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On Track for No. 1

Joshua Rich's prediction: Pixar's latest won't earn as much as ''Nemo'' or ''Incredibles,'' but it'll still guzzle lots of cash

'CARS'
'CARS'
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On Track for No. 1

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I'm glad to see we made it through 6/6/06 unscathed. Phew! Dodged a silver bullet there, huh? Well, we weren't the only survivors. The remake of The Omen, cleverly timed to premiere on the Date of the Beast, also emerged a winner, earning $12.6 million in 2,660 venues on Tuesday.

And oh, how Fox and other interested parties wasted no time in touting their success: I got no fewer than a zillion e-mails bragging about how The Omen scared up the biggest Tuesday gross ever. (According to my best buddy Paul at box office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations, Fox even reported the exact take as $12,633,666 — get it?) Now, that's impressive, sure. I mean, who among us whose name doesn't start with ''Bill'' and end with ''Gates'' has earned $12.6 mil in one day? Then again, this is a pretty flimsy ''record.'' Because we're talking about Tuesday here. It's among the slowest days of the week at the box office, and movies almost never open on Tuesdays. Let's say it snowed here in L.A. today — that would make it the biggest snowfall ever in L.A. in June! Gimme a break. So enough of all that nonsense. No need to add icing to an already sweet cake. The Omen is indeed doing well so far, with many millions in the bank, and it should add another $20 mil this weekend against some stiff new competition.

But Disney/Pixar's Cars will be the hot rod in the box office race. It debuts in 3,985 locations, and it'll finish in first place by a mile. The average opening gross of the six previous Pixar movies was around $54 mil, a number that this flick should have no problem zipping by. But will Cars earn a Nemo/Incredibles-like $70 mil? Not quite. Despite very strong reviews — as of Thursday, it's scoring a super-ripe 81 percent ''fresh'' rating on critic tracker RottenTomatoes.com — it ranks a little low on the cuddly scale, from my P.O.V. Still, it'll pull into the pit with a strong $68 mil, and that's nothing to blow a gasket over.

A Prairie Home Companion, Robert Altman's film adapataion of Garrison Keillor's popular public radio show, is opening on 760 screens. The movie, from Picturehouse (formerly known as Fine Line and HBO Films and, sorta, Newmarket), also has good reviews going for it, although its broad appeal is dubious. Expect it to bring in an unspectacular $4 mil.

And the big holdovers, The Break-Up and X-Men: The Last Stand, both will drop thanks to poor word of mouth (the former) and waning interest (the latter). Look for TB-U to score $19 mil and X-M:TLS to rake in $15 mil. And if they do much better, let me tell you, that'll be as surprising as a summertime snowfall in Southern California.

Originally posted Jun 08, 2006
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