Another wide assortment of summer offerings will hit the multiplexes across North America this weekend. The action-comedy sequel Rush Hour 3 leads the way as the main course and will be joined by side dishes like the fantasy adventure Stardust, the family comedy Daddy Day Camp, and the horror flick Skinwalkers. The third mega-opening in a row should keep overall ticket sales abnormally high for this time of year.

Six years and one week after the last installment opened, Rush Hour 3 hits theaters from coast to coast hoping to recapture the magic that made its two predecessors shatter industry expectations. Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, and director Brett Ratner have all reteamed (with some handsome raises) for a story about the world’s biggest organized crime syndicate whose secrets are hidden in Paris. The first Rush Hour smashed the September opening weekend box office record with a $33M launch in 1998. Rush Hour 2 set a new August opening record in 2001 with its $67.4M debut which it held until last weekend’s The Bourne Ultimatum arrived. Together, Carter and Lee have arrested $367M domestically and $575M worldwide with their pair of cross-cultural buddy cop hits.

But a lot of time has passed since the last Rush Hour film and some fans may have lost interest in a formula that can easily get tired the third time around. The new pic should play mostly to existing fans and will not create too many new ones. Still, Rush Hour 3 does offer the most ethnic starpower of any film this summer so business from multicultural moviegoers should be very strong. Jason Bourne’s second weekend will provide ample competition for the action crowd, then again Rush Hour 2 had to deal with the second weekend of Planet of the Apes which opened the week before with a similarly potent $68.5M which at the time was the second biggest opening in history. So Chan and Tucker can handle the pressure. Expect those who like this dish to come back for a third helping for what should be the final big bow of the summer season. Crashing into more than 3,100 theaters, Rush Hour 3 could speed to about $61M this weekend.


Chan and Tucker in familiar territory.


The stars come out for Stardust, a new fantasy adventure boasting a cast that includes Michelle Pfeiffer, Claire Danes, Robert De Niro, and Sienna Miller. The PG-13 pic should skew more to a female audience since males have more high-profile choices if they’re looking for action this weekend. Paramount has put a moderate amount of marketing support behind the film – an adequate amount for an August release. But with The Bourne Ultimatum and Rush Hour 3 absorbing roughly $90M in combined business from a broad audience, things will be tough for Stardust and for any other film for that matter. Debuting in about 2,300 locations, an opening weekend of around $11M could result.


Stardust hopes to produce another form of green.

The summer’s oddest couple entered theaters on Wednesday in Daddy Day Camp, a new family comedy starring Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding Jr. which is directed by The Wonder Years star Fred Savage. The PG-rated film is a followup to 2003’s Eddie Murphy hit Daddy Day Care which bowed to $27.6M on its way to a solid $104.3M for Sony. In a world where direct-to-DVD sequels get financed for just about any kids property, Camp seems like just that, only one which got lucky enough to get a theatrical release. Cuba is no Eddie when it comes to selling tickets. Sure, Snow Dogs grossed $81.2M in 2002, but Disney’s brand name and marketing machine were responsible for much of that success. Luckily for Sony there are not too many options for families right now so there is an opportunity, though a small one. Daddy Day Camp hit 2,184 theaters on Wednesday and could collect about $8M for the weekend and around $11M over five days.


Perhaps Cuba is beginning to understand why Eddie didn’t return.

Following in the footsteps of I Know Who Killed Me, Captivity, and Bug, the new horror flick Skinwalkers steps into the ring gunning for the title of worst fright flop of the summer. From Lionsgate and After Dark Films, the PG-13 pic has little marketing or distribution support and is only making a brief appearance at the marquees on its way to video store shelves. Debuting in just 650 theaters, an opening weekend of $1.5M seems likely.


Skinwalkers!

The Bourne Ultimatum made a big splash in its debut last weekend recording the largest August bow in history. However, it has been eroding during the week posting a solid $9.1M on Monday before dropping down to $7.5M on Tuesday. The large upfront turnout should lead to a sharp decline and Rush Hour 3‘s arrival will take away action fans too. Look for a 55% drop for the Matt Damon saga which would give Universal about $31M for the frame and a ten-day tally of $129M.

Fox’s hit toon The Simpsons Movie, already the third highest grossing animated film of the year after the ogre threequel and the rodent comedy, should stabilize this weekend after its hefty sophomore slump of two-thirds. A 50% decline would give Homer and pals around $12.5M for the weekend and a 17-day total of $153M.

LAST YEAR: Will Ferrell stayed put at number one with the hit comedy Talladega Nights despite a 53% drop to $22.1M in its second lap for Sony. Buena Vista raced past expectations with its teen sensation Step Up which bowed in the number two spot with a stellar $20.7M on its way to $65.3M. Paramount’s 9/11 drama World Trade Center debuted in third with $18.7M over three days and $26.5M over five days. The Oliver Stone pic went on to gross a solid $70.3M. The studio’s animated film Barnyard slipped only 39% in its sophomore session to $9.7M taking fourth place. Opening to mild results in fifth was the thriller Pulse with $8.2M on its way to $20.3M for The Weinstein Co. Sony crashed and burned in ninth with the kidpic Zoom which bowed to just $4.5M leading to a weak $11.6M final.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

With everyone buzzing about Paul GreengrassUnited 93, another 9/11-centric project has fallen into the background … for now, anyway. But IGN FilmForce has a few tidbits reharding Oliver Stone‘s World Trade Center, including a plot recap, a cast list, and a pair of pics.

Says IGN FF: "Set for release on August 11th, 2006, is Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center, starring Nicolas Cage (Matchstick Men), Michael Pena (Crash), Maria Bello (Coyote Ugly), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko) and Frank Whaley (The Doors). The movie tells the story of John McLoughlin (Cage) and William Jimeno (Pena), Port Authority police officers who were trapped for 22 hours at Ground Zero.

In early November of last year, upon commencement of photography, the filmmakers were quick to emphasize that the movie will not focus on the large political issues. "We’re not doing the Towering InfernoTitanic version," producer Michael Shamberg told The Associated Press. "We’re not doing everyone’s story that day. We’re trusted with the accuracy of the particular story that we’re telling."

A pack of sled dogs brave the cold ("Eight Below"). A detective works on a case with potentially explosive ramifications ("Freedomland"). A movie parodies other movies ("Date Movie"). It’s this week’s wide releases!

Over the years, Disney has produced many adventures with animals struggling to survive in the harsh wild ("White Fang" comes to mind). And critics say "Eight Below," the story of a group of sled dogs who must brave the cold of Antarctica, carries on that proud tradition. Paul Walker stars in the based-on-a-true-story of a guide who must take a visiting researcher across a particularly perilous stretch of territory. The scribes say this is more than just a shaggy-dog story; it’s infused with a real sense of drama and some of the warmest canine thespians ever to grace the silver screen. It’s Mr. Walker’s best reviewed film since "Pleasantville" (86 percent on the Tomatometer), and his best in a leading role. At 82 percent, "Eight Below" proves that every dog has its day. And "Eight Below" is not only Certified Fresh, is also the best-reviewed wide release of the year, besting a pair of family films, "Nanny McPhee" (75 percent) and "Curious George" (72 percent).

Sometimes the noblest of intentions can make for the clumsiest of films. Case in point: "Freedomland," a drama that delves into the thorny issue of race relations after a white woman dubiously claims she has been carjacked and her child kidnapped in a largely African American housing project. Critics say the film features perhaps the weakest performances in the distinguished careers of Samuel L. Jackson and Julianne Moore, and the script lacks the nuances that should give the film its emotional punch. (Strange, since Richard Price, the screenwriter, also penned the source novel for Spike Lee’s "Clockers," a deft mixture of police procedural and social issues. It’s at 75 percent on the Tomatometer.) At 16 percent on the Tomatometer, "Freedomland" may not be worth a visit.

Like someone on who has a stunning picture on the Internet personals but looks a lot different in person, "Date Movie" claims to be a comedy, but, since it wasn’t screened for critics, we’re guessing it may be a little short on laughs. (Here’s a hint, in love as in cinema: just be honest!) So, kids, it’s time for the funnest game since Spin the Bottle: Guess the Tomatometer! The closest guess wins a date with Critical Consensus. Or at least some props.

The Best Reviewed Wide Releases of 2006:
—————————————————–
75% — Nanny McPhee (2006)
72% — Curious George (2006)
64% — Something New (2006)
58% — Hostel (2006)
57% — Glory Road (2006)

Notable Movies About Dogs in the Wild:
——————————-
22% — Snow Dogs (2002)
67% — Lassie (1994)
75% — Homeward Bound- The Incredible Journey (1993)
82% — White Fang (1991)
86% — Benji (1974)

Recent Films Not Screened For Critics:
———————————————-
10% — When a Stranger Calls (2006)
16% — Underworold: Evolution (2006)
7% — BloodRayne (2006)
15% — Grandma’s Boy (2006)
12% — Aeon Flux (2005)

Want to see a move in which Paul Walker takes second billing to a bunch of dogs? What about if the movie were a Disney-produced and uber-inspirational tale of love, loyalty, and survival? No? OK, just check out the trailer for "Eight Below" anyway right here.

"Inspired by a true story, three members of a scientific expedition: Jerry Shepard (Paul Walker), his best friend, Cooper (Jason Biggs), and a rugged American geologist (Bruce Greenwood), are forced to leave behind their team of beloved sled dogs due to a sudden accident and perilous weather conditions in Antarctica."

Directed by Frank Marshall, "Eight Below" (oh, nooow I get it!) hits theaters on Fenruary 17th.

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