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Box Office Predictor: It’s Timon and Pumbaa All Over Again

The Projector

Why do people treat weekend box office as if it were an actual horse race, as if it somehow matters to us, the consumer, which faceless corporation makes another stray million more over a three-day span than another faceless corporation? We have no idea! But it's still fun. Welcome to this week's Box Office Predictor. Prepare thyself for random guessing about dollar figures so large that they become meaningless!

1. "The Lion King 3-D." (2,330 screens) All right, you can be cynical all you want, with the fortnight re-releasing of a billion-dollar hit 17 years later just to cash in on a 3-D trend that might or might not be dead. But sorry: "The Lion King" is great, and today's kids should have the chance to see it in a theater, even if they have to wear funny glasses. Just think of America as a big revival theater. By the way, this came out the same summer as a romantic comedy with Nick Nolte and Julia Roberts, and Alec Baldwin as a superhero (and looking like this). Guesstimate: $18 million.

2. "Drive." (2,886 screens) We're just being optimistic here: It's probably more likely that "Contagion" will hang on for a second week and finish in this spot. But we can dream. Just don't embarrass us out there, "Drive." Guesstimate: $14 million.

3. "Contagion." (3,222 screens) Remember, everybody: Purell actually makes you less safe because the germs it doesn't kill become stronger. In other words, in the long run, we're all dead. Guesstimate: $12 million.

4. "I Don't Know How She Does It." (2,476 screens) Everyone's prospects are low for this one, but still, this reeks of a Hate Watch movie for many of the women we know. If only it could have co-starred Renee Zellweger and Jennifer Love Hewitt, they'd have the trifecta. Guesstimate: $10 million.

5. "Straw Dogs." (2,408 screens) This probably wasn't the best weekend for "Straw Dogs" to come out -- there's another ultraviolent thriller out this week, and it's one cineastes won't be angry at for remaking a classic -- and it might well not even make it this high. We still love "The Contender," though. Guesstimate: $7 million.