Man of Steel

Warner Bros

Man of Steel will make a lot of money at the box office this weekend. Unless, that is, the Superman reboot makes even more than that.   

That's the consensus as projections for the Zack Snyder film's three-day, Friday-Sunday gross are ranging from $75 million on the "low" side to $100 million-plus on the most bullish side.

Man of Steel, starring Henry Cavill (Immortals) as the iconic superhero, formally opens at midnight Friday, although it'll screen in some theaters as early as tonight.

The film is the first big-screen Superman adventure since Superman Returns. That 2006 movie, directed by Bryan Singer and starring Brandon Routh, likewise was intended as the first chapter in a new franchise era. It opened to a blockbuster-respectable (and Superman-best) $52 million, but ultimately disappointed: a reputedly $270 million behemoth that huffed and puffed its way to $200 million domestically, and failed to match that gross overseas. A promised sequel didn't happen. box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian sees a different ending for Man of Steel.

"The long-term prospects are really good for the movie," Dergarabedian says.

According to Variety, Jeff Robinev, an exec for Warner Bros., the longtime home of Superman, went so far as to predict Man of Steel would be the "highest performer ever" (the Hollywood outlet's words, not Robinev's) for the studio of Harry Potter and The Dark Knight, among other hit franchises.    

Among critics, the earliest Man of Steel reviews were enthusiastic. The buzz has cooled, however, with the film's Rotten Tomatoes score at last look at a middling 59 percent.  

Still, there's little standing between Man of Steel and a No. 1 debut, even with Seth Rogen's This Is the End off to a good, $7.8 million start in its Tuesday night-Wednesday debut. The apocalyptic comedy, the weekend's only other major new release, was expected to take second place with a three-day take of $20 million-something.

If Man of Steel hits $75 million, the weekend number Warners was pushing, per The Hollywood Reporter, it'll be the summer's third-biggest opener behind Iron Man 3 ($174.1 million) and Fast & Furious 6 ($97.4 million). If it soars to $100 million, it'll have scored the year's second-biggest overall debut, and put itself in the elite neighborhood of the first Iron Man ($98.6 million) and X-Men: The Last Stand ($102.8 million).

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