SUNDAY UPDATE: After all the Hollywood hype, New Line’s Snakes on a Plane flakes. I’m told that, despite a long pre-release marketing campaign that sent some Internet showbiz blogs into a writhing frenzy of anticipation, the Samuel Jackson-starring horror flick came up short for its opening. It wound up the No. 2 pic with New Line saying it took in $15.2 million for the weekend. But rival studios claim that included $1.4 million from Thursday night’s 10 p.m. screenings — which technically shouldn’t be included in the weekend numbers — so the tally is really only $13.8 mil. (A desperate Warner Bros. pulled a similar stunt to inflate the figures for its Superman Returns this summer ) That’s not anywhere close to the $25+ mil opening (and Variety even put forth a $30 mil guess-timate) that the studio was anticipating for the slither flick because of its huge manufactured buzz. But it seems only the bloggers cared about this pic. As a result, Sony’s Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is still the No. 1 movie in the U.S. for the third straight weekend. The NASCAR spoof did $14.1 mil for its Friday-Saturday-Sunday total for a cume of a whopping $114.6 mil. (As always, Sunday figures are estimated…) But all that fades in comparison as Disney reports that its juggernaut Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest, crosses the magic $400 million mark today. Officially, the pic’s domestic cume will be $401 mil. Internationally, the Johnny Depp starrer will be #1 for the 7thh straight week thanks to another $25.2 mil in international markets, down just 43%. So overall the global haul of this blockbuster will be $924 million after Sunday night.

Also bowing in 2,913 theaters was Universal’s slacker comedy Accepted, which took in $10.1 mil for the weekend. But that was only good enough for 4th place behind #3’s World Trade Center, which pulled in $10.8 mil after Paramount widened to 41% more theaters. That makes for a 10-day-out cume of $45 mil, but it’s still unclear how much success Oliver Stone’s pic is having at holding its audience or scaring up new moviegoers. Disney / Touchstone’s surprise sleeper from last weekend, Step Up, was No. 5 after a $9.8 mil weekend. Whereas newcomer Material Girls, MGM’s teen girl fantasy starring sisters Hilary and Haylie Duff, opened with only $4.6 mil from only 1,509 theaters. Finally, Fox Searchlight’s critically well-received Little Miss Sunshine which had been platforming to good buzz opened wider into 694 theaters and earned $5.6 mil weekend.

As I wrote here five weeks ago, New Line’s PR/marketing department was working overtime on Snakes on a Plane. I’d rarely read so much incessant blog chatter, and so early, about what was essentially just another over-hyped horror movie. What interests me is that so many fine actors — Samuel Jackson, Naomi Watts, Jennifer Connolly, Nicole Kidman (albeit hers was a classy one) — have lined up to do this genre. Especially when Steve McQueen spent his career running away from The Blob. I’ve been hearing from agents that everyone wants to make anything horror. My best guess as to why? They think they’ll make a connection with the younger audiences who turn out for these kind of films so that, when these stars do their normally serious films, maybe the new fans will follow. Fat chance.

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