Eminem's new Aftermath/Interscope album, "The Eminem Show," will hit stores on Sunday (May 26), nine days before the original release date. Interscope went to extraordinary lengths to keep the highly

Eminem's new Aftermath/Interscope album, "The Eminem Show," will hit stores on Sunday (May 26), nine days before the original release date. Interscope went to extraordinary lengths to keep the highly anticipated album -- originally slated for a June 4 release -- under wraps. But music pirates have made it available on the Internet and in counterfeit forms on street corners, forcing the label's hand. Last week, the album's street date was moved forward to May 28.

"This is a one-time event that we are doing because of the demand for the record; because we have successfully met the challenges of getting the product into the marketplace faster than we had imagined originally, and because after listening to the retailers, we would like to give them the opportunity to sell the album for the Memorial Day shopping weekend," says Jim Weatherson, executive VP of Universal Music & Video Distribution (UMVD), Intescope's distributor and sister company.

By Sunday, about 3 million units of the album will have been shipped to merchants, 2 million of which will include a specially prepared bonus DVD featuring interviews and live footage. It had been hoped the inclusion of the DVD would encourage fans to buy "The Eminem Show," even if they were able to get the album prior to streetdate through illegal means.

The change in street date has chart pundits wondering where Eminem will place on The Billboard 200 next week. About 85% of stores across the country report sales to Nielsen SoundScan, which sets a week that runs from Monday through Sunday. With no new big releases out this week, the No. 1 seller next week is likely to have a low unit count, leading some to speculate the Eminem might be able to debut on the top of the chart with only one day's worth of sales. Furthermore, many independent stores are likely to jump streetdate and start selling the album today or tomorrow, despite promises by UMVD to police the streetdate and penalize violators. Those sales would be included in this week's total.

The Memorial Day weekend is one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year, which means customers should be swarming stores. Working against a possible No. 1 debut by Eminem is that many customers probably won't know about the new streetdate. Also, the impact of bootlegging on sales remains to be seen.

"The Eminem Show" is the follow-up to the rapper's 2000 album Web/Interscope/Aftermath set "The Marshall Mathers LP," which debuted at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 and has sold 8.7 million copies in the U.S. to date, according to SoundScan.

On July 15, Eminem will make his film debut in "8 Mile," which will be accompanied by a soundtrack on the artist's own Shady Records label. The movie was directed by Curtis Hanson ("Wonder Boys," "L.A. Confidential") and also stars Kim Basinger, Mekhi Phifer, and Brittany Murphy.

As previously reported, Eminem will hit the road in North America this summer with Papa Roach, Xzibit, Ludacris, and others on the Anger Management tour. The trek begins July 18 in Buffalo, N.Y.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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