Racing into theaters across North America, the computer animated film Cars aims to take over pole position this weekend targeting family audiences. Those looking for a good scare can instead choose The Omen which already launched on Tuesday with some frightening results. The frame’s final new wide release is the Robert Altman comedy A Prairie Home Companion giving the weekend a wide assortment of titles for all audiences.

After a surprising top spot debut, the Vince VaughnJennifer Aniston comedy The Break-Up will surely fall from grace, but should still remain a formidable contender.

After a near-break-up of their own, Disney and Pixar are back together again in a committed relationship and have put their full parental support behind Cars which zooms into the marketplace on Friday with some red hot buzz. Directed by Pixar guru John Lasseter (Toy Story, Toy Story 2), the G-rated film tells the story of a cocky race car who gets lost in a small town on the way to the big championship and meets a colorful group of vehicles who teach him some morals. Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, and Larry the Cable Guy all lend their voices.

Recent Pixar films have been spaced out evenly using the Harry Potter year-and-a-half policy. In November 2001, Monsters, Inc. opened to $62.6M and was followed by Finding Nemo with $70.3M in May 2003 and The Incredibles with $70.5M in November 2004. The timing is just enough to make each film a new event of its own that generates excitement among fans of all ages. Disney’s marketing and cross-promotional efforts have been loud as usual and awareness is sky high. But Cars does have a longer running time than most toons clocking in at nearly two hours. Maybe all eight of the credited writers demanded that their bits make the final cut.

Disney has had only two number one hits so far this year, ruling the Dr. King and Presidents’ Day holiday weekends with Glory Road and Eight Below, respectively. This weekend, the third trophy should be in the bag as anticipation among boys and girls alike is high. Business from teens and adults should be solid as well since the Pixar brand name attracts millions of loyal followers of all types. Plus, NASCAR fans are sure to provide an additional push at the turnstiles. The only major competition will come from Over the Hedge which is now fading into its fourth weekend. It’s an open highway for Cars which races into over 3,800 theaters this weekend. A three-day tally of about $72M could result.

Three decades after the original terrorized movie fans, The Omen has been reborn with today’s stars and special effects in the Fox release which opened on Tuesday, 6/6/06. With horror fans now used to a steady string of remakes of fright classics, the novelty has worn thin. So, to make this one stand out, the studio plugged the R-rated film into the unorthodox Tuesday slot to take advantage of the Satan-style date which in turn became the focal point of the marketing campaign. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, and The Amityville Horror were all recent remakes that shot straight to number one. With The Omen, something new was needed to catch the attention of fans. Fox took a risk, tried something new, and won. The pic grossed a stellar $12.6M on Tuesday in its first day of release while playing in 2,660 locations.

The new Omen is hoping to attract the teens and young adults that typically power all of today’s horror hits, as well as older fans of the genre who are curious to see this new cover version. Critics have been mixed in their reviews complaining that it is too similar to the original and that there was no need to revisit this story. But money does rule Hollywood and horror films are very profitable so making newer versions of stories that worked in the past is just what studios are lining up to do. The marketing push has been commendable. Had Omen opened on a Friday, it would have been the umpteenth fright flick of the year. Instead, the date spooked people and caught the attention of the media that spread the hype.

Because this is a horror audience we are looking at, rapid erosion should follow the mid-week opening diluting down the weekend gross. Omen will burn through much of its audience in its first three days before the Friday-to-Sunday period arrives and it might even scare up more than half of its eventual domestic total in the first week. No other scary films are doing any serious biz so competition should not be much of a factor. Plus Omen is benefiting from Fox playing its trailer in front of the X-Men sequel which was seen by millions of sci-fi and horror fans over the past two weeks. For the three-day weekend period, The Omen might gross roughly $17M and over the six-day Tuesday-to-Sunday span, it could scare up around $36M.

In the weekend’s other unusual release pattern, Robert Altman’s latest film A Prairie Home Companion opens nationally on hundreds of screens instead of the typical arthouse platform release that the director’s films usually go out with. The legendary filmmaker’s latest ensemble cast brings together Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Kline, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, and teen queen Lindsay Lohan getting herself some indie cred. The PG-13 film about country music stars gathering for one final radio show performance has earned positive reviews and is being released by Picturehouse.

Altman films usually debut in New York and Los Angeles, build momentum through critical support, and slowly widen across the country. But Prairie is rocking its way into 725 theaters on opening day aiming to offer older adults a smart alternative to the super heroes and spies of summer. The film is sure to skew older than anything else out now which means it might also have legs if the target audience is pleased. Still, there is only so much of a built-in audience that the pic can tap into and the summer release means there will be no awards season to keep the buzz rolling along like with the helmer’s Gosford Park in early 2002. Prairie might struggle to find a broad audience this weekend given all the other high profile films targeting its audience. Adults may instead choose to take their kids to Cars, catch Jen and Vince in a shouting match, or get a weather forecast from Al Gore. An opening weekend gross of around $3M seems likely.

Universal’s The Break-Up spent just four days at the number one spot before being kicked to the curb by The Omen. Romantic comedies usually do not suffer large declines and the Aniston-Vaughn pairing has held up well during the week grossing $3.9M on Monday and $4M on Tuesday when it faced Damien. Also, the new crop of films this weekend should not steal away too much of its crowd of adult women. Still, Break-Up isn’t exactly generating a whole lot of love with audiences in the word-of-mouth department so a 45% drop could result. That would give the film about $22M for the frame and a solid $76M in ten days.

X-Men: The Last Stand has its cyclops eye on joining the $200M club this weekend. The Fox sequel suffered a stiff 67% freefall last weekend in its second frame, but should stabilize in its third fight. Wolverine and chums could see sales get sliced in half which would give the super hero pic around $17M for the weekend and a plump $203M in 17 days. That would shoot it past studio stablemate Ice Age: The Meltdown to reign as the top-grossing film of 2006.

Over the Hedge should take a bit of a beating this weekend as it no longer will be the only major digital toon in town. A 40% fall would give the Paramount release roughly $12M upping the cume to $132M. Sony could see a larger 45% drop for The Da Vinci Code and finish the frame with about $10M. That would put the total for the Tom Hanks starrer at $189M and counting.

LAST YEAR: Before Namibia, fans had to look to their local movie theater to find Brad and Angelina. The much-hyped action film Mr. & Mrs. Smith conquered the box office with a strong $50.3M in its debut frame. The Fox blockbuster enjoyed sturdy legs grossing $186.3M domestically and over $465M worldwide. A pair of former number ones followed with Madagascar taking second with $17.2M and Star Wars Episode III in third with $14.9M. Adam Sandler finished fourth with The Longest Yard which scored $13.9M. Opening in fifth place was the kid adventure The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl with $12.6M on its way to $39.2M for Miramax. Disappointing in their openings were the Paramount comedy remake The Honeymooners with $5.5M and the Lions Gate horror flick High Tension with $1.9M. Final grosses reached $12.8M and $3.7M, respectively.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Following a hotly-contested bidding war, New Line Cinema stood victorious with the film rights to Nicci French’s "Land of the Living," a fairly intense-sounding story of horror, survival, and … skepticism. Celebrated author James Ellroy is attached to adapt Ms. French’s novel into screenplay form.

Says Variety: "New Line Cinema beat out several bidders to acquire screen rights to the Nicci French novel "Land of the Living," with James Ellroy set to write the script.

Deal was near seven figures both for the rights to the book and Ellroy’s script fees. Novel was published two years ago but gained steam when Ellroy pitched his take on the novel and to do his first adaptation of a book other than his own.

Story concerns a promiscuous woman who’s captured and tortured by a serial killer. After surviving the ordeal, she has to figure out what happened because cops and even her friends think she fabricated the story."

Movies based on Ellroy’s books include "Cop" (1988), "L.A. Confidential" (1997), "Dark Blue" (2003), and Brian De Palma‘s upcoming "The Black Dahlia."

Low budget horror film “Alone in the Dark” took home the industry’s biggest booby prize as Hollywood’s annual anti-Oscars, The Stinkers Bad Movie Awards, dished out awards in 24 competition categories. The dishonors came courtesy of the Los Angeles-based Bad Cinema Society, a panel of movie critics and film fans which annually awards Hollywood’s worst films and performances.

Though “Alone in the Dark” didn’t receive the most awards, it managed to beat the field in four major categories, including worst film of the year, worst director (Uwe Boll, who some critics and fans have likened to legendary bad movie maker Ed Wood), worst actress (Tara Reid), and worst special effects.

The top award winner for 2005, with five Stinkers, was “Son of the Mask,” New Line’s ill-conceived follow-up to the Jim Carrey mega-hit “The Mask.” The mind-numbing sequel, which was inexplicably still produced after Carrey refused to participate in the project, took honors for Worst Actor (Jamie Kennedy), Worst Sequel, and Worst Couple (Kennedy and anyone forced to co-star with him). The film was also named 2005’s foulest family film.

Jessica Simpson picked up three awards for her portrayal of Daisy Duke in the big screen remake of the TV series “The Dukes of Hazzard.” Her warbling of “These Boot Are Made For Walkin’” earned her a Stinker for worst song in a movie. She was also named worst supporting actress of the year and can lay claim to having sported the most annoying fake accent in a movie.

Media target Paris Hilton, who had a small role in the horror remake “House of Wax,” came away unscathed by the society. Mentioned as a worst supporting actress on other year-end lists, the hotel heiress did not make the final cut on the more selective Stinkers ballot. "To get on the Stinkers ballot you are judged on your performance, not your tabloid persona,” said Stinkers Bad Movie Awards co-founder Michael Lancaster. “Anyone that would put Paris Hilton on a list of the five worst supporting actresses in 2005 didn’t see a lot of movies in 2005."

The Stinkers ballot featured five worst film candidates that any other year would have been winners or at the very least runners-up in their own right. Proof positive that 2005 will go down as one of the worst film years on record. One category (worst song) had ten nominees, tying a Stinker record. “Hollywood just doesn’t seem to understand that what’s keeping paying customers away is the bad product they hype. You can’t just keep advertising that bad films are the funniest films of the year. Eventually the lies will catch up with you,” said Bad Cinema Society co-founder Ray Wright. He warned that 2006 was gearing up to be more of the same. “We’ve already had another film by Uwe Boll [BloodRayne] released and we will be all over ‘The Pink Panther.’”

With more than 50 sequels and remakes lined up for release in the next year, it’s safe to say that Hollywood has run out of ideas.” Added Lancaster, “I think the public has finally caught on to what we’ve been saying for years — that a lot of what Hollywood sells is not worth the price of an admission ticket. I love that people are avoiding some of these overhyped films like the plague.”

Lancaster and Wright say the film that earned the most Stinkers for 2005 (“Son of the Mask”) is a perfect example of a Hollywood system gone horribly wrong. “I can’t for the life of me imagine how this project got approved. I think the minute Jim Carrey passes on this you say, ‘let’s not make the sequel.’ Now I guess we can all see how New Line is spending their ‘Lord of the Rings’ profits,” said Lancaster.

The Stinkers Bad Movie Awards have been featured in Entertainment Weekly, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times, and on the BBC, CNN, as well as in a slew of regional and international newspapers and magazines. The group’s website has received nearly two million hits.

Complete list of winners and nominees for 2005:

WORST FILM
Alone in the Dark

WORST SENSE OF DIRECTION (Stop them before they direct again!)
Uwe Boll (Alone in the Dark)

WORST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Jamie Kennedy (Son of the Mask)

WORST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Tara Reid (Alone in the Dark)

WORST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Tyler Perry (as Madea) (Diary of a Mad Black Woman)

WORST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Jessica Simpson (The Dukes of Hazzard)

WORST SCREENPLAY FOR A FILM GROSSING MORE THAN $100 MILLION*
*using Hollywood math
Fantastic Four

MOST PAINFULLY UNFUNNY COMEDY
Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo

WORST SONG OR SONG PERFORMANCE IN A FILM OR ITS END CREDITS
These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ (Jessica Simpson) (The Dukes of Hazzard)

MOST INTRUSIVE MUSICAL SCORE
Son of the Mask

LESS THAN DYNAMIC DUO
Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy (The Man)

WORST ON-SCREEN COUPLE
Jamie Kennedy and anyone forced to co-star with him (Son of the Mask)

MOST ANNOYING FAKE ACCENT
MALE: Norm MacDonald (Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo)
FEMALE: Jessica Simpson (The Dukes of Hazzard)

LEAST "SPECIAL" SPECIAL EFFECTS
Alone in the Dark

WORST REMAKE
Yours, Mine and Ours

WORST SEQUEL
Son of the Mask

WORST RESURRECTION OF A "CLASSIC" TV SERIES
The Honeymooners

THE SPENCER BRESLIN AWARD (FOR WORST PERFORMANCE BY A CHILD)
Adrian Alonso (The Legend of Zorro)

WORST CHILD ENSEMBLE
Yours, Mine and Ours

FOULEST FAMILY FILM
Son of the Mask

LEAST SCARY HORROR MOVIE
The Fog

MOST OVERRATED FILM
Syriana

WORST ANIMATED FILM
Chicken Little

For full nominee lists and more awards, stop by the Stinkers official website!

Over the past few days, we’ve tried to counter the common misconception that this summer’s cinematic fare was bereft of quality. However, that doesn’t mean the season was without some stinkers, at least critically speaking.

The most rotten movie of the summer was "Supercross: The Movie," which won praise from two percent of the critics. "Undiscovered," the title of which was often used derisively in reviews, stood at four percent. Rounding out the top five were "The Perfect Man" (six percent) "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo" (10 percent), and "Honeymooners" (12 percent). The most rotten limited release of the summer was the Aussie slasher flick "Undead."

Here’s the 20 most rotten films of the summer, in ascending order:

2% — Supercross: The Movie
4% — Undiscovered
6% — The Perfect Man
10% — Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo
12% — Honeymooners
13% — Stealth
14% — Rebound
14% — The Cave
17% — Monster-In-Law
17% — The Dukes of Hazzard
20% — The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3D
23% — House of Wax
23% — Valiant
23% — Undead
25% — Bewitched
25% — Fantastic Four
27% — 9 Songs
28% — Mindhunters
28% — Pretty Persuasion
28% — The Baxter

Check out the rest of our coverage:
Summer Tomatometer Wrap-up: Box Office Down, Tomatometer Up
Summer Tomatometer Wrap-up #2: The Best of the Wide Releases
Summer Tomatometer Wrap-up #3: The Best of the Limited Releases

The charismatic superstar pairing of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie kicked a whole lot of box office butt over the past weekend, raking in an extremely impressive $51.1 million from 3,400 theaters. Industry insiders were expecting a solid bow for the semi-romantic action comedy "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," but the movie blew right past the predictions, thanks to a multi-demographic concept, (very) high media visibility, lots of high-end action, and good old-fashioned sex appeal. (Word is that a sequel is presently being discussed.)

Coming in at the #2 spot is DreamWorks’ animated comedy "Madagascar," which added another $17.1 million to its total tally ($128m). "Revenge of the Sith" slipped to the third spot with $14.9m, which brings its total up to an astronomical $332m, while fourth place went to Adam Sandler‘s "The Longest Yard." ($13.5m weekend / $118m total).

Debuting in fifth place was Robert Rodriguez‘s "The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D," which netted a somewhat disappointing $12.5m — and speaking of disappointments: Russell Crowe‘s "Cinderella Man" slipped to sixth place in only its second weekend by adding only $9.5m to its total domestic gross. A pair of other newcomers, "The Honeymooners" and "High Tension," didn’t do so hot either, grossing $5.8m and $1.8m respectively.

One limited release title that’s doing some rather strong business is Hayao Miyazaki‘s "Howl’s Moving Castle," which grossed $401,000 in only 36 theaters, giving it a per-screen average second only to "Mr. & Mrs. Smith."

Next week sees the arrival of two new wide releases: the amazingly anticipated "Batman Begins" and the counter-programming chicklet-flick "The Perfect Man." For a closer look at the box office numbers, feel free to stop by the Rotten Tomatoes Box Office Page.

One week after debuting impressively, yet still behind the juggernaut that is "Revenge of the Sith," "Madagascar" snagged the #1 box office spot in its second weekend of release. (But don’t feel too bad for George Lucas‘ baby; it’s now the fastest movie to gross over $300 million.) The DreamWorks animated comedy "Madagascar" beat out a trio of multiplex newcomers to grab the top spot, grossing $28.7 million in its second frame.

In second place was last weekend’s "The Longest Yard," which pulled in $26.1m, and "Sith" fell to third (by only the slightest of margins) with a weekend tally of $26m. Debuting in fourth place was the Ron Howard / Russell Crowe boxing drama "Cinderella Man," which did pretty decently by grossing $18.6m (in 2,800 theaters) during its first three days, while "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" (nearly 2,600 screens) debuted in the fifth spot with a total of $10.2m. The weekend’s only other newcomer, Catherine Hardwicke‘s "Lords of Dogtown," raked in a relatively unimpressive $5.7m from nearly 1,900 screens.

Next week sees the release of four films that couldn’t really be any different. The big ticket looks to be Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in the action flick "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," but the kids will want to see Robert Rodriguez‘s "The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D," and those looking for laughs might just line up to see "The Honeymooners." And those who have a taste for the creepy stuff will undoubtedly be making a beeline towards Lions Gate’s French horror flick "High Tension."

For a closer look at the multiplex money-makers, feel free to stop by the Rotten Tomatoes Box Office Page!

Low-key funnyman Mike Epps ("Next Friday," "The Honeymooners") has been tapped to portray legendary comedian Richard Pryor ("Stir Crazy") in an upcoming bio flick, according to Variety. Veteran filmmaker Walter Hill ("The Warriors") will direct the as-yet-untitled film, and he’ll be working from a screenplay by Caleb Kane.

After meeting Richard Pryor at a Director’s Guild tribute, Mr. Epps had this to say about stepping into the shoes of such an admired comedian: "It’s hard to describe what he means to me or any standup comic. You could say he’s paid the dues for everything we do up there." Walter Hill and Richard Pryor worked together once before, resulting in the 1985 version of "Brewster’s Millions."

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