The latest movies, new Netflix series, and other new releases coming to the streaming giant this September include critically-acclaimed series launching their latest seasons on the streamer this month ahead of their new fall seasons coming to cable: the ninth seasons of both The Walking Dead and Shameless, and American Horror Story: Apocalypse. The final season of Gotham is also now available for binging.

Plus, limited series Unbelievable, film In the Shadow of the Moon, and Ryan Murphy’s The Politician are among the new Netflix originals in September. And there is a slew of new Certified Fresh movies coming, too: Mystic River, Superbad, and two Lord of the Rings films among them.

Read on if you’re looking for the latest movies and binge-worthy shows on Netflix in September.


HIGHLIGHTS


The Walking Dead: Season 9 (2018) 89%

Why You Should Watch: Recovering from a Tomatometer slump over recent seasons, the series’ ninth season was Certified Fresh at 91%. Andrew Lincoln, who has played lead Rick Grimes since season 1, said goodbye to the weekly series in this season (he’ll return to the role for feature films, however), while Samantha Morton (Minority Report) said hello to her lethal new role as the The Whisperers leader Alpha. Get caught up on the horror series with a quick binge before season 10 starts on AMC on October 6.

Description: The communities encounter a formidable force that threatens the very idea of civilization that the survivors have worked so hard to build.

Premiere Date: Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019


Elite: Season 2 (2019) 92%

Why You Should Watch: Guilty pleasure high school drama Elite scored 100% on 11 reviews for its first season. Season 2 of the binge-worthy Spanish import promises more of the same.

Description: In the wake of a classmate’s death, a student vanishes, allegiances shift, new friends join the drama, and dark secrets become too difficult to contain.

Premiere Date: Friday, Sept. 6, 2019


Unbelievable: Season 1 (2019) 98%

Why You Should Watch: Just off of 89% Certified Fresh 2018 horror film Hereditary, Toni Collette stars as a detective alongside fellow Emmy-winner Merritt Wever (Godless). Plus, Kaitlyn Dever, a standout in 97% Certified Fresh Booksmart, costars as a troubled teenager in this drama inspired by real events documented in The Marshall Project and ProPublica Pulitzer Prize-winning article “An Unbelievable Story of Rape,” written by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong, and This American Life podcast episode “Anatomy of Doubt.”

Description: When teenager Marie Adler (Dever) files a police report claiming she’s been sexually assaulted by an intruder in her home, the investigating detectives, as well as the people closest to her, come to doubt the truth of her story. Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away, detectives Grace Rasmussen and Karen Duvall (Collette and Wever) meet while investigating an eerily similar pair of intruder rapes and partner to catch a potential serial rapist. With episodes directed by Oscar nominees Susannah Grant and Lisa Cholodenko, Unbelievable is a story of unspeakable trauma, unwavering tenacity, and astounding resilience.

Premiere Date: Friday, Sept. 13, 2019


In the Shadow of the Moon (2019) 57%

Why You Should Watch: Boyd Holbrook starred in the first two of three Certified Fresh seasons of Netflix original Narcos. As DEA Agent Steve Murphy, he worked to bring down Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar in the acclaimed series that also starred Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones). Here, Holbrook takes on another law enforcement role — this time to catch a serial killer. Michael C. Hall (Dexter) and Cleopatra Coleman (The Last Man on Earth) costar in the film directed by Jim Mickle (We Are What We Are), whose Tomatometer average as writer/director/producer on four films and one TV series sits at a solid 81%.

Description: In 1988, Philadelphia police officer Thomas Lockhart (Boyd Holbrook), hungry to become a detective, begins tracking a serial killer who mysteriously resurfaces every nine years. But when the killer’s crimes begin to defy all scientific explanation, Locke’s obsession with finding the truth threatens to destroy his career, his family, and possibly his sanity. The genre-blending psychological thriller examines the power of time, and how its passing can either bring us together or tear us apart.

Premiere Date: Friday, Sept. 27, 2019


The Politician: Season 1 (2019) 58%

Why You Should Watch: TV super-producer Ryan Murphy’s first original series for Netflix stars Ben Platt, 2017 best actor in a musical Tony Award winner for Dear Evan Hansen. Platt also has an Emmy and a Grammy and is one Oscar away from EGOTing. The comedy also stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Lange, and Zoey Deutch.

Description: Payton Hobart (Platt), a wealthy student from Santa Barbara, California, has known since age seven that he’s going to be President of the United States. But first he’ll have to navigate the most treacherous political landscape of all: Saint Sebastian High School. To get elected Student Body President, secure a spot at Harvard, and stay on his singular path to success, Payton will have to outsmart his ruthless classmates without sacrificing his own morality and carefully crafted image.

Premiere Date: Friday, Sept. 27, 2019


Available 9/1

300 (2006) 61%
68 Kill (2017) 70%
American Psycho (2000) 69%
Dante's Peak (1997) 26%
Elena (2012) 81%
For the Birds (2018) 93%
Igor (2008) 39%
Loo Loo Kids: Johny & Friends Musical
Adventures: Season 1
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season 6 (2019) 93%
Moving Art: Season 3
My Sister's Keeper (2009) 48%
Mystic River (2003) 88%
Olmo & the Seagull (2015)
Open Season (2006) 48%
Rebel in the Rye (2017) 29%
Scream: Season 3 (2019) 40%
Serial Killer with Piers Morgan: Season 1
Spookley the Square Pumpkin (2004)
Stripes (1981) 88%
Superbad (2007) 88%
The Lake House (2006) 35%
The Last Exorcism (2010) 72%
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) 93%
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) 95%
The Saint (1997) 30%
The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009) 51%
The Walking Dead: Season 9 (2018) 89%
Uncle Naji in UAE
You Don't Mess With the Zohan (2008) 37%


Available 9/4

The World We Make (2019)

Available 9/6

Archibald’s Next Big Thing: Season 1
Article 15 (2019) 90%
Elite: Season 2 (2019) 92%
Hip Hop Evolution: Season 3
Jack Whitehall: Travels With My Father: Season 3
The Spy


Available 9/9

Norm of the North: King Sized Adventure (2019)

Available 9/10

Bill Burr: Paper Tiger
Eat Pray Love (2010) 36%
Evelyn
Shameless: Season 9 (2018) 73%
Terrace House: Tokyo 2019-2020


Available 9/12

The I-Land
The Mind, Explained
Turbo (2013) 67%


Available 9/13

The Chef Show: Volume 2
Head Count (2018) 68%
Hello, Privilege. It’s Me, Chelsea
I'm Sorry: Season 2 (2019)
Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress: The Battle of Unato
The Ranch: Part 7
Tall Girl
Unbelievable: Season 1 (2019) 98%


Available 9/14

We Have Always Lived in the Castle (2018) 87%

Available 9/15

Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison
Steal a Pencil for Me (2007) 95%
Surviving R. Kelly: Season 1 (2019) 95%


Available 9/17

Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives (2017) 82%
The Last Kids on Earth


Available 9/18

Come and Find Me (2016) 64%

Available 9/19

Océans


Available 9/20

Between Two Ferns: The Movie (2019) 75%
Criminal
Daddy Issues (2018) 89%
Disenchantment: Part 2 (2018) 73%
Fastest Car: Season 2 (2019)
Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates
Las del hockey


Available 9/21

Sarah's Key (2010) 72%

Available 9/23

Team Kaylie


Available 9/24

American Horror Story: Apocalypse (2018) 79%
Jeff Dunham: Beside Himself


Available 9/25

Abstract: The Art of Design 100%: Season 2
Birders
() %
Furie (2019) 95%
Glitch 80%: Season 3


Available 9/26

Explained : Season 2
The Grandmaster (2013) 78%


Available 9/27

Bard of Blood
Dragons: Rescue Riders
El marginal : Season 3
In the Shadow of the Moon (2019) 57%
Locked Up : Season 4
The Politician: Season 1 (2019) 58%
Skylines
Sturgill Simpson Presents Sound & Fury
Vis a vis: Season 4


Available 9/30

Gotham: Season 5 (2019) 85%
Mo Gilligan: Momentum


TV SHOWS AND MOVIES LEAVING NETFLIX IN SEPTEMBER


Leaving 9/1/19

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003) 36%
A Clockwork Orange (1971) 87%
Angels & Demons (2009) 37%
Baby Animals in the Wild: Season 1 ()
Batman Begins (2005) 84%
Battlefield Earth (2000) 3%
Californication 57%
Eight Legged Freaks (2002) 47%
Emma (1996) 85%
Ghost Ship (2002) 16%
Gothika (2003) 15%
Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay (2008) 52%
Hercules (1997) 84%
High-Rise (2015) 60%
Magic Mike (2012) 79%
Meet Joe Black (1998) 45%
Miami Vice (2006) 46%
Monster House (2006) 75%
Mr. Mom (1983) 75%
Mulan (1998) 86%
Music and Lyrics (2007) 63%
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (2008) 74%
Revolutionary Road (2008) 67%
Stuart Little (1999) 67%
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) 86%
Sydney White (2007) 35%
The Dark Knight (2008) 94%
The Fast and the Furious (2001) 54%
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) 38%
The First Monday in May (2016) 77%
The Hangover (2009) 78%


Leaving 9/4

Kicking and Screaming (1995) 57%

Leaving 9/6

Honey 3 (2016)

Leaving 9/9

Leroy & Stitch (2006) 40%
Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch (2005) 40%


Leaving 9/14

Pocahontas (1995) 55%
Tulip Fever (2017) 10%


Leaving 9/15

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries

Leaving 9/16

Super Genius: Season 1
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) 37%


Leaving 9/20

Carol (2015) 94%

Leaving 9/23

The Mysteries of Laura: Season 2 (2015)

Leaving 9/24

Portlandia 94%: Season 1-5


Leaving 9/25

Parenthood 88%: Season 1-6


Leaving 9/26

Bachelorette (2012) 57%
Night School (2016) 95%


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Jigsaw’s twisted games return for another late-October round of torture fun with Saw IV which should allow the lucrative franchise to claim the biggest horror opening of the year for the second straight time. The R-rated gorefest follows last year’s Saw III which bowed to $33.6M this very weekend setting a new debut record for the series. Jigsaw’s death in that installment did not stop a fourth flick from being produced since the most popular horror movie villains never truly die anyway. Although III set a new opening weekend record for the Lionsgate series, it did not match Saw II‘s overall $87M gross and instead finished a bit behind with $80.2M. Still, with small budgets (Saw III was produced for $12M) this cash cow continues to churn out profits and shows no sign of stopping.

The audience for Saw IV is clearly defined and new fans are not likely to be generated. Competition will come primarily from last weekend’s number one opener 30 Days of Night which will suffer a sharp fall this weekend. Otherwise, there is not much to distract genre fans on the weekend before the pumpkin holiday. The marketing has been on par with previous films, but as the franchise ages it risks losing fans who may have had enough with three helpings already. Plus this year has seen a wide assortment of horror films crash and burn which has led to some fright fatigue. Another factor could be the World Series which last year only affected Saw III‘s Friday bow but this year will cut into both Saturday and Sunday business. Many young adults may opt for the torture that the Red Sox are inflicting on the Rockies instead. Saw IV opens on Friday in 3,183 locations and could take in about $29M over three days.


Saw IV

Steve Carell provides some laughs to those not interested in Halloween horror. Following the relatively disappointing $100.3M gross for his $175M budgeted comedy Evan Almighty, the funnyman returns in the dramedy Dan in Real Life playing a depressed widower who falls for his brother’s girlfriend during a family reunion weekend. Juliette Binoche and Dane Cook co-star. The PG-13 film is not a full-fledged comedy so it won’t attract the entire Carell fan base that has grown rapidly over the years thanks to The 40-Year-Old Virgin and the hit sitcom The Office. Also Buena Vista is not releasing the film too wide so the numbers will be kept to a manageable level. Dan should skew mostly to an adult audience so a cluttered marketplace filled with options for mature moviegoers will be a factor too. A poor title won’t help either. Though reviews have been generally positive for this lovable loser tale, a large number of moviegoers might just wait for the DVD on this one. Dan in Real Life stumbles into more than 1,700 theaters on Friday and could collect about $9M.


Steve Carell in Dan in Real Life

Last weekend vampires ruled the box office with 30 Days of Night, but this time a steep fall is guaranteed. Horror pics always drop hard on the second weekend and add in the arrival of Saw which will steal away the same audience, and a 55% decline could result. That would give Sony about $7M for the frame and a decent ten-day total of $27M. Tyler Perry‘s hit comedy Why Did I Get Married? has little in the way of new competition to deal with which means another good hold is likely. The Lionsgate pic may slide by 40% to around $7M as well and boost its 17-day total to $48M.


30 Days of Night

The Game Plan has been the fall season’s top grosser and Disney once again has no threats opening against it. The Rock‘s durable hit should dip by 30% to roughly $6M for a cume to date of $76M. George Clooney’s well-reviewed legal drama Michael Clayton will face some competition for adults from Steve Carell this weekend, but a solid hold does seem likely. A 30% drop would put the Warner Bros. title at $4.5M for the session and lift the sum to $28M.

LAST YEAR: Like clockwork, Saw III came in and dominated the pre-Halloween box office with a franchise-best $33.6M debut grossing more than the rest of the top five combined. The Jigsaw pic eroded fast and ended up trailing Saw II‘s total tally and finished with $80.2M. Holding tight in second place was Martin Scorsese‘s crime saga The Departed with $9.8M in its fourth assignment and the lowest drop in the top ten. The magician drama The Prestige followed closely in third with $9.6M. The war drama Flags of Our Fathers ranked fourth with $6.3M while the animated hit Open Season placed fifth with $5.9M. Opening to dismal results outside the top ten was the Tim Robbins drama Catch A Fire with only $2M on its way to a horrible $4.3M. Platforming in only seven sites was the ensemble drama Babel which went on to gross $34.3M and win the Golden Globe for Best Picture – Drama.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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

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


30 Days of Night

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


The Comebacks

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


Reese Witherspoon and Peter Sarsgaard in Rendition

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


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


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

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


Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour

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

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

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

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

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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

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

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


Phoenix and Wahlberg in We Own the Night

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

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


Clooney as Clayton

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

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


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

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


Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush in Elizabeth: The Golden Age

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


The Final Season

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

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

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

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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.

The stars come marching out to do battle with the pirates for the number one spot this weekend.

For the sixth consecutive weekend, a threequel is poised to command the top spot at the North American box office as Warner Bros. rolls out the caper pic "Ocean’s Thirteen" reuniting Hollywood’s fun boys. Sony counters with the family offering "Surf’s Up" while Lionsgate goes after the horror crowd with "Hostel Part II." Each film should target its own audience so there should be space for all newcomers.

George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and their endless list of co-stars are back again as everyone’s favorite criminals in "Ocean’s Thirteen." The PG-13 pic finds the group back in Las Vegas on a heist driven by revenge against a real estate mogul, played by Al Pacino, who is launching his latest luxury hotel/casino. The first two in the series had December openings of $38.1M for 2001’s "Ocean’s Eleven" and $39.2M for 2004’s "Ocean’s Twelve." They also had little direct competition for adults. Although they opened in the same fashion, the sequel was not as well-liked and found its way to $125.5M, or about one-third less than the $183.4M cume of the original which itself was a remake.

"Thirteen" should play to the exact same audience of mature adults. Appeal is equally strong for males and females and even some teen interest should be there. Reviews have been generally positive but that should have little impact. Moviegoers know exactly what they are getting the third time around and will decide based on if they want to take another two-hour trip seeing slick actors, with slick hair, and slick clothes, acting cool. Those soured by "Twelve" may take a pass on "Thirteen." Plus "Pirates" and "Knocked Up" will provide some solid competition. But the sheer amount of starpower should make this entry hard to resist to many looking for a fun mature film without pirates, super heroes, and endless special effects. "Ocean’s Thirteen" rolls the dice in 3,565 locations this weekend and might win about $37M over three days.


Nerds!

For those kids who can’t get enough of talking cartoon penguins, Sony unleashes its big summer animation entry "Surf’s Up." Delivered in a mockumentary style, the PG-rated film tells the story of penguins that compete in a surfing competition, and of course crack jokes along the way. Arriving just three weeks after "Shrek the Third," "Surf’s Up" will have to deal with competition from the ogre toon and to some extent the other aging threequels which combined should gross north of $40M this weekend. The new penguin pic does not have the buzz or the starpower of a Robin Williams that helped "Happy Feet" shoot to number one last November with a $41.5M bow on its way to a terrific $198M.

Instead, "Surf’s Up" seems to be in the same middle category with recent films like "Open Season" and "Meet the Robinsons" which opened to $23.6M and $25.1M, respectively. With children in the process of ending their school years and starting their summer vacations, parents should be in the mood to take them to the movies for some non-violent fun. "Surf’s Up" lands in over 3,000 theaters on Friday and could debut with about $24M.


"Surf’s Up," aka "March of the Happy Feet."

Yet another horror sequel makes its way into theaters with Lionsgate’s "Hostel Part II." The first "Hostel" was a number one hit last year opening to $19.6M on its way to an impressive $47.3M off of a tiny budget. The new R-rated entry finds three American students in Rome who find themselves caught in a grisly game of torture and mayhem. Horror fans have been suffering from fright fatigue lately. The recent sequels "The Hills Have Eyes II" and "28 Weeks Later" both opened to just under $10M failing to match the bows of their predecessors. Other horror flicks like "Bug," "The Condemned," "The Reaping," and "Vacancy" all underperformed over the last several weeks and have helped to scare fans away from the genre.

But Lionsgate is among the best at selling this type of fare to older teens and young adults and the distributor is hoping to tap into a built-in audience. Just as with the first one, Quentin Tarantino whores his name out again with a ‘presents’ credit on the marketing materials. It would be interesting to know what kind of compensation, monetary or otherwise, he gets for these transactions. Locking up ticket buyers in 2,350 theaters, "Hostel Part II" may open with around $12M.


"Hostel: Part II," sure to warm the hearts of all.

Following its two frames at number one, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End" should give up the top spot this weekend, although the runnerup slot is not necessarily a guarantee. The pricey Disney adventure fell by 62% last weekend and could see its drop dip to 50% this time. That would give Johnny Depp and his buddies about $22M for the session and $254M overall.

Last weekend’s number two flick "Knocked Up" raced past "At World’s End" to claim the number one spot on Monday and Tuesday thanks to great buzz and is prepared to see a solid hold this time around. Two summers ago, the R-rated comedies "Wedding Crashers" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" both dipped by only 24% in their sophomore frames thanks to stellar word-of-mouth and no major competition from new releases. "Knocked Up" has the same great satisfaction from moviegoers, but will see much of its adult audience get tempted away by Brad and company. A 30% drop would still give it a great hold with about $21M for the frame. That would push the cume to a stunning $68M in only ten days.

"Shrek the Third" will face direct competition from rival toon "Surf’s Up" this weekend. That could lead to a 40% decline to roughly $17M boosting the cume to $282M.

LAST YEAR: Disney and Pixar joined forces for the number one opening of "Cars" which cruised into the top spot with $60.1M. The animated comedy raced to $244.1M domestically becoming the summer’s biggest non-Captain Jack flick, and over $462M worldwide. Universal’s comedy "The Break-Up" fell 48% in its second date grossing $20.3M and was followed by "X-Men: The Last Stand" with $16.1M. The horror remake "The Omen" bowed to $16M over the weekend and a creepy $36.3M over six days since its Tuesday launch on 6/6/06. Fox scared up $54.6M eventually. "The Da Vinci Code" rounded out the top five with $10.4M in its fourth lap. Debuting to solid results in a moderate launch was "A Prairie Home Companion" with $4.6M from 760 locations for a $6,008 average. The Picturehouse release found its way to $20.3M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Two promising new comedies target different age groups and look to close off a red hot March box office with strong opening weekend sales.

Paramount offers the Will Ferrell pic "Blades of Glory" while Disney goes after the kids with the animated flick "Meet the Robinsons." Together, the pictures should help the marketplace surge and allow the top ten to cross the $100M mark for the fifth consecutive frame. The box office has not seen this kind of streak since last summer. Smaller films entering the multiplexes include the action pic "The Lookout" from Miramax and Universal’s uplifting drama "Peaceful Warrior."

Comedy king Will Ferrell skates into theaters everywhere looking for another gold medal with his newest laugher "Blades of Glory." The PG-13 film finds the funnyman and Jon Heder playing rival figure skaters who must team up as a pair in order to compete again. Amy Poehler, Will Arnett, Jenna Fischer, and Craig T. Nelson co-star. "Blades" boasts the two main ingredients to a successful comedy hit – a bankable star and a unique concept. Add in the very funny commercials and trailers and Paramount is well-positioned to score its second number one hit of the year joining fellow star-driven comedy "Norbit." Both pics were produced by DreamWorks.

Ferrell left the competition in the dust last summer with "Talladega Nights" which bowed to a robust $47M on its way to a $148M final. "Blades" doesn’t have as big of a marketing push or the prime summer play period so its opening will not soar as high. But the former "Saturday Night Live" star will again prove that he is a reliable draw. The industry had some doubts in 2005 when both "Bewitched" and "Kicking and Screaming" failed to reach $65M. Ferrell’s 2004 hit "Anchorman" debuted to $28.4M and "Blades" should play out like that one, only bigger. Teens and young adults will be the driving force plus there is plenty of cross-gender appeal. Though the marketplace is crowded with many options, there aren’t too many direct threats. "Wild Hogs," the only major comedy, is getting old as is "300" which most high school and college students have already seen. Spinning into over 3,000 theaters, "Blades of Glory" should finish in first place and win about $37M over the weekend.


Ferrell and Heder in "Blades of Glory."

Disney uses its patented moves to go after the family audience with its latest animated offering "Meet the Robinsons." With most digital toons these days being of the PG variety, "Robinsons" carries a G rating which it hopes will help convince parents to buy tickets for even the youngest of their children. The story follows an orphan boy who befriends a kind family and features the voices of Angela Bassett, Tom Selleck, and Adam West. In the cartoon world, films sell best when they are comedies and feature popular comedians in central roles. "Robinsons" at least has the first factor working for it.

The marketing has been strong and trailers have been funny. But unlike the studio’s last film for kids, "Bridge to Terabithia," this time competition will be a force. "TMNT" and "The Last Mimzy" will only be in their second weekends and are set to steal away about $20M worth of business from the same target audience. Luckily, the weekend’s two other new films will attract different segments of the moviegoing crowd. "Meet the Robinsons" does not have the firepower to reach the heights of Pixar pics. Rather, it may bring out the same size audience as last fall’s "Open Season" which bowed to $23.2M from an ultrawide 3,833 locations. "Meet the Robinsons" bows in roughly 3,200 sites but could exploit its studio’s brand name to deliver a similar gross of about $23M.


Let’s "Meet the Robinsons."

Years after leaving the sitcom world of NBC’s "3rd Rock From the Sun," Joseph Gordon-Levitt anchors the heist thriller "The Lookout." The R-rated Miramax release comes from writer-turned-rookie-director Scott Frank and co-stars Jeff Daniels. Starpower is seriously lacking here and that will hurt its box office prospects. Reviews have been good, but the target audience of young adults have "Blades of Glory," "300," and "Shooter" to choose from and all of them offer more for the money. With only so much marketing and distribution strength behind it, the film will have a tough time just getting an invite to the top ten. "The Lookout" debuts in about 1,000 theaters on Friday and could collect about $4M over three days.


Jeff Daniels and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in "The Lookout."

In an unorthodox approach, Universal will be releasing the inspirational drama "Peaceful Warrior" in 615 theaters this weekend but most moviegoers will actually be getting free tickets through a promotion with Best Buy. The PG-13 film starring Nick Nolte was given a limited release last summer and grossed more than $1M from just over 40 theaters. Universal will report box office grosses that include regular paid sales plus full ticket prices for each free admission. With $15M worth of free tickets allocated for opening weekend, it will be unlikely that the paid portion will make up a sizable amount. Film fans who visit the promotional web site can get up to ten complimentary tickets each. However, the studio should get some extra buzz that it could benefit from when the DVD is released a few months down the road.


Nick Nolte and Scott Mechlowicz in "Peaceful Warrior."

The Ninja Turtles ruled the box office last weekend in "TMNT," but will face a formidable foe in Disney’s "Meet the Robinsons" which will play to the same audience. A 40% drop would give the animated actioner $14M for the frame and $43M after ten days. Warner Bros has also been raking in the dough with its stylish war epic 300 which has been holding up surprisingly well. Another 40% fall will put the R-rated battle pic at $12M boosting the cume to $180M after 24 days. Mark Wahlberg‘s "Shooter" could decline by 45% to $8M giving Paramount a ten-day total of $27M.

LAST YEAR: Smashing the March opening weekend record set four years earlier by its predecessor, "Ice Age: The Meltdown" shot straight to number one with a colossal $68M debut. The Fox juggernaut went on to gross $195.3M domestically and a towering $657M worldwide giving the "Ice Age" duo over $1 billion in global grosses. Dropping to second was "Inside Man" with $15.4M. Warner Bros. launched its urban drama "ATL" in third with $11.6M on its way to $21.2M. Rounding out the top five were "Failure to Launch" with $6.5M and "V for Vendetta" with $6.3M. The horror flick "Slither" creeped into eighth place with a $3.9M opening leading to a $7.8M final. Sony claimed the year’s most notorious flop with "Basic Instinct 2" which bowed to $3.2M on its way to a pathetic $5.9M before sweeping the Razzie Awards.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

There was no stopping the Kazakh sensation Borat which expanded nationally this weekend after a stunning debut and remained at the top of the North American box office once again.

In fact, the top three spots remained unchanged as ticket buyers ignored most of the new offerings aimed at them this weekend. Will Ferrell‘s new comedy Stranger Than Fiction posted a respectable opening, but Hollywood stars Russell Crowe and Sarah Michelle Gellar suffered some of the worst openings of their careers this weekend as their new films, A Good Year and The Return respectively, were both dead on arrival. The overall marketplace struggled to keep pace with previous years as for the first time since 1997, the first half of November failed to deliver a single film with a weekend gross of at least $30M.

Borat crushed its competitors for a second straight weekend as the raunchy docu-comedy expanded from 837 to 2,566 theaters and grossed a stellar $29M, according to studio estimates. By more than tripling its theater count, Fox put its hit into full nationwide release and actually saw its three-day take climb 10% over the debut frame. Borat’s per-theater average understandably dropped by two-thirds this weekend to a still strong $11,302. The ten-day cume stands at an amazing $67.8M and at its current pace, the $18M movie-film could find its way to the $140M mark from the domestic market alone.

Thanks to a wave of media hype this fall, the Sacha Baron Cohen creation has become a national phenomenon and is already make benefit from glorious word-of-mouth and repeat business, according to the studio. Holdover theaters witnessed drops of about 30% from last weekend which is encouraging as it moves forward to fight off James Bond and other holiday pics armed with a war chest full of marketing dollars. Borat has become the first film to spend back-to-back weekends at number one since the football drama Invincible which opened in August, and has generated the best ten-day start of any movie since the Will Ferrell blockbuster Talladega Nights which also co-starred Cohen. Both comedies saw their main stars appearing on talk shows in-character to generate publicity.

Holding steady in the runnerup spot was Disney’s Christmas flick The Santa Clause 3 which dipped only 13% to an estimated $16.9M. After ten days, the Tim Allen sequel has grossed $41.1M putting it behind the pace of the last installment in the franchise. In 2002, The Santa Clause 2 also bowed on the first weekend of November and dropped 15% to $24.7M in its sophomore session. Its ten-day cume of $60M repped 43% of its eventual $139.2M gross. Clause 3 looks to be on course to erode at a similar pace which would allow it to reach the vicinity of $90M.

Also staying put for a second weekend was the animated comedy Flushed Away which remained in third place with an estimated $16.7M. Off only 11%, the Paramount release has upped its cume to $39.9M and remains just a step behind Santa. With better buzz and a slightly slimmer decline, Flushed could also reach the same region and conclude its run near the $90M level.

Santa and Flushed opened last weekend and split the family audience almost evenly with only a $700,000 difference in their weekend debuts. This frame, the gap was cut down to only $200,000. Per-theater averages were also close with Santa averaging $4,885 from 3,458 and Flushed averaging $4,508 from 3,707 sites. But both films will face stiff competition on Friday when Warner Bros. goes after the exact same crowd with its heavily-hyped penguin toon Happy Feet which has been backed by a sizable marketing push.

Will Ferrell‘s newest comedy Stranger Than Fiction led the frame’s new releases and bowed in fourth place with an estimated $14.1M from 2,264 theaters. Averaging a solid $6,228, the PG-13 film about a man who discovers his life is being narrated by an author earned good reviews and co-starred Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman, and Maggie Gyllenhaal. The production budget for the Sony release was under $30M. According to studio data, Fiction’s audience was 55% female while 53% were under 30. As a smart comedy aimed at young adults, the film did not open like Ferrell’s bigger smashes like Talladega Nights ($47M), but it does hope to have good legs.

The horror sequel Saw III fell hard once again dropping 55% in its third weekend to an estimated $6.6M pushing the 17-day cume to $69.9M. The third installment in the popular torture franchise is running a bit behind the pace of last year’s Saw II which enjoyed a third-weekend take of $9.1M for a total of $73.9M over the same number of days.

After two successful weeks in limited release, Paramount Vantage’s cross-continent drama Babel expanded nationally to mixed results with an estimated $5.7M. The Brad PittCate Blanchett pic averaged a decent $4,517 from 1,251 locations and raised its sum to $7.5M. Last weekend, Babel grossed just under $1M from 35 theaters for a potent $26,264 average, but arthouse films don’t always remain powerful after expanding into all regions of North America.

Martin Scorsese‘s The Departed took in an estimated $5.2M in its sixth mission, down 32%, giving Warner Bros. $109.8M to date. With $58M overseas, the Leonardo DiCaprioMatt Damon cop drama sits at more than $168M worldwide and counting. Opening close behind in eighth place was the horror pic The Return with an estimated $4.8M from 1,986 theaters for a weak $2,405 average. For Sarah Michelle Gellar, the PG-13 film’s debut represented her second worst opening ever in a lead role after 1999’s Simply Irresistible with $2.2M. Focus Features was the distributor.

The magician pic The Prestige followed with an estimated $4.6M, off 38%, for a $46M cume to date for Buena Vista. Like Gellar, Russell Crowe also bombed with his new entry. The romantic comedy A Good Year bowed to just $3.8M, according to estimates, averaging a poor $1,827 per theater from 2,066 sites. Fox’s PG-13 pic barely entered the top ten as Crowe suffered his worst opening since Mystery, Alaska‘s $3.1M launch in 1999. Like so many other fall films targeting mature adults, Year just did not have room to breathe and flopped instantly. Poor reviews also hurt the Ridley Scott-directed picture which played mostly to older women.

Another new release that failed to excite paying customers was MGM’s action thriller Harsh Times which debuted outside of the top ten with an estimated $1.8M from 956 locations. Averaging a sluggish $1,913 per site, the R-rated pic finds Christian Bale playing a bad cop on the streets of South Central.

Four films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Clint Eastwood‘s war saga Flags of Our Fathers grossed an estimated $2.8M falling 36% in its fourth attack. The $90M Paramount release has amassed only $31M to date and looks headed for an underwhelming $38-40M finish. Miramax’s awards contender The Queen continued to expand, but faced the first weekend decline of its seven-week run. The Helen Mirren film collected an estimated $2.6M from 484 venues for a decent $5,372 average. The Queen was playing in 387 theaters last week and bumped its cume to $13.8M while its average declined by 29%.

Sony’s hit toon Open Season tumbled 53% to an estimated $1.4M. With $83.5M in the bank, the $85M film should end its season with around $86M. Just a week away from giving audiences a dual voice role in the Warner Bros. toon Happy Feet, funnyman Robin Williams saw his political comedy Man of the Year pass the $36M mark. A final tally of just under $40M seems likely for the not-so-stellar Universal title.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $107.4M which was dead even with last year when Chicken Little remained at number one with $31.7M; and down 18% from 2004 when The Incredibles stayed in the top spot with $50.3M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

America fell in love with Borat this weekend as the underdog movie-film about a TV journalist from Kazakhstan shocked the film industry by opening at number one, despite playing in a fraction of the theaters as Hollywood’s other new offerings.

Shattering expectations, the Fox hit surged ahead of two debuting family films that had hoped to capture the box office title — Disney’s Christmas story The Santa Clause 3 and Paramount’s animated comedy Flushed Away.

In the year’s biggest box office surprise, the much-talked-about film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan conquered North America grossing an estimated $26.4M in its first weekend beating out all competitors. Playing in only 837 theaters, the R-rated road trip pic averaged a jaw-dropping $31,511 per theater with sell outs from coast to coast. Based on the character created by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat was expected to open with strength in the top five, but was never seen as being powerful enough to reach the number one spot.

Fox debuted the raunchy film in moderate national play hoping word-of-mouth would build and help to bolster the second weekend when it would go fully national. Instead, the red hot buzz and heavy doses of media publicity seemed to fuel demand on opening weekend. According to studio research conducted on Friday, the audience for Borat was 55% male and 53% under the age of 25. Fox expects the audience to broaden as women and older adults begin hearing from their friends about the crude laugher. Critics showered the $18M film with nearly universal praise calling it one of the funniest films of all time. This Friday, the studio will triple the number of theaters expanding to as many as 2,500 locations. A domestic gross well north of $100M is assured.

Borat began the weekend with a potent $9.2M gross on Friday. Unlike many R-rated cult hits aimed at young males, the Kazakh tale grew on Saturday increasing by 10% to $10.1M. Fox is hoping that many of those who were sold out will return on Sunday to get tickets and is estimating a modest 30% drop to $7.1M for the final day of the frame. Brilliant out-of-the-box marketing on Fox’s part helped to turn a cult character into a can’t-miss blockbuster event thanks to outrageous publicity stunts carefully executed over the past few months which sparked intense curiousity from those unfamiliar with Cohen’s creation. People had to just go and see it to believe it. The road ahead looks glorious thanks to positive word-of-mouth, a sophomore weekend expansion, and the additional wave of free publicity that its surprise top spot debut will generate this week.

The opening weekend performance was stunning, but not unique. It matched the results of two other low budget films that attracted widespread media attention from recent years — Michael Moore‘s political documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 and the suspense hoax The Blair Witch Project. In June 2004, Fahrenheit also shocked the film biz by debuting at number one with $23.9M from just 868 sites for a stellar $27,558 average. Blair Witch went nationwide after two weeks of very limited play in July 1999 and grossed $29.2M from just 1,101 sites for a colossal $26,528 average landing it in second place. Both films would average about $30,000 per theater at today’s ticket prices. Each film expanded the following weekend and went on to reach a final gross that was five times its opening tally.

Overseas, Borat opened day-and-date in Cohen’s native U.K. plus in other European markets with fantastic results. Cultural Learnings grossed an estimated $17M from 17 countries and captured the number one spot in Germany and the U.K. With such great success, Borat will surely not be execute.

Settling for second place was The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause which grossed an estimated $20M from 3,458 theaters for an encouraging $5,784 average per venue. The Disney sequel debuted well below the $29M launch of the last installment of the franchise from this same frame in 2002. In Escape, Martin Short joins the cast playing the sinister Jack Frost who is out to ruin Christmas. Disney ruled the box office over the first weekend of November for four of the last five years with its family films. Tim Allen‘s latest G-rated turn as Kris Kringle was expected to be at the top of the charts this time too, but the phenomenon that is Borat was just too much. Competition from Flushed Away also split the family audence in two contributing to Santa’s lower-than-expected weekend bow. Reviews were mostly negative.

Opening close behind in third place was the computer-animated toon Flushed Away with an estimated $19.1M from an ultrawide 3,707 theaters. Averaging a good $5,152 per site, the PG-rated pic follows the adventures of a domesticated pet mouse flushed into the underground world of a sewer rat. Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, and Kate Winslet provide the voices. The Paramount release was produced by DreamWorks and Aardman Animations who previously made Chicken Run and last fall’s Oscar-winning Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Flushed exceeded the respective openings of $17.5M and $16M for those two films and earned strong praise from critics. Despite competition from Santa, the sewer pic opened impressively and slightly above expectations.

The long-term race between the two kidpics will be an interesting one to watch given the similar openings. Flushed should benefit from better word-of-mouth, however Santa’s Christmas theme could help it stay relevant as the holidays approach. Most yuletide pics debuting in early November have had very good legs with some rebounding over the Thanksgiving frame.

With three new films getting all the attention, last week’s champ Saw III got shoved down to fourth place with an estimated $15.5M in its second weekend. The Lionsgate horror sequel tumbled an understandable 54% and raised its ten-day cume to a bloody $60.1M. The latest chapter in the highly successful torture series suffered a larger drop than its predessor Saw II which fell 47% in its sophomore session on its way to an identical ten-day gross before ending its run with $87M. Budgeted at $12M, Saw III looks to depreciate at a faster pace and could be headed for a finish of about $80-85M.

Two former number one hits holding up with great strength followed in the five and six slots with a slender weekend decline of 19% each. Martin Scorsese scored only the second $100M blockbuster of his career over the weekend with The Departed which in its fifth round took in an estimated $8M. The Warner Bros. hit lifted its total to $102.3M and joined the director’s last film The Aviator ($102.6M) as his only films to reach nine digits in North America. The Leonardo DiCaprioMatt Damon crime saga also became the 13th film of 2006 to cross the century mark matching the number of blockbusters at this same point last year. Buena Vista’s The Prestige grossed an estimated $7.8M in its third weekend pushing its cume to $39.4M.

Clint Eastwood‘s war story Flags of Our Fathers expanded by another 185 theaters in its third mission and grossed an estimated $4.5M from 2,375 locations for a weak $1,895 average. The Paramount release saw its weekend take drop by 29% and its average decline by 35% putting the cume at a disappointing $26.6M. The Robin Williams comedy Man of the Year followed in eighth place with an estimated $3.8M, off only 19%, giving the Universal release $34M to date.

Sony’s toon Open Season got hurt by the new family films and dropped 47% to an estimated $3.1M in its sixth hunt pushing the sum to $81.4M. Miramax’s awards contender The Queen finally popped into the top ten at number ten with an estimated $3M. The Helen Mirren film expanded from 152 to 387 theaters and averaged a solid $7,778 per location. The Queen has seen its theater count and gross climb each week and has now lifted its cume to $10.1M with much more still to go.

Opening with sensational results in platform release was Pedro Almodovar’s newest story Volver which bowed to an estimated $202,000 from only five sites for a scorching $40,400 average. Sony Classics released the Spanish-language drama in only three New York and two Los Angeles locations and will expand to other cities in the weeks to come. Penelope Cruz, who is already establishing herself as a serious candidate against frontrunner Helen Mirren in the Oscar race for Best Actress, plays a young woman connecting with the spirit of her deceased mother.

Paramount Vantage generated terrific numbers with the expansion of its cross-continent drama Babel which grossed an estimated $918,000 from 35 theaters for a potent $26,242 average. The Brad PittCate Blanchett film widened from 7 theaters in New York and Los Angeles last weekend to thirteen additional markets this weekend. Babel opens nationally on Friday in over 1,200 total theaters going head-to-head with four other new wide releases plus the further expansion of Borat. Cume sits at $1.5M.

The Dixie Chicks doc Shut Up and Sing widened from four to nine theaters in its second weekend and grossed an estimated $78,000. The Weinstein Co. release averaged a solid $8,613 and put its total at $146,000.

Four films, including a trio of Sony titles, dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Fox’s family drama Flicka grossed an estimated $2.7M, down 43%, for a $17.6M total. The $14M girl-and-her-horse pic should conclude with a not-so-dazzling $22-24M. Sony’s period pic Marie Antoinette slipped only 19% to an estimated $2.3M but its cume reached a mere $13M after 17 days. Look for a weak $20M final.

The studio’s dysfunctional family flick Running with Scissors fell 35% and took in an estimated $1.7M after its second weekend of national play. With a puny $5.3M in the bank, the Annette Bening comedy should sputter to a dismal $9M. Sony’s fright sequel The Grudge 2 has scared up a decent $38M to date. The $20M franchise film looks headed for a domestic finish of about $40M or so. Though profitable, the sequel will end up grossing only about one-third of the $110.2M of Sarah Michelle Gellar‘s first Grudge pic from two years ago.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $111.2M which was down 4% from last year when Chicken Little debuted at number one with $40M; and down 16% from 2004 when The Incredibles opened in the top spot with $70.5M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Hollywood sure loves to dwell on yesteryear. Another wave of historical films hits the multiplexes on Friday led by the World War II drama "Flags of our Fathers" directed by Clint Eastwood.

Going back another half-century is the Hugh JackmanChristian Bale thriller "The Prestige." Kirsten Dunst rewinds even further to the 18th century playing the title role in "Marie Antoinette." Moviegoers who want to stick to the today’s times get to ride the family film "Flicka" which also is added into the mix this weekend. Overall, the North American box office should simmer down after two weeks of red-hot action thanks to a quartet of new releases that does not seem to be exciting the public too much.

What happens when two-time Oscar winners Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg join forces to produce a film? You get the DreamWorks/Warner Bros. production "Flags of our Fathers" which chronicles the famous battle at Iwo Jima and the notoriety that followed for the soldiers photographed hoisting the American flag. The R-rated film is low on starpower boasting a cast featuring Ryan Phillippe, Adam Beach, and Jesse Bradford. Clearly it will be subject matter and the director that will draw in audiences. "Flags" is likely to become the oldest-skewing film in the marketplace. Young adults should not show too much interest and female appeal will be limited as well for this war story. Competition for adult men will be tough given the start of the World Series and the continuation of all sorts of live football all weekend long on television.


Clint Eastwood’s WWII epic "Flags of Our Fathers."

But loyal Eastwood fans will probably find the time for "Flags" this weekend and some reviews have been good. Critics have not been giving the type of support this time that they gave in recent years to "Million Dollar Baby" and "Mystic River" giving it a lesser sense of urgency. Plus a fall season full of period films really doesn’t need more of them. A narrow release will curtail box office potential too. This weekend, it could turn out to be a rematch where Eastwood will square off against Martin Scorsese whose "The Departed" is proving to be an exciting option, set in modern times, for ticket buyers.The New York-based filmmaker wants revenge after losing to Dirty Harry at the Academy Awards a year and a half ago. "Mystic River" opened wide in October 2003 to an average just north of $7,000. Paramount’s "Flags of our Fathers," which debuts in roughly 1,800 locations, could reach the same vicinity and collect about $13M this weekend.

Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale play dueling magicians at the turn of the 20th century in "The Prestige." The current Caped Crusader reteams with director Christopher Nolan in this PG-13 period drama which co-stars Scarlett Johansson as, you guessed it, the beautiful young woman both men desire. Michael Caine also appears in another Alfred-like role. The Buena Vista film’s biggest challenge will be to convince audiences that this is not that Edward Norton film they just saw a few weeks ago. While "The Illusionist" was not a big blockbuster, it was very well-liked by moviegoers and has had some of the best legs of 2006. Those who paid to see it may not be in the mood for another one so soon. Just ask Mr. Capote. Starpower in "The Prestige" is good, but the two leads do not usually sell well outside of their comic book flicks. "The Departed" and "Flags of our Fathers" will steal away adult audiences providing ample competition, but "The Prestige" does have more female appeal than Clint’s war tale so adult couples that have seen Leo vs. Matt already might give Wolverine vs. Batman a try. Opening in over 2,000 theaters, "The Prestige" could debut with around $10M.


Michael Caine and Hugh Jackman, in that other 19th century magician movie.

The weekend’s only family offering comes on horseback in the form of "Flicka." 27-year-old Alison Lohman stars as a stubborn 16-year-old girl who befriends a steed against the wishes of her dad on a scenic Wyoming ranch. The PG-rated film should mostly appeal to girls and play to the same crowd that spent $9.2M this weekend a year ago for the bow of another girl-and-her-horse flick, "Dreamer." Business will be stronger in the heartland than in large urban centers. Fox is giving "Flicka" the widest release by far of any of this weekend’s new openers so the sheer size of the distribution will give it some traction, even if the average limps a bit. "Open Season," which is still strong going into its fourth hunt, will be the only real threat to business. While bad girls might line up for "Marie Antoinette" this weekend, the good girls will get to ride with "Flicka" which will gallop into over 2,000 more theaters. Opening in 2,876 sites, the horse flick could take in around $10M this weekend.


Alison Lohman and Tim McGraw in "Flicka."

Spidergirl Kirsten Dunst tosses on a fancy wig to play the famous queen of France in "Marie Antoinette," written and directed by Sofia Coppola. Booed last May at the Cannes Film Festival, the PG-13 film is a biopic aimed squarely at teenage girls and young women with a story of a bold gal with a strong head on her shoulders, for most of the time. The studio is marketing the film in a hip way hoping to appeal to young people. "Marie" should skew heavily female as interest from guys will be weak. Dunst will have a chance to test her starpower as the only big-name actor in the cast. Her date movie "Wimbledon" did not fare too well in the Fall of 2004 with a $7.1M opening from over 2,000 theaters. Reese Witherspoon‘s "Vanity Fair" bowed to $4.8M from just over 1,000 playdates by appealing to a similar audience. "Marie Antoinette" will launch in only 859 theaters on Friday limiting its box office potential. A weekend gross of about $5M could result.


Kirsten Dunst is "Marie Antoinette."

Last weekend’s box office champ "The Grudge 2" has seen its audience get frightened away during the week as the Sony thriller dropped to second place on Monday and third on Tuesday. A hefty tumble of 55% could result giving the spookfest about $9M for the weekend and a ten-day sum of $33M.

On the other hand, Warner Bros. has been enjoying great legs from its mob thriller "The Departed" which eased only 29% in its second mission. "Flags of our Fathers" and "The Prestige" will eat into its adult audience, but the Martin Scorsese hit should continue to remain a very popular moviegoing option. A 30% fall to about $13M might lead "The Departed" back into the top spot this weekend unless one of the newbies breaks out. Regardless, that would push the cume to a stellar $76M.

LAST YEAR: The Rock cooked up a number one opening with his sci-fi actioner "Doom" which opened with $15.5M. Universal’s video game-inspired flick fell apart quickly and found its way to only $28M. Debuting in second place was the less expensive family film "Dreamer" with $9.2M on its way to a stronger $32.8M final for DreamWorks. The Spielberg studio also claimed the third spot with the leggy kidpic "Wallace and Gromit" with $8.6M, off only 26% in its third weekend. Sony’s horror pic "The Fog" fell from first to fourth with $6.7M. Warner Bros. saw a weak opening for its Charlize Theron drama "North Country" which grossed just $6.4M. Cume reached a mere $18.3M.

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

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

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