Shia LaBeouf

Universal/Paramount

If all goes well for Hollywood, Shia LaBeouf and Zac Efron will be the new Reese Witherspoon.

The fall movie season begins today. Running through Halloween weekend, the next two months will boast plenty of stars, a good number of Oscar contenders, including Oliver Stone's W., but possibly few, if any, box-office blockbusters.

It's been six years, in fact, since any film released in September grossed more than $100 million, Exhibitor Relations reported this week. The last movie to do so was the Witherspoon comedy Sweet Home Alabama.

"If any film [this] September has a chance to break $100 million," says Exhibitor Relations' Jeff Bock, "it's Eagle Eye and Shia LaBeouf."

The thriller, which reteams LaBeouf with Disturbia director D.J. Caruso, opens Sept. 26. LaBeouf's last two films, Transformers and the new Indiana Jones, which, granted, really weren't "LeBeouf films," each grossed more than $300 million.

According to a recent online poll conducted by Fandango, the movie-ticket service, the most-anticipated fall movie is not Eagle Eye, but the Coen brothers' Burn After Reading, which opens Sept. 12. (E! Online and Fandango are both owned by Comcast.)

The comedy about a CIA agent's lost memoirs and the dolts who find it has splashy superstar names (George Clooney, Brad Pitt), and the added cachet of being the Coens' followup to their Oscar-winning No Country for Old Men.

Still, the Coens are hardly box-office kings. The team has never made a $100 million hit; outside of No Country for Old Men, not one of their movies has even made half that much.

If this month and next fail to produce a nine-figure hit, Hollywood will have gone since The Dark Knight, or mid-July, without a true blockbuster, as even late-summer hits such as Tropic Thunder and the latest Mummy failed to draw crowds commensurate of their hefty budgets.

"It is a dangerous time for movie exhibitors," Bock says. "You don't have name products that have people get excited until High School Musical."

High School Musical 3: Senior Year is one of the wild cards of fall. Opening Oct. 24, it'll attempt to transfer the frenzy of the Efron-led franchise from the Disney Channel and DVD to movie theaters.

In the Fandango poll, HSM3 was cited by 11 percent of movie fans as the October film they're most looking forward to seeing. It ran second after the Leonardo DiCaprio-Russell Crowe Middle East-set thriller, Body of Lies.

Another wild card: The Women, the all-star comedy, starring, well, women, including Meg Ryan and Annette Bening.

Three months ago, journalist Nikki Finke reported that The Women's studio didn't want to give the movie a major release, even after the early success of Sex and the City. Then came Finke's column and Sex and the City's continued success. Presto chango, The Women opens wide Sept. 12.

It's so far, so good for the comedy. According to the Fandango poll, The Women is the most-anticipated film of September after Burn After Reading and ahead of Eagle Eye.

In the end, if no fall film approaches Witherspoonian heights, then Hollywood will try to stay focused on the bright side. Of Twilight. Opening during the cheerier, and bigger, holiday season.

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