Stay on the road and out of the ocean

In its yearly summer movie preview, Entertainment Weekly named 10 films that were expected to be the biggest box office winners. Those films were, in order of expected box office take:

1. "Superman Returns"

2. "Mission: Impossible III"

3. "X-Men: The Last Stand"

4. "Cars"

5. "The Da Vinci Code"

6. "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"

7. "Over the Hedge"

8. "Poseidon"

9. "The Break-Up"

10. "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby"

We're not even to July yet and seven of those films have already been released. Next up? "Superman Returns," which opens June 30. "Pirates of the Caribbean" follows the next week and then we have to wait a month before Will Ferrell's "Talladega Nights."

Of the seven films released so far, the critical winner is "Cars." According to my favorite film review Web site, metacritic.com, "Cars" received a 73 percent rating from a survey of the nation's film critics from the biggest media outlets. Metacritic.com considers any rating between 61 and 80 to mean the film received "generally favorable reviews."

Two other films were not far behind. "Over the Hedge" scored a 67 percent, while "Mission: Impossible III" received a 66 percent.

The remaining blockbuster films fell into the "mixed or average reviews" category. "X-Men" received a score of 58. "Poseidon" scored a 50. "The Da Vinci Code" scored a 46. The lowest rated critical film was "The Break-Up," with a 44.

As far as the box-office take goes, "X-Men" is the winner with a cumulative gross of $216 million. "The Da Vinci Code" is next with $199 million, followed by "Over the Hedge" at $139 million, "Mission: Impossible III" with $130 million, "Cars" with $117 million and "The Break-Up" with $92 million. "Poseidon" is the box-office dog with only $58 million so far.

Of course, box office grosses only tell part of the story. "Cars" has only been out for two weeks and could surpass all of the films when all is said and done. Plus, the budget for "Cars" was only $70 million. So the film has already made a profit of $37 million.

After four weeks, "X-Men" is already falling off the charts. Yes, it has grossed $216 million, but its purported budget was $210 million. Meanwhile, "Mission: Impossible III" is still $20 million away from breaking even -- after seven weeks at the box office. "The Da Vinci Code" was a critical flop, but even it has made a profit of $74 million to date.

This summer, "Cars" is the clear winner and "Poseidon" is the clear loser. All the other films fall somewhere in between.

Jim Chastain II

pop@normantranscript.com

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