Water, water everywhere, and not a damn way to get home. That’s this week’s gallery theme: Movies where we see people trapped on the open seas, inspired by Adrift, starring Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin as two young lovers whose boat is incapacitated after sailing directly into a catastrophic hurricane (and with Claflin’s character suffering from a life-threatening injury). Likewise, the movies in this gallery see heroes under immense pier pressure when their boats get hijacked, destroyed, or worse of all, disappeared all together.

Note: Because a lot of movies fall under this theme, we’re not including submarine movies (Das BootBelowBlack Sea) or movies where the heroes can generally head home at any time (JawsThe Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou).

Following a six-week streak of R-rated films topping the charts, The Rock‘s family comedy The Game Plan led the box office last weekend. Now, adult fare comes back to claim the crown with the new Ben Stiller comedy The Heartbreak Kid which is aiming for an easy number one debut. Also opening nationally are the fantasy adventure The Seeker: The Dark is Rising and the music-filled drama Feel the Noise. With the Columbus Day holiday falling on Monday, some students will have extra time off making for a solid start for the month of October.

Almost a decade after There’s Something About Mary became a sleeper smash, directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly reunite with Stiller for another raunchy relationship comedy with The Heartbreak Kid. A remake of the 1972 film written by Neil Simon, the Paramount release stands as another number one hit inherited from the DreamWorks factory. The pic tells the story of a man who marries too early and then falls for another woman during his honeymoon. In the past year, the R-rated envelope-pushing comedies Borat, Knocked Up, and Superbad grossed nearly $400M in combined domestic box office proving that there is gold to be mined in this genre when films are made well and deliver the laughs that audiences want.

Plus star-driven comedies with major Hollywood faces routinely lure moviegoers away from the home and into the multiplexes. Heartbreak will probably not reach the $30.7M opening weekend figure of Knocked Up which had more buzz plus opened in June when most college students were out of school. But reviews so far have been quite good for this type of film so adults will certainly give it a try. And with so many dark and serious films about outlaws, vigilantes, and terrorists out there, audiences definitely want something light and funny right now. Opening in over 3,000 theaters, The Heartbreak Kid may debut with about $27M this weekend.


Ben Stiller and Malin Aklerman in The Heartbreak Kid

The time-travel adventure film The Seeker: The Dark is Rising heads into very wide release (possibly too wide) this weekend aiming for young boys in fantasy mode. Rated PG, the Fox release is based on the popular series of novels and will try to tap into a built-in audience of readers. Of course this is no Harry Potter and currently The Rock is doing a good job bringing in business from the lads so it will be an uphill battle at the box office. Overall buzz does not seem too strong so a huge crowd is not expected. Also there is no real starpower so the film will have to rely on special effects and fans of the literary property. Attacking 3,141 venues, The Seeker may generate around $9M over the weekend.


The Seeker

A Harlem rapper discovers Reggaeton music in Puerto Rico in the urban drama Feel the Noise from producer Jennifer Lopez. Sony is using her name prominently in the marketing which makes sense since there is not much starpower on screen. Latino and African-American youth are being targeted by the PG-13 film which should play mostly to a teen audience. The pic has a clear shot at this crowd since Seeker and The Game Plan skew younger and The Heartbreak Kid and The Kingdom will play older. The studio is trying to tap into the same audience that came out in surprisingly potent numbers for its past films like You Got Served and Stomp the Yard. Noise will open in half as many theaters and the buzz is a bit softer so the numbers will undoubtedly be smaller. Still an impressive average is likely. Stepping into 1,000 locations, Feel the Noise might bow to around $5M.


Feel the Noise

Opening in just 15 theaters in a handful of cities is the George Clooney legal thriller Michael Clayton from Warner Bros. In the R-rated pic, the Oscar-winning actor plays a hotshot attorney who is called in to manage a crisis when his firm’s top litigator suffers a breakdown while defending a top client. Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, and Sydney Pollack co-star. Reviews have been strong and the studio hopes that buzz from a few select markets will spread when Clayton expands nationally next weekend. But a crowded marketplace for serious adult dramas will make things tough.


George Clooney in Michael Clayton

The Rock‘s kidpic The Game Plan delivered a powerful debut last weekend and with little competition from new releases, plus the Columbus Day holiday, a solid hold should result. Seeker will distract a few young boys, but overall it shouldn’t be that much of a threat. A decline of 30% could occur giving the Disney hit around $16M for the session boosting the ten-day cume to an impressive $42M.

The Middle East drama The Kingdom has been ranking number one during the week since kids are busy with school and less able to see Game Plan. Universal should see a 45% drop to about $9.5M which would put the Jamie Foxx actioner at $32M after ten days. Look for Resident Evil: Extinction to slide 50% to roughly $4M leaving Sony with $43M to date.

LAST YEAR: October kicked off with a bang with the top spot debut of Martin Scorsese‘s The Departed with $26.9M. Warner Bros. went on to gross $132.4M domestically and $288M worldwide plus scored four Oscars including the coveted Best Picture statue. Opening in second place with $18.5M was Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning which was the first of three horror sequels that month. New Line found its way to $39.5M. Sony’s toon hit Open Season dropped to third with $15.6M in its sophomore frame. The Lionsgate comedy Employee of the Month bowed in fourth with $11.4M on its way to $28.4M. The Guardian rounded out the top five with $9.6M in its second weekend.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

After two weeks of rule by Jodie and Milla, the boys come charging back in what could be a fierce fight for the number one spot. Jamie Foxx heads up the Middle East political thriller The Kingdom while The Rock targets a kinder and gentler audience with his family comedy The Game Plan. With little to no overlap in customers, both films should have room to breathe. Also debuting but in a moderate national release is the Morgan Freeman pic Feast of Love.

After scoring four consecutive $100M grossers this summer, Universal aims for another trip to the number one spot with its new military drama The Kingdom. Oscar winner Jamie Foxx leads the cast playing an agent with the FBI that assembles a talented team of experts to go to Saudi Arabia against government orders to investigate a suicide bomber’s attack against Americans. Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper, Jason Bateman, and Jeremy Piven co-star in the R-rated pic. The studio is hoping to reconnect with the same audience that powered its 2005 Iraq War drama Jarhead to a strong $27.7M bow. It’s even used Kanye West‘s music in its advertising just as it did two years ago.

The Kingdom is part of a handful of fall flicks to deal with political issues in the Middle East. As one of the first ones out of the gate, it may not suffer from the backlash against this genre that may eventually be created. Marketed as a revenge picture featuring Americans fighting back against those who wronged us, the Peter Berg-directed film should tap into a certain segment of the audience that will find comfort in this type of fare. But competition for adults will be a factor especially considering how seven of the top eight films last weekend were rated R. Reviews have been mixed, however starpower is ample which should compensate. Infiltrating more than 2,700 theaters, The Kingdom might open with approximately $19M this weekend.


Jamie Foxx and co. in The Kingdom.

A superstar quarterback’s life is thrown into disarray when he meets the daughter he never knew he had in Disney’s The Game Plan starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The PG-rated entry enters multiplexes in the early weeks of the football season and at a time when there are zero options for families meaning the timing could not be better. The concept should sell to moms, dads, and kids alike. Plus, the studio found great success with this format two years ago when it put muscular action star Vin Diesel into the family comedy The Pacifier and drove $30.6M worth of business into theaters on opening weekend.

Of course Diesel, Ice Cube, and other macho men have been showing their softer side in kidpics lately so the idea is not totally new. The studio’s sneak previews last weekend helped to get more buzz out there with the target demo and with the lack of direct competition, Game Plan should have smooth sailing with parents and children. The marketing push has been effective as Disney has proven with films like Wild Hogs that it can sell just about any type of star-driven comedy to the public. Charging into about 2,800 locations, The Game Plan could grab around $17M this weekend.


The Rock stars in The Game Plan.

Morgan Freeman, Greg Kinnear, and Selma Blair star in the new drama Feast of Love which quietly enters the marketplace on Friday as the frame’s third new wide opener. Directed by Robert Benton, the R-rated collection of intertwining stories set in Oregon will play exclusively to a mature adult audience. MGM has not been pushing the film too much and the release is not very wide so the film’s potential is limited. Women should outnumber men by a small margin. Landing in about 1,200 sites, a $2M debut could result.


Morgan Freeman and Greg Kinnear in Feast of Love.

The Tommy Lee Jones drama In the Valley of Elah will expand to roughly 700 theaters nationwide on Friday as it enters its third weekend of release and will try to pop into the top ten. The Paul Haggis-directed pic got off to a solid start by platforming in nine theaters to a $14,840 average. However, things slowed down considerably last weekend during its expansion to 317 playdates which eroded its average down to $3,996. The Warner Independent title struggled as it moved into more major markets and this weekend should see its average get diluted further. A weekend tally of about $2M seems likely.


Tommy Lee Jones in Elah.

A mighty tumble awaits current box office champ Resident Evil: Extinction which is coming off of the biggest bow in the series. The first two Evil pics each suffered a steep 62% drop in the second weekend. A similar drop should result for this third chapter giving Extinction about $9.5M for the frame and $38M in ten days.

The Dane CookJessica Alba comedy Good Luck Chuck is also following up on a solid debut. Most of the fans of the actors probably came out upfront so a 50% fall to around $7M seems likely. That would give Lionsgate a ten-day cume of $24M.

LAST YEAR Sony topped the charts with its animated offering Open Season which debuted to an impressive $23.6M on its way to $85.1M. Ashton Kutcher voiced the number one film and starred on-screen opposite Kevin Costner in the second place pic The Guardian which opened to $18M. the Buena Vista release went on to collect $55M. Jackass: Number Two fell two spots to third with $14.6M losing half of it audience. Launching in fourth was the Billy Bob Thornton comedy School for Scoundrels with $8.6M for MGM on its way to $17.8M. Jet Li‘s Fearless rounded out the top five with $5M for Focus.

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

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

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

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

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

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


"Yay, pregnancy."

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

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


Where Dane Cook gets his career advice.

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


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

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


"Day Watch"

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

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

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

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

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Moviegoers were in the mood to be spooked this weekend as the horror sequel The Grudge 2 scared its way to a number one opening after its release on Friday the 13th.

Last week’s chart-topper, the mob thriller The Departed, remained strong in its second weekend taking the runnerup spot while the new Robin Williams political comedy Man of the Year finished third in the polls with a respectable voter turnout. The weekend’s other new releases, the action film The Marine and the historical epic One Night with the King, generated low-to-moderate ticket sales. Overall, the North American box office remained vibrant with one of the best October showings in recent years.


"The Grudge 2"

With Halloween around the corner, teens and young adults were craving a good scare and powered the horror flick The Grudge 2 to the top of the charts with an estimated $22M in its opening weekend. Averaging a creepy $6,851 from 3,211 locations, the PG-13 film gave Sony its 12th number one opener of 2006 even though it debuted far below the $39.1M launch of its predecessor two years ago. Sarah Michelle Gellar, who anchored the first Grudge, only appears briefly in the sequel which instead stars the lesser-known television actress Amber Tamblyn as the sister who comes across a supernatural curse. Takashi Shimizu, the director behind the first Grudge as well as the Japanese Ju-On pics which inspired it, once again helms.

After the 2004 surprise smash went on to gross $110.2M from a measly $10M production budget, a sequel was developed. Once again, young women led the way in buying tickets. Studio research showed that 52% of the audience was female and 54% was under the age of 21. The PG-13 rating of the $20M sequel was key to bringing in the high school set, but arriving in the marketplace just seven days after the R-rated horror pic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning made it a bit difficult to get the college crowd. Fall’s fright film festival continues on its merry way with the October 27 launch of Saw III and the November 10 arrival of Gellar in a full starring role in the supernatural thriller The Return.

Enjoying a powerful second weekend was Martin Scorsese‘s crime thriller The Departed which slipped from first place grossing an estimated $18.7M. Dropping only 31%, the Warner Bros. hit posted a terrific hold thanks to strong word-of-mouth and lifted its cume to an impressive $56.6M after ten days. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Jack Nicholson, The Departed looks to be on course to become the director’s top-grossing film ever as it should beat the $102.6M of 2004’s The Aviator. The vicinity of $110M could be reached domestically for the $90M production with much more on tap overseas. Asian cinema inspired both of the top films in North America as Departed is a Hollywood remake of the Hong Kong blockbuster Infernal Affairs.


"The Departed"

Robin Williams returned to making mainstream comedies for adults with his political satire Man of the Year which debuted in third place with an estimated $12.6M. Playing in 2,515 sites, the Universal film about a popular talk show host who runs for president averaged an encouraging $4,990. For the Oscar winning funnyman, it was his second best opening this decade for a non-family film after the $20.9M bow of 2002’s cop thriller Insomnia. Williams scored recent hits with last spring’s RV which grossed $71.4M and last year’s animated film Robots which took in $128.2M. Man of the Year did not fare well with critics and The Departed continued to pull away adult audiences. But the Barry Levinson-directed comedy performed well as the only funny option for grown ups in the current marketplace.


"Man of the Year"

In its third weekend, Sony’s hit toon Open Season eased only 30% and grossed an estimated $11M pushing the 17-day total to a solid $59.2M. The horror prequel The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning tumbled an understandable 58% to an estimated $7.8M in its second weekend. New Line’s $16M fright flick has grossed $30.5M in ten days and should finish with $40-45M. Its predecessor, 2003’s remake of Chainsaw, held up better dropping 49% in its sophomore frame on its way to a $80.1M final.

Wrestling superstar John Cena made a quiet debut on the big screen as his action film The Marine opened in sixth place with only $7M, according to estimates. Averaging a mild $2,750 from 2,545 theaters, the PG-13 pic appealed mostly to the entertainer’s core audience of young males. The Fox title about a discharged jarhead who sets out to save his kidnapped wife suffered horrendous reviews.


"The Marine"

The Ashton KutcherKevin Costner Coast Guard adventure The Guardian continued to play well slipping 39% to an estimated $5.9M. Cume stands at $41.1M. Lionsgate’s Jessica Simpson comedy Employee of the Month fell 51% in its second weekend to an estimated $5.6M. With $19.9M in ten days, the PG-13 pic could reach $28-30M.

Connecting with Christian audiences in moderate national release was the historical epic adventure One Night with the King which bowed to an estimated $4.3M from 909 theaters. The 8X release averaged a good $4,759 per site. The PG-rated film about the rise of the Queen of Persia stars Tiffany Dupont, Omar Sharif, and Peter O’Toole and was given a church-based marketing campaign. King ranked ninth but had the fourth best per-theater average in the top ten.

Rounding out the top ten was a film not targeting churchgoers. Former number one Jackass: Number Two grossed an estimated $3.3M in its fourth outing falling 49%. Paramount has captured $68.4M thus far.


"Jackass: Number Two"

Opening to weak results in limited release was the indie drama Infamous which grossed an estimated $435,000 from 179 theaters for a disappointing $2,430 average. The Warner Independent release about writer Truman Capote failed to generate interest with arthouse moviegoers who recently spent $28.8M on Capote which went on win an Oscar for Best Actor for Philip Seymour Hoffman earlier this year. Toby Jones, Sandra Bullock, Daniel Craig, and Gwyneth Paltrow star in Infamous which will not be given a wider release.

Still generating muscular numbers in limited release was Miramax’s acclaimed drama The Queen which expanded from 11 to 46 locations and grossed an estimated $1M. Jumping into the Top 20, the Helen Mirren film averaged a sensational $22,174 and boosted its sum to $1.9M with more markets set to open in the weeks ahead.

Another world leader pic, The Last King of Scotland, also expanded into more cities this weekend while in its third conquest. The Fox Searchlight film grossed an estimated $605,000 from 104 locations for a solid $5,817 average. Total is $1.3M.


"The Last King of Scotland"

Four films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Leggy hit The Illusionist witnessed another of its under-30% drops in its ninth weekend of release. The Edward Norton drama slipped only 24% to an estimated $1.4M giving Yari Film Group a respectable $36.3M to date. A final tally of $40-42M could result. MGM’s comedy School for Scoundrels crumbled 63% to an estimated $1.3M giving the Billy Bob Thornton pic $16.3M. A $18M final gross is likely.

Also falling hard were the male-skewing action films Fearless and Gridiron Gang with weekend estimates of $969,000 and $800,000, respectively. Jet Li‘s martial arts epic dropped 58% and has grossed $23.5M for Focus – a solid figure for a subtitled film. $25M may be reached. The Rock‘s football flick stumbled 64% and raised its cume to $38M. Sony’s final take should fall into the $39-40M range.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $98.1M which was up a stellar 48% from last year when The Fog debuted at number one with $11M; and up 14% from 2004 when Shark Tale stayed in the top spot for a third consecutive weekend with $22M.

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 ThorntonJon 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 WinsletJennifer 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

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
events.

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.

Leo DiCaprio, ‘lending a hand’ in Martin Scorsese’s "The Departed."

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.

More teens in trouble in the latest "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" film.

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.

Dane Cook, in his first leading role in "Employee of the Month."

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

Ashton Kutcher ambushed the top two spots at the North American box office this weekend playing an animated mule and a Coast Guard rookie in Open Season and The Guardian, respectively. Both films enjoyed strong openings pumping in a combined $40M and helped the marketplace beat last year’s levels for the first time in four weeks. The weekend’s other new wide release, the comedy School for Scoundrels, saw more modest results with a fourth place bow.

Sony claimed its usual position atop the charts with the animated comedy Open Season which brought in an estimated $23M in ticket sales over the weekend. Hunting moviegoers in an ultrawide 3,833 theaters, the PG-rated film about funny forest animals fighting off hunters averaged a strong $6,001 per site. Open Season marked the first venture from the studio’s new in-house animation division which will compete in the years ahead with dominant players in CG toons like Pixar and DreamWorks. Martin Lawrence and Kutcher led the voice cast.

Sony research showed that 77% of the crowd consisted of parents with children under the age of 12, while girls were a bigger force making up 56% of the audience. A high 89% marked the film "excellent" or "very good". With strong exit polls and the Columbus Day school holiday coming up next week, the $85M film hopes to last throughout the month of October. For the studio, it was Sony’s record eleventh number one opening of the year. Of the company’s twenty film releases in the first nine months of 2006, half have debuted north of $20M.

Kutcher’s face and body showed up in the weekend’s number two film, the Coast Guard action drama The Guardian, which opened with an estimated $17.7M. Also starring Kevin Costner, the Buena Vista release averaged a solid $5,451 per theater from 3,241 sites. The starpower helped bring in moviegoers who in turn liked the film. The Guardian earned an impressive CinemaScore grade of A-. Studio research showed that 50% of the crowd was in the 26-49 age bracket while males outnumbered the ladies with 53% of the audience. For Costner, who has not been a major box office force in over a decade, it was actually his best opening since Waterworld‘s $21.2M debut in 1995. Kutcher has seen many films debut in the same ballpark like The Butterfly Effect with $17.1M, Just Married with $17.5M, and Guess Who with $20.7M.

Falling an understandable 52% from its top spot debut, Jackass: Number Two finished the weekend in third place with an estimated $14M. With $51.5M in ten days, the $12M production should deliver $70-75M for Paramount plus healthy DVD revenue down the road. The first Jackass film grossed $42.1M in its first ten days on its way to a $64.3M cume in 2002.

Earning passing grades in fourth place was the Billy Bob ThorntonJon Heder comedy School for Scoundrels which opened to an estimated $9.1M. Playing in 3,004 theaters, the PG-13 film about a young loser who seeks advice from an older pro on how to get women averaged a mild $3,032 per site. Reviews were not too encouraging for the MGM release.

Jet Li‘s Fearless dropped a steep 56% in its second weekend and placed fifth with an estimated $4.7M. The action star’s "final" martial arts epic has grossed $17.8M in ten days and looks headed for about $26M. Each of Li’s last five films also fell by more than half on its sophomore frame.

Sony’s football drama Gridiron Gang fell 52% to an estimated $4.5M pushing its cume to $33.2M. Enjoying the smallest decline in the top ten for the fourth consecutive weekend was the sleeper hit The Illusionist with $2.8M, off only 15%, for a total of $31.5M for Yari Film Group. MGM’s fighter pilot adventure Flyboys tumbled 61% in its second weekend to an estimated $2.3M. With only $9.9M in ten days, a final take of around $14M seems likely.

Yet another period drama The Black Dahlia followed with an estimated $2.1M, down 54%, giving Universal only $20.7M to date. Rounding out the top ten with the biggest cume on the list was indie sensation Little Miss Sunshine with an estimated $2M, off 28%, for a total of $53.2M for Fox Searchlight. The acclaimed comedy has now matched megablockbusters Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, The Da Vinci Code, and Cars by spending seven consecutive weekends in the top ten.

A pair of critically-acclaimed dramas about world leaders opened to fantastic results in limited release. Miramax launched its Helen Mirren starrer The Queen on Saturday and grossed an estimated $123,000 from just three New York theaters for a potent two-day average of $41,000. The story of Queen Elizabeth II after the death of Princess Diana was double-screened at a pair of the arthouse venues and opened a day later than usual since on Friday it screened as the opening night film of the New York Film Festival. Mirren won the Best Actress prize at the Venice International Film Festival and is considered a major contender for an Oscar nod.

Also a likely Academy Award nominee, but for the Best Actor trophy, was Forest Whitaker whose new film The Last King of Scotland debuted powerfully with an estimated $143,000 over three days from only four venues in New York and Los Angeles. The Fox Searchlight release finds Whitaker playing Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the early 1970s. Since its Wednesday launch, Scotland has grossed $172,000 in five days and will expand into the top ten markets on Friday before spreading nationally on October 20.

Posting a respectable debut in moderate national release was the football drama Facing the Giants which collected an estimated $1.4M from 441 theaters for a mild $3,150 average. The PG-rated pic about a coach who finds inspiration from God was released by Destination Films and Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Warner Independent Pictures expanded its Michel Gondry pic The Science of Sleep from 14 to 221 theaters nationwide and grossed an estimated $1.2M. Averaging a solid $5,475 per location, the R-rated drama lifted its sum to $1.7M. Lionsgate widened its doc The U.S. vs. John Lennon grossing an estimated $210,000 from 57 sites for a moderate $3,684 average. Cume stands at $361,000.

Three films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Sony’s big fall flop All the King’s Men crumbled 56% in its second weekend to an estimated $1.6M giving the political drama a puny $6.3M in ten days. Rejected by audiences, the Sean Penn flick should finish its run quickly with a horrendous $9M. The studio’s supernatural teen thriller The Covenant fell 59% to an estimated $1.3M and upped its total to $22.2M. A $25M final should result for the $20M production. Fox’s baseball toon Everyone’s Hero got crushed by the arrival of Open Season and sank 79% to an estimated $1M. With a modest $13.2M thus far, the animated film could end up with only $15M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $82.2M which was up 15% from last year when Flightplan remained at number one with $14.8M; but down 17% from 2004 when Shark Tale opened in the top spot with a fierce $47.6M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Ashton Kutcher fans get two chances to see (or hear) their favorite star this weekend as the Hollywood prankster takes on reigning box office champ "Jackass: Number Two" by voicing a mule deer in the animated comedy "Open Season" and going up against Kevin Costner in the action drama "The Guardian."

Also opening nationally is the Billy Bob ThorntonJon Heder comedy "School For Scoundrels" while some potential Oscar contenders debut in the arthouses.

Hollywood’s umpteenth computer-animated feature film of the year hits multiplexes on Friday in the form of "Open Season." The PG-rated pic features the voices of Martin Lawrence and Kutcher and finds a domesticated grizzly bear being dropped into the wilderness right before the start of hunting season. Young kids usually eat up these fish-out-of-water comedy toons and this Sony release should play to the same family audience. The target demographic has had an endless line of movies this year featuring talking animals getting into wacky situations, but since the current marketplace is lacking any major offering for children, "Open Season" should score as the first animated hit of the new school year. The studio is saturating the market with screens giving the film the fourth widest bow ever for a non-DreamWorks toon, and the second widest in Sony history for any film after 2004’s webslinger sequel. With no competition and solid funnyman starpower behind the mics, a strong number one bow could result. "Open Season" makes its way into 3,833 theaters and may debut with around $24M this weekend.


Ashton Kutcher, in his other film, "Open Season."

For those who would rather see the "Punk’d" star’s face, Buena Vista sets sail with its Coast Guard thriller "The Guardian" which finds Kutcher playing a young and cocky swimming champ who butts heads with his unorthodox teacher played by Kevin Costner. Directed by Andrew Davis ("The Fugitive," "Collateral Damage"), the PG-13 film has broad appeal with each star pulling in his respective generation. Cross-gender appeal is also present with the military-like storyline doing the job for males and the hunky actors attracting the ladies. Disney offered successful sneak previews two weeks ago to get some word-of-mouth spreading before the official debut. The studio will try to lure in the same audience that spent a solid $22.1M on the John TravoltaJoaquin Phoenix firefighter drama "Ladder 49" two autumns ago. Launching in over 3,000 theaters, "The Guardian" might debut with about $18M.


Kevin Costner to the rescue in "The Guardian."

Following his commercial success with the male-driven comedy hits "Road Trip," "Old School," and "Starsky & Hutch," Todd Phillips returns to theaters with "School for Scoundrels" which finds Billy Bob Thornton squaring off against "Napoleon Dynamite"’s Jon Heder for the affection of a young gal. MGM’s PG-13 film about an awkward young misfit who enlists the help of an expert on getting the ladies should aim for an audience of teens and young adults, plus fans of the "Bad Santa" star’s rogue ways. Starpower is not very high here. Films anchored by the former Mr. Jolie usually don’t explode on opening weekend as evidenced by the recent debuts of "The Bad News Bears" ($11.4M), "The Ice Harvest" ($3.7M), and "The Alamo" ($9.1M). Competition for young males will be tough, but if "School" can connect with teen girls as a funny romantic comedy, then it has a chance of doing some respectable numbers. Opening in over 3,000 theaters, "School for Scoundrels" might debut with about $12M.


Thornton, Heder, and that Real World chick again in "School For Scoundrels."

Some high profile indies pop into limited release this weekend. Fox Searchlight launched its Idi Amin pic "The Last King of Scotland" in four theaters on Wednesday in New York and Los Angeles and has already been receiving early Oscar buzz for Forest Whitaker‘s portrayal of the Ugandan dictator. Coincidentally, a year ago this same weekend, "Capote" debuted and fueled its own Best Actor buzz which sustained itself throughout awards season leading to a trophy for Philip Seymour Hoffman. Reviews for "Scotland" have been good and for Whitaker, have been electric.


Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland."

Miramax gets its Oscar campaign going, but for the Best Actress prize, with its Helen Mirren film "The Queen" which opens in New York City on Saturday after it officially opens the New York Film Festival on Friday evening. Mirren has already taken home the top actress prize at the Venice Film Festival for her role as Queen Elizabeth II in the dark days after the death of Princess Diana. The PG-13 film is directed by Stephen Frears ("Mrs. Henderson Presents," "Dangerous Liaisons") and has ranked number two at the U.K. box office for the last two weeks.

First Look Studios takes audiences back to Queens in 1986 with its coming-of-age drama "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints" which stars Robert Downey Jr., Chazz Palminteri, Shia LaBeouf, Dianne Wiest, Channing Tatum, and Rosario Dawson. The R-rated film won awards for Best Director and Best Ensemble at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and bows in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.

Last weekend, "Jackass: Number Two" flexed its muscles at the box office with a better-than-expected $29M launch. The Paramount film’s predecessor dropped 44% in its second weekend in the fall of 2002, but the sequel may drop harder. A 50% decline would still give the Johnny Knoxville flick about $15M for the weekend and a strong ten-day cume of $51M.

Jet Li‘s "Fearless" also drew upon a built-in audience of young men last weekend setting itself up for a sizable sophomore drop. The Focus title might also lose half of its business and take in roughly $5M. That would give the martial arts saga $18M after ten days. Sony’s "Gridiron Gang" held up well last weekend despite tough competition. Another 35% fall could be in order giving The Rock a $6M frame and a $34M total after 17 days.

LAST YEAR: For the second straight weekend, Jodie Foster‘s airline thriller "Flightplan" topped the box office with $14.8M dropping only 40% from its bow. Opening in second place was the sci-fi actioner "Serenity" which grossed $10.1M on its way to $25.4M for Universal. Warner Bros. followed close behind with $10M for its animated comedy "Corpse Bride." The revenge thriller "A History of Violence" expanded nationally and placed fourth with $8.1M and a solid $6,047 average which was the best in the whole Top 20. Opening in fifth was the Jessica-Alba-in-a-bikini pic "Into the Blue" with only $7.1M leading to a weak $18.5M final for Sony. Disney debuted its historical golf drama "The Greatest Game Ever Played" to the tune of $3.7M. A $15.3M final gross resulted.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

This week at the movies, we’ve got jive talking woodland creatures ("Open Season," with Martin Lawrence and Ashton Kutcher). We’ve got a school for Coast Guard rescue swimmers ("The Guardian," starring Kevin Coster and Kutcher again). And we’ve got a school…for scoundrels ("School for Scoundrels," starring Billy Bob Thornton and Jon Heder). Which of these flicks will get a passing grade from critics?

"Open Season," Sony Pictures Animation’s first picture, features the voices of Martin Lawrence and Ashton Kutcher as a grizzly bear and a deer, respectively, who must team up after getting stranded in the woods at the start of hunting season. Critics say that despite some impressive visuals and funny sequences, "Open Season" does little to distinguish itself from the recent glut of CG kiddie films. At 43 percent on the Tomatometer, you should turn, turn, turn away from this middling "Season."


Martin Bear: "Say it, Ashton. Say I was funny on Martin!"
Ashton Deer: "I’m Ashton Kutcher! I was on That 70’s Show!"

Kevin Costner makes a hopeful return to the action genre in "The Guardian," in which he plays a veteran U.S. Coast Guard officer who must mentor a cocky young upstart played by Ashton Kutcher. The film features intense training sequences, dramatic rescue scenes, and the requisite love story. Sound familiar? Critics seem to think so, calling it a cliched mix of "An Officer and a Gentleman" and "Top Gun," with a predictable storyline. At 40 percent on the Tomatometer, "The Guardian" needs rescuing.


"Oh, man… Finally, a funny ‘Waterworld‘ joke!"

Director Todd Phillips brings us his latest comedy "School for Scoundrels," about a nerdy meter maid (Jon Heder) who takes confidence building classes from a smarmy instructor (Billy Bob Thornton). When the student gains the confidence to ask out his longtime crush, he discovers he must compete with the teacher for her affections. Most critics are in agreement that the real scoundrels are the screenwriters who couldn’t devise a script worthy of the considerable acting talent involved. At 21 percent on the Tomatometer, "School for Scoundrels" receives a failing grade.


Jon Heder’s got to worry about more than just talons these days.

Also opening this week in limited release: "The Queen," a speculative drama about the reaction of Britain’s royal family after the death of Princess Di starring Helen Mirren, is at 95 percent on the Tomatometer; "The Last King of Scotland," which features an electrifying performance from Forrest Whitaker as the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, is at 86 percent; "Be With Me," a three part meditation on love, hope, and destiny, is at 80 percent; "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints," a coming-of-age story starring Robert Downey Jr., is at 77 percent; and "loudQUIETloud: A Film About the Pixies," which chronicles the triumphant reunion tour of the influential cult band, is at 60 percent.

Recent Ashton Kutcher Movies:
—————————————-
80% — Bobby (2006)
39% — A Lot Like Love (2005)
44% — Guess Who (2005)
33% — The Butterfly Effect (2004)
19% — Just Married (2003)

Recent Billy Bob Thornton Movies:
——————————————
46% — The Ice Harvest (2005)
46% — The Bad News Bears (2005)
79% — Chrystal (2004)
82% — Friday Night Lights (2004)
30% — The Alamo (2004)

Recent Kevin Costner Movies:
————————————–
18% — Rumor Has It… (2005)
73% — The Upside of Anger (2004)
79% — Open Range (2003)
8% — Dragonfly (2002)
13% — 3000 Miles to Graceland (2001)

Recent Jon Heder Movies:
———————————-
73% — Monster House (2006)
11% — The Benchwarmers (2006)
56% — Just Like Heaven (2005)
71% — Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

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