The summer season at the box office comes to an end with this weekend's Labor Day holiday, and, as usual for the holiday, moviegoers are likely to find plenty of good seats in the theaters. The Wicker Man, starring Nicolas Cage, is expected to open in first place, but analysts indicate that it is likely to gross only about $15-17 million, perhaps a million or two more than last week's winner Invincible, which is likely to take second place.


The Wicker Man was not screened for critics in the U.S. but Peter Howell of the Toronto Stargot a look at it, presumably at a public preview screening. Howell notes that it may be "a tad unreasonable" for the filmmakers to "be burned at the stake for what they've done to The Wicker Man,that most British of cult movies." He accuses Cage and writer/director Neil LaBute of "taking a classic of downbeat cinema, a cautionary tale about conflicting religious values, and transforming it into a feminist encounter session with dialogue akin to a valedictorian speech delivered by Britney Spears."


Crossover, the only movie opening wide that was screened for critics this weekend, probably shouldn't have been screened for them either. (Indeed Christy Lemire of the Associated Press remarked that it was "actually amazing" that the film was shown to critics.) Gene Seymour in Newsdaydescribes it as "a mildly racy after-school special" about kids who engage in "streetball," a flashy form of basketball. Chris Kaltenback in the Baltimore Suncalls it "too clunky by half." Kyle Smith in the New York Posthas the best put-down of all, describing it as "dribbling drivel." And Ty Burr in the Boston Globesuggests that subtitles might have helped a bit, citing one of the lines: "Most cats don't get slick like that unless you got a brizzle on the vine."


Spreading out to several hundred theaters this weekend is The Illusionist, which has been attracting some of the best reviews of the year during its "platform" release. A sample: Gene Seymour in Newsday: "There's something mildly intimidating about the craftsmanship put into The Illusionist. Each groove in the story is so finely curved, each scene so immaculately rendered and polished within an inch of its life that you almost forget that magic is consequential to the storytelling. But the high gloss doesn't intrude on the narrative cunning -- or, for that matter, the foxy grandeur of the performances." Lou Lumenick in the New York Post: "This is the kind of thoughtful, poetic, lush and old-fashioned (in the best sense of the word) film that rarely gets made anymore -- one that immerses us in a bygone world for a couple of hours." But Ann Hornaday of the Washington Postis among those who do not buy it. She writes: "Rather than taking viewers on a twisty, provocative journey through a mazelike meditation on appearance and reality, The Illusionist finally just sits there, looking like a very well-produced pilot for PBS's Mystery! series. It's a sophisticated snooze."


Netflix, the online DVD rental outfit has introduced a preview service that will allow customers to view a series of trailers on their home computer based on their rental history at Netflix. As in a theater, the trailers run without interruption. In a statement, Netflix Chief Product Officer Neil Hunt said, "Netflix 'Previews' is like every viewer in a movie theater seeing a different series of trailers based on their personal tastes." Viewers will be able to add movies to their rental requests as they watch the trailers, which currently number about 1,000 and are expected to increase to between 5,000 and 10,000 by the end of the year, Netflix said.


Sony Pictures has become the first movie studio to sponsor CNN's video podcasts. Beginning on Monday, ads for Gridiron Gang, starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, will air throughout the week before all of CNN's video podcasts. CNN began making its podcasts available free last June and currently reports that they are viewed by more than 4 million people each month.