As expected, the hurried Memorial Day weekend release of Eminem's "The Eminem Show" (Aftermath/Interscope) turned into a free for all, Billboard Bulletin reports. Some retailers began selling the albu

As expected, the hurried Memorial Day weekend release of Eminem's "The Eminem Show" (Aftermath/Interscope) turned into a free for all, Billboard Bulletin reports. Some retailers began selling the album as early as Friday afternoon -- despite promises by Interscope distributor and sister company Universal Music & Video Distribution to penalize violators of the official Sunday street date.

As previously reported, the label moved up the album from its scheduled June 4 release to Sunday in response to its widespread illicit availability on the Internet and from bootleggers. The jump-started holiday release, combined with a shortage of big releases last week, has some merchants predicting that the album is sure to bow atop The Billboard 200 this week.

Tower Records in Sherman Oaks, Calif., debuted the album at midnight Saturday and sold 50 copies within minutes, according to Gabriele Gonzalez, head rap buyer. Since Monday afternoon, Gonzalez says, the store had sold nearly 200 units -- tops for any release this year.

Newbury Comics CEO Mike Dreese says the album, which the Boston-based chain started selling Friday night in response to alleged violations of the street date by some discount store chains, already has the best selling debut week this year for the chain, based on weekend sales of 3,400 copies. Another merchant believes that the album could top 300,000 units over the holiday -- likely assuring it of No. 1 chart debut.

Final estimates for Eminem's sales could be impacted by Wal-Mart, which apparently didn't carry the album, according to a clerk in the chain's Newburgh, N.Y., store. A clean version is expected June 4. Wal-Mart executives were unavailable for comment. Also working against a possible No. 1 debut by Eminem was a lack of customer awareness about the new street date.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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