B.O. FORECAST: Getting The ‘Shaft’

Last weekend, it was a gang of car thieves who raked in the box office bonanza with “Gone in 60 Seconds,” but now a badass cop-turned-private eye is here to run the bad guys outta town in “Shaft.”

The reinvented 1970s black superstud, as portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson, is this weekend’s heaviest hitter, while Fox’s animated sci-fi flick “Titan A.E.” and the teen romance “Boys and Girls” starring “Freddie Prinze Jr. also wade into the increasingly crowded summer box office waters.

Meanwhile, Disney is expanding its “Fantasia 2000” onto 1,300 screens nationwide, to offer something else for parents who’ve already taken their kids to see “Dinosaur” 10 times.

Here’s a brief rundown of this weekend’s new entries:

SHAFT (See the trailer) The skinny: Director John Singleton puts a 2000 spin on “the black private dick that’s a sex machine to all the chicks,” except that he’s a cop instead of a PI, and he doesn’t really get much tail. The upside: The new John Shaft is played by Samuel L. Jackson, the epitome of the fast-talking, street-smart tough guy. And ya gotta love that theme song, which stll holds up 30 years later. The downside: Brandon Gray, editor of BoxofficeMojo.com, tells us: “Much like ‘M:I-2,’ where the only similarity to the old TV show is the theme song and the exploding messages, the only thing similar in ‘Shaft’ to the old one is the theme song. It certainly hasn’t hurt ‘M:I-2,’ and it probably won’t hurt this one either, at least not in the opening weekend.”

TITAN A.E. (See the trailer) The skinny: Director Gary Goldman and animator Don Bluth, the team behind Fox’s “Anastasia,” reteam for this big-budget, post-apocalyptic sci-fi feature. The upside: Voices by Matt Damon, Bill Pullman, Drew Barrymore, Nathan Lane, Hank Azaria, Lena Olin, Jim Breuer, Janeane Garofalo, Joseph Corso and John Leguizamo. Oh, my! The downside: Says Gray: “It looks like it was made for the same kind of audience as ‘Battlefield Earth,’ but it won’t have the Scientologists coming out during the opening weekend to beef up the box office. There is no evidence that the public really wants sci-fi animated movies. The only ones I can think of in the past are “Iron Giant,” the “Transformer” movies and “Heavy Metal,” all of which bombed.”

BOYS AND GIRLS The skinny: Another romantic movie starring Freddie Prinze Jr. and Claire Forlani. What else do you need to know? The upside: Prinze starred in “She’s All That,” which was a teen hit two years ago. The downside: He also starred in “Down to You” and “Wing Commander,” which weren’t hits.

FANTASIA 2000 (See the trailer) The skinny: The non-IMAX version of Uncle Walt’s reinvented animation classic goes into national release. Hooray! The upside: Nothing will ever replace the 1940 “Fantasia,” but this melange of digital and cell animation is pretty neat nonetheless. The downside: Is Disney trying to snuff out Fox’s attempt to get a piece of the animation pie? Do carnivores eat meat? Just as it re-released “The Little Mermaid” on the same weekend as “Anastasia,” so comes “Fantasia 2000” to compete with “Titan A.E.” Then again, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Elsewhere, “Gone in 60 Seconds,” “M:I-2” and “Dinosaur” are expected to stay within the Top Five, while other recent contenders such as “Shanghai Noon,” “Frequency” and “Gladiator” will vie to remain in Top 10 contention.