A Zombie is running the asylum

Helmer's 'Halloween' remake should carve out a holiday win

The calendar might say Labor Day, but moviegoers this holiday weekend at the North American boxoffice are just as likely to be celebrating Halloween -- or, make that "Halloween," Rob Zombie's remake of John Carpenter's classic 1978 slasher movie.

While the current film, the eighth to be spun off of the original "Halloween," appears to be jumping the gun holidaywise, it's just one of a trio of new wide releases that will bid for the attention of younger males while the rest of the family is off celebrating summer's end.

The Weinstein brothers' Miramax Films acquired the rights to the "Halloween" franchise in 1994 and released the sixth film in the series, "Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers," under their Dimension Films label in 1995. They followed up with two updates, "Halloween H20: 20 Years Later," which opened to $16.2 million in 1998, and "Halloween: Resurrection," which bowed to $12.3 million in 2002.

This time, though, Dimension -- which took the franchise with it when the Weinsteins left the Walt Disney Co. -- has returned to the drawing board. Rocker Zombie, who cut his teeth as a director on "House of 1000 Corpses" and "The Devil's Rejects," has gone back to Carpenter's original tale of knife-wielding mental institution escapee Michael Myers and written and directed a movie that is as much prequel (with a look at Myers' horrific childhood) as a remake.

Rather than hold the film for Halloween weekend, during which Lionsgate is planning to release its "Saw IV," Dimension (which is releasing the film through MGM) is looking to the Labor Day weekend, which has been kind to genre fare ever since "Jeepers Creepers" opened to $15.8 million in 2001.

Naturally R-rated, the new "Halloween" -- starring Malcolm McDowell as shrink Dr. Loomis, Scout Taylor-Compton as baby sitter Laurie Strode and Tyler Mane as the adult Michael Myers -- will be aiming for $20 million in 3,472 theaters during the four-day weekend, which would put it in first position.

Focus Features' Rogue Pictures label already has gotten a start on the weekend with its martial arts movie parody "Balls of Fury," which opened Wednesday, taking in an estimated
$1.7 million during its first day.

Directed by "Reno 911!" alumnus Robert Ben Garant and starring Dan Fogler, a Tony winner for Broadway's "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," and Christopher Walken as the movie's archvillian Feng, the PG-13 comedy is set improbably in the pingpong underworld. Reviewers have not been kind, though that's probably immaterial, and the movie, in 3,052 theaters, will probably find itself in the $11 million-$13 million range for the four-day weekend. If it checks in at the high end of that range, then it could find itself jockeying with the third weekend of "Superbad" to claim the second slot overall.

20th Century Fox is launching the R-rated "Death Sentence," starring Kevin Bacon as a father who seeks vigilante justice after his son is killed in a gang initiation, in 1,822 theaters. Directed by James Wan ("Saw"), the film is likely to find itself in the middle of the pack, on one side or the other of the $5 million mark for the four days.

In a bid to attract Latino moviegoers, Lionsgate is introducing "Ladron que roba a ladron," a Spanish-language film directed by Joe Menendez, in 340 theaters. The PG-13 heist movie has been described as a Spanish "Ocean's Thirteen," but its weekend haul will be limited by its modest rollout.

On the specialty front, ThinkFilm is introducing the R-rated "Self-Medicated" in 16 theaters. It is the debut film from director Monty Lapica, who also stars as a troubled Las Vegas teen who is confined to a rehabilitation facility by his mother.
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