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'Cars' Revs Up Box Office With $68 Million Debut

The animated comedy "Cars" raced to first place at the weekend box office with a $62.8 million debut, maintaining the Disney-Pixar cartoon brand's undefeated record with a seventh straight hit.

If the numbers hold when final figures come out Monday, "Cars" would have the third-best opening in the Disney-Pixar cartoon series, just ahead of "Monsters, Inc." but behind "The Incredibles" and "Finding Nemo," which both debuted at about $70 million.

Still, it was the first time since the partnership began with 1995's "Toy Story" that a Disney-Pixar film did not gross more than its predecessor over opening weekend.

"I look at $62 million as being an accomplishment of great proportion," said Chuck Viane, Disney's head of distribution. "I think to use the baseball analogy, a home run is a home run in anybody's ballpark, whether it's 398 feet or 460 feet. This is a home run."

The movie features the voices of Owen Wilson and Paul Newman in a story of a hotshot race car that gets a lesson on the value of slowing down when he's sidetracked in a sleepy burgh.

The weekend's other new wide release, 20th Century Fox's horror remake "The Omen," was No. 4 with $15.45 million. Starring Julia Stiles and Liev Schreiber in the tale of a demon child, "The Omen" has grossed $35.7 million since opening on Tuesday to take advantage of the date — 6-6-06 — a play on the number signifying the anti-Christ.

In narrower release, Robert Altman's "A Prairie Home Companion" premiered solidly at No. 7 with $4.7 million. Playing in 760 cinemas, the film averaged $6,147 a theater, compared to $15,759 in 3,985 theaters for "Cars" and $5,674 in 2,723 cinemas for "The Omen."

Released by Picturehouse, "A Prairie Home Companion" features Garrison Keillor in a fictionalized behind-the-scenes portrait of his venerable radio program. The ensemble cast includes Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Lindsay Lohan, Tommy Lee Jones, Lily Tomlin, Woody Harrelson, John C. Reilly and Virginia Madsen.

The top-12 movies took in $148.8 million, up 8 percent from the same weekend last year, when "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" debuted with $50.2 million.

"Cars" was the first movie directed by Pixar creative mastermind John Lasseter since 1999's "Toy Story 2." Lasseter also directed the original "Toy Story" and "A Bug's Life."

The six prior Disney-Pixar films all opened at No. 1 and have grossed a total of $3.2 billion worldwide.

"They are the closest thing to a sure thing in Hollywood," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. "They are money in the bank."

The previous weekend's top movie, Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn's romantic comedy "The Break-Up," slipped to second place with $20.5 million. The Universal Pictures' film raised its 10-day total to $74.1 million.

"X-Men: The Last Stand," from 20th Century Fox, became the year's first movie to top $200 million domestically. The superhero saga was No. 3 with $15.55 million, lifting its three-week total to $201.7 million.

Close behind "X-Men" is Sony's "The Da Vinci Code," which came in sixth with $10.3 million, bringing its domestic haul to $189 million. Worldwide, "The Da Vinci Code" has taken in $642 million.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. "Cars," $62.8 million.

2. "The Break-Up," $20.5 million.

3. "X-Men: The Last Stand," $15.55 million.

4. "The Omen," $15.45 million.

5. "Over the Hedge," $10.301 million

6. "The Da Vinci Code," $10.3 million.

7. "A Prairie Home Companion," $4.7 million.

8. "Mission: Impossible III," $3 million.

9. "RV," $2 million.

10. "Poseidon," $1.8 million.