when "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" powered results.
With two major sequels in the bullpen, this weekend is shaping up to rival those tallies, Dergarabedian said.
The new "X-Men" film, from 20th Century Fox, could gross more than $100 million Friday through Monday during its debut weekend, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys, though the studio is projecting a more conservative estimate of about $80 million.
Either outcome would be enough to easily topple "The Angry Birds Movie" from the top spot at the domestic box office, and provide a strong start for the latest film in the long-running "X-Men" saga.
Bryan Singer, who has directed three previous "X-Men" movies, returns to lead the new $178-million picture starring series regulars Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy and newcomers such as Oscar Isaac and "Game of Thrones" actress Sophie Turner.
The superhero adventure, in which Isaac plays a powerful and destructive villain, has already grossed $100 million outside the domestic market. It opens in China in late June, according to the studio.
Singer's 2014 entry "X-Men: Days of Future Past" reached a high point for the franchise with $110 million at the box office during its opening Memorial Day weekend. The latest installment has suffered generally weaker reviews than the well-received time-warping narrative of "Days of Future Past." Nonetheless, the star power of Lawrence and the popularity of the Marvel mutants probably have not waned in the last two years.
"Alice Through the Looking Glass," the latest in Disney's series of live-action fairy tales, is expected to top $60 million through the holiday, analysts said.
The $170-million fantasy will try to recapture some of the success of the original, which surprised Hollywood with $116 million in ticket sales during its weekend debut in 2010. That remake of the beloved Lewis Carroll tale, directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp at the height of their commercial powers, eventually hit a stunning $1 billion worldwide.
The follow-up, directed by James Bobin, isn't expected to perform as well as its predecessor.
The first "Alice" film capitalized on the rise of 3-D technology that had just been catapulted into the mainstream by James Cameron's megahit "Avatar." Some of that novelty is probably absent this time around, and the heavy competition in the marketplace could be weighing on its prospects. The 2010 film was released in March, when not many big films were competing for moviegoers' dollars.
"The first 'Alice' was the first big movie after 'Avatar' to really capitalize on 3-D," ComScore's Dergarabedian said. "I think ["Alice Through the Looking Glass"] will have a solid debut. It's got a lot to go for, but it's going to be hard to live up to the first one."
Studios are hoping that some of their holdovers -- not just the new tent poles -- will attract moviegoers looking to catch up on the year's movies. Sony Pictures' "Angry Birds Movie" should draw families, while "Captain America: Civil War" will try to pad its ticket sales, which have already surpassed $1 billion globally.