‘Evan Almighty’ Tries To Sink The Silver Surfer, In Projection Booth

'Shoot 'Em Up' director Michael Davis is predicting a whopping $60 million opening weekend for Steve Carell's flick.

They lit the box office on fire and clobbered the competition (which must have made all those other flicks feel a little invisible), but repeating as weekend champs will be a bit of a stretch, even for a group as multi-talented as the Fantastic Four.

It’s one thing, after all, to do battle with a being of near omnipotence like Galactus, and quite another to take on God Himself. (Just ask Lucifer how that turned out.) Steve Carell’s “Evan Almighty,” a quasi-sequel to 2003′s “Bruce Almighty,” has been aggressively marketed to church groups across the country but, moreover, the PG comedy centering on a modern-day Noah is the Alpha and Omega for families this weekend. It rolls out in over 3,500 theaters amid little competition for the kiddie dollar.

But can it match “Bruce” dollar for dollar? (Studio executives, it’s been said, do live on bread alone.) The original opened to $67 million four years ago, and while “Evan” probably won’t open that strongly, it shouldn’t take a flock of doves to signal its upcoming stranglehold on the domestic box office.

(Will “Evan Almighty” measure up to the original? Watch this video for our thoughts.)

Which gets us to thinking: It sure has felt like longer than 40 days and 40 nights since we saw a weekend that wasn’t dominated by a big-budget sequel. Starring John Cusack as a skeptical writer locked in a haunted room, “1408″ looks to buck that trend (see “John Cusack Calls Hilary Duff ‘A Revelation’; Has His Eye On ‘Watchmen’ “ ). After recent horror flops like “Hostel: Part II,” “The Hitcher” and “Hannibal Rising,” will audiences once again embrace real frights? They should: Based on a short story by Steven King, “1408″ is the scariest film of the year.

From a supernatural scare to real-life despair, “A Mighty Heart” tells the true story of Mariane Pearl (Angelina Jolie) and the capture and death of her journalist husband, Daniel (see “Angelina Jolie Reveals ‘Mighty’ Challenge Of Playing Slain Reporter’s Wife” ). It boasts the world’s most famous woman as its star, but the Michael Winterbottom-directed flick opens in only 1,350 theaters. It might be headed for a finish outside the top five.

Will the divine power of “Evan Almighty” decimate the competition like the second coming of the 10th plague, or can “1408″ or “Fantastic Four” rise to the challenge? We asked our experts.

The Predictions:
He might be a relative newcomer, but director Michael Davis has proved he has the right stuff with “Shoot ‘Em Up,” a balls-to-the-wall action film starring Clive Owen and Paul Giamatti (see “Clive Owen’s ‘Shoot ‘Em Up’ Action Hero Inspired By … Bugs Bunny?” ). But will our more seasoned movie experts take him to task? His prediction of $60 million for “Evan Almighty” was by far the highest. One of our experts, it turns out, didn’t even pick the godly flick. Find out who below (and then pray for his soul afterward).

What’s the #1 flick? How much will it rake in?

Josh Horowitz, MTV Movies editor: “Evan Almighty” ($51 million)
“Nearly four years ago, ‘Bruce Almighty’ demonstrated its holy sway over the American public with an awesome $67 million opening. I’m not sure if this kinda sorta sequel is as funny as the first. but it’s certainly courting the family audience like nothing else in theaters at present. Carell is a long way away from ’40-Year-Old Virgin’ territory here (in one of the first scenes here, he’s praying), but he delivers a solid performance all the same. Certainly good enough for a top showing at the box office.”

Larry Carroll, MTV News writer: “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” ($26 million)
“This weekend is a big test for Steve Carell, to see if all his recent success has yielded an ability to open a summer blockbuster. My bet is that ‘Evan Almighty’ will do decently, but won’t be able to flood theaters with enough ticket buyers to sink the Silver Surfer. I’m guessing that ‘Fantastic Four: Part Deux’ holds strong with a $26 million take.”

Michael Davis, “Shoot ‘Em Up” director: “Evan Almighty” ($60 million)
“You mix a jambalaya of Steve Carell, Tom Shadyac, ‘Jumanji’ and a four-quadrant pleasing premise, and it puts (the better than the first) ‘Fantastic Four’ running after the ark on all fours. I say Evan rakes in $60 million.

“And those strange noises happening in room ’1408′ aren’t only from some solid box office ca-ching,” he continued, “but it’s from the room next door, 1409, where Reed Richards and Sue Storm have checked in for their wedding night in the ‘Fantastic Four’ scene the world really wants to see.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “Evan Almighty.”

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