With the ongoing box office behemoth that is “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” seemingly devouring everything in its path, the studios are nevertheless allowing two potentially vulnerable major productions to venture out of the nest a couple of days ahead of the big July 4th holiday weekend.

For the family trade, we have a 3-D CGI animated sequel, “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” which will be showing on a record number of 3-D screens. (Which I guess means that if you haven’t seen “Up” in 3-D by now, which I finally managed just last night, you may be SOL until at least such time as we start seeing 3-D retrospectives.) In a saner world, this would be the #1 movie this week because of family appeal, I think it’s safe to say. Carl DiOrio of The Hollywood Reporter is calling it at between $45 and $50 million for Friday through Sunday (not counting weekdays), which he thinks will be somewhat below the “Transformers” take based on a very modest 50% drop-off.

Is the word of mouth on this film, despised even by many who liked the first film (which I couldn’t even sit through) really that good? I’m not a twittering teen, so who knows. Though, to be honest, the “Ice Age” sequels reviews are hardly much better, at 34% “fresh” according to the mighty Tomatometer. Critics sound seriously bored this time around, though kids’ attention spans are often better than adults when animated animals are involved.

Variety, which apparently hasn’t read Carl DiOrio, says the following:

No one is willing to call the Fourth of July race, with the “Transformers” sequel looking like a powerhouse. There’s also the issue of timing. July 4 falls on Saturday, which could dampen returns on what is generally the busiest moviegoing day of the week.

Johnny Depp takes aim at 'dem robots.Damn those national holidays with their picnics and fireworks and other non-moviegoing pleasures. But, yes, there is another very major release this week which, in any normal world, would be the film to beat. I obviously speak of the Michael Mann-directed Johnny Depp/Christian Bale vehicle, “Public Enemies.”

As I wrote a couple of days back, however, concern is widespread that this one doesn’t really have the mass appeal — or non mass appeal, even — to really make the grade. A film of this type, from a highly regarded director and with two widely-admired master thespian-style superstars in the lead and which appeals to grown-ups with other things to do than head lemming-like to the ‘plex, really should break 70% on the Tomatometer. 56% is disappointing and this is the kind of film which may not be entirely critic proof — or rather it might be the kind of film where the word of mouth might more closely follow the reviews because of the nature of the audience, if you follow me. DiOrio’s call, which I really have no reason to question, is for $25 million for the actual weekend and as much as $40 million for the five day extended period. That should about cover the salaries of Mr. Bale’s eye-line protection team.