(Photo by © Universal, © Warner Bros., © Paramount, © Dimension Films)
Those who saw John Krasinski‘s A Quiet Place earlier this year surprised to hear that the director and his co-star and wife, Emily Blunt, recently told Rotten Tomatoes that Jaws is their favorite movie. Their new creature feature opens with a scene that shocks audiences in ways that echo the Spielberg film’s famous first scene, and even goes one step further, breaking one of the biggest rules of horror (and nope, we’re not saying which).
The scene was not in the original screenplay, say co-writers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods; it was something Krasinski added himself in the rewrite phase. “I’ve got to give props to John for just being a crazy person,” says Beck. “I think he just really wanted, like, the opening of Jaws — let’s establish this monster right out the gate, and get really, really dark.” Woods adds: “You pull that on an audience and you instill this instinctual fear: These characters are fair game, so watch around every corner.”
Is it one of the scariest openings, ever, though? Time will tell — we need a few years and a lot of perspective to make those kinds of calls. For now, we at Rotten Tomatoes have voted on our favorite scary opening scenes up to now, and ranked them according to just how pinned-back-in-our seats we were the first time we saw them.
(Photo by © Paramount)
This is Quentin Tarantino’s favorite slasher flick and it’s not hard to see why: It’s gruesome as hell. It’s set in a mining town, and the slasher wears a mining get-up and uses mining tools, which means a lot of inventive swinging pickaxes and nail-gun use (so much so that the MPAA had the filmmakers slice out 9 minutes of gore from the original cut). The opening is basic, over in barely two minutes, and may have suffered a touch because of those cuts. But its simplicity and directness is kind of the point: This film isn’t wasting any time, and it didn’t come to play.
How did director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson choose to up the ante on awesome openings in this sequel, which is actually slightly higher on the Tomatometer than the original? They showed us that original opening again, this time as a movie-within-the-movie (Stab!), starring Heather Graham as Casey Becker, who had been played in the original by Drew Barrymore. Confused? So is Jada Pinkett Smith’s Maureen, the actual victim of this super-meta opening. She just came out to see a dumb scary movie, and has no idea why her boyfriend has just stabbed her and the audience is doing absolutely nothing about it. Seriously, worst movie theater audience ever.
(Photo by (c) New Line)
Movie rule #96: When a flight steward says it’s going to be fine, you can bet that it really, really isn’t. This opening set the standard for the rest of the Final Destination franchise, and was believed at the time to be inspired by the explosion of TWA Flight 800 in 1996. Like the flight shown in the movie, that real-life 747 was on its way to Paris and carrying high school kids when it blew up shortly after takeoff.
(Photo by (c) New Line)
It’s hard to pick the best of the Final Destination openings — replace plane with car with roller coaster and so on and they’re essentially the same — but the Rotten Tomatoes staff votes have the third installment, starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, nudging out the others. This time we’re at an amusement park, and the latest set of unlucky teenagers is killed (or not) on a roller coaster. It’s brilliantly staged, zeroing in on virtually every “could it happen?” thought that runs through your mind when strapping into a fast-moving ride: Will the wheels come loose? What if my seat lock comes undone? The film’s Devil’s Flight roller coaster was actually a ride called the Corkscrew in Playland in Vancouver, which was made to look higher — and much deadlier — in post-production.
Nothing really happens in the opening few minutes of Tobe Hooper’s infamous low-budget 1974 horror flick, and yet rarely has a movie evoked so much dread so quickly. There’s that (rather long) text scroll, laying out the movie’s “maybe-based-on-a-true-story” credentials, and then those camera flashes, shocking us to life with grisly images of decomposing eyes and other bits and bobs. Finally, Hooper pans out to reveal a ghastly, barely-human sculpture sat upon a grave marker. Fun fact: The Narrator is none other than John Larroquette, who has said he was paid for his efforts with a marijuana joint.
While 28 Days Later opens in an empty London, its sequel begins in a packed house somewhere in the countryside. We’re quickly introduced to the occupants, a sweet-seeming family and a Walking Dead-style crew of likable survivors. And then all hell breaks loose. It’s not just that director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo throws everything at the scene — “name” actors bite it, Scream-style, and kids are in no way off limits — that makes it such a gut punch. It’s the way the filmmakers upend expectations, particularly when it comes to our “hero”, played by Robert Carlyle. With each choice he makes, he reveals himself to be anything but a Rick Grimes. And frankly, when the dust settles, we’re leaning #TeamZombie.
Did you know Victor Salva’s monster flick is based on a true story? Well, the opening scene, in which the Creeper gets into his truck to tail two kids who catch him dumping a victim, was inspired by one. In 1990, Ray and Marie Thornton were driving on a Michigan road when they spotted Dennis DePue dumping what looked like a body behind an abandoned schoolhouse (it turned out to be his wife). In their court testimony, the Thorntons said that DePue proceeded to follow them in his van for miles.
(Photo by (c)Warner Bros.)
Scream and When A Stranger Calls may have horror-dom’s most famous problem callers, but Black Christmas’s pervy “moaner” is a close runner-up. The film’s opening sequence meanders a little, lurching from one cliché (stalker cam!) to another (hiding in the closet!), with detours into calls with mom and a bit of bathroom boozing. But when the sorority sisters circle around the phone to listen to the stalker — who goes from static-y groans to screechy vulgarities that we won’t repeat here — it’s as transfixing as it is disturbing.
(Photo by ©New Century Vista Film)
Sometimes seeing the aftermath of a horrible act can be even more terrifying than witnessing the act itself. The opening sequence of The Stepfather is a case in point. With each shot we’re given an awful little breadcrumb clue to what has just happened in this bland-looking suburban home. There’s the blood on Terry O’Quinn’s face. An out-of-place toy boat. A dial tone. And then… We won’t give it away. Director Joseph Ruben would go on to make more chillers in this vein — including Sleeping with the Enemy and The Good Son — but none would come close to creating moments as chilling as The Stepfather’s (very) cold open.
(Photo by ©New Century Vista Film)
A couple decides to go skinny dipping at night and it ends badly thanks to something bite-y in the water. Sound familiar? There is a lot that sounds and looks familiar about this Roger Corman-produced answer to Spielberg’s Jaws. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun in its own right — and memorable. A bunch of the Rotten Tomatoes staff saw this one when they were kids, and the opening scene left a mark.
(Photo by (c) Warner Bros.)
What’s worse than an iceberg — right ahead? A wire, right onboard. In the best part of this pretty mediocre movie, almost an entire ship’s worth of passengers is wiped out in one fell swoop when a wire snaps and slices across a dance floor packed with revelers. It takes the well-dressed folk a few seconds to realize they’ve all been cut in halves and quarters and thirds (depending on height), and when they do, the makeup department goes to work. Side note: The little girl who survives (she was just short enough to escape) is Emily Browning.
Robert Eggers’ unnerving opening plays on every parent’s — or babysitter’s — greatest fear: A child that vanishes the second you look away. Here, a game of peak-a-boo takes a dark turn when Thomasin’s (Anya Taylor-Joy) baby brother disappears and is then seen in the clutches of a witch. Said witch is then doing something to the baby that we can’t quite make out until… wait, is that a knife?
How exactly did Danny Boyle film in a completely empty — and completely eerie — central London? He had some help from his then teenage daughter, it turns out. Boyle has explained that in lieu of traffic marshals and police, which he couldn’t afford, his daughter and her friends tried to hold back traffic during the seven early mornings over which they shot the sequence.
High school is terrifying, and rarely has it been as terrifying as in the opening sequence of Brian De Palma’s Carrie. The film is no conventional horror flick, and the scene is no conventional horror opening, but its mark is indelible: Just try to wipe the image of a screaming Sissy Spacek begging for help from your memory.
Online snarks have said that Dawn of the Dead’s opening seven minutes were the peak of director Zack Snyder’s career. Frankly, they’d be the peak of most directors’ careers as far as we’re concerned. In the absolutely brutal sequence, Sarah Polley’s Ana wakes to discover her neighbor’s daughter is a ravenous zombie (the fast-moving 28 Days Later kind) who isn’t making any sort of distinctions between family and food. Eyes out for the “Here’s Johnny!” nod and ears out for the excellent use of Johnny Cash’s “When the Man Comes Around” over the killer credit sequence. [Editor’s note: This story originally said that Ana woke to find her own daughter was a zombie — we have corrected, and regret, the error.]
It Follows opens with an almost two-minute tracking shot that coldly observes a young girl running for her life on an idyllic suburban street. We eventually join her as she gets in her car and later find her next alone on a beach. Cut to… well, just watch it. There are no big scares or jumps or monsters in these few minutes. The key horror here is mystery: Why is she running? What is she running from? And what the hell did that to her?
(Photo by © Compass International Pictures)
John Carpenter told Rotten Tomatoes recently that you have two options for opening a horror film: “You can slow things down, lull people into a false sense of security, and then smack them in the face with it,” or “kick it into gear straight away — let’s go!” For 1978’s Halloween, he went with the latter approach, opening with a stalker-cam single shot that took him and his crew some eight hours to execute. Carpenter says he was inspired by long tracking shots in films like Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil.
Director Tommy Lee Wallace’s 1990 miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s It doesn’t open with Georgie and Pennywise’s drain-side chat — it begins instead with the disappearance of a little girl and a memorably abandoned tricycle — but it does get to the scene eventually. When the moment does come, Wallace plays it TV safe: We see Tim Curry’s clown bearing his teeth and advancing on his victim before we cut to the next scene. Andy Muschietti takes the road less traveled in his treatment of the scene, which opens 2017’s It, showing Pennywise’s attack on poor Georgie in all of its gory glory. Yes, that’s a child getting his arm chomped off — and Muschietti isn’t letting us look away.
Wes Craven’s big comeback film kicked off a slasher revival and gave the horror genre one of its most famous lines (“What’s your favorite scary movie?”). Most of that was thanks to the opening scene, penned by horror fanatic Kevin Williamson, which plays out like a mashup of Jeopardy and the last half hour of Halloween. It was always going to be a nerve-shattering ten minutes; what made it more than that was the casting of Ghostface’s first big target, Casey Becker. Craven said he wanted to have the film’s biggest star die straight out the gate, and had considered offering the role to Alicia Silverstone. But when Drew Barrymore, who was set to take the lead role, said she wanted to do the opening scene, the plan changed and Craven had his “No they didn’t!” moment.
It took a lot of innovating to pull what is arguably cinema’s most famous opening together: Actress and stuntwoman Susan Blacklinie had hooks attached to her Levi’s so that drivers could pull her to and fro to get that jerked-by-a-Great-White effect; Spielberg employed a devastatingly effective predator’s-eye view to put us inside the hungry mind of the shark; and John Williams’ score did the rest of the work. The scene was a direct lift from the opening pages of Peter Benchley’s bestselling book. In those pages, the reader — like Spielberg’s camera — mostly inhabits the perspective of the beast (the opening line reads, “The great fish moves silently through the night.”). On page, the opening scene is as brutal and mysterious an attack as on screen. “At first, the woman thought she had snagged her leg on a rock or a piece of floating wood,” writes Benchley. “There was no initial pain, only one violent tug on her right leg. She reached down to touch her foot, treading water with her left leg to keep her head up, feeling in the blackness with her left hand.” Then comes the kicker: “She could not find her foot.”
Which scary opening scene is your favorite? Don’t see it on the list? Are you about to write us an angry letter asking how in Samara’s name we could leave out The Ring? Save the postage, and let us know what you think in the comments.
We here at RT went deep into the vault of horror franchises to tally up the victims of some of film and TV’s most deadly psycho killers. Take a peek at the results — if you dare!
Haunting Grounds: Bates Motel
Estimated Body Count: 20
Has there ever been a cinematic slasher more pitiable than Norman Bates? The poor guy is practically at war with himself, and his mom nags him from beyond the grave. Heck, every time he makes friends, they seem to end up dead. If Psycho exerted a profound influence on the slasher genre (and onscreen violence in general), it wasn’t because Norman was a particularly prolific killer. Alfred Hitchcock’s original (and the sequels) depicted a man in the clutches of inner torment and madness that was so gripping and scary that it didn’t need buckets of blood (or, in one memorable case, chocolate syrup) to be deeply unsettling. Nine deaths are attributed to Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) on the five-season AMC prequel TV series Bates Motel. But, really, who can say for sure?
Haunting Grounds: The Jeepers Creepers series
Estimated Body Count: 20
When Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer wrote “Jeepers Creepers” in the late 1930s, they surely never guessed their snappy little pop ditty would go on to provide the theme song for a murderous winged creature who possesses a bee- and dog-like ability to smell fear, and who can regenerate body parts by ingesting those of his victims. And that’s not all — the Creeper can also overcome overwhelmingly negative reviews, too! Although critics kept 2001’s Jeepers Creepers from a Fresh certification, the Creeper was back just two years later with a sequel, and there was even talk of a third installment. Not bad for a bad guy who’s limited to a single 23-day feeding frenzy every 23 years, right?
Haunting Grounds: The Thing from Another World, The Thing, The Thing
Estimated Body Count: 20
Human beings have long wondered what otherworldy monstrosities might be lurking out in the far reaches of space, which helps to explain the enduring appeal of John W. Campbell’s 1938 short story, Who Goes There? It’s the tale of an Antarctic research team that unwittingly rescues a malevolent alien from an icy grave. The creature repays the favor by forcibly (and messily) assimilating every living being within reach, including 20 unlucky scientists and a handful of dogs. Campbell’s monster — referred to as the Thing — has provided rich fodder for filmmakers over the decades, inspiring 1951’s The Thing from Another World, John Carpenter’s 1982 cult classic The Thing, and, most recently, the 2011 prequel/reboot of the same name.
Haunting Grounds: The Jaws series
Estimated Body Count: ~21, if you count the whale in Jaws 2
Most of the slashers on our list are bona fide film icons, but few of them can boast of having changed the entire industry the way Peter Benchley’s great white shark did: Before Jaws‘ 1975 debut, studios actually held their big films out of the summer market, believing the vacation months to be a commercial graveyard. Almost $500 million (and lots of bloody ocean water) later, a franchise was born — and although the third and fourth installments aren’t good for much besides unintentional humor, the original remains a certified classic with a 98 percent Tomatometer rating. Granted, the kill count here takes into consideration the havoc wreaked by multiple great whites over the course of the franchise, but it merely illustrates what Benchley already knew: the ocean is scary enough even without a gigantic bloodthirsty shark chasing you around, so tossing one in the mix just ups the ante.
Haunting Grounds: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series
Estimated Body Count: 30
The twisted true-life tale of grave robber Ed Gein has inspired many notable cinematic grotesques, from Norman Bates in Psycho to Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs. However, Tobe Hooper may have done the most to immortalize Gein in the annals of perverse pop culture by emphasizing his habit of making clothing out of human flesh. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre introduced Leatherface, a developmentally disabled fellow under the control of his cannibalistic family. Though he started out as a pretty timid guy who was as afraid of visitors as they were of him, Leatherface came out of his shell in the sequels and reboots, making up for lost time in liberally employing his Poulan 306A.
Haunting Grounds: The Hellraiser series
Estimated Body Count: 35
By the late 1980s, the slasher genre was starting to feel a little stale — and then along came Pinhead, the sadomasochistic leader of the extradimensional pack of hooligans known as the Cenobites. The spike-headed hook fetishist wasn’t featured heavily in 1987’s Hellraiser, but Pinhead’s combination of creepy appearance, selective taste for victims, and clear fondness for gruesome torture stole the movie; throughout the eight-film series (four of which were released straight to DVD), Pinhead has remained the only constant, and for good reason: although his body count may be relatively low, no one else can match his prowess with a sharp, well-placed hook.
Haunting Grounds: The Child’s Play series
Estimated Body Count: ~38
Chucky may have devolved into a pint-sized Tony Clifton at this point, but the original Child’s Play was a superior genre piece — creepy, suspenseful, and blessed with an insidious sense of humor. Child’s Play riffed on the idea of innocence gone horribly wrong, with a quasi-Cabbage Patch Kid embodied by a vicious serial killer thanks to a voodoo ritual. Subsequent sequels — the most recent of which, Curse of Chucky, just recently made its way onto home video — have delivered more camp than scares, but Chucky’s left a trail of more than 35 corpses in his wake — and probably didn’t enamor himself to Teddy Ruxpin.
Haunting Grounds: The Nightmare on Elm Street series
Estimated Body Count: ~39
Arguably the most recognizable movie monster of the 1980s, Freddy Krueger may not be able to compete with other horror icons when it comes to killing in bulk. But the dermatologically-challenged Elm Street resident certainly wins points for style; in addition to his expert use of claw-tipped leather gloves, Freddy is adept at shape-shifting, strangulation, and generating geysers of blood from the bodies of future heartthrobs. Even accounting for the various forms Freddy has taken over the years in his efforts to turn the sweetest dreams dark and bloody, we’ve got his kill count somewhere in the vicinity of 39. That might be fewer than one might expect, but Mr. Krueger is an artiste who chooses his victims very specifically.
Haunting Grounds: The Final Destination series
Estimated Body Count: 39
Remember the old margarine commercials that said you can’t fool Mother Nature? Well, according to the Final Destination series, you can’t cheat Fate, either. It’s often said that revenge is a dish best served cold — but for the unseen hand of Fate, it tastes even better when garnished with a series of incredibly brutal (and, it must be said, very morbidly entertaining) booby traps. The series’ unseen antagonist has dispatched 39 victims, using everything from the mundane (death by falling brick) to the cleverly rewind-worthy (shower cord strangulation, ladder through the eye, death by falling cherry picker). By the time we surpassed The Final Destination and got Final Destination 5, the series was clearly aware of its silly appeal, and each creatively choreographed death was equally as hilarious as it was cringeworthy.
Haunting Grounds: The Scream franchise, Scream (TV series)
Estimated Body Count: 49
One of the rare slasher antagonists who’s a killer by committee, the Scream series’ Ghostface is played by a revolving door of mask-donning, knife-wielding psychopaths. Their motives are different (peer pressure, revenge, etc.), but the results are the same, no matter who wears the Edward Munch-inspired getup: teenagers will turn up dead, following the conventions of horror movies. And, as with other horror franchises, the body count increases with each sequel. Adding to the mayhem was the first season of MTV’s Scream, which aired this summer. All in all, this council of killers is responsible for at least 49 slayings.
Haunting Grounds: The Leprechaun series
Estimated Body Count: 50
The Leprechaun series is the embodiment of the finest that Irish culture and letters has to offer, easily surpassing the works of James Joyce and Oscar Wilde. The titular antihero is murderously committed to acquiring a pot o’ gold, an undertaking that prompts travel to such exotic locales as Las Vegas, Compton, and outer space. Despite his diminutive stature, the Leprechaun’s super-sharp claws and teeth have helped him tally 50 onscreen fatalities, including a very young Jennifer Aniston, who made her big screen debut in the first film.
Haunting Grounds: The Saw series
Estimated Body Count: 60
John Kramer was first christened “Jigsaw” by detectives who discovered the serial killer’s calling card was a puzzle piece-shaped hunk of flesh carved from the corpses of his victims. The name stuck as the cops closed in on Kramer and realized his elaborate, irony-laden traps were designed to punish those he deemed guilty of criminal acts or taking life for granted (he must have been a fan of Se7en). More characters and plot twists (Jigsaw doesn’t work alone! Something about cancer!) were introduced as the series wore on, and Saw evolved into a labyrinthine annual soap opera drenched in blood and agony. A Grand Guignol for our times.
Haunting Grounds: Manhunter, The Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon, Hannibal, Hannibal Rising, Hannibal (TV)
Estimated Body Count: 98
Before 1991, you may not have even known what fava beans were — but after Anthony Hopkins’ first appearance as Doctor Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, nobody ever thought of them the same way again. Like Jason Voorhees, Lecter doesn’t appear in much of the famous reboot — he’s only in a little over 15 minutes of Lambs — but it was the first time we actually witnessed the good doctor rack up a few kills on screen (both Manhunter and its remake Red Dragon only imply Lecter’s murdered some folks), and audiences had a clear, um, appetite for the flesh-craving serial killer’s brand of mayhem: he’s gone on to appear in a number of other books and movies. Although we just saw the end of Hannibal‘s three-season run on NBC, series creator Bryan Fuller insists we haven’t seen the last of Lecter just yet.
Haunting Grounds: The Halloween series, minus Season of the Witch
Estimated Body Count: ~107
The best-known escapee of Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, Michael Myers has never been a big fan of babysitters, nor is he particularly fleet of foot. He digs Blue Oyster Cult, and makes special use of Star Trek paraphernalia and kitchen cutlery. Since the release of John Carpenter’s landmark Halloween, Myers’ legend has been told in a number of sequels, and if his reasons for killing are obscure, he’s still coldly efficient at the task; he’s racked up a whopping 100-plus notches on his belt.
Haunting Grounds: The Invisible Man (1933)
Estimated Body Count: 123
We were shocked (shocked!) to discover that killers with high body counts could even be found in Old Hollywood fare. Based on the H.G. Wells 1897 novel, James Whale’s pre-code horror film featured Claude Rains (Casablanca) in his American film debut as the titular villain, also known as Dr. Jack Griffin. Hiding away in a snowy village, Griffin experiments on himself while working on a drug called “monocane,” which he believes is the secret to invisibility. Although he does succeed in turning himself invisible, he also becomes a crazed murderer. Killing those who get in his way, and a train full of people just for kicks, Griffin eventually causes the death of 123 people – including himself.
Haunting Grounds: The Friday the 13th series
Estimated Body Count: 146
Rocking facial protection that would do Jacques Plante proud, Jason Voorhees terrorized Camp Crystal Lake with cold precision (and an ability to cheat death that Rasputin would envy) in Friday the 13th. Occasionally, he breaks out of the bucolic confines of the countryside to wreak havoc in the big city (Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan), Hades (Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday), and the future (Jason X). According to our research, Jason has put a whopping 146 unfortunate souls on ice. Pretty impressive for a cat who drowned in 1958.
En español: Read this article in Spanish at Tomatazos.com.
Yes, you guessed it, we’re in for a Final Destination 4 — and what’s more, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Ellis and New Line are planning to film it in 3-D. From the article:
The premise of the series is that even if you cheat death once, a force that is death itself will stalk you until it finishes what is started, usually in a gruesome fashion. While plot details for “FD4” are being kept under wraps, the movie will stand alone: It will feature new teens facing new forms of death.
The script may feature all-new teens and all-new death, but its script was written by a familiar face — Eric Bress, who co-wrote the series’ first sequel. The Hollywood Reporter says Final Destination 4 doesn’t have a start date, but with a collected gross of $150 million, you can bet New Line will be rolling the franchise’s next installment onto the assembly line sooner than later.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter
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 Grant–Drew 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Moviegoers get to choose between a master comic taking on three roles or a diabolical screen villain in his early years when they walk into their local multiplex this weekend.
Eddie Murphy stars in the outrageous comedy "Norbit" which is looking to rule the frame by pulling in teens while the dark thriller "Hannibal Rising" will play to an older adult audience interested in gruesome brutality. There should be little overlap between the audiences of the two films so each will have room to breathe and reach its potential. With the Super Bowl now history, Hollywood is looking for the marketplace to bounce back and score its biggest opening yet this year.
Movie fans adore films about loveable losers and the latest to add its name to the hit list is "Norbit." The PG-13 film stars Eddie Murphy as both a shy nerdy man and his vivacious wife who is large and in charge. The comic legend also plays a Chinese man who raised the title character when he was a child. Acting jobs were actually given to others too including Thandie Newton, Eddie Griffin, and Cuba Gooding Jr. The Paramount release seamlessly integrates the two Murphys on screen and the crude envelope-pushing humor will guarantee that every 15-year-old shows up on opening weekend. The marketing push has been solid too. "Night at the Museum"’s stellar box office run is proof of the hunger for big star-driven comedies and "Norbit" is finally the next biggie that will generate some major cash.
Timing for "Norbit" is pitch perfect. Murphy’s Golden Globe win and Oscar nomination for "Dreamgirls" has given him plenty of heat and media exposure over the last several weeks. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, the date crowd certainly could be looking for something fun to go out and see this weekend. Plus, Black History Month adds an extra spotlight to African American stars and the former Axel Foley is among the most reliable draws of any black actor working today with immensely broad appeal. And the box office needs a big hit to kick things in gear as for three consecutive weekends, no film has managed to sell at least $20M worth of tickets.
Murphy has spent much of the last decade doing family-friendly films and hasn’t had an all-out comedy smash since 2000’s "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps" which opened in July of that year to $42.5M on its way to $123.3M. Fans turned out in droves to see the funnyman put on fat suits and play multiple characters that were rude and crude and led the sequel to a gross that nearly matched the original’s $128.8M from the summer of 1996. After all these years, moviegoers will certainly want another helping. Crashing into around 3,000 theaters, "Norbit" might see itself grossing $31M this weekend.
Now that movie buffs know the whole story of Darth Vader’s teen years, another popular screen villain gets his puberty tale told in "Hannibal Rising." The R-rated revenge flick tells the story of a young Mr. Lecter who seeks vengeance on those who killed his young sister. Along the way, we see how his love of eating flesh and human butchery came about. MGM and The Weinstein Company are hoping to lure in fans of the previous installments of the saga. Certainly 2001’s "Hannibal" and 2002’s "Red Dragon" proved that money could still be made despite the losses of director Jonathan Demme and actress Jodie Foster, both of whom won Oscars for 1991’s "Silence of the Lambs." Now, the real test for the franchise will come as Anthony Hopkins is no longer in the cast. However, part of his image is used in a clever way in the television spots that could fool some folks.
Many of the adult fans of the first films will definitely take a pass on "Hannibal Rising" since leads Gaspard Ulliel and Gong Li just don’t sell tickets. But curiosity and the brand name will attract some in the first week, especially those who crave brutality and a little cannibalism in their weekend fun. Long-term prospects look weak. The new chapter is not likely to approach the $36.5M opening of "Red Dragon" and will only see a fraction of the $58M bow of "Hannibal" which shattered the February opening weekend record six years ago when it opened on the exact same day. Bad reviews will not help much either. While its three predecessors all debuted in the top spot, this latest tale should find itself eating into the runnerup spot. "Hannibal Rising" opens in about 2,900 theaters on Friday and could gross roughly $15M for the weekend.
Last weekend, the spooky thriller "The Messengers" beat out the Diane Keaton comedy "Because I Said So" for the top spot, but the chick flick has been winning the weekdays ranking first on Monday and Tuesday. The Sony horror flick should see the steeper drop especially with Eddie stealing the teen vote and fall 55% to about $7M for a ten-day total of $24M. "Said So" may decline by 45% and rake in a similar $7M for a cume of $23M after ten days for Universal.
LAST YEAR: New releases flooded into the marketplace swiping the top four spots for the frame. Leading the way was the much-delayed Steve Martin comedy remake "The Pink Panther" which bowed to $20.2M on its way to $82.2M for Sony. Close behind was the horror sequel "Final Destination 3" with $19.2M leading to a $54.1M final for New Line. Bowing in third was the animated kidpic "Curious George" with $14.7M while Harrison Ford slumped into fourth with his action pic "Firewall" which opened to $13.6M. Final grosses reached $58.4M for the Universal toon and $48.8M for the techno thriller from Warner Bros. The fright flick "When a Stranger Calls" dropped 58% from first to fifth and collected $9.1M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
Martin Scorsese scored the best opening of his career, and his first number one film in fifteen years, with the star-studded gangster thriller "The Departed," which led the North American box office over the Columbus Day holiday weekend.
Moviegoers also showed interest in the horror prequel The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning which debuted in second place, as well as the new comedy Employee of the Month which bowed in fourth with respectable results. The new releases helped to boost attendance at multiplexes as the top ten set a new record for the holiday frame selling just a bit less than $100M worth of tickets.
Starpower ruled the box office this weekend as the ultraviolent pic The Departed starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Jack Nicholson opened convincingly at number one grossing an estimated $27M in its first outing. The Warner Bros. release averaged a vicious $8,954 from 3,017 theaters and set a new opening weekend record for acclaimed director Scorsese beating the $10.3M bow of his 1991 Robert De Niro thriller Cape Fear, which also happened to be the filmmaker’s last top spot opener. The 63-year-old director usually sees more narrow releases for his films. His last picture The Aviator took off in limited release before expanding nationally over Christmas weekend in 2004 with 1,796 theaters while his previous pic Gangs of New York bowed in 1,504 locations. Both were set in the past, starred DiCaprio, and released by Miramax. The Departed marked Scorsese’s first film ever to debut in more than 2,000 theaters.
A remake of 2002’s award-winning Hong Kong blockbuster Infernal Affairs, The Departed finds Nicholson as a crime boss who sends a mole (Damon) into the Boston police force. DiCaprio plays an undercover cop infiltrating the crime syndicate. Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, and Mark Wahlberg co-star in the R-rated feast. Critics drenched the pic with praise giving it some of the best reviews of the year. Starpower combined with strong reviews and a solid marketing push from Warner Bros. contributed to a powerful turnout from movie fans. Departed brought badly-needed good news to the distributor which is struggling through a year full of costly misfires. It ranks dead last among Hollywood’s big six studios in 2006 market share and has only generated two other number one debuts this year – V for Vendetta and Superman Returns.
Produced for a hefty $90M, The Departed does seem to have a promising road ahead of it. Not only have critics been giving it high marks, but so have ticket buyers. The gangster film has earned an encouraging A- grade from over 2,000 users on Yahoo Movies. Plus it has given DiCaprio only the third number one opener of his career and his first since Titanic set sail on its record-shattering voyage in 1997. Damon has enjoyed several top spots debuts in recent years most notably with his Bourne and Ocean’s flicks. Meanwhile, Nicholson proved once again why he remains the biggest box office draw of his generation.
Opening with strength in second place was another violent R-rated film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, which bowed to an estimated $19.2M. Scaring audiences in 2,820 theaters, the New Line franchise pic averaged a strong $6,791 per venue. The opening was below the $28.1M debut of the 2003 remake of Chainsaw Massacre which went on to gross a terrific $80.1M. However, Beginning was never expected to reach the same neighborhood and with its relatively low $16M production cost, it should easily be yet another profitable horror film.
The new film benefited from a lack of scary movies in the current marketplace, but the road ahead should be tough with a pair of horror sequels set to attack the box office in the coming weeks. The Grudge 2 launches this Friday the 13th while Saw III will be unleashed on the weekend before Halloween. The new Leatherface frightfest performed just like another of New Line’s horror franchise pics from this year, Final Destination 3, which debuted to $19.2M in February on its way to a $54.1M final. The two scary movies have delivered the best openings for its distributor over the past year.
Sony’s hit toon Open Season fell from first to third place but managed to show good legs easing only 32% to an estimated $16M in its second hunt. Enjoying the smallest decline in the top ten, the PG-rated pic has upped its ten-day cume to a solid $44.1M and could continue to post impressive holds in the weeks ahead as there is little competition for its family audience until November. Look for Open Season to reach $80-85M from North America. Though impressive, Sony Pictures Animation’s debut venture still does not seem like it will reach the heights of other non-sequel non-summer digital toons like Ice Age ($176.4M), Shark Tale ($160.8M), Robots ($128.2M), or even 1998’s Antz ($90.7M).
The new Lionsgate comedy Employee of the Month opened in fourth place with an estimated $11.8M from 2,579 theaters. Averaging a respectable $4,575 per venue, the PG-13 film stars Dane Cook, Jessica Simpson, and Dax Shephard and tells of a love triangle among workers at a superstore. Reviews, not surprisingly, were mostly negative.
Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Costner dropped three spots with their Coast Guard actioner The Guardian which collected an estimated $9.6M in its second mission. Down 46%, the Buena Vista release has collected $32.4M in ten days and should find its way to $50-55M domestically.
The fall season’s top-grossing hit Jackass: Number Two dropped 56% in its third weekend to an estimated $6.4M pushing its stellar total to $62.7M in 17 days. Later this week, the Paramount sequel will fly past the $64.3M of its 2002 predecessor. The MGM comedy School for Scoundrels tumbled 60% to an estimated $3.4M in its sophomore frame. With $14M in ten days, the Billy Bob Thornton–Jon Heder pic should wind up with around $20M.
The Rock‘s football flick Gridiron Gang followed with an estimated $2.3M, down 50%, for a $36.6M total to date for Sony. Jet Li was close behind in ninth place with Fearless which fell 56% to an estimated $2.2M putting its sum at $21.7M for Focus. Rounding out the top ten was the durable period mystery The Illusionist which slipped only 33% and took in an estimated $1.8M. Yari Film Group has taken in a respectable $34.1M after its eighth weekend, the last six of which were spent in the top ten.
In limited release, ThinkFilm launched its unrated sex romp Shortbus in only six arthouses but grossed an estimated $121,000 for a potent $20,108 average. Playing in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto, and Vancouver, the John Cameron Mitchell-directed film will expand to ten more markets next weekend.
New Line premiered its Kate Winslet–Jennifer Connelly pic Little Children in five theaters in New York and Los Angeles and grossed an estimated $108,400. The suburban drama averaged a sturdy $21,680 and will expand over the weeks ahead.
Among holdovers expanding in limited release, Miramax’s The Queen reigned supreme taking in an estimated $401,000 from eleven theaters for a stunning $36,455 second weekend average. The acclaimed Helen Mirren drama widened from its three-theater debut in New York and has grossed $634,000 to date with a promising road ahead.
Fox Searchlight’s Idi Amin tale The Last King of Scotland expanded from four theaters in two markets to 30 sites in 14 markets and grossed an estimated $300,000. With a solid $10,000 average this weekend, the Forest Whitaker pic will invade 20 new markets on Friday expanding its dictatorship into more of North America. Cume to date is $541,000 after 12 days.
The Michel Gondry flick The Science of Sleep held steady in 221 theaters but dropped 39% to an estimated $680,000 in its third dream. Warner Independent averaged a mild $3,077 and pushed the cume to just $2.7M.
Three films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Fox Searchlight’s word-of-mouth hit Little Miss Sunshine grossed an estimated $1.3M in its eleventh weekend, down 36%, and pushed its total to a stellar $55M. Acquired at the Sundance Film Festival in January for a hefty $10.5M, the dysfunctional family comedy has become the second biggest grosser ever for the distributor and looks to end its run close to the $60M mark. That would also make it the second highest grossing R-rated film of the summer after the $63.4M of Miami Vice which cost tons more to produce and market.
MGM’s World War I adventure Flyboys crashed 56% in its third flight and took in an estimated $1M. With only $11.8M in 17 days, the James Franco flop should finish up with under $14M. The Black Dahlia, another of this fall’s historical dramas to be rejected by moviegoers, has collected just over $22M to date. Budgeted at $60M, the Universal release should close its case with a mere $24M.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $99.7M which was up 23% from last year when Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit debuted at number one with $16M; and up 5% from 2004 when Shark Tale remained in the top spot for a second time with $31.3M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
New Line Home Entertainment has announced they’re bringing a new level of interactivity to DVD, with the release of a "Final Destination 3" edition that allows you to pick the fates of its doomed characters!
Going beyond the novelties of behind-the-scenes clips, interactive games, and even those highly entertaining audition tapes that have comprised many a DVD "special feature" list till now (although that Cindi Lauper music video on the "Goonies" DVD was groundbreaking), New Line is breaking new ground with the 2-disc "Thrill Ride" edition of "Final Destination 3," which will hit stores July 25.
During production on the film, the sneaky filmmakers shot entirely new scenes exclusively for this interactive DVD, so home viewers will get to choose, and then watch, their characters make choices entirely different from the theatrical version.
If this venture proves successful (and really, doesn’t it sound cool?), New Line plans on creating more super-interactive DVD versions, with other home video outlets sure to follow.
From Variety: "The "Thrill Ride" edition gives viewers seven choices at 10-minute intervals. Among the choices that pop up onscreen: "Should Wendy take another look?" and "Map" or "No Map." Viewers can also opt to see the theatrical version of the movie.
Once helmer-scribe Jim Wong wrote 25 new script pages, it was just a matter of getting the requisite budget approvals for the extra costs, which New Line pegs between $700,000 and $1 million. Pic’s budget was just under $30 million."
Disney’s family adventure flick "Eight Below" narrowly defeated the spoof comedy "Date Movie" over the 4-day holiday weekend, grossing an estimated $25 million from over 3,000 theaters. Close behind in second place, the Alyson Hannigan-led rom-com spoof tallied about $22 million from just under 3,000 theaters.
Last week’s #1 movie, "The Pink Panther," dropped to third place but snagged another $21 million, which puts its grand total at about $47 million. Fourth place went to Universal’s feature-length version of "Curious George," which added $15 million to its $33 million total, while "Final Destination 3" rounded out the top 5 by pulling in another $12 million, which gives the horror sequel a grand total of about $38 million.
Debuting not all that impressively was Sony’s "Freedomland," which arrived in 7th place with a 4-day tally of about $7 million from 2,300 theaters.
Three new wide releases hit the scene next weekend: New Line’s action flick "Running Scared," the Weinstein’s animated comedy "Doogal," and the return of Tyler Perry in Lionsgate’s "Madea’s Family Reunion."
As always, you can visit the Rotten Tomatoes Box Office Page for a closer look at the weekend numbers.
Four brand-new flicks took most of the money home over this past weekend. First and second place were remarkably close, but early estimates indicate that Steve Martin and his remake of "The Pink Panther" came in first ($21.7 million from nearly 3,500 theaters), while the horror sequel "Final Destination 3" was right on his heels with $20.1 from 2,900 theaters.
Third and fourth place also went to a pair of newcomers: Universal’s "Curious George" debuted with an unspectacular $15.3 million from 2,500 theaters, and the newest Harrison Ford thriller, "Firewall," delivered only $13.8 million from 2,800 theaters.
Rounding out the top five was last weekend’s #1 hit, "When a Stranger Calls," which dropped more than 53% in its second frame. The flick snagged an extra $10 million, which puts its grand total at nearly $39 million.
For a closer look at the weekend box office, you know where to go. (Right here.)