How do big movies find success?

Although there are those who believe that good movies can post big grosses any time of the year, those same pundits have always suspected that the month's drop-off is due more to studios releasing weaker product after Aug. 1 than any fundamental change in the market.

This year may test that theory as three promising titles are all booked for the first August frame.

"Talladega Nights" is following last year's Southern car culture pic "Dukes of Hazzard," which left the gate quickly on this frame with $31 million debut. Later in the month, "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" also managed to do nifty biz, proving that comedy could work late in the season.

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Although Ferrell's and Adam McKay's last collaboration, 2004's "Anchorman," was released a month earlier than "Talladega Nights" is skedded to hit theaters, the duo is expected to connect with August auds, as "Anchorman" opened to $28 million and finished with an $85 million cume.

Never bet against a CGI picture starring ants. Both DreamWorks and Pixar each produced insect-oriented pics back in the fall of 1998.

Released first in early October, DreamWorks'"Antz"bowed to a healthy $17 million on it's way to a $90 million cume. Pixar managed to top that with "A Bug's Life," which opened to $33 million in it's first week of wide release, on it's way to $163 million take. Still, with three CGI toons on the schedule before "Ant Bully," Warner will have to worry about audience digital-toon fatigue.

And never, ever bet against Mel Gibson. Remember when no one thought a violent retelling of Christ's death in Aramaic would ever work and every studio passed? Well, $371 million later, Disney jumped at the opportunity to distribute Gibson's next picture. On paper, at least, "Apocalypto" which will be subtitled, has no stars and perhaps most important, doesn't seem to have any obvious Christian themes does seem like a longer shot. Still, if "The Passion" brought people to movie theaters who haven't been for year, Gibson's name may be enough to bring some of them back.

This should end up being a fairly quiet week, with any one of these three movies taking the top spot. Once again, you have your obligatory animated movie in The Ant Bully from Warner Brothers , who is trying to follow up on the success of Antz and An Ant's Life from 1998. Unfortunately, no one told them that it's been eight years since those movies we're released. You have Mel Gibson's brand new film, Apocalypto , which is his first film since The Passion of the Christ . It looks he's trying to continue to bring realistic films to the theatres, but I just don't see an overzealous crowd wanting to see this film, even if it is good. The other flick of the weekend is Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby . I'm trying to figure out why this movie is being made. Yes, Hollywood, we want original movies, but not dumb movies. I just don't see this movie doing well at the theatre, even if it's trying to follow up on the success of Dukes of Hazard and the comedy of Will Farrel . Just don't see it.


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