This is a strangely busy weekend for June. For the most part studios launch their biggest titles in May and July, while June and August don’t normally hold the big powerhouses. But this weekend we’ve got a big prequel and sequel hitting screens, and at least one of them has an X-factor that means it could do much better than expected, or much worse (that is, Prometheus).

Though Prometheus has been doing okay internationally so far, these days we’re seeing few big summer movies that risk coming out with an R rating. If that means cutting the film to the point of near-incoherence, whatever, it’s harder to hit four quadrants when you’ve eliminated part of your audience. This is a terrible thing for art by the way, but when your film costs over a hundred million (or two hundred million or three hundred million as can be the case), keeping it from certain audience members is something that makes it a bigger risk. This kind of summer blockbuster art has certain limitations by the nature of its cost. And – to be fair – the MPAA will usually work with these sorts of films. America never got Battle Royale released theatrically because there was no way it wouldn’t both engender controversy and get an NC-17 rating, but The Hunger Games is just as violent and about the same subject matter. But because it was based on a hit book: PG-13.

Fox is bold for putting out an R-rated movie in the summer like this, even if many – if not most – of the films from two decades ago had no problems going R. The problem is that the cost to make a movie has grown exponentially, so a big budget movie rarely makes its money back solely through domestic gross. In this way the global market has become all important, but this seems like bad business. This is partly due to the home video bubble. DVD meant that a title could do $100 Million theatrically and as much if not more in home video sales, so a film could cost $100 Million to make, do that much domestically and still turn a profit. But with the legs out of home video, that’s just not the cast now.

It’s also worth noting that Prometheus is being sold on Alien, which is a well respected classic, and Ridley Scott, who is a well respected director. But Alien did well for the fact that it was low budget, and so did Aliens, but they weren’t Star Wars-level hits, while their sequels were met with mixed box office and critical response. Prometheus is a byproduct of franchise thinking, though, where 20th Century Fox has invested at least $200 Million in a title because it’s got a good brand name, and bringing in Ridley Scott makes it more of an event than – say – hiring Paul W.S. Anderson.

Friday’s going to be a big tell domestically, but word of mouth should hit the internet quickly. Reviews have been mostly positive, though the film seems to have script issues. Spectacle could trump for crowds. The film’s biggest problem for the film is that it’s competing for screens with Madagascar 3. Both of which are 3D and both of which are IMAX compatible. Who gets the bump?

Anyway, numbers:

  1. Prometheus – $55 Million
  2. Madagascar 3 – $48 Million
  3. Snow White and the Huntsman – $23.5 Million
  4. MIB3 – $12.5 Million
  5. The Avengers – $12 Million

Prometheus could go higher or lower, and Madagascar could go higher. The latter has a number of advantages by being short and 3D. But it also won’t do as well at night. It’s a weird weekend.

What are you going to see this weekend?