This weekend James Franco and Andy Serkis hope to defeat Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds for the top slot at the box office. If Bateman and Reynolds look familiar it’s because they’ve both top-lined movies earlier this summer. And they star in The Change Up with Olivia Wilde, who just appeared in Cowboys and Aliens. Emma Stone seems the champ of the summer, with two starring roles in Crazy, Stupid, Love and The Help, along with a cameo in Friends with Benefits, all opening within a month of each other. It’s the end of the movie summer, even if the real summer has a couple of weeks left.

The summer movie season is now the first week of May to the first week of August. and this weekend it feels like both new films could have just have easily opened in March or November. The Change Up stars two actors who are names – but not draws – in what’s an R-rated version of the body switch comedies that were popular for a brief moment in the late 80′s (though there is the original Freaky Friday, which is the starting point). And after a summer of R rated comedies, it’s in the tail end of things, which isn’t a great spot to be in.

After Bridesmaids cleared $160 Million, we saw Bad Teacher get near $100 Million, while the Bateman-starring Horrible Bosses is about to clear the nine-digit hurdle in a day or so. You could also throw The Hangover Part II’s $250 Million in the mix, though that’s something of a franchise picture. Regardless, it was a comedy summer. But now we’re seeing some fatigue. Friends with Benefits is doing just all right, with a current total of a little over $40 Million, which means $60 Million is the limit. It’s possible that people have been overloaded, especially if you include Crazy, Stupid, Love  which is PG-13. It’s doing middling business, and it doesn’t look to get anywhere near $100 Million unless this weekend shows it has legs. This may be bad news for 30 Minutes or Less.

But this overloading means that The Change Up is likely to take the hit from so many comedies, and it couldn’t happen to a nicer film. It’s pretty terrible. Perhaps this is the summer that proves Ryan Reynolds can’t carry a movie, or needs the right role to really be a star (but it feels like his chances are running out). If The Change Up does middling business, it’s his second non-starter in a row after The Green Lantern, which is nearly out of theaters with a paltry $114 Million cume (paltry when your budget is $200 Million).

Rise of the Planet of the Apes gets to come to theaters at a point where it looks like it’s not a major summer player, but late screenings have indicated that the film is better than expected, and Fox has been drumming up interest through TV spots for a while now. Unfortunately, the franchise was stung by its last entry, which was a semi-remake, something or rather (reboot, re-imagining, etc.) Tim Burton‘s Planet of the Apes had a huge opening weekend, and a huge second weekend decline.

The original Apes films are one of the most beloved franchises in the movie nerd set, and this film seems modeled on the fourth film, which worked as a slave revolt metaphor. The original films are fascinating, and show more interesting subtext than the majority of Hollywood genre efforts of late. They’re also shockingly violent for having G and PG ratings. It was the time. Tracking suggests the Apes have a good shot of winning the weekend, but this is the sort of film that’s going to benefit from a lack of competition and good word of mouth. Unfortunately, it’s not a great date night film, unless James Franco – also someone who’s not really a movie star – gets female audiences interested.

It’s also worth noting that Rise is probably the last film released this summer that can nearly guarantee a $100 Million cume. It’s possible that 30 Minutes or Less or The Help could find big audiences, and perhaps the smell-o-rama elements of Spy Kids 4 could drive up business for it, but it’s not until the start of November (with Puss in Boots and Tower Heist) that the big money projects start kicking up. This also means we’ll be seeing some titles that are up for award consideration, and a number of films that the studios didn’t know what to do with once they greenlit them. Then again Real Steel comes out October 7, and Disney thinks they have a franchise in that picture. March didn’t become the hotbed it’s become until 300 did $200 Million plus, and every single month of the year can produce a film that does over $100 Million (which used to be the gold standard for success – now that films often cost more than that it no longer has the same weight). Still, the next two months should offer some terrible movies, and some of the year’s most interesting.

So, let’s make some predictions for the top five:

  1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes – $37.9 Million
  2. The Smurfs – $23.1 Million
  3. The Change Up – $20.5 Million
  4. Cowboys and Aliens – $15.5 Million
  5. Captain America: The First Avenger – $13.7 Million

Cowboys may have eventually won last weekend’s #1 slot, but that’s not going to help it from being perceived as a misfire. I don’t think it’s going to have legs. The Smurfs should be able to clear $100 Million no problem, but my guess is that it will do better internationally. With a likely $130 Million or greater domestic take, if the international is double that expect a sequel in two years. Bellflower opens in two markets this weekend. The film cost $17,000 to make, so it’s likely it will turn a profit by the end of the weekend.

What do you want to see this weekend?