Competition, or a lack of it, will be the deciding factor at the North American box office this weekend for the half-dozen new releases that studios are packing into already overcrowded multiplexes. Leading the way is the horror film 30 Days of Night followed by the sports comedy The Comebacks which both will be targeting the teens and young adults that Hollywood has been ignoring in recent weeks. Mature adults who already have a wide selection of serious dramas to choose from will be served up three more – Reese Witherspoon‘s Rendition, Ben Affleck‘s Gone Baby Gone, and Halle Berry‘s Things We Lost in the Fire. With far too many films aiming for the same finite audience segment, some are sure to eat into the potential of others.

Sony will monopolize the horror crowd looking for a scare before Halloween with its gorefest 30 Days of Night which tells of vampires that attack a small town in northern Alaska during its annual sunless period. The R-rated film prominently informs moviegoers in its marketing that it is based on a graphic novel hoping to tap into a little bit of the excitement generated by 300 last spring. The first eight months of this year were brutal to R-rated horror films with none reaching number one and high-profile franchise flicks like Hostel II, 28 Weeks Later, and The Hills Have Eyes 2 all failing to reach $10M on opening weekend. But the Halloween remake over Labor Day weekend changed all that and was followed three weeks later by another top spot debut from horror-action hybrid Resident Evil: Extinction. But those have died out so 30 Days stands as the only creepfest at a time when scary movies are in demand. Attacking 2,700 theaters, 30 Days of Night should easily top the charts and could bite into around $19M over the weekend.


30 Days of Night

Fox spoofs the world of sports films with its new comedy The Comebacks which will target adolescents either too young for 30 Days or uninterested in scary movies. With so many mature stories hogging up screens, the market can certainly use a dose of immature humor right about now. The Comebacks is the first viable PG-13 comedy aimed at teens since fellow sports comedy Balls of Fury launched at the end of August. After a mid-week debut, that pic bowed to $11.4M over three days and Comebacks will play to many of the same folks. And with seventeen R-rated films opening wide over the last eight weeks, there has been little to celebrate for the under-17 crowd. Sure The Comebacks looks dumb, but dumb can sell. Add in a trim running time of under 90 minutes and commercial prospects are not bad. This is disposable entertainment for 14-year-olds. It will draw attention upfront, and be forgotten two weeks from now. Thanks to a lack of direct competition, The Comebacks could debut with about $11M from 2,800 sites.


The Comebacks

Leading the charge for the 30-plus crowd this weekend is Reese Witherspoon who headlines the political thriller Rendition from New Line. The R-rated drama finds the Oscar winner playing a woman whose Egyptian-born husband is captured by the CIA after being suspected of being a terrorist. Jake Gyllenhaal and Meryl Streep add to the cast. Rendition follows The Kingdom and In the Valley of Elah as military-themed films this fall with connections to the Middle East. Audiences will want only so much of this content. Witherspoon will have her starpower put to the test since she is the only major commercial star here and she is outside of her safety zone of romantic comedies. The film will play to mature adults and will have to compete not only with this weekend’s other new dramas, but also with an assortment of holdovers already playing to the same audience. Reviews have been mixed which will also make things difficult. Debuting in roughly 2,200 locations, Rendition may capture about $9M over the Friday-to-Sunday period.


Reese Witherspoon and Peter Sarsgaard in Rendition

Ben Affleck makes his directorial debut with the crime thriller Gone Baby Gone which stars his brother Casey in the lead role. The Miramax release also stars Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, and Michelle Monaghan and carries a R rating. Reviews have been good which will come as a shocker to those that look at this movie as nothing more than Daredevil getting to hop into the director’s chair. Reese, Joaquin, George, Cate, and Halle will all be cutting into the adult pie which can only expand by a certain amount. The marketing push has been highlighting the film as being from the author of Mystic River in hopes of finding those who loved that other Boston-set fall crime drama. An invite to the top five may not arrive for Ben. Opening in approximately 1,500 theaters, Gone Baby Gone could collect about $6M this weekend.


Freeman, Affleck and Monaghan in Gone Baby Gone
Yet another new option for adults looking for serious fare is the Halle BerryBenicio Del Toro starrer Things We Lost in the Fire. The Paramount release about a widow who seeks comfort from her dead husband’s drug-addicted friend will play to a mature audience and skew more female. The R-rated film has generated some good early reviews and both leads have Oscars on their shelves, but it will not be enough to compete with the other films targeting the same crowd. Berry showed in April that she can only open a picture so much when her thriller Perfect Stranger bowed to a $4,211 average even though A-lister Bruce Willis co-starred. With a not-so-wide release in about 1,000 theaters this weekend, Things We Lost in the Fire might debut with around $3M.


Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro in Things We Lost in the Fire

Freestyle Releasing has booked the few remaining empty screens out there for its teen thriller Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour. As one of the only PG-rated suspense pics ever made, the film will try to attract younger teenagers not interested in sports-themed comedies. With only 1,100 theaters, a quiet marketing campaign, no stars, and zero buzz, a weak debut of about $1M could result.


Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour

After a potent number one debut, Tyler Perry‘s hit comedy Why Did I Get Married? should suffer a big fall in its second weekend if history is any indicator. Sophomore drops for the filmmaker’s previous offerings include 50% for Diary of a Mad Black Woman, 58% for Madea’s Family Reunion, and 57% for Daddy’s Little Girls. Lionsgate should see a 50% fall to about $10M this weekend giving the ensemble relationship tale $37M in ten days.

Disney’s The Game Plan once again has no new competition for the kiddie audience. Why studios have programmed so many serious adult dramas into this month and no other good family films is anyone’s guess. A 35% dip would leave The Rock with $7M and an impressive cume of $68M after 24 days.

Both Sony’s We Own the Night and the Warner Bros. thriller Michael Clayton will have to fight extra hard in order to compete with the new releases gunning for their customers. Night looks to slide more and fall by 45% while the strongly reviewed Clayton could ease by 40% with both films grossing roughly $6M over the weekend. That would lead to ten-day totals of $20M and $21M, respectively.

LAST YEAR: Just two months after the release of the similarly-themed magician pic The Illusionist, Buena Vista still managed to score a number one bow for The Prestige which opened with $14.8M on its way to $53.1M. Martin Scorsese‘s The Departed enjoyed a strong hold and ranked second with $13.5M in its third frame. Debuting in third was Clint Eastwood‘s war saga Flags of Our Fathers with $10.2M leading to a disappointing $33.6M final for Paramount. Sony’s animated hit Open Season ranked fourth with $8.2M. Rounding out the top five was rival family film Flicka with $7.7M for Fox on its way to only $21M. Also premiering in the top ten was Sony’s Marie Antoinette with $5.4M which led to a final tally of just $16M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Five new films push their way into nationwide release on Friday hoping to challenge two-time champ The Rock making for what should be a free-for-all at the North American box office with many different studios having a realistic shot at claiming the number one spot. Among the top contenders are Sony’s crime thriller We Own the Night, the Lionsgate comedy Why Did I Get Married?, and the George Clooney vehicle Michael Clayton which expands nationally after its scorching debut in limited release. Adding to the mix are the costume drama Elizabeth: The Golden Age and the baseball tale The Final Season. The box office race should be a tight one with as many as four films likely to reach the low double digit millions.

Oscar nominated actors Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix face off as brothers on different sides of the law in the new action thriller We Own the Night. The R-rated pic co-stars Robert Duvall and Eva Mendes and will target an adult audience with a slightly male skew. The former Marky Mark proved his box office pull last spring as the only major star in Shooter which bowed to $14.5M and a $5,176 average by targeting the same audience. Things will be more difficult this time because of the intense competition for mature audiences especially from Michael Clayton. But Night‘s biggest advantage over Michael is that it has two commercial stars instead of just one. The combo should lead to a slim edge at the cash registers.

Despite its awkward title, Night has been pushing itself as an action-packed thriller with faces people love to watch. Reviews have been mixed and with such a crowded field, it will be hard to stand out as a must-see option. Starpower should be the main factor here and showdowns between two solid actors are usually popular with ticket buyers. Opening in over 2,000 theaters, We Own the Night could debut to about $12M.


Phoenix and Wahlberg in We Own the Night

Taking on those boys with some machismo of his own, George Clooney heads into wide release with his legal drama Michael Clayton which Warner Bros. has drummed up plenty of awards buzz for. The R-rated pic bowed to a sizzling $47,994 average last weekend from its platform bow in the Clooney-friendly towns of New York, Los Angeles, and Toronto. This weekend, the thriller will face the real test when it enters every major market across the 50 states. Thanks to his political outspokenness, the Academy Award winning actor has become a polarizing figure. He could easily win an election to become mayor of Hollywood, but in other parts of the country people would gladly pay theaters to not play his movies.

Clayton will test his drawing power since the film has no other box office anchors in it. Co-stars Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, and Sydney Pollack are well-respected, but they don’t sell tickets. There is plenty of direct competition which is why the film got a head start a week early. Buzz from its red hot platform bow has spread helping to build interest. The crowd will consist of the same people that opened Syriana to $11.7M, The Black Dahlia to $10M, and Zodiac to $13.4M. Night will take away some males and Elizabeth will steal some females so a huge gross will be hard to find. But over the long-term the film could have legs. Expanding into 2,511 locations, Michael Clayton stands as the widest of the new offerings and may capture around $11M over the Friday-to-Sunday period.


Clooney as Clayton

Tyler Perry‘s latest relationship comedy Why Did I Get Married? finds trouble brewing when four married couples come together for an annual winter getaway. The writer/director’s films have always tapped into his loyal fan base with African American women at the core. His 2005 smash Diary of a Mad Black Woman surprised the industry with its first-place debut with $21.9M and a $14,771 average and was followed a year later by Madea’s Family Reunion which grew bigger with a $30M launch. Perry’s last pic Daddy’s Little Girls, also a February release, saw more modest numbers with a $11.2M opening as the filmmaker did not star in the pic.

Married does not have the promotional value of Black History Month or the help of Presidents Day which Girls had early this year. However, Perry’s new film will not face any direct competitors for its target audience. Girls had to face the second weekend of Eddie Murphy‘s hit comedy Norbit which offered some audience overlap. Plus Married boasts more starpower with Perry back on screen and an added boost will come from Janet Jackson who is always a strong draw at the box office with the target audience every time she makes a rare appearance in a movie. The PG-13 film from Lionsgate is unlike anything else in the marketplace right now and with few buzzworthy films aimed at black moviegoers in recent months, it should successfully connect. Debuting in 2,011 theaters, Why Did I Get Married? might open with roughly $12M this weekend.


Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married?
Another female-driven film, but taking place centuries ago and across the pond, is the historical drama Elizabeth: The Golden Age which finds Cate Blanchett reprising the role of the British Queen which made her a star nine years ago. The PG-13 pic also finds Geoffrey Rush returning and adds Clive Owen to the mix telling the story of the later years of the monarch’s 16th century reign when threats from Spain and a possible love affair at home led to new challenges. Though at the core a costume drama like its predecessor, Universal’s marketing has played up the action and adventure elements in hopes of attracting men looking for warfare and battle scenes. That may backfire when word gets out that there is actually very little action on screen.

The first Elizabeth opened in limited release in November 1998 and rolled through awards season that winter eventually reaching an impressive $30M while never playing in more than 600 theaters. It also bagged seven Oscar nominations including Best Picture. Now the studio is hoping that a built-in audience will want to take another trip to the past. Though the first was an acclaimed picture, no real demand ever surfaced for a sequel. So it will be tough for Golden Age at the box office especially with all the competition. Female-led dramas often struggle in the marketplace since it is often too hard for adult women to drag men with them to the multiplex for these stories. New films from Clooney and Wahlberg offer more cross-gender appeal. Ordering her troops into 2,000 theaters on Friday, Elizabeth: The Golden Age might take home about $8M over the three-day period.


Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush in Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Likely to strike out at the box office this weekend is the high school baseball pic The Final Season which stars Sean Astin, Larry Miller, and Powers Boothe. The PG-rated film offers no starpower and has generated very little excitement for itself in the marketplace. Most sports fans interested in the national pastime will tune into the playoffs on their television sets this weekend. A quick trip to DVD is assured for this one which has no guarantee to clinch a spot in the top ten. Opening in about 1,000 theaters, a weekend take of just $2M could be in the works.


The Final Season

Among holdovers, The Game Plan surprised the industry two weeks in a row by taking the number one spot. Given its strong legs and continued lack of competition for the family audience and younger teens, a third round on top is not totally out of the question. Should all the newbies eat into each other and all fail to reach the $12M mark, the Disney kidpic by default may stay put. A 25% decline would give The Game Plan a third weekend tally of $12.5M pushing the 17-day total to a solid $58M.

Paramount and DreamWorks were caught by surprise by the lack of strength for the opening of the Ben Stiller comedy The Heartbreak Kid. With nothing to keep it afloat, a 45% decline might be in order especially since adults will be distracted by a wide assortment of other options. That would give the Farrelly brothers a sophomore session of about $7.5M and a cume of only $25.5M after ten days.

LAST YEAR: Sony used the Friday the 13th before Halloween to launch the sequel to one of the most successful horror films in history and captured the number one spot. The Grudge 2 bowed on top with $20.8M accounting for more than half of its $39.1M final. Eventual Oscar champ The Departed slipped to second with $19M easing only 29% for Warner Bros. The Robin Williams political comedy Man of the Year debuted in third with $12.3M before finishing with a disappointing $37.3M for Universal. Rounding out the top five were the Sony toon Open Season with $11.1M and New Line’s fright franchise flick Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning with $7.5M for a steep 60% plunge. Opening with weak results in sixth was the action pic The Marine with $7.1M on its way to $18.8M for Fox. The religious-themed drama One Night with the King bowed to $4.1M with a good $4,518 average and finished with $13.4M for 8X.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

If you watched "Live Free or Die Hard" and thought, "Gee, what I’d really like to see is Mary Elizabeth Winstead with less clothing and more dancing," this item is for you: Variety is reporting that Winstead will star in "Make It Happen," a project referred to as "a dance movie set in the world of burlesque."

"Happen" will be directed by Darren Grant, most recently seen behind the cameras for "Diary of a Mad Black woman," and the script comes courtesy of Duane Adler, screenwriter of "Step Up" and "Save the Last Dance" (turns out they’re two separate movies — we’re as surprised as you).


Winstead in "Final Destination 3"

In the film, which will be released by The Weinstein Company, Winstead won’t just be shaking her moneymaker. There’s a plot arc here, people! As Variety reports:

Winstead plays a small-town woman who moves to Chi with dreams of entering the Chicago School of Dance but winds up working in a burlesque club. According to a plot description provided by TWC, the club "proves to be a place of conflict and self-discovery."

"Make It Happen" starts filming this August, and is presumably scheduled for a 2008 release.

Source: Variety

Moviegoers rallied behind the star-driven comedy "Wild Hogs," which raced to number one at the North American box office, zooming past all expectations from Disney. Meanwhile, Viacom saw less-than-stellar debuts from its serial killer drama "Zodiac" from Paramount Pictures and the southern fried saga "Black Snake Moan" from arthouse unit Paramount Vantage. Overall, the box office remained healthy and surged well ahead of last year’s performance.

Buena Vista powered its way to an estimated $38M in opening weekend sales for its road comedy "Wild Hogs," delivering the largest March debut in history for a live-action film. The PG-13 pic starring Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, and William H. Macy as four middle-aged men on a motorcycle adventure averaged a stellar $11,561 from 3,287 theaters. It was the year’s second biggest opening after "Ghost Rider‘s" $45.4M bow two weeks ago. According to studio research, 54% of the audience was actually female. Travolta’s everlasting sex appeal, Allen’s pull with moms thanks to his many Disney flicks, and the cast’s appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" last week probably contributed to the solid turnout by women. The stars also allowed the film to tap into different audience segments.

"Wild Hogs" posted the best opening ever in March for a non-animated film and the third biggest overall. The only movies to debut better in this month were the "Ice Age" flicks of 2002 and 2006. It also gave Travolta the biggest opening by far of his career, beating the $23.5M of 2005’s "Be Cool," and the second best bow for Allen after the $57.4M bow of 1999’s "Toy Story 2." As expected, "Hogs" was slammed by critics but reviews are practically irrelevant for a star-driven comedy like this. This is a crowdpleaser, not a criticpleaser. Audiences make their decisions based on if they think they will get a good laugh or not and Buena Vista’s marketing push was indeed solid. Though the overall weekend gross was strong, what was even more encouraging was the significant Friday-to-Saturday boost of 49% which is rare for any new release. A journey into nine-digit territory seems likely.

Debuting far back in second place was the serial killer pic "Zodiac," with an estimated $13.1M from 2,362 sites. Averaging a respectable $5,546 per theater, the R-rated film from director David Fincher played to an older audience as two-thirds of the crowd was over the age of 25, according to studio research from Paramount. Males and females were evenly represented. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., and Mark Ruffalo, "Zodiac" follows the investigation behind one of California’s most notorious murderers from the 1960s and 70s. The $65M film fared better than last fall’s murder mysteries set in the Golden State, "The Black Dahlia" and "Hollywoodland," which debuted to $10M and $5.9M respectively.

Reviews were overwhelmingly positive for "Zodiac," but its 160-minute length may have cut into its grossing potential. Plus when factoring in ticket prices increases over the years, it can be estimated that "Zodiac" sold the fewest opening weekend tickets of any of Fincher’s films. Admissions were roughly the same as for "Fight Club," which bowed to $11M in 1999. The studio is hoping that good word-of-mouth can carry the film in the weeks ahead.

After leading the pack for two full weeks, the Johnny Blaze flick "Ghost Rider" fell to third but only dropped 43% for an estimated $11.5M gross. Sony’s Nicolas Cage starrer has taken in $94.8M in 17 days and should become the first new release of 2007 to break the $100M barrier. Disney’s "Bridge to Terabithia" also held up well dipping 39% in its third adventure to an estimated $8.6M. Cume stands at $57.9M.

Jim Carrey‘s thriller "The Number 23" fell from second to fifth place in its sophomore scare and collected an estimated $7.1M. Down an understandable 52%, the New Line title has taken in a semi-decent $24.7M in ten days and looks headed for a $35-38M finish.

Eddie Murphy‘s latest comedy "Norbit" enjoyed the smallest decline in the top ten and dipped 34% to an estimated $6.4M for a $83M sum. Fellow laugher "Music and Lyrics" dropped just 36% to an estimated $4.9M giving the Hugh GrantDrew Barrymore pic $38.7M to date.

Paramount Vantage bowed its Samuel L. JacksonChristina Ricci drama "Black Snake Moan" and collected an estimated $4M from 1,252 theaters. Averaging a mild $3,208, the debut was half the size of writer/director Craig Brewer‘s last film "Hustle & Flow," which opened in July 2005 to $8M from 1,013 theaters on its way to $22.2M and an Oscar. Jackson has witnessed many of his headlining vehicles struggle at the box office including "Freedomland," "The Man," and even "Snakes on a Plane," which despite hitting the top spot, grossed much less than expected given its media hype last summer.

The Fox comedy "Reno 911!: Miami" tumbled 64% in its second weekend to an estimated $3.8M for a ninth place finish. The R-rated pic has grossed $16.4M in ten days and should conclude with roughly $20M. Rounding out the top ten was the FBI thriller "Breach" with an estimated $3.5M, off 42%, for a $25.4M total.

Three smaller films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. The slave trade drama "Amazing Grace" dipped only 26% in its second weekend to an estimated $3M. With $8.2M in ten days, the Samuel Goldwyn/Roadside Attractions period pic may find its way to $15-18M. The Billy Bob Thornton flop "The Astronaut Farmer" grossed an estimated $2.2M, down 52%, and put its sum at an embarrassing $7.7M. Look for a $11M final.

Lionsgate’s Tyler Perry comedy "Daddy’s Little Girls" fell 53% to an estimated $2.3M in its third frame and upped its cume to $28.4M. By comparison, the distributor saw stronger 17-day grosses of $44M and $55.7M respectively for the director’s last two films, "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and "Madea’s Family Reunion." "Daddy’s" should end its run with $30-33M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $100.8M which was up a stunning 30% from last year when "Madea" stayed at number one with just $12.6M; but off 4% from 2005 when "The Pacifier" debuted on top with $30.6M.

Source: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage ruled Oscar weekend with his skull-on-fire motorcycle actioner "Ghost Rider," which held steady at number one in North America for the second straight time. Moviegoers delivered different verdicts to the handful of new releases led by the Jim Carrey thriller "The Number 23," which fared best and debuted in second place. Overall, the top ten was about even with the corresponding weekends from the last two years.

Dropping 57% from its powerful opening weekend, "Ghost Rider" took in an estimated $19.7M over the weekend and pushed its ten-day tally to a sensational $78.7M. The big-budget Sony actioner adapted from the popular Marvel comic book series suffered a decline similar to that of 2003’s "Daredevil," which sank 55% in its second frame after an explosive bow over Presidents’ Day weekend. That super hero flick captured 68% of its domestic total in the first ten days. "Ghost Rider" is so far following the same path which means a final gross of $115-120M seems likely.

Comedy guru Jim Carrey took a stab at horror with his new psychological thriller "The Number 23" and saw moderate results with a $15.1M launch, according to estimates. Playing in 2,759 theaters, the R-rated film averaged $5,476 per location for New Line. Critics were brutal to the scary pic, but the opening fared better than those of most of Carrey’s previous non-comedies.

Disney’s "Bridge to Terabithia" dropped 40% in its sophomore adventure and pulled in an estimated $13.6M in ticket sales. The PG-rated fantasy has banked an impressive $46.2M in ten days and may be heading for around $75M overall.

Fox saw a not-so-arresting debut for its cop comedy "Reno 911!: Miami," which opened in fourth place with an estimated $10.4M. The R-rated feature adapted from the moderately successful Comedy Central series averaged a mild $3,849 from a wide release in 2,702 theaters. By comparison, openings for other recent R-rated comedies based on popular television properties include $26.5M for "Borat" and $29M for "Jackass: Number Two," both of which bowed at number one.

Eddie Murphy‘s comedy "Norbit" dropped 42% to an estimated $9.7M in its third weekend raising its total to $74.7M for Paramount. Warner Bros. followed with its own comedy "Music and Lyrics," which pulled in an estimated $8M in its sophomore weekend. Down a reasonable 41%, the Hugh GrantDrew Barrymore pic has taken in $32.1M in 12 days and could be headed for the $50M mark.

Universal’s "Breach" dipped 41% in its second weekend to an estimated $6.2M. With $20.5M in ten days, the FBI thriller in on course for a $35M total. The Tyler Perry comedy "Daddy’s Little Girls" lost half of its audience in the second weekend just like the director’s last two February comedies. The Lionsgate release grossed an estimated $5.3M, down 53%, and has taken in $25.6M. Both "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and "Madea’s Family Reunion" made about 75% of their total grosses in the first ten days so a $35M final for Girls seems likely.

A pair of new releases rounded out the top ten. Warner Bros. saw a dismal opening for its Billy Bob Thornton drama "The Astronaut Farmer," which grossed an estimated $4.5M from 2,155 locations. Averaging a poor $2,093 per theater, the PG-rated film earned mixed reviews from critics.

Goldwyn’s historical slave trade drama "Amazing Grace" enjoyed a solid bow with an estimated $4.3M from only 791 sites for a respectable $5,442 average matching "Ghost Rider’s" per-theater average to the dollar. Reviews were mostly favorable.

Four films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. The runaway smash "Night at the Museum" collected an estimated $2.2M in its tenth weekend and upped its total to $241.7M putting it at number 44 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters ahead of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," which made $241.4M in 2002. "Museum" fell 41% this weekend and should go on to reach around $246M domestically and over $500M worldwide.

Universal’s Diane Keaton comedy "Because I Said So" grossed an estimated $2.9M, down 44%, putting its cume at a decent $38.4M. A final gross of $43-45M seems likely. Sony’s thriller "The Messengers" grossed an estimated $1.6M, tumbling 58%, for a $33.4M cume. The $16M production should conclude with a healthy $35M. MGM’s "Hannibal Rising" has grossed about $26M to date and should end its run with only $30M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $96.7M which was up 1% from last year when "Madea’s Family Reunion" opened at number one with $30M; but off 2% from 2005 when "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" debuted on top with $21.9M.

Source: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Five new films, each targeting its own audience, cram into North American multiplexes giving moviegoers plenty of entertainment options over the four-day Presidents’ Day holiday weekend.

Segregating the races on Wednesday’s Valentine’s Day holiday with competing romantic comedies, Warner Bros. bowed the Hugh GrantDrew Barrymore starrer "Music and Lyrics" for white audiences while Lionsgate countered with Tyler Perry‘s "Daddy’s Little Girls" for black moviegoers. Adding to the overcrowded frame on Friday will be Sony’s comic book actioner "Ghost Rider," Disney’s tween adventure "The Bridge to Terabithia," and the FBI thriller "Breach" from Universal. Although studios jammed too many films into this particular frame, audience overlap seems minimal so the box office should easily expand to its largest size of the year finally beating 2006 levels.

Johnny Blaze leads the way over the extended weekend as Nicolas Cage steps into the role of the Marvel Comics character in the big-budget actioner "Ghost Rider." The PG-13 film is directed by Mark Steven Johnson whose "Daredevil," another effects-driven action flick based on a B-level Marvel hero, topped the box office over the Presidents’ Day frame four years ago with a powerful $45M with Ben Affleck in the lead. Much of the same audience of young males and comic fans will be back, however moviegoers have since been subjected to endless super hero flicks so don’t be surprised if some take a pass this time. Sony has been loud in its marketing campaign and awareness is sky high with the target audience. A crowded marketplace could keep the grosses in check. But with the most theaters of any new release by far, the motorcycle pic should ride off with the box office crown with ease. "Ghost Rider" opens in 3,619 theaters on Friday and could collect around $35M over the four-day span.


Nicolas Cage in "Ghost Rider"

Disney goes after the always reliable family audience with the fantasy drama "The Bridge to Terabithia," a film adaptation of the beloved book. In the PG-rated tale, a seventh grade boy befriends the new girl who moves in next door and together create a fantasy world through their imaginations as an escape from the struggles of real life. Kidpics based on books usually find themselves with a built-in audience showing up on opening weekend and with "Terabithia" launching over a school holiday session, the target audience will be very available. Last year, the studio won the weekend going after a similar crowd with "Eight Below" which opened to a solid $25M over four days. "Bridge" lacks big star names, but should still pull in families especially since that segment has few other titles in the current marketplace to be excited about. Younger teens may however get pulled away by the crude physical comedy of "Norbit" or the comic book action of "Ghost Rider." Launching in over 2,800 theaters, "The Bridge to Terabithia" may gross around $18M over the Friday-to-Monday period.


"The Bridge to Terabithia"

Following up his number one hits "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and "Madea’s Family Reunion," Tyler Perry returns to the big screen with his latest comedy, "Daddy’s Little Girls." The PG-13 film stars Gabrielle Union as an attorney who falls for a working class driver who has three daughters. Unlike his last two February chart-toppers, "Girls" finds Perry strictly behind the camera and not playing the outrageous matriarch Madea.

In recent years, nobody has proven the power of the African American audience more than Perry who exceeded industry expectations both times with the $21.9M bow of "Diary" and the stronger $30M debut of "Reunion" a year ago. Both debuted on the weekend after the Presidents’ Day frame. Lionsgate once again handles distribution duties, but various factors indicate that sales should deflate a bit. Starpower is less for "Girls," most notably because of Perry’s absence. Plus competition will be much tougher than in past years with "Norbit" in its second weekend playing to much of the same audience. However, the Tyler name sells and sell-outs are sure to occur in all parts of the country. Opening Wednesday in 2,111 theaters, "Daddy’s Little Girls" could take in about $16M over four days and $23M over six days.


Tyler Perry’s "Daddy’s Little Girls"

Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore find love in the new romantic comedy "Music and Lyrics" which also opened on Wednesday to capture the date crowd on Valentine’s Day. On paper, the PG-13 film has all the ingredients to become a box office hit thanks to the starpower and timing of its release. But a poor script and lack of chemistry could impact weekend grosses if mid-week ticket buyers spread bad word of mouth. Both actors are proven draws at the turnstiles and their first pairing will undoubtedly spark interest from women and couples. Warner Bros. has been pushing the 80’s music angle since Grant plays the washed up half of a pop music superduo from that era. Competition for white women over 25 is not too fierce among the weekend’s other contenders so a strong start is likely. Composing tunes in 2,929 locations, "Music and Lyrics" may find itself with around $16M over four days and about $22M over six days.


Hugh Grant, in a sadly realistic portrayal of an 80s popstar, in "Music and Lyrics."

Ryan Phillippe stars as a young FBI agent out to catch his boss who has been selling secrets to the Soviet Union in the new political thriller "Breach." The PG-13 pic co-stars Chris Cooper, Laura Linney, and Dennis Haysbert and is being released by Universal. Three factors will prevent big grosses for Reese’s ex-hubby. "Breach" lacks starpower, has too much competition to face, and is not being booked in too many theaters. Though the cast features some respected actors, none is a box office anchor that can draw in large paying crowds. Plus with four other new films hitting the multiplexes, and a collection of acclaimed Oscar contenders all attracting the attention of serious-minded adults, "Breach" cannot stand out. Academy pics may all be grossing small numbers individually, but moviegoers spent nearly $20M on the ones in the Top 20 last weekend and this long holiday frame will be the last full weekend to catch up on the contenders. Opening in just 1,487 theaters, "Breach" might steal about $7M over the four days.


"Breach," with Chris Cooper, Ryan Phillippe, and some blurry guy.

Among holdovers, Oscar nominee Eddie Murphy may get driven out of the top spot by Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage. Both of their new films, of course, are for commercial gain and not critical acclaim. "Norbit" will be coming off of a solid opening, but will face competition from many of the new releases. The four-day gross could slide 30% from last weekend’s three-day opening and reach roughly $24M for the frame. That would give the Paramount release a terrific $64M in 11 days. A larger drop is in the works for "Hannibal Rising." The MGM release may fall 40% to about $8M for a cume of $23M after a similar 11 days.

LAST YEAR: The battle for Presidents’ Day weekend was won by the family adventure "Eight Below" which debuted on top with $25M over the four-day frame. Disney’s hit kids flick went on to collect $81.6M. Fox settled for second with its spoof comedy "Date Movie" which bowed to $21.8M over the Friday-to-Monday period on its way to $48.5M. "The Pink Panther" dropped from first to third with $20.9M followed by fellow kidpic "Curious George" with $15.4M. Rounding out the top five was "Final Destination 3" with $11.5M. Samuel L. Jackson flopped with his new drama "Freedomland" which debuted to just $6.7M over four days leading to a weak $12.5M final for Sony.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Lionsgate’s man of the moment, Tyler Perry, has brokered a deal to produce the cross-dressing playwright’s next flick, "Daddy’s Little Girl" — and this time, the gray-haired, snappy grandma Madea will be conspicuously absent.

Perry struck gold with his last two films, "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and the recent box office champ, "Madea’s Family Reunion," which together grossed over $100 million for Lionsgate during their respective theater runs. Both films were adapted from Perry’s own stage plays, and starred the writer-director as sassy matriarch Madea, an advice-spewing grandma in a housedress and orthopedic shoes who could double as an NFL linebacker.

Per Variety, Perry will write and direct "Little Girl," a love story between a single father whose occupation as a janitor threatens his romance with a successful female lawyer, whose father disapproves. No word yet on casting, but the project has been fast-tracked to begin production in June, aiming for a February 2007 release.

From Variety: "Last year, "Diary" grossed more than $50 million at the box office. Since then, Lionsgate has sold more than 6 million copies of "Diary" and Perry’s stage plays on DVD.

In April, Perry will bring the franchise to the bookstands with the release of his first tome, "Don’t Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings: Madea’s Uninhibited Commentaries on Life and Love," from Penguin imprint Riverdale."

Low budget horror film “Alone in the Dark” took home the industry’s biggest booby prize as Hollywood’s annual anti-Oscars, The Stinkers Bad Movie Awards, dished out awards in 24 competition categories. The dishonors came courtesy of the Los Angeles-based Bad Cinema Society, a panel of movie critics and film fans which annually awards Hollywood’s worst films and performances.

Though “Alone in the Dark” didn’t receive the most awards, it managed to beat the field in four major categories, including worst film of the year, worst director (Uwe Boll, who some critics and fans have likened to legendary bad movie maker Ed Wood), worst actress (Tara Reid), and worst special effects.

The top award winner for 2005, with five Stinkers, was “Son of the Mask,” New Line’s ill-conceived follow-up to the Jim Carrey mega-hit “The Mask.” The mind-numbing sequel, which was inexplicably still produced after Carrey refused to participate in the project, took honors for Worst Actor (Jamie Kennedy), Worst Sequel, and Worst Couple (Kennedy and anyone forced to co-star with him). The film was also named 2005’s foulest family film.

Jessica Simpson picked up three awards for her portrayal of Daisy Duke in the big screen remake of the TV series “The Dukes of Hazzard.” Her warbling of “These Boot Are Made For Walkin’” earned her a Stinker for worst song in a movie. She was also named worst supporting actress of the year and can lay claim to having sported the most annoying fake accent in a movie.

Media target Paris Hilton, who had a small role in the horror remake “House of Wax,” came away unscathed by the society. Mentioned as a worst supporting actress on other year-end lists, the hotel heiress did not make the final cut on the more selective Stinkers ballot. "To get on the Stinkers ballot you are judged on your performance, not your tabloid persona,” said Stinkers Bad Movie Awards co-founder Michael Lancaster. “Anyone that would put Paris Hilton on a list of the five worst supporting actresses in 2005 didn’t see a lot of movies in 2005."

The Stinkers ballot featured five worst film candidates that any other year would have been winners or at the very least runners-up in their own right. Proof positive that 2005 will go down as one of the worst film years on record. One category (worst song) had ten nominees, tying a Stinker record. “Hollywood just doesn’t seem to understand that what’s keeping paying customers away is the bad product they hype. You can’t just keep advertising that bad films are the funniest films of the year. Eventually the lies will catch up with you,” said Bad Cinema Society co-founder Ray Wright. He warned that 2006 was gearing up to be more of the same. “We’ve already had another film by Uwe Boll [BloodRayne] released and we will be all over ‘The Pink Panther.’”

With more than 50 sequels and remakes lined up for release in the next year, it’s safe to say that Hollywood has run out of ideas.” Added Lancaster, “I think the public has finally caught on to what we’ve been saying for years — that a lot of what Hollywood sells is not worth the price of an admission ticket. I love that people are avoiding some of these overhyped films like the plague.”

Lancaster and Wright say the film that earned the most Stinkers for 2005 (“Son of the Mask”) is a perfect example of a Hollywood system gone horribly wrong. “I can’t for the life of me imagine how this project got approved. I think the minute Jim Carrey passes on this you say, ‘let’s not make the sequel.’ Now I guess we can all see how New Line is spending their ‘Lord of the Rings’ profits,” said Lancaster.

The Stinkers Bad Movie Awards have been featured in Entertainment Weekly, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times, and on the BBC, CNN, as well as in a slew of regional and international newspapers and magazines. The group’s website has received nearly two million hits.

Complete list of winners and nominees for 2005:

WORST FILM
Alone in the Dark

WORST SENSE OF DIRECTION (Stop them before they direct again!)
Uwe Boll (Alone in the Dark)

WORST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Jamie Kennedy (Son of the Mask)

WORST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Tara Reid (Alone in the Dark)

WORST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Tyler Perry (as Madea) (Diary of a Mad Black Woman)

WORST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Jessica Simpson (The Dukes of Hazzard)

WORST SCREENPLAY FOR A FILM GROSSING MORE THAN $100 MILLION*
*using Hollywood math
Fantastic Four

MOST PAINFULLY UNFUNNY COMEDY
Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo

WORST SONG OR SONG PERFORMANCE IN A FILM OR ITS END CREDITS
These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ (Jessica Simpson) (The Dukes of Hazzard)

MOST INTRUSIVE MUSICAL SCORE
Son of the Mask

LESS THAN DYNAMIC DUO
Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy (The Man)

WORST ON-SCREEN COUPLE
Jamie Kennedy and anyone forced to co-star with him (Son of the Mask)

MOST ANNOYING FAKE ACCENT
MALE: Norm MacDonald (Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo)
FEMALE: Jessica Simpson (The Dukes of Hazzard)

LEAST "SPECIAL" SPECIAL EFFECTS
Alone in the Dark

WORST REMAKE
Yours, Mine and Ours

WORST SEQUEL
Son of the Mask

WORST RESURRECTION OF A "CLASSIC" TV SERIES
The Honeymooners

THE SPENCER BRESLIN AWARD (FOR WORST PERFORMANCE BY A CHILD)
Adrian Alonso (The Legend of Zorro)

WORST CHILD ENSEMBLE
Yours, Mine and Ours

FOULEST FAMILY FILM
Son of the Mask

LEAST SCARY HORROR MOVIE
The Fog

MOST OVERRATED FILM
Syriana

WORST ANIMATED FILM
Chicken Little

For full nominee lists and more awards, stop by the Stinkers official website!

Tyler Perry‘s follow-up to "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," "Madea’s Family Reunion" had no trouble leaping to the top of the box office in its first weekend, handily satisfying its target demographic (and without any help from the film critics, tyvm). The flick snagged an estimated (and rather impressive) $30.2 million from 2,200 theaters, while fending off a pair of underperforming newcomers and a handful of hangers-on.

Aside from the #1 spot, the top five was populated by older titles, with Disney’s "Eight Below" ($15.7m weekend, $45.1m total) coming in a distant second and spots 3 through 5 belonging to "The Pink Panther" ($11.3m weekend, $61m total), "Date Movie" ($9.2m weekend, $33.9m total), and "Curious George" ($7m weekend, $43.1m total), respectively.

A pair of new releases debuted rather inauspicously in Madea’s wake: Weinsteins’ "Doogal" managed $3.6 million from 2,300 theaters while the action thriller "Running Scared" scared up an anemic $3.1 million from 1,600 theaters.

Next weekend sees the release of three big titles: WB’s action flick "16 Blocks," Fox’s tweenie comedy "Aquamarine," and Screen Gems’ futuristic thriller "Ultraviolet." Also opening on about 800 screens is Rogue’s "Dave Chappelle’s Block Party."

For a closer look at the weekend numerals, make a stop at the Rotten Tomatoes Box Office Page.

You’ll find this pic on just about every quality movie site by now, but Superhero Hype was the first outlet to share the goods, so why not click on over there to catch an all-new (and enjoyably "dark") poster from Sam Raimi‘s "Spider-Man 3."

Apparently this is no piece of marketing gimmickry; Spidey actually does wear a black suit at some point in his second sequel.

Plotwise, we don’t have a whole lot of "SM3" info: "The third installment in the saga of Peter Parker, put-upon photographer, and his quest to live up to the great responsibility that comes with his great power."

We do, however, know that the inevitably huge hit will feature series regulars Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Elizabeth Banks, Dylan Baker, and JK Simmons. Newcomers include Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace, James Cromwell, Theresa Russell, and Bryce Dallas Howard.

…plus you just know that Stan Lee and Bruce Campbell will pop up somewhere.

"Spider-Man 3" hits theaters on May 4th, 2007.

This was probably not the best movie weekend to coincide with The Academy Awards, which honored Hollywood’s best of 2004. Three of this weekend’s wide debuts were all below 17% on the Tomatometer. Two of them didn’t even have the guts to be screened for critics. However, one of them did claim the top spot at this weekend’s box office. As “Diary of a Mad, Black Woman” shows, no matter how bad the film, it’s probably better to screen it to critics anyways because of the additional publicity it’ll receive from critics’ reviews. “Diary of a Mad, Black Woman,” also has the extra benefit of Oprah’s recommendation on Jay Leno.

“Diary of a Mad Black Woman” rejected "Hitch" from top spot at the box office this Oscars weekend with an estimated $22.7M on only half the theaters. It’s per theater average of $15,307 is nearly three times that of the runner-up within films on the top 12. Lions Gate Films’s strategy to open it semi-wide paid off handsomely. Based on an immensely popular play by Tyler Perry, critics thought the film’s mix of slapstick, melodrama and spirituality lacks a consistent tone. It has a Tomatometer of just 17%.

In 2nd place this weekend is “Hitch,” which grossed an estimated $21M, off only 33% from last weekend. Will Smith’s first romantic comedy has grossed a total of $122M in just three weeks of release.

Keanu Reeves’s demonic thriller “Constantine” placed 3rd with an estimated $11.8M, off an ominous 60% from its debut last weekend. If it doesn’t hold up well in the following weeks, development of a sequel announced last week after its $34.6M Presidents’ Day weekend debut might be halted. Its total after two weeks is $50.8M.

In 4th and 5th place are a pair of films which debuted without critics’ advance screenings.

Cursed” grossed an estimated $9.6M. It’s not bad, but just disappointing when you consider that it’s writen by Kevin Williamson and directed by Wes Craven, the duo who revitalize the horror genre with the Scream films. Critics thought its attempt to cater to a PG-13 audience diluted the film of any scares and suspense. It has a cursed 13% on the Tomatometer.

Man of the House,” starring Tommy Lee Jones and Cedric the Entertainer, placed 5th with $9M. Again, it’s not great, but not bad when you consider that Revolution Studios sneaked this by critics and onto the unsuspecting public.

Rounding out the rest of the top 12 are this weekend’s big Oscar winner “Million Dollar Baby” with $7.2M ($64.7M total), “Because of Winn-Dixie” with $6.8M ($22.2M total), “Are We There Yet” with $4M ($76.4M total), “The Aviator” with $3.8M ($93.8M total), “Son of the Mask” with $3.8M ($14M total), “Sideways” with $3.5M ($53M total), and “The Wedding Date” with $2.1M ($28.9M total).

Because of the 77th Annual Academy Awards show this weekend, the total gross for the top 12 films fell 24% from the same weekend last year when “The Passion of the Christ” topped the charts with $83.8M. Alright, maybe “The Passion of the Christ” has just a little bit more to do with this weekend’s slump than the Oscars.

According to Showbizdata, Diary of a Mad Black Woman unseated Hitch from top spot at the box office on Friday with an estimated $7.1M. For the Fri-Sun weekend, it will take in between $20-$22M.

This is even more impressive when you consider that it opened in only half as many theaters as Hitch. In its third week, Hitch grossed an estimated $6.2M on Friday and placed 2nd. For the weekend, it will take in between $19-$21M. In 3rd place is another new release, Cursed, which grossed $3.8M on Friday. It will take in between $10-$12M this weekend. Last weekend’s 2nd place finisher, Constantine dropped to 4th with $3.7M. That’s staggering 66% drop from last weekend. It will take in between $10-$12M this weekend. In 5th place is the last of this weekend’s debuts, Man of the House, which grossed an estimated $3.1M. For the weekend, it will take in between $8-$10M. Both Cursed and Man of the House were not screened for critics.

This weekend must be cursed. The two major releases — “Cursed” and “Man of the House” — were either not screened for critics or not screened in time for them to make Friday’s morning press. So don’t blame us for the lack of reviews for those two films. Clearly, the studios are trying to hide the quality of their movies, or lack there of, with marketing dollars before critics can get a chance to alert the public.

From writer Kevin Williamson and director Wes Craven, both of whom revitalized the horror genre with the “Scream” films, “Cursed” stars Christina Ricci as one of two siblings who are blessed with superpowers after a car accident. However, they soon learn that their new found powers also come with a price. “Cursed,” at the time of this writing, has an ominously rotten Tomatometer of 33%. Most of the reviews are from Internet critics who are able to post their reviews before their print counterpart.

Man of the House” stars Tommy Lee Jones as a ranger who is hired to protect a house full of college cheerleaders after they witnessed a crime. A laughfest? Probably not. At the time of this writing, the film doesn’t have enough reviews to calculate a Tomatometer. The film also stars Cedric the Entertainer.

The only marginally wide release that dared to be screened was “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” which received a very moldy 24% on the Tomatometer. That’s probably what you can expect from the other two films too.

In summary, it’s a pretty bad weekend at the movies. Who knows, maybe critics were just too scared to get anywhere near those films.

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