June 8, 2006

“Cars” to box office also-rans: Eat my dust

By Brian Fuson

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - "Cars" is racing into
theaters Friday and is expected to take the checkered flag at
the weekend box office.

The seventh film from Walt Disney Co. and its newly
acquired Pixar Animation Studios partner revolves around a
talking race car named Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen
Wilson), who learns some valuable life lessons during an
enforced pit stop in a sleepy town.

Also lending their voices to the colorful cast of
computer-animated vehicles are Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, Larry
the Cable Guy, Cheech Marin and racing great Richard Petty. The
G-rated tale is directed by John Lasseter, who last took the
helm for 1999's "Toy Story 2," which opened with $57 million
and went on to gross $246 million.

The debut of "Cars" in 3,985 venues marks the first release
from Disney and Pixar in more than a year and a half, so there
is some pent-up demand for the film. Their last collaboration,
"The Incredibles," opened in November 2004 with $70 million and
finished with $261 million.

Since their first film together, 1995's "Toy Story," Disney
and Pixar have generated quite a box office track record,
racking up nearly $1.5 billion in gross domestic receipts
alone. The company's biggest-grossing film is "Finding Nemo."
The undersea adventure bowed with $70 million in 2003 and left
North American theaters with $340 million.

The wheels are turning in "Cars' " favor as far as the
critics go -- getting the thumbs up from the vast majority of
reviewers nationwide, according to

Reigning champ "The Break-Up," which surpassed expectations
with a $39.1 million bow last weekend, and Tuesday release "The
Omen" are tracking to converge on the No. 2 spot this weekend.
"Omen" debuted with a record single-day gross for a Tuesday
with $12.6 million, thanks largely to its 6/6/06 marketing
campaign. The horror remake, about the rise of the Antichrist
in the form of a young boy named Damien, has collected more
than $20 million heading into the weekend.

In a moderate-release counter programming strategy, indie
distributor Picturehouse's "A Prairie Home Companion" will
debut in 760 locations. The PG-13 comedy-drama is a fictional
story based on the nationally syndicated and long-running radio
show from Garrison Keillor, who wrote the screenplay and also
stars in the film.

Robert Altman directed "Companion," which boasts a familiar
ensemble cast including Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin
Kline, Lindsay Lohan, Virginia Madsen, John C. Reilly, Maya
Rudolph, Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin.

"Companion" unfolds on the final night of the show. The
film is targeting adult, upscale moviegoers.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter