(Photo by Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection)
Ben Affleck chose the right friends early on: His first notable appearance was in 1992’s School Ties, which happened to co-star Matt Damon. The two would go on to become household names after co-writing and co-starring in the Oscar-winning Good Will Hunting. And a few years after School Ties, Affleck starred in Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy, and is now a regular fixture in Smith’s View Askewniverse. Damon, Smith, and Affleck would all work together in 1999’s iconoclastic Dogma.
Later on in his career, Affleck would pal around with Michael Bay, creating two bombastic feasts together: Armageddon and Pearl Harbor. He’s worked with some of the most legendary directors of their time, like John Woo (Paycheck), John Frankenhemier (Reindeer Games), Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused), and David Fincher (Gone Girl) — experiences we’re sure all went into Affleck’s own directing career, which culminated in the Best Picture-winning Argo.
Affleck’s recent stint in the DCEU has left his image relatively unscathed: His Batman was considered among the best things out of Batman v Superman and Justice League. And after some highly public personal issues and with his last directorial effort, Live By Night, a Rotten bomb, Affleck’s now on something of a comeback trail for 2020. The Last Thing He Wanted‘s single-digit Tomatometer was probably the last thing Affleck wanted at this point. But his 2020 sports drama The Way Back transcended the inspirational sports template, giving him a meaty role to sink his teeth into, and it impressed critics along the way. Recently, he’s been in Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel, George Clooney’s The Tender Bar, and Deep Water, which makes it onto our list of the 100 sexiest movies. Until then, we’re ranking all Ben Affleck movies by Tomatometer! —Alex Vo
(Photo by Buena Vista/ courtesy Everett Collection)
Diane Lane has been leading films since age 14, when she debuted in 1979’s first-love story A Little Romance. In the ’80s, she brought New Wave to the big screen with hip, unusual musicals Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains, and Streets of Fire, along with collaborating with Francis Ford Coppola in Rumble Fish and The Outsiders.
In the ’90s and early 2000s, Lane appeared in a variety of big productions, including Chaplin, Judge Dredd, Jack, and The Perfect Storm, pulling her away from leading roles. That changed with 2002’s Unfaithful, the erotic sizzler with Richard Gere for which she was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar. This led to a mid-career blossoming as romantic lead, with films like Under the Tuscan Sun, Must Love Dogs, and Nights in Rodanthe.
Since then, Lane’s movies have been among the most critically acclaimed of her career, including Certified Fresh marks for Inside Out, Trumbo, and her latest, Let Him Go, opposite Kevin Costner. She’s also been Ma Kent in the DC Extended Universe since 2013’s Man of Steel, helping guarantee we’d never hear the name Martha the same way again. And now we look back on all Diane Lane movies ranked by Tomatometer! —Alex Vo
Get your hot patty of 1950s Americana this Friday with The Founder, starring Michael Keaton as the entrepreneur who transformed McDonald’s from a San Bernardino local joint into the global food megalith during the baby boomer decade. Founder inspires this week’s completely cool, multi-purpose gallery: true stories (all Fresh!) enlightening our values, fears, and triumphs of the ’50s.
At age 35, Ben Affleck has achieved a level of stardom and notoriety that’s impossible to ignore. He has consistently appeared in magazine listings of Hollywood’s sexiest, smartest and most powerful people, and he’s been dogged by the paparazzi all the way. Of constant press rumours about his love life, he famously said, “Sometimes it’s Britney Spears, and sometimes it’s Carrie Fisher. I can’t tell if I have a Lolita complex or an Oedipus complex.”
So it’s not surprising that he’s figured out how to live outside the spotlight. After the tabloid hurricane surrounding his relationship with Jennifer Lopez, he sidestepped media hysteria to marry Jennifer Garner in 2005. Following seven Razzie nominations from 1998 to 2004, he quietly returned to the big screen in an award-winning performance as tortured actor George Reeves in Hollywoodland. And after years of playing beefcake heartthrobs, he stepped behind the camera to direct his first feature, Gone Baby Gone, starring his brother Casey.
Of course, this isn’t his first work behind the scenes; after all, his Oscar win was for Good Will Hunting‘s screenplay, written with lifelong friend Matt Damon, who he also teamed with on the three-time Emmy-nominated reality series Project Greenlight.
Over the years, Affleck has clearly learned how to cope with the critics, both good and bad. When RT meets up with him in London, he’s teasing the Brits about the way we say the name of this website. “You say tom-ay-toes, I say tom-ah-toes,” he laughs. “I love that site; I go on there all the time.”
Gone Baby Gone has been certified fresh by RT critics. Does that make you feel any better about the critics who’ve picked on you for other things you’ve done?
Ben Affleck: No, I don’t care. I’m a great believer in the need for and value of honest critics. And I think some are good and honest and some are, you know, less so. But I also think that no matter what it is that you do for a job – whether you’re a writer or you work in any kind of capacity whatsoever – you know when you’ve done something well and when you’ve done it poorly. You don’t need someone else to tell you. You know if you’ve accomplished it. And sometimes if you know you’ve done it poorly and someone else tells you you’ve done it well, you go, “Oh, that’s good!” But you know deep down. Conversely it’s aggravating, because you think, “No, you’re wrong, because this is actually this or that.”
Does it make a difference being criticised as an actor and as a director?
BA: Yeah, I think so, because for me it’s the relationship with the critics. It’s very hard, because movies are really a director’s medium. I mean, in a lot of ways you should mostly be criticising the director. Obviously there’s great acting, and everyone knows it, and there is bad acting. But also, you make choices, you get put in a certain context through editing or writing – a lot of stuff gets sort-of mushed in together, and ultimately it’s sometimes hard to know. Well, where were you as the director? You hired the person! The director is, to me, the person with whom the buck should stop.
Did you enjoy being in that seat?
BA: I loved it, because for me there were a lot of times as an actor where I was so frustrated, saying, “I wish that we were doing X. This is what I think. I think we should do X.” The director wants to do Y, well OK, but that would be madness. I’d say, “Let’s not do Y. Please let’s not do Y!”
Did you have any of these conversations with your brother?
BA: [Laughs] I’m sure; you’d have to ask my brother! My brother’s pretty good and I’m sure there’s definitely stuff that he wanted to do. But the thing that I did as a director, because I appreciated the position that I’d been in, was that I never would straitjacket any actor. My whole approach to directing – if one can be said to have an approach as a director of one movie – is to say, “Let me just afford you the freedom to do what you want to do. Let me give you as much room to do what you want to do as possible. Granted, I have a movie, and it’s going in this direction. This is what the story is, and ultimately the story has to go this way. But you have all the space to do what you want to do, try everything you want to try, take the time, experiment. You want to go play the scene in that room? Go play the scene over there. Or play the scene over here. Find the stuff.” Because the actor will feel it when it’s working and when it’s not working, and the actor will know. And then the actor will be more committed to where it’s working.
So Casey had that leeway of where to go, and ultimately he got to that place. And I knew that he was a really good actor, and I really trusted him, and I knew that he was making my movie better.
But this was definitely your movie.
BA: Talking about critics at the end of the day, if I’m in a movie as an actor and I say, “Look, I thought we were doing one movie, but it turns out we were doing a different movie,” it’s frustrating when somebody says, “Well, I don’t like this movie and it’s your movie.” You know? Well, it’s not my movie! But now with this movie, this is my movie.
The rewarding thing about this for me, even before this movie came out, is that, you know what? If you don’t like this movie, fine. I’m the guy to see. If you like it, I’m the guy to see. It doesn’t matter, and I don’t care. I’m at home with that. I’m at peace with the fact that there are things that I would reshoot about this movie. I’m at peace with the ways in which I feel I f***ed up. And I’m at peace with the fact that there are things that I wanted to do that I like about the movie. You know, ultimately that’s comforting, and I can live with that. And that’s what I’m talking about.
An Academy Award-winner by the age of 25 (Good Will Hunting), an action hero by 26 (Armageddon), a critical target by 31 (Gigli) and a comeback story by 34 (Hollywoodland), Ben Affleck has had his fair share of career peaks and valleys in less than a decade. This week he makes his directorial debut with the taut thriller Gone Baby Gone, a film that just might propel him back into Oscar territory and — dare we say it? — into a whole new calling behind the camera.
In Gone Baby Gone, Affleck directs younger brother Casey (also excellent in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) in a mystery surrounding the case of a missing Boston girl. Though skeptics might have been doubtful, the direction is adept, well-paced, and absorbing; heck, maybe Affleck should do this more often! In the spirit of Total Recall, we decided to take a look at some of the lesser-known roles from way back in the filmography of the man better known to some as Bennifer II.
One of our favorite early Affleck bit roles came in 1992’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer (30 percent on the Tomatometer) — the original flick, not the WB series. Although a young Ben Affleck had already starred in a few telefilms and the Voyage of the Mimi, our first big-screen glimpse of the adolescent Affleck was when he appeared — nay, starred — as Basketball Player #10 in the infamous “How funky is your chicken?” scene. When Hemery High Hogs star player Grueller (Sasha Jensen) actualizes his newfound vampire skills to jam slam dunks and terrorize the opposing team, he memorably menaces Affleck into giving up the rock. Minutes later, Buffy hunts him down — “Grueller, it’s me, Buffy! We used to hang! My birthday party, you drank all the blueberry schnapps and looged on my mom?” — before he’s vanquished by a dreamy Luke Perry. Sigh.
Only a few months later, in September of 1992, Affleck fans got another tiny taste of Ben in the 1950s-set anti-anti-Semitism prep school drama School Ties (67 percent), which featured then-big stars like Brendan Fraser, Chris O’Donnell, and Matt Damon. Ties even borrowed a few actors fresh from the Buffy set to round out its gaggle of collegiate eye candy, including Randall Batinkoff, Andrew Lowery, and Affleck himself. The story of a poor Jewish football standout (Fraser) recruited by a Catholic school to win the big game movingly depicted one kid’s lonely struggle against rampant societal bigotry, and featured one of the most memorable line-bellowings in movie history (“Cowaaaaards!”). Our favorite School Ties scene? The rousing group rendition of “Smokey Joe’s Café.” Look for Affleck; he’s the shirtless one!
That brings us to another film classic, which arguably boasts Affleck’s greatest ever non-lead actor role: soon-to-be super senior Fred O’Bannion, the paddle-happy bully in Dazed and Confused (98 percent), Richard Linklater‘s 1993 opus of high school life in the 1970s on the last day of school. As new freshmen run for their lives and juniors inherit their campus crowns, many players in the ensemble cast stand out: Parker Posey as the meanest queen bee on campus (“Fry like bacon!”), Matthew McConaughey as the suave older guy still hanging around (“High school girls… I get older, they stay the same age.”), and Affleck’s O’Bannion, whose dogged efforts to catch young Mitch (Wiley Wiggins) are as successful as the inscription on his paddle is eloquent (“FAH Q”).
Alas, those days of Affleck obscurity (read: 1992-3) are over, marred by efforts great (Shakespeare in Love, 93 percent) and not-so-great (Surviving Christmas, seven percent). What we would give for another juicy performance on the scale of O’Bannion! At least for now, Affleck appears to have found himself cast in another well-suited role: director.
Batman takes on Cinderella Man at the box office as the Russell Crowe–Christian Bale Western remake 3:10 to Yuma heads into the multiplexes over what is traditionally a tumbleweed weekend in the marketplace. More action comes in the form of Shoot ‘Em Up which pits Clive Owen against Paul Giamatti while those craving comedy get the new laugher The Brothers Solomon. With summer gone and most students back in school, Hollywood has decided to roll out nothing but R-rated films this weekend.
Hoping to bounce back from last year’s critical and commercial disaster A Good Year, Oscar winner Russell Crowe leads the charge and aims for his first trip to the number one spot in nearly four years with 3:10 to Yuma. Directed by James Mangold (Walk the Line), the update on the 1957 semi-classic finds Bale playing a down-on-his-luck family man who takes the job of delivering a captured outlaw (Crowe) to the authorities. Having two strong actors face each other on screen is
usually a good thing and here the starpower should help bring in audiences. Reviews have been solid and since this genre plays to a more mature adult audience, the opinions of critics will make a big difference. The marketing push from Lionsgate has been commendable and with few other interesting new choices out there, Yuma should carve out its own space. Heading into 2,652 theaters, 3:10 to Yuma could open with roughly $14M over the Friday-to-Sunday period.
LAST YEAR: The worst box office weekend of 2006 was led by the modest opening of the thriller The Covenant which debuted with only $8.9M which was enough to capture the crown. The Sony pic went on to gross $23.3M overall. Opening with weak results in second was the Ben Affleck starrer Hollywoodland with only $5.9M on its way to $14.4M for Focus. Following two weeks at number one, the football drama Invincible dropped to third with $5.6M for Buena Vista. The Weinstein Company’s Thai actioner The Protector premiered in fourth with $5M leading to only $12M. The Jason Statham action pic Crank ranked fifth with $4.9M for Lionsgate.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
Bryan Singer’s "Superman Returns" cleaned house at the Saturn Awards over the weekend. (Hey, don’t laugh. The Saturn Awards have been around for over 30 years and they pay some fine attention to the genre films we all love so much.)
Check out these winners and then tell me the Saturn folks don’t have pretty good taste:
Best Science Fiction Film: "Children of Men"
Best Fantasy Film: "Superman Returns"
Best Horror Film: "The Descent"
Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film: "Casino Royale"
Best Animated Film: "Cars"
Best International Film: "Pan’s Labyrinth"
Best Actor: Brandon Routh ("Superman Returns")
Best Actress: Natalie Portman ("V for Vendetta")
Best Supporting Actor: Ben Affleck ("Hollywoodland")
Best Supporting Actress: Famke Janssen ("X-Men: The Last Stand")
Best Performance by a Younger Actor: Ivana Baquero ("Pan’s Labyrinth")
Best Director: Bryan Singer ("Superman Returns")
Best Writing: Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris ("Superman Returns")
Best Music: John Ottman ("Superman Returns")
Best Costume: Yee Chung-Man ("Curse of the Golden Flower")
Best Makeup: Todd Masters and Dan Rebert ("Slither")
Best Special Effects: John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson and Allen Hall ("Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest")
Best DVD Release: "The Sci-Fi Boys"
Best DVD Special Edition Release: "Superman II"
Best DVD Classic Film Release: "Gojira"
Best DVD Collection: James Bond Ultimate Edition
Best DVD Television Series: "Masters of Horror"
Best Retro Television Series on DVD: "Adventures of Superman"
They also gave out some TV awards, which you can check out at Sci-Fi.com. (There’s also a full list of nominees so you can see which flicks got beat up by Superman.) I think they might be just a bit too much drooling over "Superman Returns," but hey, I’m not on the voting committee.
Okay, we all knew Ben Affleck was having some problems, and earned a few Razzie nominations several years in a row, but he’s still a movie star. Could it really have gotten to the point that his movies go straight to video? Well, his latest one, "Man About Town" did, debuting from Lionsgate Home Video.
Directed by Mike Binder, the film stars Affleck as a Hollywood agent going through a personal crisis with his adulterous wife. With Affleck, Rebecca Romijn, and the director of "Upside of Anger" and "Reign Over Me," it would seem like they could have arranged a theatrical release.
"Lionsgate bought it and they decided to dump it," said Binder. "I’m not that surprised. The thing is, to be honest, I’ve made a movie every year and they don’t all come out the way you want it to. I guess people didn’t think this one came out that good. The audience when we tested it liked it and I went onto my next movie and then I heard that people weren’t liking it and they didn’t think that there was a market for it because it was based on show business, and Ben wasn’t likeable in the role but I thought Ben was really good in the role."
Binder defended Affleck at the peak of the critical Ben-bashing. After "Gigli," "Surviving Christmas" and others, Binder said that all careers go in peaks and valleys and he would rather have him on the way up. Even though movies have launched the Affleck comeback, Binder holds no grudges.
"I would have thought that after ‘Hollywoodland‘ and how good he was in it, I got excited [about ‘Man About Town’] but then ‘Hollywoodland’ didn’t do any business so that didn’t help. But I think he’s a really talented guy."
With "Reign Over Me" in theaters this month, it doesn’t hurt Binder’s career either. "I don’t think that there’s the stigma of that as much anymore but we all like to see movies in theaters and stuff. And let me say, I think that if we had kicked and screamed, we could have forced them to put it into 15 theaters or something but we’re smart enough people to know that that doesn’t mean anything. It’s an ego stroke. I’ve never been one for those. I don’t like those fake releases so I never even spoke to Lionsgate. When I heard they were doing it, I said ‘Okay, I’m not going to fight City Hall.’"
Moviegoers rallied behind the star-driven comedy "Wild Hogs," which raced to number one at the North American box office, zooming past all expectations from Disney. Meanwhile, Viacom saw less-than-stellar debuts from its serial killer drama "Zodiac" from Paramount Pictures and the southern fried saga "Black Snake Moan" from arthouse unit Paramount Vantage. Overall, the box office remained healthy and surged well ahead of last year’s performance.
Buena Vista powered its way to an estimated $38M in opening weekend sales for its road comedy "Wild Hogs," delivering the largest March debut in history for a live-action film. The PG-13 pic starring Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, and William H. Macy as four middle-aged men on a motorcycle adventure averaged a stellar $11,561 from 3,287 theaters. It was the year’s second biggest opening after "Ghost Rider‘s" $45.4M bow two weeks ago. According to studio research, 54% of the audience was actually female. Travolta’s everlasting sex appeal, Allen’s pull with moms thanks to his many Disney flicks, and the cast’s appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" last week probably contributed to the solid turnout by women. The stars also allowed the film to tap into different audience segments.
"Wild Hogs" posted the best opening ever in March for a non-animated film and the third biggest overall. The only movies to debut better in this month were the "Ice Age" flicks of 2002 and 2006. It also gave Travolta the biggest opening by far of his career, beating the $23.5M of 2005’s "Be Cool," and the second best bow for Allen after the $57.4M bow of 1999’s "Toy Story 2." As expected, "Hogs" was slammed by critics but reviews are practically irrelevant for a star-driven comedy like this. This is a crowdpleaser, not a criticpleaser. Audiences make their decisions based on if they think they will get a good laugh or not and Buena Vista’s marketing push was indeed solid. Though the overall weekend gross was strong, what was even more encouraging was the significant Friday-to-Saturday boost of 49% which is rare for any new release. A journey into nine-digit territory seems likely.
Debuting far back in second place was the serial killer pic "Zodiac," with an estimated $13.1M from 2,362 sites. Averaging a respectable $5,546 per theater, the R-rated film from director David Fincher played to an older audience as two-thirds of the crowd was over the age of 25, according to studio research from Paramount. Males and females were evenly represented. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., and Mark Ruffalo, "Zodiac" follows the investigation behind one of California’s most notorious murderers from the 1960s and 70s. The $65M film fared better than last fall’s murder mysteries set in the Golden State, "The Black Dahlia" and "Hollywoodland," which debuted to $10M and $5.9M respectively.
Reviews were overwhelmingly positive for "Zodiac," but its 160-minute length may have cut into its grossing potential. Plus when factoring in ticket prices increases over the years, it can be estimated that "Zodiac" sold the fewest opening weekend tickets of any of Fincher’s films. Admissions were roughly the same as for "Fight Club," which bowed to $11M in 1999. The studio is hoping that good word-of-mouth can carry the film in the weeks ahead.
After leading the pack for two full weeks, the Johnny Blaze flick "Ghost Rider" fell to third but only dropped 43% for an estimated $11.5M gross. Sony’s Nicolas Cage starrer has taken in $94.8M in 17 days and should become the first new release of 2007 to break the $100M barrier. Disney’s "Bridge to Terabithia" also held up well dipping 39% in its third adventure to an estimated $8.6M. Cume stands at $57.9M.
Jim Carrey‘s thriller "The Number 23" fell from second to fifth place in its sophomore scare and collected an estimated $7.1M. Down an understandable 52%, the New Line title has taken in a semi-decent $24.7M in ten days and looks headed for a $35-38M finish.
Eddie Murphy‘s latest comedy "Norbit" enjoyed the smallest decline in the top ten and dipped 34% to an estimated $6.4M for a $83M sum. Fellow laugher "Music and Lyrics" dropped just 36% to an estimated $4.9M giving the Hugh Grant–Drew Barrymore pic $38.7M to date.
Paramount Vantage bowed its Samuel L. Jackson–Christina Ricci drama "Black Snake Moan" and collected an estimated $4M from 1,252 theaters. Averaging a mild $3,208, the debut was half the size of writer/director Craig Brewer‘s last film "Hustle & Flow," which opened in July 2005 to $8M from 1,013 theaters on its way to $22.2M and an Oscar. Jackson has witnessed many of his headlining vehicles struggle at the box office including "Freedomland," "The Man," and even "Snakes on a Plane," which despite hitting the top spot, grossed much less than expected given its media hype last summer.
The Fox comedy "Reno 911!: Miami" tumbled 64% in its second weekend to an estimated $3.8M for a ninth place finish. The R-rated pic has grossed $16.4M in ten days and should conclude with roughly $20M. Rounding out the top ten was the FBI thriller "Breach" with an estimated $3.5M, off 42%, for a $25.4M total.
Three smaller films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. The slave trade drama "Amazing Grace" dipped only 26% in its second weekend to an estimated $3M. With $8.2M in ten days, the Samuel Goldwyn/Roadside Attractions period pic may find its way to $15-18M. The Billy Bob Thornton flop "The Astronaut Farmer" grossed an estimated $2.2M, down 52%, and put its sum at an embarrassing $7.7M. Look for a $11M final.
Lionsgate’s Tyler Perry comedy "Daddy’s Little Girls" fell 53% to an estimated $2.3M in its third frame and upped its cume to $28.4M. By comparison, the distributor saw stronger 17-day grosses of $44M and $55.7M respectively for the director’s last two films, "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and "Madea’s Family Reunion." "Daddy’s" should end its run with $30-33M.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $100.8M which was up a stunning 30% from last year when "Madea" stayed at number one with just $12.6M; but off 4% from 2005 when "The Pacifier" debuted on top with $30.6M.
One super hero on a motorcycle looks to get replaced by four middle-aged bikers at the number one spot at the North American box office this weekend.
The new comedy "Wild Hogs" leads the pack of new releases with the widest release of the trio. Also debuting are the serial killer thriller "Zodiac" and the southern sizzler "Black Snake Moan" to kick of a March movie marathon.
Starpower is at the center of Buena Vista’s new highway to hell comedy "Wild Hogs." The PG-13 film brings together Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, and William H. Macy as four suburban men who take to the road to put some adventure back into their lives. An adult audience is likely here and both genders should be represented fairly evenly. Star wattage and concept should sell the picture and trailers and commercials haven’t been half bad. The studio saw encouraging results from its sneak previews last Saturday which were at 85% capacity and skewed 51% male. "Wild Hogs" could reach the same audience that came out for Travolta’s "Be Cool" and "Ladder 49" which opened to $23.5M and $22.1M, respectively. Both Travolta and Allen have been out promoting the film aggressively so awareness is sizable. Opening in about 3,300 theaters, "Wild Hogs" may take in around $23M in ticket sales this weekend giving Allen a badly-needed hit.
Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., and Mark Ruffalo star in the new serial killer pic "Zodiac" from director David Fincher ("Seven," "Panic Room"). The R-rated film chronicles the investigation behind one of the most notorious and mysterious murderers of the twentieth century. Paramount has long had a solid track record at finding success from crime thrillers with its slick marketing. For this particular film, the studio is hoping that the public does not find out that it is in for a nearly three hour saga. The running time should cut into the box office potential of the film since theaters will have to offer one less showtime per day compared to most other movies. A more subdued theater count will play a role too.
Still some appealing names are being offered in front of and behind the camera. Older adults are more likely to show up as the subject matter is too ancient for those in their early 20s. Films about famous California murders were met with indifference last fall in the other 49 states when Ben Affleck‘s "Hollywoodland" and Josh Hartnett‘s "The Black Dahlia" opened nationally to just $5.9M and $10M, respectively. "Zodiac" is a little more modern and is being packaged in a better way so its debut should be stronger. But the film lacks a star that can really bring some bang to the box office right out of the gate. Critics have been very supportive which will help with the older target audience. Attacking 2,362 theaters, "Zodiac" might find itself with about $16M this weekend.
With the eye-catching image of an older black man chaining up a young scantily clad white woman, Paramount Vantage’s "Black Snake Moan" already has one of the year’s most memorable posters. The new R-rated entry from writer/director Craig Brewer is the follow-up to his 2005 hit "Hustle & Flow" which won an Oscar last year for best song. With some more cash and bigger stars, "Snake" features Samuel L. Jackson as a Bible-loving blues guitarist who finds and cares for a beaten, bruised, and half-naked woman with a disturbing past played by Christina Ricci. Justin Timberlake adds some starpower with his second film of the year following
January’s "Alpha Dog."
"Black Snake Moan" should appeal to much of the "Hustle" crowd. That film was a summer opener and bowed to $8M from just over 1,000 locations for a solid $7,915 average. Jackson is always a wild card at the box office as many of the films he anchors do not pull in the big numbers while his ensemble pics tend to thrive. Here, he is the main draw. Competition from other contenders should not be that much of a factor as the film will work if audiences find it cool. Reviews have been generally favorable so that could provide an assist at the turnstiles. Young adults not interested in Vincent Vega and Santa on choppers might go for a more bold moviegoing choice like this. Opening in 1,252 locations, "Black Snake Moan" may debut with about $8M.
After leading the pack for two weeks, Sony’s "Ghost Rider" will get passed up by some of the new releases this weekend. A 50% drop to about $10M seems likely giving the Nicolas Cage film $93M in 17 days.
Disney should enjoy a better hold for its fantasy drama "Bridge to Terabithia" since its audience is a little too young for the newcomers. A 35% decline would leave the PG-rated film with roughly $9M for the frame and push the 17-day cume up to $58M. Jim Carrey on the other hand should tumble with his thriller "The Number 23" which will see some direct competition from "Zodiac." A 55% drop would leave New Line with $7M over the weekend and $25M after ten days.
LAST YEAR: Tyler Perry stayed at number one for the second straight weekend with the Lionsgate comedy "Madea’s Family Reunion" which grossed $12.6M despite a hefty sophomore drop. Opening close behind in the runnerup spot was the Bruce Willis actioner "16 Blocks" with $11.9M on its way to $36.9M for Warner Bros. Disney’s family adventure "Eight Below" held up well in its third ride grossing $10.1M for third place. Debuting with unimpressive results were Sony’s action flick "Ultraviolet" with $9.1M in fourth and Fox’s drama "Aquamarine" with $7.5M in fifth. Final grosses reached $18.5M and $18.6M, respectively. Opening with decent results was "Dave Chappelle’s Block Party" with $6.2M for Focus from 1,200 theaters on its way to $11.7M overall.
Source: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
Moviegoers will have plenty to choose from over the long Christmas holiday weekend as four new star-driven wide releases hit the marketplace adding to an already crowded marquee.
The Ben Stiller fantasy pic "Night at the Museum" leads the way as the frame’s only new comedy while the Matthew McConaughey football drama "We Are Marshall" offers an inspirational story based on true events. Meanwhile, a pair of Italian Stallions hop into the director’s chair as Sylvester Stallone‘s boxing drama "Rocky Balboa" and Robert De Niro‘s espionage thriller "The Good Shepherd" offer even more choices to holiday moviegoers. As is typical of this time of year, Christmas Eve will hurt the box office on Sunday as last-minute shopping and early theater closings will take their toll. But the Monday holiday will see a major recovery since Christmas Day brings forth a surge in traffic to the multiplexes.
Blasting into nearly 3,700 theaters including 72 Imax venues is the comedy "Night at the Museum" which finds Ben Stiller playing the new night watchman at New York’s Museum of Natural History where all the artifacts and statues come to life each night. Director Shawn Levy ("Cheaper by the Dozen," "The Pink Panther") leaves behind Steve Martin to work with a younger funnyman and more special effects. The PG-rated film is aiming for broad audiences hoping to bring in entire families looking for a fun time this holiday season. "Museum" also plans to score with teens and young adults as the only major comedy option for them. With "The Holiday" being the only other laugher in the top ten to register with that lucrative group, look for a solid response.
Stiller brings considerable starpower to the film but he also gets backup from comedians like Robin Williams, Ricky Gervais, and Dick Van Dyke. Plus with the prestigious ‘and’ credit already claimed by Williams, Owen Wilson takes a sizable supporting role but is so cool that he is nowhere to be found in the credits at all. Audiences want happy and funny films during the Christmas holidays and "Night at the Museum" should post muscular numbers thanks to its starpower, lack of comedy competition, mild rating, and formidable marketing and distribution push. Fox looks to close up the books on 2006 by taking over the number one spot this weekend. Attacking 3,688 locations, "Night at the Museum" could debut to about $34M over the four-day Friday-to-Monday holiday period.
Sylvester Stallone brings the eye of the tiger back to the multiplexes one last time in "Rocky Balboa" which got a jumpstart on the holiday weekend with its Wednesday launch. The MGM release brings the iconic boxer back to the screen in what is supposedly the end of the franchise with Stallone back in the saddle as writer and director. In this tale, Rocky is brought back into the ring when media hype prompts fans to wonder who the best boxer is of all time. The underdog story on screen mirrored the one within industry circles. How could a franchise that died 16 years ago with the poorly-received "Rocky V" find its way back into the hearts of today’s moviegoers. MGM and the "Judge Dredd" star moved forward. Today, they proudly claim one of the best reviewed films of the Christmas season and the Wednesday bow is being counted on to get die-hard fans out early so they can spread positive buzz at work and in school going into the lucrative yet overcrowded weekend period.
With so many other films in the marketplace, and plenty with PG or G ratings aimed at luring in full families, "Rocky Balboa" will have to take its time at the box office as many moviegoers may need some convincing before spending money on the followup to the Tommy Gunn flick. Older adults are the ones who remember the excitement of the franchise, but the studio is hoping they could bring their kids with them for an uplifting tale that makes you feel good inside. "The Pursuit of Happyness" and "We Are Marshall" will be direct competitors in the feel-good genre and the latter will steal away many sports fans too. "Balboa" will have to rely on nostalgia and good word-of-mouth to carry it through round after round. Already playing in 2,752 theaters and adding more locations on Friday, "Rocky Balboa" may gross about $16M over four days and around $21M over six days.
For football fans this holiday weekend, Warner Bros. trots out another pigskin drama with "We Are Marshall" starring Matthew McConaughey, Matthew Fox, and David Strathairn. The PG-rated film tells the true story of the football program at Marshall University in West Virginia which had to be rebuilt from scratch after a plane crash killed most of the players and coaches. Hollywood seems to have an endless line-up of sports dramas these days and since most of them become commercial successes, it’s no wonder that they keep getting churned out. Just a few months ago, moviegoers powered the football flicks "Invincible" and "Gridiron Gang" to the number one spot with bows of $17M and $14.4M, respectively. "Marshall" should play to much of the same audience and with its underdog feel-good story, the time of year will help since people are in the mood for that type of emotion.
Reviews have not been too good, but that should not matter much. "We Are Marshall" is meant for sports fans and those who love stories about overcoming adversity, regardless of how predictable they may be. Sales from the heartland should be solid and with the tame rating, entire families can come out together. Plus McConaughey is a reliable draw at the box office and is believable as a quirky football coach. Still, competition will be strong and coming from all directions so a blowout will not be possible. Opening in 2,606 theaters, "We Are Marshall" could score about $14M over the Friday-to-Monday frame.
Countering the parade of PG flicks is the R-rated CIA thriller "The Good Shepherd" directed by Robert De Niro. The Universal release stars Matt Damon as Edward Wilson, a loyal government agent who helped to create the agency during the Cold War. Angelina Jolie, Alec Baldwin, William Hurt, John Turturro, and De Niro also star. "Shepherd" boasts solid starpower which could help the film have broad appeal. The subject matter appeals to the 30+ crowd, but Damon and Jolie should help to pull in twentysomethings. Teens and ethnic audiences will have minimal interest. Critics have been mixed on the film which could impact the overall turnout.
The last few months have not been kind to star-driven period dramas aimed at adult audiences. Pictures like "Hollywoodland," "All the King’s Men," and "Bobby" have all struggled to find paying audiences with none reaching the $15M mark in total sales. "Shepherd’s" cast is what will allow it to rise above those failures. But the fight for the attention and time of mature adults will be fierce and a running time of nearly three hours will allow for one less showtime per day on every screen further cutting into its commercial potential. Infiltrating 2,217 locations, "The Good Shepherd" might capture around $13M over four days.
With the calendar year coming to a close, things continue to get crowded in the specialty arena this weekend. Clint Eastwood‘s award-winning war drama "Letters From Iwo Jima" debuted on Wednesday in limited release ahead of a January expansion similar to what Warner Bros. did two years ago with the director’s "Million Dollar Baby" which went on to reign at the Oscars. Edward Norton and Naomi Watts star in the period romance "The Painted Veil" from Warner Independent which also platformed on Wednesday in New York and Los Angeles. Thursday brings the limited launches of Miramax’s "Venus" starring Golden Globe nominee Peter O’Toole and the Chinese period drama "Curse of the Golden Flower" from Sony Classics which stars Gong Li and Chow Yun-Fat.
Last weekend, Will Smith scored a number one hit with "The Pursuit of Happyness" which continues to please audiences. Overall moviegoing should increase over the holiday weekend, but more choices for adult audiences will give Sony some competition. "Pursuit’s" four-day take could drop 25% from its three-day debut gross giving the film about $20M and a cume of $58M after 11 days.
As a sci-fi actioner, Fox’s "Eragon" is likely to see one of the largest drops in the top ten. The dragon adventure might fall by 35% to around $15M over the four-day session leaving the studio with $46M.
Kidpics score big points over Christmas so "Charlotte’s Web" might see many of those fans who skipped out last weekend actually show up this time. The Paramount release’s four-day tally may slip 10% from its three-day bow and bring in roughly $10M. That would give the family film a total of $27M after 11 days.
LAST YEAR: With Christmas falling on a Sunday, the observed holiday on Monday gave the box office an expanded four-day holiday frame allowing the mega holdovers to repeat atop the charts. "King Kong" spent its second weekend at number one and grossed $33.3M over four days and was closely followed by "The Chronicles of Narnia" with $31.7M in its third adventure. The combined haul for the pair soared to $285M with much more still to come. Newcomers rounded out the top five with Jim Carrey defeating Steve Martin in the battle of the comedies. Sony’s "Fun With Dick and Jane" opened in third with $21.5M over four days while Fox’s sequel "Cheaper by the Dozen 2" settled for fourth with $15.3M. Final tallies reached $110.3M and $82.6M, respectively. Sony also claimed fifth with "Memoirs of a Geisha" which expanded nationally and took in $10.2M over the long weekend. Also opening were Fox Searchlight’s Johnny Knoxville comedy "The Ringer" with $7.7M over four days, the Jennifer Aniston pic "Rumor Has It" with $7.5M in two days for Warner Bros., and Universal’s "Munich" with $6M in four days. The films went on to reach $35.4M, $43M, and $47.4M respectively. The debuting horror pic "Wolf Creek" opened outside the top ten with $4.9M in two days on its way to $16.2M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
From IGN Movies: "In a report that has been picked up by various European news outlets, Affleck told the press at the London premiere of his new film Hollywoodland, "By playing a superhero in Daredevil, I have inoculated myself from ever playing another superhero. … Wearing a costume was a source of humiliation for me and something I wouldn’t want to do again soon."
Click here for the full report, including some rather amusing comments on Affleck’s movie choices.
Movie studios are offering something for every age group over the Columbus Day holiday weekend. Mature adults will go undercover with Martin Scorsese‘s cop thriller "The Departed," twentysomethings looking for a scare get the horror prequel "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning," while teenagers have a chance to laugh with the new comedy "Employee of the Month."
Meanwhile, last weekend’s number one film – the animated comedy "Open Season" – will continue to play to young children during a frame when a large percentage of students will have no class on Monday. The top ten will try to crack the $100M mark for the first time in nearly two months thanks to the variety of good product.
Ranking dead last among Hollywood’s big six studios in year-to-date market share, Warner Bros. has a lot of catching up to do in the fourth quarter if it wants to prevent snapping its five-year streak of billion-dollar-plus box office years. So this weekend, it hands the ball off to Scorsese who delivers what critics are calling one of his best films ever with "The Departed." The R-rated picture stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin, and Martin Sheen. Overflowing with starpower, the Boston-set film is an American remake of the award-winning Hong Kong blockbuster "Infernal Affairs" which finds an Irish cop going undercover into the underworld and a mob mole infiltrating the police department.
After rejecting a seemingly endless line of period dramas including "Hollywoodland," "The Black Dahlia," "Flyboys," and "All the King’s Men," adult audiences should be ready to throw its support behind a modern-day action thriller juiced up with major stars worth paying top dollar for. If the cast isn’t enough to seal the deal, glowing reviews from critics across the board should have a big impact on driving in traffic. In fact, reviews are among the best of any wide release hitting theaters this year. DiCaprio and Damon appeal to a wide age group so expect strong numbers from young adults. And Jack is that rare star who can flirt with age 70 but still be relevant to the iPod generation. With $100M blockbusters in each of the last four decades, the Oscar-winner is a perennial favorite and his films are
Warner Bros. has backed "The Departed" with a solid marketing campaign which is effectively exciting ticket buyers. No R-rated film has hit the $30M mark on opening weekend in nearly a year so that could once again be the ceiling on this film’s short-term potential. Appeal to both men and women is substantial, although as is typical at this time of year, business from males may be affected by football and the baseball playoffs. But word-of-mouth is likely to be very positive so look for the pic to remain a contender for weeks to come. With a colossal amount of starpower, sensational reviews, and a Monday holiday helping Sunday night sales,
the Leo vs. Matt flick should be able to generate plenty of excitement with audiences this weekend. "The Departed" opens in 3,017 theaters on Friday and could gross about $27M over the frame.
Moviegoers that don’t get starstruck, but instead want some gore and violence in their weekend entertainment, can opt for "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning." The prequel to the 2003 remake of the 1974 horror classic is an R-rated tale with Jordana Brewster ("The Fast and the Furious", "Annapolis") as its only star. Horror remakes usually do not rely on stars anyway, but on the brand name of a popular terrorfest. Budgets are relatively low with most of the money going towards production values rather than talent. Three years ago, the previous "Massacre" posted powerful numbers bowing to $28.1M in mid-October on its way to a brutal $80.1M. It opened the door to many other moneymaking remake hits like "Dawn of the Dead," "The Amityville Horror," and "The Omen" which each went on to gross over $50M.
"Beginning" will play to hardcore genre fans that are older teens and young adults. But look for some older horror aficionados to take a curious peek too. The marketplace is primed and ready for its arrival as there has not been a major horror hit since June’s "Omen" pic hit cinemas. Add in the fact that Halloween is around the corner prompting audience demand for the genre to rise and a large turnout should be expected. Excitement does not seem to be reaching the same height that this installment’s predecessor had, so an opening in the high 20s may not result. Plus Leo, Matt, and even bad boy Jack will be drawing away many twentysomethings this weekend. Buzzing through victims in over 2,800 theaters, "The Texas Chainsaw Massace: The Beginning" could scare up around $19M this weekend.
The classic love triangle storyline is set in a Walmart-like super store in the new Lionsgate comedy "Employee of the Month." The PG-13 pic stars Dane Cook and Dax Shepard as co-workers competing for the attention of the hot new sales clerk, played by Jessica Simpson, who only dates those who win the coveted employee prize. The comedy should play to a teen and young adult audience and with the weekend’s other new films being R flicks, Month could score some points with the under-17 crowd. Teenage girls have especially been neglected this fall. Why would they care about 1940s murder mysteries, moronic stunt films, or Sean Penn as a flamboyant politician? Two hunky young dudes fighting over the former Daisy Duke could make for the most interesting film to grab their attention since "Step Up."
Still, "Employee of the Month" will have its work cut out for it. Many older teens and young adults will be drawn away by "Departed" and "Chainsaw" and Ashton Kutcher fans are still checking out "The Guardian." Starpower is not too high, but teenagers in need of a laugh will not have many other options. Opening in 2,579 theaters, "Employee of the Month" could debut with around $10M.
Sony’s animated comedy "Open Season" enjoyed a healthy start to its run last weekend and will face no new competition during the sophomore frame. Plus with the Columbus Day school holiday, the Martin Lawrence – Ashton Kutcher toon should remain a popular (and only) option for young children. A 30% drop would give "Season" about $16M over the weekend and a sturdy ten-day cume of $46M.
Buena Vista’s Coast Guard adventure "The Guardian" did moderately well in its debut last weekend, but adult audiences will be pulled away by the starpower of "The Departed" this weekend. The studio has been reporting strong exit polls so word-of-mouth could prevent a large falloff. A 40% decline would give "Guardian" about $11M for the weekend and $34M in ten days.
"Jackass: Number Two" will face some stiff competition from the weekend’s two new R-rated films so a 45% drop could be in order. That would leave the Paramount hit with $8M and an impressive 17-day total of $64M allowing the comedy sequel to surpass the gross of the 2002 original in under three weeks.
LAST YEAR: New films invaded the box office over the Columbus Day frame taking four of the top five slots. Leading the way was the acclaimed claymation pic "Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" with a $16M debut. The DreamWorks film enjoyed good legs and ended up with $56.1M domestically plus the Oscar for Best Animated Film. Jodie Foster‘s two-time chart-topper "Flightplan" held up well in its third weekend grossing $10.8M for Buena Vista. Cameron Diaz opened her new comedy "In Her Shoes" in third place with $10M on its way to $32.9M for Fox. Universal followed with the sports betting film "Two For the Money" with a $8.7M bow and Sony opened its drama "The Gospel" in fifth with $7.5M. Final grosses reached $22.9M and $15.8M, respectively. Lions Gate saw its new comedy "Waiting" launch in seventh place with just $6M leading to a $16.1M final. Opening with strong results in limited release were the acclaimed dramas "Good Night, and Good Luck" and "The Squid and the Whale" which both earned rave reviews and kudos during awards season. Their domestic grosses reached $31.6M and $7.4M, respectively.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com