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Summer box office hits $4 billion

'Halloween,' 'Balls' vie to keep cash flowing

Dimension Film’s Rob Zombie-helmed “Halloween” will try this weekend to scare up the last rays of summer B.O. sunshine, with the record-breaking box office expected to cross the $4 billion mark today for the first time ever in summer, if it hadn’t already done so Thursday night.

R-rated remake of John Carpenter’s 1978 classic horror pic will compete with Rogue Pictures’ PG-13 laffer “Balls of Fury,” which opened Wednesday to $1.7 million.

The Labor Day frame has never been a big moviegoing holiday and has largely become a landing place for genre fare and smaller titles, with studios having packed up their tentpoles and headed inside for the fall and winter. But studios have plenty to celebrate over the holiday.

Overall, summer box office receipts were roughly $3,993,886,113 as of Thursday morning, about $6.1 million shy of $4 billion, according to Rentrak. The season is running 8% ahead of summer 2006 and, more significantly, 4% ahead of 2004, the previous summer record-holder.

Total B.O. receipts were $3.86 billion for summer 2004 and $3.73 billion for the season last year.

Dimension and distrib partner MGM open “Halloween” on 3,472 locations today. Pic stars Malcolm McDowell and Brad Dourif.

Rogue’s “Balls of Fury,” directed by actor Ben Garant, plays in 3,052 locations this weekend. Film, about a down-and-out professional pingpong player, stars Dan Fogler, Christopher Walken and George Lopez.

Other wide debuts include revenge drama “Death Sentence,” which 20th Century Fox is distributing under its deal with Ashok Amritraj’s Hyde Park Entertainment. “Saw” helmer James Wan directed the pic, which stars Kevin Bacon and Aisha Tyler. Producing with Amritraj are Howard and Karen Baldwin. Film opens in 1,822 locations.

Specialty pics debuting this weekend include the Spanish-language “Ladron que roba a ladron,” which Lionsgate opens in 340 theaters in key markets. American-born Joe Menendez helmed the pic.

ThinkFilm opens drama “Self-Medicated,” a semi-autobiography written and directed by Monty Lapica, in 16 locations in key markets. Film is about a 17-year-old battling his demons in a psychiatric institution.

Newmarket Films unspools John August’s directorial debut “The Nines,” which played Sundance this year, in two locations. Quirky title is a compilation of three short films all starring Ryan Reynolds, Hope Davis and Melissa McCarthy. Pic bows in two theaters in New York and Los Angeles.

Magnolia opens Hong Kong director Johnny To’s crime actioner “Exiled” in one location in Gotham. Cantonese-language pic reteams To with actors Anthony Wong and Francis Ng.

Also bowing is gay laffer “Freshman Orientation,” directed by Ryan Shiraki and starring Sam Huntington, Marla Sokoloff and Mike Erwin. Regent will unspool the film in one theater in Los Angeles.

On the foreign front, “The Bourne Ultimatum” looks likely to extend its winning streak after easily taking the international crown last weekend with $15.2 million in 25 markets. The three-quel’s expanding into Australia, with decent prospects given the $11.7 million Oz cume for “The Bourne Supremacy.”

International box office for U’s “Ultimatum” had topped $58 million as of Wednesday, with half that from the U.K.

A pair of toons, Paramount/DreamWorks’ “Shrek the Third” and Fox’s “The Simpsons Movie,” probably will provide the most competition to Jason Bourne.

“Shrek the Third” moves into its final international markets — Italy and Scandinavia — as the ogre aims to beef up his $418 million foreign cume. Pic is $60 million short of the final foreign cume for “Shrek 2.”

“Simpsons” opens in Greece and this weekend should become the sixth film this year to cross the $300 million mark in overseas grosses, joining the third entries in the “Shrek,” “Spider-Man” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” series, the fifth “Harry Potter” pic and “Transformers.”

With most tentpoles having played out following a sizzling summer, the frame will see launches of a wide array of midrange pics that studios kept away from major foreign markets during the summer, including “1408” in the U.K., “Disturbia” in Brazil and South Korea, “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” in France, “No Reservations” in South Korea and the U.K., “Premonition” in France and Sweden and “Rush Hour 3” in Mexico.

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