You can look forward to more CGI goodness from the jolly green ogre in the coming years, including "Shrek 4" (yes, you’re right, "Shrek 3" isn’t even out yet) and the mark of every Very Important Pop Culture icon — the televised holiday special.

The folks over at Pacific Design Images spilled the "Shrek" sequel news to Coming Soon, divulging that there is a "Shrek 4" in the works, but no details on story or when we might expect it in theaters. When asked, production designer Guillaume Aretos slyly pled the fifth: "I am going to use the Scooter Libby thing. I do not recall."

No matter, since the PDI crew shared more on another "Shrek" production — one that we’ll for sure see shortly. A very special half-hour "Shrek" show is in the works ("Shrek the Halls") to be broadcast on ABC this December; expect familiar "Shrek" regulars (and a few new ones) to celebrate holiday traditions in their own quirky, fairy tale ways.

More excitingly, "Shrek the Halls" promises to continue storylines that will arise in "Shrek the Third," which is due out this May.

Art Director Peter Zaslav also told CS that we’ll have ample opportunity to watch "Shrek the Halls" for many seasons to come: "It’s actually going to be on for fifteen years every Christmas. That’s the plan."

Meanwhile, in other CGI sequel news, Variety reports a second "Hoodwinked" is on its way. The follow-up, already titled "Hoodwinked 2: Hood Vs. Evil," will be helmed by longtime animator, first-time director Michael Disa (whose animation credits range from 1992’s "Cool World" to 2005’s "Pooh’s Heffalump Movie"). Pic is scheduled for a 2008 release.

Source: ComingSoon.net, Variety

As the Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts get ready to rumble at the Super Bowl on Sunday, Hollywood goes into counterprogramming mode and targets female moviegoers with a pair of new releases.

Those looking for big names will get to laugh with the new comedy "Because I Said So" while those in the mood for a scare get the haunted house flick "The Messengers." Overall, it should be a low scoring game at North American multiplexes this weekend.

Diane Keaton leaves behind the men and anchors her own comedy in "Because I Said So" playing an overbearing mother trying to find the right man for her youngest daughter. Directed by Michael Lehmann ("Heathers," "40 Days and 40 Nights"), the PG-13 film boasts some added girlpower in the cast with Mandy Moore, Piper Perabo, and Lauren Graham playing the daughters. The Universal release will undoubtedly skew heavily female and heavily Caucasian, but the acting ensemble could lead to a broad age range with mature women drawn in by Keaton’s motherly problems and young women connecting with the sisters. Aside from Mother’s Day weekend, the Super Bowl frame could indeed be the best time to launch a film like this as male interest will be low.

In a world where Meryl Streep can open "The Devil Wears Prada" to $27.5M, Jane Fonda can drive "Monster-in-Law" to a $23.1M debut, and Helen Mirren keeps bringing in audiences month after month with "The Queen," there certainly is box office gold with Hollywood’s elder stateswomen. Whether Keaton can join the ranks with this particular vehicle might be a different story. The studio has been pushing "Because" with great energy, but poor reviews could prompt many to just wait for the DVD. Starpower should help drive women of different ages to the box office and away from football and in a weak marketplace, that may be enough to reach the top spot. Opening in 2,526 theaters, "Because I Said So" might debut with around $14M.


Diane Keaton in "Because I Said So."

Also opening on Friday is "The Messengers," the fourth horror film in as many weeks to hit multiplexes. The PG-13 film directed by the Hong Kong-born Pang brothers tells the story of a family that moves into a run-down old house only to find creepy forces at play. Audiences have rejected every fright flick Hollywood has offered since October and "The Messengers" does not seem to bring anything new and exciting to the table to change things. Teens and young adults seem to be the core audience and with the big game in Miami commanding a lot of attention from the boys, Sony is hoping that teenage girls will be up for a scare. Marketing has been textbook and identical to every other horror pic. The starpower battle will be lost against "Because" so this flick will have to cater to those young ladies who do not want to be reminded of how meddlesome mothers can be. "The Messengers" opens in 2,528 theaters and could scare up around $12M for the weekend.


Kristen Stewart gets a message in "The Messengers."

Among holdovers, the spoof comedy "Epic Movie" may have won last weekend’s box office derby beating fellow freshman "Smokin’ Aces," but the R-rated action pic has taken over at number one each day during the mid-week period as "Epic" fans have gone back to class. The Fox comedy should see the larger drop as word-of-mouth will be nonexistent given its pathetic 3% score on RottenTomatoes.com which makes it the odds-on favorite so far for next year’s Razzie Awards. A 50% fall would leave "Epic Movie" with about $9M and a ten-day cume of $30M.

"Smokin’ Aces" has held up better during the week and newcomers won’t threaten its audience of young men that much. A 45% drop would give the Universal release around $8M for the weekend and a total of $27M after ten days.

The blockbuster "Night at the Museum" will enjoy yet another weekend when no kid movies enter the marketplace. That should lead to a small drop, possibly 25%, giving the Ben Stiller pic roughly $7M for the frame pushing the cume to an amazing $225M.

LAST YEAR: Thrills ruled the box office as the scary pic "When a Stranger Calls" opened at number one with a strong $21.6M to easily lead the frame. Sony found its way to $47.9M. Fox’s "Big Momma’s House 2" dropped a notch to second with $13.6M in its second weekend while the kidpic "Nanny McPhee" finished in third with $9.8M. "Brokeback Mountain" climbed to the highest position of its entire run coming in fourth place with $6M. Rounding out the top five was the animated hit "Hoodwinked" with $5.3M. Focus opened its new cross-cultural romantic comedy "Something New" in seventh place with a mild $4.9M on its way to only $11.5M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

A quartet of poorly-titled films will hit the multiplexes on Friday hoping to grab some business opposite a string of acclaimed releases fresh from earning their Oscar nominations.

Leading the newcomers with the most theaters is the spoof comedy "Epic Movie" which goes head to head against the crime drama "Smokin’ Aces." Horror fans get the werewolf pic "Blood and Chocolate" while those who prefer non-violence get the Jennifer Garner drama "Catch and Release."

Fox tries to tap into the immature crowd with its new comedy "Epic Movie" which spoofs many of the big-budget action and fantasy blockbusters of recent years. The "Scary Movie" series has ushered in more spoof flicks and Fox even saw solid results a year ago with its "Date Movie" which lampooned popular romantic comedies. That film bowed to $19.1M and found its way to $48.5M. Fans may be getting a little sick of the same template over and over again so the opening may not be as big, but the genre still works especially with young teens looking for mindless entertainment after a long week of classes. Commercials and trailers do not look that funny, but given the weak marketplace and the success rate of comedies with specific concepts, "Epic" may take in all the cash it needs to hit the number one spot. Holdovers do not seem like they will break into double digit millions this weekend. With a wide release in 2,801 playdates, the PG-13 pic could amass around $14M.


Lampooning Harry Potter in "Epic Movie."

The weekend’s solo R pic comes in the form of the mob thriller "Smokin’ Aces" from Universal. Jeremy Piven, Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia, and Alicia Keys star in this ensemble piece about a witness in protective custody being hunted down by a crime boss before he can testify. Young men are the target audience here in this Vegas-set flick that tries too hard to be cool. The NFL’s weekend off should make guys more available for ticketbuying which will help. The studio saw an underwhelming $6.4M three-day debut for another R-rated crime saga earlier this month – "Alpha Dog" – and will probably see many of the same customers this time around. An extra 1,000 theaters will ensure a bigger opening, but there is no A-list star or director in the film to truly attract a large crowd. A quick in and out of theaters should result. Opening in 2,204 locations, "Smokin’ Aces" might collect roughly $8M in its first hand.


Alicia Keys in "Smokin’ Aces."

Jennifer Garner plays a woman trying to rebuild her life after the death of her husband in the new drama "Catch and Release." Sony proudly offers the only major new pic for female moviegoers and hopes to stand out from the crowd by going after an audience few others are targeting. The PG-13 film will test the starpower of the former "Alias" star who last hit screens two years ago with the big-budget bomb "Elektra." Her comedy "13 Going on 30" which she anchored solo performed well with a $21.1M bow, but "Catch" lacks the same fun factor and will probably draw fewer males too. Plus the studio is going into the marketplace with less than half the theaters they gave to "13." A supporting role by Kevin Smith is not likely to help bring in many dudes. But with so few films playing specifically to young women, a decent average is likely. "Catch and Release" hits 1,622 theaters on Friday and could take in about $7M.


Jennifer Garner, Kevin Smith, and some other dude in "Catch and Release."

Werewolf terror hits the multiplexes in the form of "Blood and Chocolate," a new supernatural fright flick aiming for teens and young adults. The MGM release carries a PG-13 rating which could work well in getting in younger teens, but the film lacks the zing or interesting concept that fans need in order to pay top dollar at the local theater. Every recent horror film has underperformed at the box office and this one does not seem like the savior that can turn things around. Plus other new releases will be distracting the target audience too. Opening in roughly 1,500 theaters, "Blood and Chocolate" could debut to around $4M.


"Blood and Chocolate."

After racking up over $200M through its five-week stay in the top two slots, "Night at the Museum" should get bumped down a bit. The Ben Stiller film once again faces no new competition for the family audience so a slim decline should result. A 30% fall would give Fox about $8M for the weekend and a towering cume of $215M. Sony’s "Stomp the Yard" looks to fall harder so a 40% drop to around $7M could occur pushing the cume to $50M.

After scoring the most Oscar nominations of any film with eight, the big-budget musical "Dreamgirls" shot up to the number one spot on Tuesday after finishing in third last weekend and on Monday. Although it missed out on the top prize of a Best Picture nomination, the Jamie FoxxBeyonce Knowles film is still getting media attention which is fueling the buzz and the studio has wasted no time in advertising the fact that no other film has more Academy Award nods. Still, the film is aging and many other awards contenders are expanding and trying to attract upscale moviegoers too. A small 20% slide to around $6M may occur giving "Dreamgirls" a solid $85M total.

LAST YEAR: Martin Lawrence topped the box office with his hit comedy sequel "Big Momma’s House 2" which bowed to a plump $27.7M. The Fox release went on to gross $70.2M. Debuting in second was the family film "Nanny McPhee" with $14.5M for Universal on its way to $47.1M. Sony’s "Underworld: Evolution" tumbled by 58% in its second weekend and placed third with $11.4M. The military drama "Annapolis" opened in fourth with a modest $7.7M before finishing with $17.1M for Buena Vista. The animated hit "Hoodwinked" rounded out the top five with $7.5M in its third caper.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

After a busy MLK frame which concluded with the Golden Globe Awards, Hollywood lets the dust settle this weekend as only one new film enters wide release – the horror remake "The Hitcher."

Other distributors will take this opportunity to widen their awards contenders into more theaters taking advantage of the frame in between when the Globes were awarded and when Academy Award nominations are announced. Ticket sales could be a bit sluggish which will be good news for holdovers.

Focus unleashes its widest release in company history with the horror film "The Hitcher" from its Rogue genre unit which finds a young couple tormented by a most unfriendly hitchhiker. The R-rated film will target the fright crowd and play mostly to teens and young adults looking for a winter scare. No horror film has hit box office gold since the pre-Halloween release of "Saw III." Moviegoers are usually in the mood for happy subject matter around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but now the time is right for this audience to make its way back. Many fright flicks have scored solid openings in the January-February corridor as fans of the genre get back into the mood for blood and violence. However, Sunday sales could be impacted by the NFL conference championships which will take millions of males out of the picture for the whole day.

"The Hitcher" comes from producer Michael Bay and the folks who redid "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Now the 1986 Rutger Hauer predecessor was a popular film, but did not become a massive cult hit so interest in the new "Hitcher" may be more subdued. The marketing and distribution push has been heavy and Focus will greatly benefit from being the only new face at the marquees. Those films expanding into new markets are more for older adults and won’t be much of a threat. How many college kids would rather see a World War II drama in Japanese? "The Hitcher" should thrive and pick up lots of passengers during its journey up the box office charts. Opening wide in 2,831 theaters, the horror flick could collect about $15M over the weekend.


Only bad things can happen when you pick up Sean Bean on the side of the road.

With Oscar nominations right around the corner, a handful of distributors will expand their hopefuls into more markets in an effort to capitalize on Academy Award nods, if they come. Picturehouse’s sci-fi thriller "Pan’s Labyrinth" averaged $13,464 over four days last weekend from 194 sites and will more than double its run into 500 theaters on Friday. Guillermo del Toro‘s acclaimed Spanish-language fantasy could scare up around $3M this weekend.


"Pan’s Labyrinth," opening in not-quite-wide release.

Fox Searchlight has grossed a modest $3.7M for its Idi Amin drama "The Last King of Scotland" but hopes audiences will be more energized the second time around as it re-expands the pic into 400 locations. Forest Whitaker‘s Best Actor win at the Globes (and almost every other awards gala) has generated some heat for the film which many moviegoers passed up the first time around. The kudos could help "Scotland" take in around $2M this weekend.


Forest Whitaker exulting in his Golden Globe win.

Clint Eastwood took home the Globe for the best foreign language film on Monday for his war tale "Letters From Iwo Jima." While the film is not eligible for the same statue at the Oscars, it could pop up in a number of other categories given the Academy’s undying love for the Hollywood icon. Last weekend, the Japanese language pic averaged $12,856 from only 35 theaters and on Friday Warner Bros. will up the theater count to 300. Still a tough sell, "Letters" could shoot up a gross of just over $1M.


Golden Globe winner for best foreign language film "Letters From Iwo Jima."

Last weekend, "Stomp the Yard" kicked down the doors and surged into the number one spot attracting a bigger audience than anyone expected. Teen films typically drop hard on the second weekend and "The Hitcher" should take away a bit of the young adult crowd too so a decent fall should be expected. The Friday-to-Sunday gross for "Stomp" could decline by 45% to about $12M giving Sony a solid $40M in ten days.

"Night at the Museum" will face no new competition for its target audience of families. Fox will join the quarter-century club over the weekend and may slip 30% to about $12M for a cume to date of $204M.

LAST YEAR: Sony scored the first of a long string of number ones for the year with the vampire sequel "Underworld: Evolution" which bowed to a potent $26.9M. The Kate Beckinsale actioner faded fast but still walked away with $62.3M. The animated comedy "Hoodwinked" expanded and slipped just 16% ranking second with $10.4M. Disney’s basketball drama "Glory Road" placed third with $8.8M and was followed closely by Paramount’s "Last Holiday" with $8.7M. Focus added screens to "Brokeback Mountain" and inched up into fifth place with $7.4M. Smaller openings were seen by the dramas "End of the Spear" and "The New World" with $4.3M and $4M, respectively. Final tallies reached only $11.7M and $12.7M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Can Ben Stiller and his living artifacts four-peat at the top of the North American box office, or will one of the new releases take the crown over the four-day Dr. Martin Luther King holiday weekend? Ticket buyers will decide.

Leading the freshman class is the dance drama "Stomp the Yard" which could have breakout potential. Also opening are the fantasy pic "Arthur and the Invisibles," the drug dealer pic "Alpha Dog," and the horror flick "Primeval." With so many schools closed on Monday, the new films are targeting students of all ages who will have extra time on their hands.

The west and east coasts meet in "Stomp the Yard," a story of a Los Angeles student enrolled in an Atlanta university who uses his unique style to help his fraternity compete in a step dancing contest. The PG-13 film is short on starpower, but makes up for that with terrific marketing which is the real ingredient that will put asses into the seats. Sony has cut exciting trailers and commercial spots which should spark lots of interest with teens and young adults. Plus, MLK weekend is the perfect time to open a black college film since interest will be high for this particular subject matter. African American students will especially be out in solid numbers. However, the opening of Justin Timberlake‘s "Alpha Dog" could take away some of the young adult crowd.

"Stomp" should appeal to the same audiences that delivered bigger-than-expected openings for "Drumline" ($12.6M opening, $6,865 average), "ATL" ($11.6M, $7,212), and "You Got Served" ($16.1M, $8,341). The urban youth of America possesses tremendous spending power and Hollywood has just woken up to this in recent years financing low cost flicks that return handsome profits through theatrical and DVD sales. "Stomp" also offers an appealing story relevant to today’s young people and looks to join this list. Stepping into 2,051 theaters, "Stomp the Yard" could collect about $16M over four days this weekend.


An action shot from "Stomp the Yard."

The weekend’s only new kidpic comes in the form of the French production "Arthur and the Invisibles," a groundbreaking feature which mixes live-action with animation in a fantasy tale. The PG-rated film from The Weinstein Co. is directed by action professional Luc Besson ("The Fifth Element," "Joan of Arc") and features the voices of Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Snoop Dogg, and Madonna. With so many young children across the country having a long school holiday, "Arthur" should get some play as the only new option for parents who have taken enough trips to the Museum. Of course "Happily N’Ever After" flopping last weekend shows that family audiences will not come out for just anything. With about 2,500 theaters, it is the widest of the new titles which could help it get into double digit millions over the extended frame. The marketing push has been admirable too. MLK weekend has often seen better-than-expected results for debuting kiddie flicks like "Kangaroo Jack," "Racing Stripes," and "Hoodwinked." "Arthur and the Invisibles" may carve out its share of the pie and gross roughly $11M over the four-day period.


Those troll dolls have found a new purpose in "Arthur and the Invisibles."

Pop music king Justin Timberlake joins an ensemble cast which includes Emile Hirsch, Sharon Stone, and Bruce Willis in the gritty drama "Alpha Dog." Directed by Nick Cassavetes, the R-rated film tells of a drug dealer who kidnaps the younger brother of a friend who owes a debt. The Universal release is based on true events and will target older teens and twentysomethings. The marketing makes the film look slick and cool plus JT provides a built-in audience of fans that can be tapped into.

However, two main obstacles are in the way – the rating and competition from "Stomp the Yard." A large portion of Timberlake’s fans are young teens and they will have a hard time buying tickets. Plus, "Stomp" will be distracting the urban youth with its slick look and milder PG-13 rating. On top of that, the studio’s release is not too wide. These factors should curtail the potential of "Alpha." Critics have given solid support which may help a little, although Time Out New York boldly calls the pic the worst movie of the year in its zero-star review. Opening in about 1,200 theaters, "Alpha Dog" might bite down on around $8M over the long weekend.


Timberlake gets down in "Alpha Dog."

Every horror film since Halloween has flopped and the streak looks to continue with "Primeval" from Buena Vista. The R-rated film about a news crew hunting down a killer boasts no starpower and lacks a compelling plot worthy of the ten-dollar bills of genre fans. Marketing support has been weak and awareness is not very high. The fright flick seems to have the same potential as last month’s "Turistas" which bowed to a weak $3.6M and $2,282 average. "Primeval" will open wider with about 2,000 theaters and has an extended four-day session so a gross of roughly $6M could result followed by steep drops.

Zhang Yimou has seen solid but not spectacular averages for his latest Chinese epic "Curse of the Golden Flower" which has already grossed $2.2M from its limited release in about 60 theaters. Its average of $6,104 last weekend will drop considerably as it expands nationwide into about 1,200 playdates. The Mandarin-language period piece seems to be going too wide too fast and with all the choices in the multiplexes, Sony Classics may find it difficult to get multiplex crowds into all those new seats. "Curse" will try to play to fans of the "Hero" director, but Chow Yun Fat and Gong Li are no Jet Li and Zhang Ziyi at the American box office. A $4M gross over the long weekend could result.


These horses must be suffering from "The Curse of the Golden Flower."

Ben Stiller and Will Smith have been inseparable blockbuster brothers atop the box office charts for the last three weeks. But the weekend’s new releases should finally cause a breakup. Stiller’s runaway smash "Night at the Museum" has been holding up incredibly well against any competition that has come its way and will attempt to become the first film since 2003’s "The Return of the King" to remain number one for four consecutive weekends. The only thing standing in its path is a possible teen explosion for "Stomp." "Museum’s" four-day holiday gross could slip 25% from last weekend’s three-day figure giving the Fox hit about $18M and a remarkable cume to date of $187M.

Smith has done pretty well for himself too with "The Pursuit of Happyness" which should see another solid turnout over MLK weekend. A 20% drop would give Sony a four-day tally of $10M boosting its total to a stellar $137M.

Since it opened nationally on Christmas Day, "Dreamgirls" has been posting the best per-theater averages of any wide release. Now, Paramount will more than double the run and expand the Golden Globe nominee for Best Picture – Comedy or Musical from 852 to about 1,800 theaters. The Jamie FoxxBeyonce Knowles musical is the favorite to take home that honor, plus other statues, and the studio wants to make sure the product is available everywhere once the wins occur. Plus, films with African American casts routinely do very well over the King frame so a jump in sales is assured. For the four-day period, "Dreamgirls" may climb to around $11M putting the cume at $68M. If it wins the Globe for Best Picture and secures a sizable number of Oscar nominations the following week, the total domestic take could certainly surpass the $100M mark as it did for "Chicago" four years ago. The Richard Gere musical reached a similar $63.8M at the end of the weekend it went fully national into 1,841 locations and went on to a sensational $170.7M final total.

LAST YEAR: Disney kicked off the first of what would be many hit sports flicks in 2006 with the basketball drama "Glory Road" which opened at number one over MLK weekend with $16.9M over four days. The live action film barely beat out the animated comedy "Hoodwinked" which also grossed $16.9M over the Friday-to-Monday period, but was about $50,000 shy of the number one spot. The duo reached $42.6M and $51.2M, respectively. Third place also was held by a new release. Paramount’s Queen Latifah comedy "Last Holiday" bowed to a solid $15.5M on its way to $38.4M. Rounding out the top five were former number ones "The Chronicles of Narnia" with $12.8M and "Hostel" with $11.4M over the long weekend. Fox’s romance "Tristan & Isolde" found few lovers in its debut opening to $7.6M on its way to just $14.7M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Three new releases welcome in the new year this weekend, but moviegoers are likely to keep spending their cash on holiday holdovers.

Family audiences have the new toon "Happily N’Ever After," teens will be offered the drama "Freedom Writers," and the comedy crowd will have "Code Name: The Cleaner." Also, the sci-fi drama "Children of Men" expands across the country after a powerful debut last weekend in limited release. Early January is usually home to two kinds of films – weak pictures that can’t cut it during the competitive holiday season and acclaimed films expanding wider hoping for awards. This frame will see just that with current chart-topper "Night at the Museum" hoping for a third reign in the number one spot.

Kids who have had enough of digital penguins will have a chance to see a new animated film this weekend with Lionsgate’s "Happily N’Ever After." The PG-rated film tells the story of Fairy Tale World after Cinderella’s wicked stepmother takes charge. Sigourney Weaver, Andy Dick, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and hubby Freddie Prinze Jr. lend their voices. "After" has a funny premise and with "Shrek the Third" still four months away, some audiences may give this one a try for the time being. Last January, "Hoodwinked" posted some strong numbers playing to the same crowd and bowed to $16.9M over four days with a potent $7,051 average. "Happily" does not have the same marketing strength behind it plus it faces more competition. Last weekend, six films with G or PG ratings sold over $10M
worth of tickets over four days and even with heavy declines, there will be lots of choices for family audiences. Looking to attract the biggest opening among the three new films on Friday, "Happily N’Ever After" enters 2,381 theaters and may take in around $7M this weekend.


The British animated import "Happily N’Ever After."

Two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank takes the Michelle Pfeiffer route and plays a teacher schooling a group of inner city kids in "Freedom Writers" from Paramount and MTV Films. Directed by writer-turned-director Richard LaGravenese, the PG-13 film also stars "Grey’s Anatomy" hunk Patrick Dempsey. Teens and urban youngsters will make up the core audience here as Swank’s mature adult following will likely pass on this role. The actress just doesn’t have the commercial chops to anchor a film like this on her own and the buzz is not loud enough for this to become the next "Dangerous Minds." Paramount is hoping that its push on MTV will help bring in the young vote, but the pic lacks the bang to make teens want to spend the bucks. Opening in about 1,200 theaters, "Freedom Writers" could debut with around $5M.


Hilary Swank, conjuring Michelle Pfeiffer and Edward James Olmos in "Freedom Writers."

Also expected to put only a small dent into the box office this weekend is the comedy "Code Name: The Cleaner" starring Cedric the Entertainer and Lucy Liu. Pairing black and Asian actors in an action comedy worked wonders for "Rush Hour," but here audiences will likely find the premise forced. Cedric plays a janitor who is duped into becoming an undercover agent and finds himself in the middle of an arms scandal. Both stars are great supporting players but neither has a track record of anchoring big hit films. Interested moviegoers will probably wait for the DVD. Look for the New Line release to also debut in the vicinity of $5M.


"Codename: The Cleaner" isn’t expected to clean up at the boxoffice.

Expanding nationwide on Friday into 1,200 locations after a powerful limited bow is Universal’s futuristic drama "Children of Men." The Alfonso Cuaron-directed pic about the London of the future where no humans have been born in eighteen years stars Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, and Michael Caine. The R-rated film debuted to $702,982 from only 16 theaters for a sensational four-day average of $43,936. Serious adult moviegoers are the target audience here so the studio’s own CIA thriller "The Good Shepherd" will be the primary competitor. Reviews have been strong which will help. For the weekend, "Children of Men" could deliver roughly $7M.


Clive Owen and his golden aura in "Children of Men."

Since the incoming line-up of films is not likely to do too much damage to the box office charts, it should be smooth sailing for "Night at the Museum" which looks to spend its third straight weekend at number one. "Happily N’Ever After" will take away a bit of the family crowd, but overall competition should not be too intense. Coming off of the holiday weekend, the Ben Stiller smash may drop 40% and collect $22M worth of tickets and push its stellar cume to $163M.

Will Smith‘s Golden Globe-nominated performance in "The Pursuit of Happyness" has kept moviegoers interested for three weeks. The Sony hit may slide 40% as well grossing $11.5M which would give the father-son venture $123M to date. "Dreamgirls" has been generating the best averages around since opening. Paramount could witness a 35% drop to around $9M for the frame and lift its cume to $55M.

LAST YEAR: Horror fans powered the new fright flick "Hostel" to the number one spot over the first weekend of 2006 with a $19.6M debut. The low budget Lionsgate hit went on to scare up $47.3M. Holdovers filled up the rest of the top five. "The Chronicles of Narnia" slipped to second with $15.6M followed by "King Kong" with $12.6M. The comedies "Fun with Dick and Jane" and "Cheaper by the Dozen 2" took up the next spots with $11.9M and $8.4M, respectively. The weekend’s two other new releases bombed miserably. Fox’s comedy "Grandma’s Boy" bowed to just $3M while the actioner "BloodRayne" barely made it into the Top 20 with $1.6M. Final grosses reached $6.1M and $2.4M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

This week’s wide releases include a group of zoo creatures that reconnect with their roots ("The Wild") and another installment of the genre-spoofing "Scary Movie" series ("Scary Movie 4"). What do the critics say?

A fourth "Scary Movie" is hitting theaters; this time it’s parodying "War of the Worlds," "Saw," and an obscure but terrifying slasher flick called "Brokeback Mountain." A lot of people like these movies — heck, they have made four of them — but those people aren’t generally movie critics; the scribes are calling this latest installment a hit-or-miss affair. But, if you’re in the market for this kind of thing, you should know that "Scary Movie 4," at 44 percent on the Tomatometer, currently stands as the second-best reviewed film in the series, behind the original (52 percent).

Four animals bust out of the zoo in search of their natural habitats, only to fall into the clutches of a buffoonish-but-dangerous animal cult leader. If the plot description for "The Wild" sounds a tad familiar, that’s because it’s essentially the same as last summer’s not-so-red-hot "Madagascar" (55 percent on the Tomatometer). It’s amazing that, given the seemingly limitless potential of CGI, the scribes are already accusing new animated films of being derivative. The critics also say "The Wild" is noisy and busy without being particularly funny or engaging. At 17 percent on the Tomatometer, "The Wild" is the second-worst reviewed CGI film to date, only outranking "Doogal," which is at five percent.

On to America’s favorite game: Banana Kid correctly guessed "The Benchwarmers" would end up with a 12 percent on the Tomatometer. Unfortunately, no one came particularly close to "Phat Girlz‘" not-great-but-not-terrible Tomatometer of 31 percent.

Scary Movies:
——————
52% — Scary Movie (2000)
11% — Scary Movie 2 (2001)
39% — Scary Movie 3 (2003)

Recent CGI Films:
———————–
60% — Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006)
5% — Doogal (2006)
46% — Hoodwinked (2006)
37% — Chicken Little (2005)
27% — Valiant (2005)

The "Hoodwinked!" filmmakers have found a few friends in the Weinstein brothers. They’ll soon be backing Tony Leech & Cory Edwards’ "Escape from Planet Earth," a CG comedy about Area 51 and the creatures who’d love to escape the facility.

From Variety: "Following the December rollout of its irreverent fairytale take "Hoodwinked!," the Weinstein Co. has been left with an insatiable appetite for CG-animated material. After greenlighting a "Hoodwinked!" sequel, and picking up Exodus Film Group’s upcoming CG comedy "Igor," TWC has snapped up "Escape From Planet Earth," based on a pitch from "Hoodwinked!" scribes Tony Leech and Cory Edwards.

Leech also will helm "Earth," a comedy about a prison break from Area 51, a mysterious government facility where the inmates are a rag-tag group of aliens. Pic’s protagonist is Gary, one neurotic extraterrestrial."

That it would debut in the #1 spot was a foregone conclusion, but Sony/Screen Gems’ "When a Stranger Calls" did a whole heckuva lot better than that by grossing an unexpectedly high (albeit estimated) $22m from just about 3,000 screens. Sony chose to shield the flick from the press, as if teenagers interested in PG-13 horror movies give a wet slap what film critics think.

Dropping 51% into second place was the comedy in which Martin Lawrence dresses up like a fat old lady. "Big Momma’s House 2" made about $13.3 million over the weekend, lifting its total tally to $45.4 million.

In third place was Universal’s family comedy "Nanny McPhee," which added another $9.9 million to its $26.6 million total.

Gaining an addition 400+ screens over the weekend was Oscar favorite "Brokeback Mountain," which broached the top five with a $5.6m haul. Its grand total presently stands at $59.7 million.

Rounding out the top five was the animated comedy "Hoodwinked," which tucked another $5.3 million into its $44m piggy bank.

Focus’ "Something New" semi-sputtered out of the gate, tallying about $5 million from 1,200 theaters, placing it seventh behind Sony’s "Underworld: Evolution," which added another $5.1 million to its $52.7 million kitty.

Next week sees the wide release of four big titles: The feature-length debut of "Curious George," the Harrison Ford thriller "Firewall," the long-delayed farce remake "The Pink Panther," and the horror sequel "Final Destination 3."

As always, you can visit the Rotten Tomatoes Box Office Page for a closer look at the weekend numbers.

Proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that there’s nothing in the universe funnier than a desperate comedian in drag (preferably fat drag), "Big Momma’s House 2" snagged the #1 spot at the weekend box office by tallying an estimated $28 million from 3,200 theaters. And yet everyone will complain when Fox announces the inevitable "Big Momma’s House 3."

Clocking in at second place, with a surprisingly strong $14 million haul from 2,000 theaters, was the British family comedy "Nanny McPhee," starring Emma Thompson. Third place went to last week’s #1 winner, the vampire vs. werwolf thriller "Underworld: Evolution," which added an additional $11 million to its $44 million coffin.

Another new arrival, the Disney military boxing drama romance amalgam "Annapolis," debuted in 1,600 theaters with a haul of $7.7 million, while the top five was rounded out by "Hoodwinked," the animated comedy that added another $7.3 million to its $37 million goodie basket.

Next Friday sees the release of two new studio flicks: Focus Features’ rom-com "Something New" (1,100 theaters) and Screen Gems’ horror remake "When a Stranger Calls" (2,600 theaters).

For a closer look at the weekend numbers, stop by the Rotten Tomatoes Box Office page.

Variety reports that the Weinsteins were so pleased with "Hoodwinked" and its opening weekend tally that they’ve decided to bankroll a sequel ASAP. It’ll be called "Hood vs. Evil," and it might just be the first sequel in a series.

"The Weinstein Co. and Kanbar Entertainment are going back to the drawing board together: Duo said Tuesday they’ll team on a sequel to their current CG-animated release "Hoodwinked," to be dubbed "Hood vs. Evil."

Harvey Weinstein said that this time around, the pic’s producers will double the budget to improve animation, and that he spoke to the pic’s lead, Anne Hathaway, about returning while at the Golden Globes over the weekend.

"Our whole marketing team rose to the occasion," said Harvey Weinstein about "Hoodwinked’s" perf. "For every rave, there was someone saying that the animation isn’t as great as Pixar, but the movie is funny and fun for kids and adults. We never would have been able to do this at Disney."

New installment in the franchise will find a teen Red training in a distant land with a mysterious, covert group called Sisters of the Hood. She is then called upon by Nicky Flippers — head of the Happily Ever After Agency — who teams her with the Wolf to investigate the disappearance of Hansel and Gretel. The character of Granny, and the rest of the "Hoodwinked" gang, also return and are joined by new characters."

Anyone else see "Hoodwinked" yet? I kinda liked it!

The Weinstein’s "Hoodwinked" took on a trio of big studio rivals over the MLK holiday weekend, and early estimates for the four-day frame indicate that the little guy (er, girl) came out on top … if only by the slimmest of margins.

An animated comedy about the crazy goings-on over at grandma’s cabin, "Hoodwinked" pulled an estimated $16.6 million payday out of her goody basket, giving the relatively low-budget family flick the #1 spot. The company’s first animated feature debuted in December so as to qualify for Oscar consideration, but only in NY and LA. This weekend saw the flick hit 2,400 theaters.

Close behind in second place was Disney’s basketball drama "Glory Road," which scored about $16.4 million from 2,200 theaters. And not very far behind was Paramount’s Queen Latifomedy "Last Holiday," which made about $15.7 million from 2,500 theaters.

Still going strong in fourth place was Disney’s "The Chronicles of Narnia," which added another $12.2 million to its $263 million total, while the ferocious horror flick "Hostel" fell to fifth place with a haul of $11.6 million ($36.8m total).

Fox’s period romance "Tristan & Isolde" debuted somewhat solidly in 8th place, pulling in $7.8 million from 1,800 theaters.

And in massive primate news, Universal’s "King Kong" clocked in at 7th place with $9.2 million, but it also crossed over the $200m mark, which is something the Kongfans will be happy to learn.

Next week sees the unleashing of only one new wide release: Screen Gems romantic monster action thriller sequel "Underworld: Evolution," which stars several vampires, numerous werewolves, and one seriously hot female in black leather.

As always, you’re more than welcome to visit the Rotten Tomatoes Box Office for a closer look at the numbers.

ComingSoon.net shares a press release from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) regarding the Best Animated Feature hopefuls. Seems we have a solid ten movies fighting for the three nomination spots.

"The 10 films have been accepted as eligible to compete by the executive committee of the short films and feature animation branch of the Academy, which has recommended to the Academy’s Board of Governors that the category be activated and the Award be given for this year. The board has approved that recommendation.

Films that have not yet been released in Los Angeles County must fulfill all of the general release qualifying rules before the end of the year.

The eligible films are:

Chicken Little
Gulliver’s Travel
Hoodwinked
Howl’s Moving Castle
Madagascar
Robots
Steamboy
Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride
Valiant
Wallace & Gromit – The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Under the rules for this category, a maximum of three films can be nominated in a year in which the field of eligible entries numbers at least eight but fewer than sixteen.

Films submitted in the Best Animated Feature category also may qualify for Academy Awards in other areas, including Best Picture, provided they meet the rules criteria governing those categories.

The 78th Academy Award® nominations will be announced at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater on Tuesday, January 31, 2006. Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements for 2005 will be presented on Sunday, March 5, 2006, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network beginning at 5 p.m. PST."

(P.S. Anyone know what "Gulliver’s Travel" is?)