Game, set… but there’s not much of a match. “Challengers,” a steamy tennis drama starring Zendaya and directed by Luca Guadagnino, is poised to lead the domestic box office without much in the way of competition.

The film, from Amazon MGM, is projected to collect $12 million to $15 million from 3,400 North American theaters in its opening weekend. Although those are modest projections for any nationwide release, it’s this weekend’s only major new movie and shouldn’t have trouble claiming first place from A24’s “Civil War,” the reigning champion. Last weekend, “Civil War” topped the box office for the second consecutive frame with $11.1 million and has grossed $70 million globally to date. Overall, the domestic box office is 20% behind the same point in 2023, according to Comscore.

The steamy, R-rated “Challengers” was originally slated to premiere at 2023’s Venice Film Festival and hit the big screen last fall. But the studio opted to delay its release to spring because the actors strike prevented Zendaya and her co-stars, “West Side Story” actor Mike Faist and “The Crown” breakout Josh O’Connor, from being able to promote the movie. Now, Zendaya’s tennis-themed red carpet looks have been generating headline after headline. So postponing the movie, at least in terms of bolstering awareness among its target audience of twenty-somethings, may prove to be worth it. “Challengers” carries a significant price tag of roughly $55 million, so Amazon MGM has a lot riding on the box office.

That “Challengers,” an R-rated drama with an arthouse sheen, is getting a nationwide release (rather than a platform rollout that accompanies most indie films) and could hit mid-teens to start is a testament to Zendaya’s star power. Of course, Amazon MGM has deep pockets and isn’t an independent distributor. But Guadagnino’s movies aren’t usually mainstream. His biggest film, 2017’s “Call Me By Your Name,” grossed just $18 million in the U.S. and $43 million globally while his most recent, 2022’s “Bones and All,” fizzled with only $15 million worldwide.

Nor are tennis films aren’t known to pack seats at multiplexes. Take 2017’s “Battle of the Sexes,” starring Emma Stone and Steve Carrell as Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, which opened to $3 million and tapped out with $12 million domestically. Those were blockbuster results compared to the Shia Labeouf-led “Borg vs. McEnroe,” about the rivalry between two other tennis legends, which failed to hit $4 million globally. And “King Richard,” which scored a best picture nomination and earned Will Smith an Oscar, opened to $5 million while simultaneously launching on HBO Max. It only managed to gross $15 million in total, although analysts believe ticket sales for “King Richard” were stifled by its day-and-date debut on streaming during COVID.