Geostorm: the disaster movie with the disaster to end all disasters, disaster for days, isn’t being screened in advance. Not a good sign! C’mon studios, can’t you see how nice critics are being to The Snowman? Well, if Geostorm somehow receives a particularly Rotten score, it won’t be without company as we’ll see in this week’s gallery of 24 disastrous disaster movies that got less than 50% on the Tomatometer!

Repent, sinners: Earth Day is nigh! From toxic pollution to bottled water, nature has had just about enough of mankind’s thirst for convenience, as seen in this gallery of 24 tales of eco-terror!


2012

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Did the Mayans really predict, all those centuries ago, that Earth would be visited by planetary apocalypse three years from now? It’s open to interpretation — Roland Emmerich has a gargantuan disaster movie to sell and even he admits the whole 2012 theory is just, “a nice hook for the audience.” John Cusack, Thandie Newton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Woody Harrelson and Danny Glover are a few of the stars swept up in Emmerich’s latest cataclysmic shocker. Rotten Tomatoes meets the cast and director in Cancun, Mexico – close to the once-throbbing heart of Mayan civilisation — for a 2012 fact-finding mission.

2012

Continue onto the next page and beware some mild spoilers as we start our journey through the world of 2012.

2012

Fact #1: Emmerich Was Reluctant to Re-enter the Disaster Fray

“I was very reluctant. Even my friends joke with me, ‘Oh, you destroy the world again,'” admits the Teutonic helmer of Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow. “But when you find something you’re really good at and very successful with, then once in a while you want to do it again because it’s very easy for you to get a lot of money to make these movies. And every time you can do it a little bit better. We can do things now that we couldn’t do when we were doing Independence Day. I had this watershed moment on The Day After Tomorrow where I finally believed that you can create whole environments digitally, and I said, ‘I think I’ll do a whole movie like that.'”


2012

Fact #2: The Mayan Calendar Really Does End in 2012

The Central American civilisation wasn’t into predictions — least of all about its own collapse — but their sophisticated ‘Long Count’ calendar does comes to the end of a cycle on December 21, 2012. Skeptics say it’s merely fodder for conspiracy theorists and cash-ins. But some New Age theorists are convinced the date will bring either cataclysm or enlightenment. “It’s fascinating that a culture which disappeared 1500 years ago would have this notion that the world would end on this exact date,” observes Emmerich. “Do I believe? Sometimes I do and then my brain says, ‘It’s ridiculous.’ But do some research and you find some other cultures say the same thing — it’s eerie.”

2012

Fact #3: Emmerich Tripped Up the President

The production constructed a massive platform operated on a gimbal for the film’s rough-and-tumble earthquake sequences. Danny Glover, playing the US President, was the first 2012 headliner to attempt to manoeuvre his way across the ‘shaky-floor’ stage but tumbled and fell, prompting Emmerich to dial down the quake factor. “It was incredible — when this thing went, it felt really like an eight or nine point earthquake,” the director chortles. “We actually had to tone it down because people freaked out.”


2012

Fact #4: Cusack Was Thrilled to Take the Lead

At first sight, Cusack and Emmerich make an odd Hollywood pairing. But the 43-year-old star insists he was ecstatic when the director approached him. “I liked The Patriot and Stargate,” Cusack tells RT. “For me, if I can get a big movie like this every once in a while, I’d love to do it. And then you can use that to leverage smaller movies.” Plus, he insists the script, co-written by Emmerich and Harald Klauser, took him by surprise. “In a strange way, it’s not a genre disaster movie — it’s much more elegantly written and character-based. It doesn’t follow the normal disaster movie formula.”

2012

Fact #5: Emmerich Didn’t Touch Manhattan… Or Mecca

“I wanted to stay away from New York because I had destroyed it too many times. So I said, ‘No New York this time.'” Instead, the skyscraping metropolis pictured is Downtown LA. As for Mecca, Emmerich originally planned to dish out the same destructive pulverising to the Muslim holy site that he unleashes on the rest of the world in 2012. But he bottled it. “That’s the problem with our world. If you would destroy Mecca, I would have a fatwa on my head. So we stayed away from it.” The Vatican on the other hand? It crumbles to dust, taking out a few thousand Catholic worshippers on the way.


2012

Fact #6: 3D Was Never an Option

“I’m not sure about 3D yet,” Emmerich tells us. “It’s different when you’re James Cameron and you have three and a half years. But we had so many scenes with actors in these situations that I thought it was probably too dangerous to shoot in 3D. I want to see Avatar, and then I’ll make a judgement. So far what I have seen in 3D was not convincing to me. Whenever I see a 3D movie, I feel like I’m on mushrooms.”

2012

Fact #7: For Actors, Blue Screen Doesn’t Have to Be a Nightmare…

Cusack’s harried limo driver is subjected to fire, ash, ice, water, wind and earthquakes. But the actor insists that having to do disaster-acting in front of a giant blue drape wasn’t the tedious challenge he thought it would be, thanks to Emmerich’s insistence on building a realistic soundstage world and creating each sequence with pre-visualisation technology so he could give his actors a sense of what they were panicking about. “The sets were astonishing,” says Cusack. “When I’m on the glacier, they built a massive glacier the size of a soundstage. It wasn’t what I’ve heard it can be like, where there’s nothing to play off.”


2012

Fact #8: …But it Often Does

“Even beyond my wildest imagination, I couldn’t perceive things to the degree that they were being perceived by Roland,” says Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays 2012‘s doomsday-predicting science boffin. “I’d go into the air force hangar and see the blue screen and think, ‘Okay, it’s a set.’ But through Roland’s eyes, it’s this huge, expansive landscape. I felt like I was watching it all for the first time when he showed the finished film to me.”

2012

Fact #9: Thandie Newton Got Soaked

“I got drenched,” moans the Crash star, who plays the US President’s feisty daughter. “I was in wet clothes all fucking day and I’d be like, ‘Eech, I want to go home.'” In one sequence, as Newton’s art-curator character is attempting to grab her place on one of the floating Arks built to save pockets of humanity, she endured days of dampening. “The biggest effects sequence I was involved in was when we were on the Ark and it was gradually filling with water. This tidal wave came around the corner! How do they do that? When you’re doing something like that, there’s water everywhere, you’re trying to get up the ladder and it’s amazing, it’s really happening. And then, ‘Cut! Reset.’ The water gets drained through God knows where, gets put back to God knows where and we go again.”


2012

Fact #10: Underneath That Calamity Dressing Lies Some Hefty Themes

“The disaster doesn’t get resolved,” notes Cusack. “When you see the water come over the Himalayan peaks, it’s about what you’re going to do with your final days. How do you separate the essential from the non-essential? Who’s important to you and what are you going to do with the time you have left? If it is a genre movie, it busts it wide open.”

2012

Fact #11: The Governator Wants a Private Screening

In 2012, an unnamed Californian governor goes on telly to assure his citizens that everything’s going to be alright. In a heavy German accent. Then a monster earthquake strikes… It’s a little in-joke, although Schwarzenegger’s name is never mentioned. But Emmerich’s still nervous about showing him the film. “A good friend of his has seen the movie and told him about it. Now Arnold has invited me to his house to show him 2012 and I’m constantly saying, ‘It’s not finished yet.’ I’m a little scared.”


2012

Fact #12: Emmerich’s A Big Softie Now

“I think my movies constantly evolve,” muses the disaster-master. “I think they’ve become more emotional and intimate; I think they have more heart now, especially this one. My all-time favourite scene of all my movies is in 2012 — it’s when John Cusack, who’s this father who pretty much fucked up his marriage and the relationship with his kids, knows that they will run out of gasoline soon in this big Antonov plane and he has to somehow tell his kids. And how he does that is an incredible, sweet and tender moment.”

2012 opens in Australia on 12th November and in the UK and the US on 13th November.

20 Years of Renderman

RenderMan, a piece of software created by those masters at Pixar, revolutionised computer-generated special effects when it was originally released 20 years ago this year. Designed to take the information in a CG file and “render” it into an image, the software made the creation of visual effects an art limited only by imagination.

“At [the time of RenderMan’s release] CG was nowhere in the special effects business,” Pixar’s co-founder and president Ed Catmull told The Hollywood Reporter, who published a feature on the software’s anniversary today. The feature, which explains the history of the software in more detail, includes a timeline explaining the product’s milestones.

From infancy in 1985’s Young Sherlock Holmes – the first use of the name “RenderMan” didn’t happen until the product matured in 1988 – right up to this year’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, WALL-E and Star Wars: The Clone Wars, RenderMan has been an essential part of the summer season for its entire lifespan.

To further celebrate 20 years of RenderMan, RT scoured Pixar’s own list of movies that have employed RenderMan to pick 20 visual classics – in chronological order – that wouldn’t exist today were it not for the software’s creation…

20 Years of Renderman - Terminator 2

Terminator 2: Judgment Day‘s breathtaking visual effects are testament to director James Cameron‘s passionate support for new technology. His flirtation with CG began with The Abyss, which also employed RenderMan, in 1989, but when he brought the liquid-metal T-1000 to cinema screens he showed the real potential of computer-generated visual effects. Much as the T-1000 is the successor to Arnie’s T-800, so Terminator 2 sent out an early message about the future of visual effects.

20 Years of Renderman - Jurassic Park

Releasing in 1993, Steven Spielberg‘s Jurassic Park was relatively late to the party, but it’s remembered, rightly so, as the first film which demonstrated that CGI could be relied on to make believable big-screen imagery. Jurassic Park‘s CG set-pieces – including a showcase sequence involving a herd of Gallimimus being attacked by a T-Rex – quite literally brought dinosaurs to life.

20 Years of Renderman - Toy Story

Despite winning Oscars for its animation department’s early short films, it wasn’t until the success of Toy Story that Pixar’s priorities shifted. Until then, the animation department’s short films were being created specifically for the purposes of demoing the RenderMan product to help push software sales. As the world’s first fully computer-generated feature film, Toy Story had a powerful effect on animation as a medium.

20 Years of Renderman - Toy Story

The highest grossing feature film of all time may be largely dismissed these days as a schmaltzy love story, but it made a huge – titanic, some might say – impact upon its release in 1997. From the realistic recreation of the ship itself to scores of computer-generated victims bouncing all over the capsizing superliner, Titanic‘s innovations set a new standard for what CG could do. With two places on our list, we’re very excited to see what James Cameron does with Avatar.

20 Years of Renderman - Toy Story

Nothing quite compares to The Matrix when it comes to pure visual spectacle. Yes, it’s true that the film’s influencers are many and its originality is arguable at best, but it came from leftfield in 1999 to deliver to a mass audience visual flair that hadn’t been seen in Hollywood before, and it pioneered “bullet-time,” probably the first CG visual effect to be parodied endlessly.

20 Years of Renderman - Toy Story

While The Matrix was all about showing off, Gladiator‘s use of CG was far more subtle, designed to heighten and make more expansive Ridley Scott‘s vision of Ancient Rome but not to take centre-stage. In fact, it’s so subtle most don’t remember it as a film aided by CGI, but its recreation of the Coliseum is breathtaking.

20 Years of Renderman - Toy Story

The film itself may be a bit of a disappointment, but Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within attempted to craft a lifelike stage through full CG animation. It curiously serves as both a fascinating experiment in the limitations of the technology and a moving big-screen treat at the same time. Its characters aren’t quite as believable as actors, but it’s still an insanely beautiful film.

20 Years of Renderman - Toy Story

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring may have been one of the most anticipated films of 2001, but who knew that its release would set a new standard for visual moviemaking? So powerful was its visual design that it even made Warner Brothers’ big-budget adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which was released around the same time, seemed veritably last-millennium by comparison.

20 Years of Renderman - Toy Story

Probably still Pixar’s most visually impressive feature, Finding Nemo‘s masterful recreation of the Great Barrier Reef remains one of the finest CG environments ever created. On top, the company’s brilliant grasp of character design and animation meant it wasn’t long into the movie before you forgot the technology and fell in love with the story.

20 Years of Renderman - Toy Story

Few could have foreseen the success of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl before its released. Based on a theme park ride and looking like the pages of a Disney catalogue even before it was merchandised to death, the film proved a hit with audiences the world over and spawned two massive – but much less interesting – sequels.

20 Years of Renderman - Toy Story

We’ve done our best not to include franchise repetition within our list – hence no Reloaded or At World’s End – but The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, with its haul of 11 Academy Awards, deserves a place nonetheless, for managing to take what had been established earlier in the series and successfully ramp it up for a masterful finale.

20 Years of Renderman - Toy Story

Roland Emmerich can usually be relied on to serve up eye candy before he can be expected to deliver a believable story, so the less said about The Day After Tomorrow‘s speedy global warming plot the better. Let’s, instead, remember the simply iconic visuals, including this epic shot of a frozen New York City, which redefined the disaster movie.

20 Years of Renderman - Toy Story

After a couple of middle-of-the-road Potter movies, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban took the visual jump the series required to turn it from family favourite into cinematic classic. Alfonso Cuaron rebuilt Hogwarts in the Scottish mountains, crafted a fantasy feel to the environments and made J.K. Rowling’s world come to life for the first time following Chris Columbus‘ by-the-numbers adaptations of Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets.

20 Years of Renderman - Toy Story

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, like the other two prequels, may not be your average Star Wars fan’s idea of a great time, but from General Grievous’ lightsaber clash with Obi-Wan to Anakin and Obi-Wan’s epic duel, it’s full of expansive visual images. George Lucas claimed that a screening of early footage from Jurassic Park was what inspired him to set the ball rolling on his much-mooted prequel trilogy. The technology had finally caught up with his imagination, he said. Perhaps his sense of storytelling had fallen off the tracks by that point…

20 Years of Renderman - Toy Story

Christopher Nolan really did give birth to a new breed of superhero when Batman Begins first released. As The Dark Knight rides high atop the worldwide box office chart we remember how Begins first introduced us to a Gotham City grounded in the 21st Century to play home to a gruff but realistic Caped Crusader.

20 Years of Renderman - Toy Story

If it weren’t for Tom Cruise‘s public breakdown, which seemed to coincide with the film’s release, War of the Worlds might be more favourably remembered. Sure, Steven Spielberg‘s film might err a little too heavily on the side of fantasy – particularly with its schmaltzy ending – but the ride is well worth the effort and our early glimpses of the film’s iconic tripods against other-worldly stormy skies is simply incredible.

20 Years of Renderman - Toy Story

An odd shift in visual style from the subdued tones of The Lord of the Rings, King Kong was Peter Jackson‘s dream project and he pushed his visual artists to the edge to deliver a Skull Island that blended the latest in visual effects technology with a fantastical old-Hollywood feel. The film may not entirely come together in the end result, but it did serve up mammoth set-pieces that simply hadn’t been attempted before.

20 Years of Renderman - Toy Story

Danny Boyle‘s sci-fi movie owes huge debts to Alien and 2001, but Sunshine still looked like gallery of photos from the Hubble Telescope and presented a vision of our star that seemed to be hand delivered for a High Definition world.

20 Years of Renderman - Toy Story

Robert Zemeckis had tried, with The Polar Express, to take his own steps into Final Fantasy‘s world of realistic CG animation, but with Beowulf he more readily accepts the limitations of that approach and instead utilises the technology to deliver a real rollercoaster ride. Best experienced in 3D, in the IMAX, Beowulf‘s action set pieces push CG animation to its limit.

20 Years of Renderman - Toy Story

Furthering Pixar’s drive to put story first, the CG world of WALL-E seems almost like a value-add to a heartfelt human (or robot) drama that leads the film. Nevertheless, its vision of a post-apocalypic Earth and the little robot whose job it is to clean it up is simply masterful. That they can pack so much emotion into a small, rusty cube is testament to Pixar’s position as an industry leader in its field.

Did we miss any better examples from Pixar’s list? Are there movies here that don’t deserve their place? Have your say below!

Tell the truth: Do you think you could look at a picture of the desert and tell whether it was taken in Iran or Morocco?

Mike Newell, director of the upcoming big-screen adaptation of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, is betting you couldn’t — Variety reports that his production has settled on Morocco as a stand-in for the country formerly known as Persia. From the article:

Epic project is a live-action feature based on the videogame. “Prince of Persia” has a script by Jeffrey Nachmanoff (“The Day After Tomorrow“) and vidgame creator Jordan Mechner. The vidgame spawned six installments and numerous spin-offs, boosting Disney execs’ hopes for a lucrative new tentpole.

Jimmy Abounouom, whose Dune Films is handling the Moroccan shoot for Disney, breaks it down for Variety, saying “Producers are always looking for cheap places to shoot, and Morocco is one of them.” Newell follows Ridley Scott and Paul Greengrass into the North African country; Scott’s Body of Lies recently wrapped a shoot there, as did Greengrass’ “untitled Iraq war thriller.” Dune also handled the Moroccan shoots for Charlie Wilson’s War and Stop-Loss.

According to Abounouom, Prince of Persia should start rolling in Morocco by mid-June — providing, of course, a SAG strike doesn’t bring everything grinding to a halt.

Source: Variety

For its third chart-topper of the year, Warner Bros. is going back in time with its ancient adventure 10,000 BC which aims to revitalize a box office on the verge of extinction. Adding to the mix are Disney’s family comedy College Road Trip and the Lionsgate actioner The Bank Job. With ticket sales hitting a three-month low last weekend, the marketplace has nowhere to go but up.

Roland Emmerich follows up his past blockbusters Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow with the action adventure tale 10,000 BC which looks to dominate the box office with ease. Boasting no major stars, the PG-13 film tells the story of a group of prehistoric tribesmen (who happen to speak perfect English) on a treacherous journey to save their kidnapped friends. Warner Bros. has tossed plenty of marketing dollars behind its big-budget offering as it does every spring with an action title not big enough to beat the summer behemoths.

Given the generic story and historical inaccuracies, look for big drops in the weeks ahead. But the opening weekend should be strong for a few reasons. A solid promotional push promises audiences a huge spectacle on the big screen that is worth paying to see. Plus the marketplace has nothing else exciting, especially for teens and young adults, so that key box office demo will show up in large numbers. The studio will be thrilled if the per-theater average can match the film’s title. Attacking 3,410 locations, 10,000 BC may debut with around $32M this weekend.


The main protagonists of 10,000 B.C.

Having completed successful kidpic makeovers for Vin Diesel and The Rock, the Disney machine now turns its attention to Martin Lawrence who stars in his first G-rated flick ever – College Road Trip. The family comedy co-stars former Cosby kid Raven Symone, who also serves as a producer, playing the teenage daughter looking at prospective colleges to attend. The Mouse House has a patented formula when it comes to manufacturing and marketing family content like this. Lawrence and Symone will draw upon two different audience groups to attract sales and the Disney brand name will add extra glow. There is very little competition for this crowd right now so Trip should hit its mark. The opening may not reach the $30.6M of The Pacifier or the $23M of The Game Plan, nor will it be a top spot bow like those two, but a solid debut is assured. Driving into 2,706 theaters, College Road Trip could collect roughly $18M this weekend.


One of the many hijinks in College Road Trip.

Action fans not interested in the era Before Christ can get their kicks from Jason Statham‘s latest pic The Bank Job. The R-rated heist thriller should play exclusively to the actor’s action fans, but don’t expect this one to be among his top-grossing titles. The marketing push has not been as loud as those for his recent film War or his Transporter vehicles plus a more narrow release is planned. Crossover appeal beyond his core base is unlikely. A sack full of about $6M from 1,603 vaults seems likely for The Bank Job this weekend.


Jason Statham and Saffron Burrows in The Bank Job.

Last weekend’s top player Semi-Pro will face some direct competition for young men from the new caveman flick. Look for a 45% drop to about $8M for the New Line release giving the Will Ferrell comedy $27M in ten days.

Vantage Point posted a respectable sophomore session and could stabilize in the third outing. Sony may dip by 40% to around $7.5M for a cume of $51M after 17 days. Paramount’s The Spiderwick Chronicles will finally face off against another offering for families thanks to Disney and Martin. A 35% decline would leave the fantasy pic with $5.5M for the session and lift the total to $62M.

LAST YEAR: Shattering records left and right, the Spartan sensation 300 exploded on the scene to a colossal opening of $70.9M. Warner Bros. hauled in a mammoth $210.6M from North America and a towering $456M worldwide. Far back in second but with a solid hold was the comedy Wild Hogs with $27.6M. The dynamic duo combined for nearly $100M in ticket sales over the weekend making it a summer-like frame. Three holdovers rounded out the top five with nearly identical figures. Disney’s Bridge to Terabithia captured $6.8M, Sony’s Ghost Rider took in $6.7M, and Zodiac grossed $6.6M for Paramount.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Roland Emmerich‘s 10,000 B.C. won’t arrive in theaters until March 7, but the big-budget-lovin’ director already has studios lining up to pay for his next project.

Variety reports that Emmerich’s people at CAA are shopping 2012, described as “an apocalyptic spec script” written by the director with his 10,000 B.C. partner, Harald Kloser. From the article:

Studio toppers read the script Tuesday, and indications are that nearly all of them were interested enough to meet with Emmerich and reps Wednesday to hear his budget projection and creative aspirations. After that, studios will bid on what is essentially a greenlit film, one that Emmerich intends to direct next and have ready for a summer 2009 release, barring a prolonged Screen Actors Guild strike.

As Variety points out, this process is nothing new for Emmerich; he’s held spec auctions for several of his films, including Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow. And what with the hiccup in script development caused by the strike, Emmerich should find more studios than ever hungry for a ready-made tentpole. 2012, here we come!

Source: Variety

Call it the weekend of the actor/producer. Three new films with stars that do double duty behind the scenes (or have good agents that can snag a free credit) enter a marketplace filled with big-budget tentpole pics quickly eroding away.

Seth Rogen headlines and executive produces the new comedy "Knocked Up," Kevin Costner stars and produces the crime thriller "Mr. Brooks," and Elisabeth Shue acts in and co-produces the sports drama "Gracie." Following an explosive May at the box office, the first weekend of June should see ticket sales calm down a bit before George and Brad usher in the next big wave of sequels.

For adult moviegoers sick of pirates, ogres, and webslingers, Universal has the answer – the raunchy romantic comedy "Knocked Up." The R-rated film from Judd Apatow ("The 40-Year-Old Virgin") stars Rogen and Katherine Heigl as a stoner loser and a just-promoted entertainment newswoman, respectively, who share a one night stand which leads to an unplanned pregnancy. Older teens, young adults, and couples make up the target audience here and the studio is hoping to bring back the same folks that opened "Virgin" to $21.4M on its way to a stellar $109.3M (five times its debut) two summers ago.

With mindless popcorn sequels dominating the marquees for the past month, "Knocked Up" brings a breath of fresh air into the multiplexes. Moviegoers looking for new characters and new situations will be pleased. The marketing push has been strong but television spots are not too funny, mostly because the bulk of the humor is too racy to feature on broadcast television. But when opening weekend audiences find out how much funnier the actual film is compared to the trailer and commercials, red hot word-of-mouth will keep the pic playing week after week.

The public’s appetite for studio comedies has been healthy over the last six months with "Wild Hogs," "Night at the Museum," "Blades of Glory," and "Norbit" selling an amazing $626M worth of ticket stubs combined. "Hogs" even popped back into the top ten last weekend in its thirteenth session signaling the hunger in the marketplace right now for something good that will make people laugh. Universal enjoys going after adults on the weekend after Memorial Day. In 2005 it debuted the serious Russell CroweRenee Zellweger boxing pic "Cinderella Man" to $18.3M while last year the studio exceeded expectations with the $39.2M bow of the date flick "The Break-Up." "Knocked Up" should play to much of the same audience as the Jennifer Aniston film, although with less starpower and no tabloid gossip about the star’s personal lives, the grosses won’t soar as high.

Critics have been praising "Knocked Up" and its strong cross-gender appeal will make it a hit with the date crowd. A unique concept and a great title will also help sell the film. "Pirates" will only be in its second weekend and will still be pulling in a broad audience so there will be some competition. But "Knocked Up" has great buzz and will start selling itself after people begin pouring out of the Friday night shows. Opening in 2,873 theaters, the Universal release may gross about $24M this weekend and witness small declines in the weeks ahead.


"Yay, pregnancy."

Less than a year after co-starring with Ashton Kutcher in "The Guardian," Kevin Costner teams up with the "Punk’d" star’s gal pal Demi Moore in the new psychological thriller "Mr. Brooks." In the R-rated film, the former bodyguard plays a family man who moonlights as a serial killer while the ex-G.I. Jane stars as a detective hot on his trail. The MGM release should play to the oldest audience of any major release out now. That’s a good thing since direct competition will not be too fierce. But despite some moderately good reviews, Brooks is anchored by two aging actors who were bulletproof box office stars fifteen years ago, but are not all that reliable at the turnstiles nowadays.

"Knocked Up" has much more buzz around it and will take away much of the thirtysomething crowd, but the forty-plus audience might give "Mr. Brooks" a try. Older adults did little for "Georgia Rule" which bowed to just $6.8M but April’s "Fracture" had a decent $11M opening. Costner should draw an audience more like the one that came out for the Anthony Hopkins thriller. The marketing push has not been too forceful so a large turnout is not likely. Invading 2,453 theaters, "Mr. Brooks" may generate a $9M debut.


Where Dane Cook gets his career advice.

Picturehouse targets the Lady Foot Locker crowd with its new drama "Gracie" which tells the true story of a teenage girl in the late 1970s who fought to play competitive soccer when the sport did not open its doors to her gender. The PG-13 flick stars Dermot Mulroney, Elisabeth Shue, and Carly Schroeder and has been marketed squarely to its core audience of teenage girls. "Gracie" is unlikely to score any goals with other audience segments and is not being released in too many theaters so a modest opening is likely. Reviews have been mixed. Kicking its way into about 1,000 locations, "Gracie" might find itself with an opening weekend take of around $3M.


The mullet-headed heckler is always an important training component.

Fox Searchlight invades the arthouses once again with its Russian fantasy epic "Day Watch," the sequel to Timur Bekmambetov‘s "Night Watch" which became a mammoth blockbuster in its home country in 2004. Last year, "Night Watch" bowed in the U.S. to a sturdy $35,475 average from only three theaters and eventually collected $1.5M from 158 sites. "Day Watch" continues the battle of Light vs. Darkness in an adventure set in Moscow with digital effects that could rival any $200M-budgeted Hollywood tentpole pic. The R-rated film debuts on Friday in New York and Los Angeles with two theaters in each city plus a solo house in San Francisco. More markets across the country will be added in the weeks ahead.


"Day Watch"

None of the newbies looks like first-place material so "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End" should easily retain its box office crown. However, a substantial fall is likely. As a third part of a franchise coming off of a big holiday bow, the drop would of course be large. "Dead Man’s Chest" fell by 54% in its sophomore frame. Add in the fact that fan reaction isn’t exactly stellar and the ship should sink by a large amount. Don’t expect the latest "Pirates" to suffer the 67% crash that the third "X-Men" flick saw a year ago when it came off of the Memorial Day frame. Instead, it could perform more like 2004’s "The Day After Tomorrow" which fell 60% coming off of the same holiday weekend. Luckily for Johnny Depp and pals the competition is not too fierce this weekend. A similar 60% tumble would give "At World’s End" about $46M worth of weekend loot which would boost the ten-day cume to $218M.

"Shrek the Third" will also not have much in the way of competition for its family audience, but comedy fans will certainly abandon ship and head for "Knocked Up." The ogre franchise makes a sizable portion of its money from teens and young adults and those folks are going to be moving on. Last weekend’s 56% drop was affected by the arrival of "Pirates." This weekend, it could stabilize and fall by 45%. That would give "Shrek the Third" around $29M for the weekend and $256M after 17 days.

"Spider-Man 3," the only May threequel with the actual number three in its title, has also been fading away. A 45% drop would give the Sandman saga roughly $8M boosting the cume to $319M.

LAST YEAR: Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn proved more popular than super heroes as their romantic comedy "The Break-Up" knocked "X-Men: The Last Stand" out of the number one spot in only its second weekend. The Universal comedy opened to $39.2M on its way to a better-than-expected $118.7M. The mutant sequel tumbled 67% to $34M in its sophomore frame for the runnerup position. Paramount’s toon sensation "Over the Hedge" held up well in third with $20.6M followed by "The Da Vinci Code" with $18.6M and "Mission: Impossible III" with $4.7M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

If you were at all worried about who Disney might nab to direct the Ubisoft video game adaptation, you can rest easy. Michael Bay is on the job!

Robert Sanchez over at IESB.net shared the scoop, naming Bay as director on the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced project and confirming a projected summer 2009 release date. IESB also points out that the Bay-Bruckheimer alliance has produced past blockbusters like "The Rock," "Armageddon," and both "Bad Boys," meaning this "Prince" will surely be as big as they come.


Image from the "Prince of Persia: Warrior Within" vid game

The film is adapted from the "Prince of Persia: Sands of Time" video game, and will follow the titular hero, "an adventurous prince who teams up with a rival princess to stop an angry ruler from unleashing a sandstorm that could destroy the world" (per IMDB).

According to the report, studio heads hope that Bay will head to work on "Persia" as soon as he’s done with a little summer project about warring robots.

Script comes courtesy of video game creator Jordan Mechner, who also wrote the three installments of the game series; Jeffrey Nachmanoff ("The Day After Tomorrow") also worked on revisions.

Click here for the full report at IESB, plus peeks at early concept art.

Source: IESB, IMDB

Not only does "Alien vs. Predator 2" look like it will definitely become a reality, but IGN FilmForce seems to have the inside track on who’ll be directing the sequel. Both directors, actually.

From IGNFF: "Our scooper points out that the Wikipedia entry for special effects artists-turned-directors Greg and Colin Strause, a.k.a. the Brothers Strause, claims that the siblings "have recently been mentioned as the possible feature film directors for "Alien vs. Predator 2." The sequel to 2004’s "Alien vs. Predator" is set to be released in August 2007."

IGN’s tipster advised us that the Brothers Strause "are set to direct AvP2," adding, "They’ve met with the producers and set to sign on this week."

As of June 1st, the Brothers Strause’s official site coyly announced that "something big is brewing."

In addition to their award-winning work as music video and commercial directors, the Brothers Strause also run Hydraulx, which has provided special effects work for such Fox films as "X-Men: The Last Stand," "Fantastic Four" and "The Day After Tomorrow."

How much money will moviegoers spend on watching two celebrities yell and scream at each other for 106 minutes? That is the question that Universal, and the film industry in general, will be asking itself with the opening of The Break-Up, the new romantic comedy starring Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston.

Just like with last weekend, the frame only boasts one wide release hitting the multiplexes. In scheduling their summer, studios are more likely to have wanted to avoid clashing with the second weekend of X-Men: The Last Stand, than to not go head to head with the swinger and the friend. After a record-breaking bow, the mutant sequel aims to keep its command over the North American box office for the second straight week.

There have been no major star-driven romantic comedies in nearly three months so Universal hopes to fill the void with The Break-Up. Directed by Peyton Reed (Bring It On, Down with Love), the PG-13 concoction is aimed at adult couples with a clearly-defined premise that most can relate to. Vaughn plays a tour bus operator while Aniston plays an art gallery worker. As boyfriend and girlfriend, the two own and live in a spacious Chicago condo, but when they go splitsville, each refuses to move out and the former lovers must learn how to co-exist as just roommates.

Break-Up looks to play to an adult audience and females will surely outnumber dudes. Vaughn has been a rising box office powerhouse in recent years drawing in more moviegoers each year when anchoring comedies. In 2003, Old School was a leggy hit taking in $75.6M while 2004’s summer smash Dodgeball hit the mark with $114.3M. Last summer though, the funnyman struck gold twice with a supporting role in the former Mr. Aniston’s action hit Mr. & Mrs. Smith followed by Wedding Crashers which became the sleeper hit of the season zooming to $209.2M. The Break-Up will end that streak, unfortunately.

Vaughn excels at delivering guy humor opposite funny male co-stars. But this time, he is asked to star opposite a woman and still try to make ticket buyers laugh. Although the highlights of the film revolve around his humor, The Break-Up just doesn’t pack enough laughs to be a huge hit. In fact, the constant fighting between the two lead characters will put off many. What the filmmakers don’t realize is that couples actually go to the movies to get away from that sort of thing. Starpower, tabloid gossip, a lack of comedies, and a decent marketing push will help pump up the opening, but word-of-mouth should lead to hefty declines in the weeks ahead. Bad reviews are not going to help either.

The Universal release has gotten months of free publicity from the endless media attention on the off-screen relationship between Aniston and Vaughn. Last weekend’s birth of Pitt and Angelina Jolie‘s baby has also added some free plugs too. The Break-Up should attract the same crowd that spent $24.4M on the opening of March’s Failure to Launch, although the grosses could be a bit higher since the starpower is arguably greater this time. Competition should not be too much of a factor this weekend. With no other new films in national release, the entertainment media will focus fully on this one. Plus, X-Men and Over the Hedge are playing to different audience segments. The only direct foe it will face is The Da Vinci Code which has been drawing in tons of adult women over the last couple of weeks. Opening in 3,065 theaters, The Break-Up could debut with about $26M this weekend.

Mutant fever ruled the box office last weekend with X-Men: The Last Stand opening to a record $122.9M over four days. That was nearly $3M better than originally estimated giving Fox an explosive start to what could be its final film of the franchise. Super hero pics and sequels tend to fall hard on the second weekend and coming off of a huge holiday bow will certainly up the decline as well. Last weekend’s Friday gross included sales from midnight shows on Thursday night while Sunday was stronger than usual thanks to the Monday holiday.

However, X-Men is not facing much new competition since the Aniston crowd does not consist of too many Magneto fans. Two years ago, Fox launched its effects-driven actioner The Day After Tomorrow over the Memorial Day frame and saw its Friday-to-Sunday gross tumble 60% on the second weekend. The weather disaster pic also had the towering $93.7M opening of the third Harry Potter film to deal with so some of the fall was attributed to the new kid on the block. The first two X-Men films debuted over non-holiday frames and dropped by 57% and 53% respectively in their sophomore sessions. X2 faced only one new opener in its second mission helping to soften the blow.

With more upfront demand and a holiday start, The Last Stand should fall harder. A 60% drop from the massive $102.8M three-day bow would give Fox about $41M for the weekend and the top spot once again. The ten-day cume for the latest adventure from the mutant heroes would shoot to a stunning $183M. With $700M in global grosses from the first two films, the X-Men trilogy should break through the $1 billion milestone in worldwide box office this weekend.

After suffering a steep 56% second weekend decline, The Da Vinci Code showed that long legs are not in its future. Add in the fact that The Break-Up will steal away many adult couples and it looks like another rocky frame for the Tom Hanks mystery. The Friday-to-Sunday take could drop 50% this time around and pull in about $17M. That would give Sony a still-impressive $170M in 17 days.

As Da Vinci fades away this weekend, so will Sony’s market share lead for the year. The studio has dominated for much of the year with six number one openings and more wide releases than any other studio. However, with the surging strength of X-Men, plus grosses from the year’s number one blockbuster Ice Age: The Meltdown, Fox looks to capture the market share lead by Sunday. As of the end of Memorial Day, both studios had about 18% of the box office pie year-to-date with Sony’s $608M sitting $18M ahead of Fox. That lead will be erased this weekend as the two distributors will swap positions but more shifting is likely to occur throughout the summer.

Paramount’s backyard adventure Over the Hedge will remain the only major option for little kids so a good hold is likely. A 40% drop from last weekend’s Friday-to-Sunday tally should lead to a $16M frame and a 17-day cume of $107M. All other holdovers should drift away with less than $5M a piece.

LAST YEAR Memorial Day weekend leftovers ruled the charts as the top three films remained the same, although some musical chairs led to a new order. The DreamWorks toon Madagascar rose from second to first place with $28.1M in its sophomore weekend pushing its ten-day cume to a solid $100.4M. Adam Sandler‘s comedy The Longest Yard also climbed a notch taking second scoring $26.1M. The Paramount remake pushed its sum to $95.8M in ten days. After two weeks on top, Star Wars Episode III tumbled 55% and placed third with $25.1M but watched its overall domestic gross soar to $307.9M. No other film in the year since has reached the triple century mark. Among new releases, Universal’s early Oscar contender Cinderella Man debuted in fourth with a weaker-than-expected $18.3M. The Russell Crowe drama went on to punch up $61.6M. Bowing in fifth was the estrogen pic The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants with $9.8M while opening in seventh was the testosterone film Lords of Dogtown with $5.6M. Cumes reached a commendable $39M and a dismal $11M, respectively.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Wolverine, Professor X, and the rest of their soul patrol will launch a full-scale attack on the North American box office this weekend as the gargantuan comic book film X-Men: The Last Stand invades the marketplace on Friday ready to dominate the long Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Rival studios have ceded the frame to the much anticipated Fox sequel as no other film will open in wide release. But with the religious thriller The Da Vinci Code coming off of a spectacular opening, and the animated hit Over the Hedge doing well with family audiences, it should be a very busy four-day weekend at the megaplexes as all types of moviegoers will have something worth spending money on.

The world’s favorite mutants embark on what could be their final mission in X-Men: The Last Stand which has its eyes set on breaking the opening weekend record for the Memorial Day frame. After directing the first two successful installments, Bryan Singer jumped ship to helm Superman Returns opening up the director’s chair on Stand for Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, Red Dragon). All the primary cast members have returned including Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, Rebecca Romijn, and Anna Paquin. Kelsey Grammer joins the cast playing Beast.

The X-Men franchise has grown in size throughout this decade. After the demise of the Batman franchise in 1997, the comic book genre seemed dead until the first X-Men arrived in July of 2000 with a powerful $54.5M bow firmly planting Marvel in the feature film business. Three years later, Fox plugged the sequel X2: X-Men United into the prominent first weekend of May slot and blasted off to the tune of $85.6M. Final domestic grosses reached $157.3M and $214.9M respectively and with video and television, the franchise lured in more and more converts. Unlike most of 2003’s other summer action sequels like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, X2 was a second installment that was even more popular than the first making fans crave yet another film in the series.

X-Men remains one of the top comic properties around and speculation that this will be the final installment will make fans not want to miss out. Between the escalating actor salaries and the heavy dependence on expensive special effects, Fox and Marvel Entertainment probably couldn’t afford to bankroll an X-Men 4 even if they wanted to. With the Star Wars prequels having finished up and this franchise closing up shop soon, Fox is looking to squeeze every dime it can out of The Last Stand. Its next big super hero flick won’t take off until June 15 of next year when Fantastic Four 2 hits screens a cool six weeks after Sony’s Spider-Man 3. It’s no surprise then why Fox is rolling out its tentpole pic in almost every major market around the world this weekend.

For this weekend, X-Men has a secret weapon in its arsenal which should propel its numbers at the box office – teens. Studios have not done a good job over the last several weeks in exciting the most desirable of all age groups. MI3, Poseidon, and The Da Vinci Code all skewed older leaving high school students thinking these were their parents’ summer movies. Afterall, the average 16-year-old was only six when Tom Cruise first wowed audiences in Mission: Impossible. Finally with the mutant posse, Hollywood is delivering the goods for teens and young adults offering an action-packed adventure heavy on the type of special effects and action that people are eager to pay money for. No wait-for-the-DVD here. A strong turnout from this age group should be at the core of X-Men’s success this weekend.

Most folks who drove X2 past the double century mark three years ago are likely to return this time. That film had virtually no competition to deal with whereas Last Stand will face a pair of potent sophomores that could rake in over $70M combined over the four-day stretch. However, the new film has the added benefit of three years of ticket price increases, a holiday frame that should power Sunday and Monday numbers to exceptional heights, and a fan base that is likely to have grown even larger since the last film.

For nine long years, Steven Spielberg‘s dinosequel The Lost World has held the record for the biggest Memorial Day weekend opening ever with a colossal $92.7M over four days including Thursday night previews. The record for the largest overall weekend tally over the frame is held by 2004’s Shrek 2 which hauled in a stunning $95.6M over four days while in its second weekend. X-Men hopes to become the first film to open to nine digits over this long holiday span.

The month of May has been chock full of eye-popping four-day openings from effects-driven action films appealing to mass audiences looking to start their summer off with a bang. Four-day opening tallies in recent years include $158.4M for last year’s Star Wars Episode III, $134.3M for The Matrix Reloaded, $110.2M for Star Wars Episode II, and $85.8M for The Day After Tomorrow. The Last Stand may not have the same level of anticipation as some of those blockbusters, but it does have a loyal fan following that is ready to pounce on theaters this weekend. Fox is aiming to dominate the box office this weekend opening X-Men: The Last Stand in 3,688 theaters. The super hero extravaganza might fly off with around $108M over the four-day Friday-to-Monday holiday session setting a new industry record.

With only one major studio release invading theaters, a number of smaller distributors are using the holiday frame to launch limited release titles. Yash Raj Films enters most major markets on Friday with the Bollywood release Fanaa which stars one of India’s biggest box office draws Aamir Khan. Paramount’s new specialty division Paramount Vantage opened Al Gore‘s global warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth in four theaters on Wednesday. The PG-rated film chronicles the former Vice President’s mission on educating the world on environmental issues that are threatening our civilization and will expand into more markets across the country in the weeks ahead.

Opening in solo houses in New York City are the Jewish road drama Shem and the Filipino thriller Cavite. HP Releasing’s Shem finds a young man traveling across Europe to find his great grandfather’s grave while Truly Indie’s Cavite is a no-budget kidnapping drama in which a man arrives in the Philippines and is forced to commit heinous deeds by a terrorist if he wants to see his family alive again. Both films open in Los Angeles later in June.

Last weekend, Ron Howard‘s The Da Vinci Code opened to explosive results grossing a staggering $77.1M in its first three days. Over the holiday frame, the conspiracy thriller will benefit from adults having extra time off, a four-day span, and the fact that the only new film entering theaters will play to a somewhat different audience. However, Code generated a frontloaded bow last weekend with Friday accounting for an extraordinarily high 39% of the three-day take and Saturday sales seeing a slight dip. Fans of the book certainly rushed out on the first day to see Tom Hanks play symbologist Robert Langdon so now the film must survive having already burned through its core crowd.

Studios routinely pick the weekend before the Memorial Day frame as a launching pad for their biggest blockbusters, but sophomore declines over the holiday can vary. In 2003, the much-hyped sci-fi sequel The Matrix Reloaded saw its four-day holiday gross tumble 50% from its three-day debut gross. The following year, Shrek 2 slipped just 12% while last year’s Star Wars Episode III dropped a more moderate 35%. Code does not play to a sci-fi crowd or to an audience of children so its numbers will be closely watched.

The Sony smash has performed admirably during the week grossing a fantastic $8.8M on Monday, helped in part by Canada’s Victoria Day holiday, and another $6.2M on Tuesday. Code looks to crack the magical $100M mark by the end of its first full week in theaters before heading right into a sophomore frame cushioned by a holiday. Since word-of-mouth is just average, The Da Vinci Code may see its four-day take drop by 40% to around $46M. That would allow the much-talked-about film’s 11-day cume to surge to $148M.

The animated comedy Over the Hedge got off to a solid start last weekend and should continue to be the leading choice for families with younger kids. A 20% drop to about $31M over four days would give Paramount $79M after 11 days. The studio’s spy sequel Mission: Impossible III looks to fall by around 35% to roughly $7M giving Tom Cruise a total of $114M. The disaster flick Poseidon could fall by the same amount to around $6M lifting the sum to $45M for Warner Bros.

LAST YEAR The Memorial Day weekend box office was on fire thanks to a selection of red hot hits helping the top four films alone gross more than $200M over four days. Star Wars Episode III remained at number one for the second weekend with a commanding $70M over the Friday-to-Monday span boosting its 12-day cume to an eye-popping $270.5M. DreamWorks went after younger kids with its animated hit Madagascar which bowed to a hefty $61M to take second place while the studio’s future parent Paramount was close behind in third with the Adam Sandler comedy The Longest Yard which opened to $58.6M. The two blockbusters, which both featured Chris Rock, went on to gross $193.2M and $158.1M, respectively. More funny flicks followed with New Line’s Monster-in-Law dropping to fourth with $12.8M over the long weekend and Universal’s Kicking and Screaming taking in $6.5M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Michael Bay already owns his own production company (Platinum Dunes), so obviously he has to own his own FX house! This explains why the "Transformers" director and a partner dropped what must have been a LOT of cash to purchase well-regarded FX company Digital Domain.

Digital Domain, the Academy Award®-winning full-service digital studio and production company responsible for jaw-dropping visual sequences in such films as "Titanic," "The Day After Tomorrow" and "I, Robot" as well as commercials such as the recent Budweiser Super Bowl "Superfan" spot, has been acquired by South Florida-based Wyndcrest Holdings, LLC, a group led by director Michael Bay and investor John Textor.

Carl Stork, a long-time senior Microsoft executive and principal of Wyndcrest Holdings, has been elected chief executive officer and a member of the Board of Directors of Digital Domain, replacing Scott Ross who is stepping down as CEO and remaining a consultant to the company. C. Bradley Call will remain president and chief operating officer. Bay and Textor will co-chair the Board of Directors.

"At a time when every top grossing motion picture is relying on digital visual effects to help tell compelling and entertaining stories, we believe this translates into a bright future for companies in this field, and we believe Digital Domain represented a unique opportunity to invest," said Stork, whose accomplishments at Microsoft included leading the development of Windows® 95/98. "The creative and talented team at Digital Domain has a great reputation in both the feature film business and in the commercial advertising community for high-quality, award-winning work. Adding the expertise, business acumen and diverse relationships of the Wyndcrest principals will allow Digital Domain to capitalize on the rapidly expanding opportunities in the entertainment business.

"On behalf of all involved with Digital Domain, I would like to thank Scott Ross for his remarkable contributions as a founder and leader of the company over the past 13 years," Stork said. "We intend to draw on his advice and counsel over the coming years and we wish him well in his future endeavors."

"Having worked with Digital Domain in the past, I am well aware of the talent and creativity of the team here, and understand first-hand why the company has a well-earned reputation for creative and high-quality work," said Bay. "Rapidly evolving digital visual effects technology is going to allow motion picture directors to tell even more compelling and visually stunning stories in the future, and we believe that Digital Domain is uniquely positioned to take advantage of these new technologies, as well as new distribution channels and platforms."

"Digital Domain is well-positioned with exceptional people and leading technology at a time when reliance on visual effects is increasing in every sector of entertainment," said Textor, who has known Bay since their days at Wesleyan University and has been his business partner for eight years. "We look forward to combining these attributes with a renewed commitment to build the commercial and film industries’ leading director-centric visual effects business. Through the addition of new capital and the appropriate strategic relationships, we are also committed to the extension of the Digital Domain business into the direct development of animated films and effects-reliant live action films."

"While we all believe we’ve accomplished a great deal in the industry, we’re incredibly enthusiastic about the future as we believe this new ownership group will provide the necessary capital and strategic resources to allow us to grow our business profitably in both feature films and in advertising while retaining an environment that encourages our artists to strive for ever-greater heights of creative excellence," said Call, a decade-long Digital Domain executive who assumed the presidency of Digital Domain, as well as day-to-day responsibility for leading the company, in 2002.

"We know that our future depends on continuing to satisfy the creative needs of our clients in a manner, and on a budget, that other competitors cannot match," Call added.

Stork will take over as Digital Domain CEO effective immediately.

–Digital Domain press release courtesy of ComingSoon.net.

In addition to the three titles mentioned above, Digital Domain also provided visual effects for movies such as "True Lies" (their first flick), "Apollo 13," "The Fifth Element," "Armageddon," "Fight Club," "X-Men," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Stealth," "Aeon Flux," and the upcoming "My Super Ex-Girlfriend."

Tom Cruise‘s spy sequel Mission: Impossible III remained the most popular film in North America for the second straight weekend while the big-budget disaster film Poseidon opened in second place to disappointing results.

The frame’s other new releases, the Lindsay Lohan comedy Just My Luck and the soccer drama Goal! The Dream Begins, opened miserably as well giving the industry little to celebrate. Overall ticket sales fell behind those of the comparable weekend in each of the last four years as a sluggish marketplace waits for that one true summer blockbuster that draws the masses into the multiplexes.

Despite a weaker-than-expected opening weekend, Paramount’s MI3 enjoyed a respectable sophomore frame dropping 49% to an estimated $24.5M to retain its standing as the number one film. Playing in an ultrawide 4,059 theaters, the Ethan Hunt actioner averaged a solid $6,039 per location and raised its ten-day total to $84.6M. The decline was very similar to the 48% second weekend fall for last summer’s big spy flick Mr. & Mrs. Smith which grossed $26M in its sophomore shot after a $50.3M bow. The Pitt-Jolie vehicle, however, captured a more muscular $96.7M in its first ten days thanks in part to a June release when more students were out of school.

With so many action sequels tumbling by 55% or more on the second weekend, Mission: Impossible III managed to hold up relatively well. Competition from Poseidon was not formidable so moviegoers were not drawn away to another big event pic. The latest Ethan Hunt film will face its true test this Friday when the much-anticipated thriller The Da Vinci Code starring that other Tom opens followed a week later by the mutant juggernaut X-Men: The Last Stand. At its current pace, look for MI3 to reach $130-140M domestically making it the lowest grossing installment of the decade-old franchise. The first Mission: Impossible grossed $181M in 1996 while MI2 took in $215.4M in 2000. Overseas, MI3 jumped to $129.2M in foreign sales putting the worldwide tally at $213.8M in under two weeks. The global box office gross looks to be on a trajectory to hit $350M.

Failing to sink Cruise’s ship, the ocean liner disaster pic Poseidon settled for the runner-up spot this weekend opening with an estimated $20.3M from 3,555 locations. Warner Bros. generated a decent but not impressive per-theater average of $5,717 with its first pricey entry of the summer movie season. Directed by Wolfgang Petersen (The Perfect Storm, Air Force One), the PG-13 film was a remake of the 1972 picture The Poseidon Adventure and starred Kurt Russell, Josh Lucas, and Richard Dreyfuss as passengers on a luxury ship who must fight to survive after a rogue wave capsizes the vessel. Poseidon opened weaker than other big-budget maritime action films like 2003’s Master and Commander ($25.1M), 2000’s The Perfect Storm ($41.3M), and even 1995’s infamous Waterworld ($21.2M).

Although audiences in years past have flocked to May disaster films like Twister, Deep Impact, and The Day After Tomorrow, this time Poseidon lacked the goods to draw in a paying audience. Reviews were not kind which also made the adult-skewing picture a tough sell. Varying reports on the film’s budget put the production cost in excess of $160M so a stellar run internationally and on DVD will be needed in order to turn a profit. Poseidon set sail in a handful of Asian countries to the tune of $4.4M this weekend, but will open in most foreign territories in June and July.

Once again scoring the best hold among all wide releases was the Robin Williams family comedy RV which dipped a mere 14% in its third weekend to an estimated $9.5M. The Sony hit has collected a solid $42.8M in 17 days.

Ticket buyers ignored Lindsay Lohan’s new film Just My Luck which flopped in its opening weekend grossing a mere $5.5M, according to estimates. The Fox release averaged an unlucky $2,165 per location and played almost exclusively to a teen girl audience. Studio research showed that the crowd for Luck was a remarkably high 80% female and 70% under the age of 25. Critics, not surprisingly, panned the film.

Horror flick An American Haunting enjoyed a solid sophomore session dropping only 36% to an estimated $3.7M for fifth place. Distributed by Freestyle Releasing, the PG-13 thriller has banked $10.9M in ten days and should scare its way to a mediocre $17-19M. Universal’s 9/11 thriller United 93 followed with an estimated $3.6M, down just 33%, lifting the cume to a decent $25.6M.

The teen gymnastics pic Stick It dropped 41% to an estimated $3.2M to land in the number seven spot with a total to date of $22.2M for Buena Vista. Fox’s animated sequel Ice Age: The Meltdown, still the top-grossing film of 2006, grossed an estimated $3M sliding just 29% in its seventh weekend. No other film has spent as many weeks in the top ten this year. Cume stands at $187.4M domestically and over $600M worldwide.

Sony’s fright pic Silent Hill placed ninth with an estimated $2.2M, off 45%, for a sum of $44.5M thus far. The New Line flop Hoot fell 37% to an estimated $2.1M in its second outing as the total inched up to a dismal $6.2M. Last weekend, the owl film had the distinction of suffering the worst opening in history for a film debuting in over 3,000 theaters. Hoot’s puny $3.4M bow in 3,018 sites beat out the dismal $6M launch from 3,006 theaters of 2004’s New York Minute starring the Olsen Twins for that unfortunate honor.

Another film failing to connect with kids was Buena Vista’s new soccer drama Goal! The Dream Begins which kicked off its run with a weak estimate of only $2M. The PG-rated film failed to qualify for the top ten this weekend and averaged a poor $1,989 from 1,007 locations.

Two April releases fell from the top ten this weekend. The spoof comedy Scary Movie 4 dropped 44% to an estimated $2.1M in its fifth frame. With $86.6M to date, The Weinstein Co. release looks to finish with roughly $90M which would not be far off from the $110M of its predecessor 2003’s Scary Movie 3. The Lionsgate family drama Akeelah and the Bee declined 41% to an estimated $2M in only its third turn. Cume sits at just $13.6M and should reach $16-18M.

Opening in limited release this weekend, Miramax’s family reunion comedy Keeping Up with the Steins grossed an estimated $621,000 from 138 locations for a respectable $4,500 average. The PG-13 film stars Garry Marshall, Jeremy Piven, and Daryl Hannah. The Swaziland-set drama Wah-Wah debuted in 25 theaters and grossed an estimated $57,000 for a mild $2,270 average. Starring Gabriel Byrne, Miranda Richardson, and Emily Watson, the R-rated film is distributed by Roadside Attractions and Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Among indie films expanding into more markets, Sony Classics grossed an estimated $1.2M from its comedy Art School Confidential after widening from 12 to 762 theaters across the country. That left the John MalkovichAnjelica Huston starrer with a pitiful $1,593 average per venue as it failed to register with moviegoers on a national level. Cume is $1.4M. Fox Searchlight expanded its Indian drama Water from 36 to 62 locations and grossed an estimated $257,000 for a $4,138 average. Total sits at $593,000 with more markets opening on Friday.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $77.7M which was down 15% from last year when Monster-in-Law opened at number one with $23.1M; and down 23% from 2004 when Troy debuted in the top spot with $46.9M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, BoxOfficeGuru.com

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