Ready for more action movies starring WWE wrestlers? We hope so, because that’s exactly what you’re about to get.

Variety reports that World Wrestling Entertainment has signed a first-look deal with 20th Century Fox that should help beef up the presences of John Cena, Glen “Kane” Jacobs, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and Lord only knows who else at a theater near you.

The terms of the deal call for WWE Films to “develop, finance, and produce at least one theatrical release and up to four direct-to-video titles annually.” As you might expect, the new partners plan to cast the widest net possible — out with the R-rated pictures, in with the PG-13s:

“We had to refocus where we wanted to go,” said Michael Lake, prexy of WWE Films, a former Village Roadshow exec who took the post in October, and quickly began reworking the company’s development slate. “There’s a strong audience base that is ready for movies that star our guys. A lot of our audience is in the PG-13 area.”

The first picture under the agreement is scheduled to be the Renny Harlin-directed 12 Rounds, starring John Cena and reaching theaters in 2009. Cena’s last starring vehicle, The Marine, was another Fox-distributed venture, and though the film only took in $22 million at the box office, it did well enough on home video to convince Fox that there was something worth pursuing in WWE projects. Or, as Fox senior VP Tom Siegrist so eloquently put it, “This partnership allows Fox to capitalize on this global audience and the WWE brand’s continued expansion into the filmed entertainment medium.”

Source: Variety

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

For the fourth consecutive weekend, four or more new wide releases will cram into multiplexes trying to get at their piece of a dwindling box office pie.

Nicolas Cage targets his second trip to the top spot this year with the action film "Next," rival actioner "The Condemned" counters with Stone Cold Steve Austin in the lead, horror fans get yet another creepy tale with "The Invisible," and Jamie Kennedy goes for some laughs with "Kickin’ It Old Skool."

Mostly garbage titles were programmed into this weekend’s menu since any studio with a decent film would not risk getting crushed on the second weekend by the webslinger sequel. Including these newest films, the first four months of 2007 boasts 64 wide releases hitting the marketplace, up slightly from last year’s 60 but up sharply from the 42 over the same period in 2005. With a mass quantity of weak April films, look for the North American box office to plunge to its lowest point of the year this weekend during what is essentially the calm before Sandman’s storm hits next Thursday night at midnight.

Following his Marvel Comics hit "Ghost Rider," Nicolas Cage once again plays the action hero card with the sci-fi thriller "Next." The PG-13 film finds the Oscar winner playing a man with the ability to see into the future who is called in to foil a terrorist plot before it happens. Directed by Lee Tamahori ("Die Another Day," "Along Came A Spider"), "Next" has the advantage of having the most screens and the most starpower of any new release this weekend. Plus with current films rotting away quickly (9 of the 16 holdovers in the Top 20 last weekend plunged by more than 55%), competition will not be too fierce. Paramount has been giving "Next" a decent amount of marketing, that is for a film being dumped into the final weekend of a month starting with the letter A. In almost any other time of year this would get clobbered, but given the current alternatives it will make for the only reasonable choice for many moviegoers. Hence, a number one opening by default and quite possibly the weakest one of the year. Crashing into over 2,500 theaters, "Next" could reach the top with around $13M.


Cage and Biel required an escort when exiting the "Next" premiere.

"The Condemned" offers a reality show idea not likely to be on any network’s fall schedule. In the weekend’s sole R-rated film, death row inmates duke it out to the death in order to avoid being executed, all while television cameras capture every brutal moment. World Wrestling Entertainment head Vince McMahon produces behind the scenes while former superstar grappler Steve Austin stars in front of the camera. Other WWE stars who headlined recent feature films include Kane in last May’s "See No Evil" ($4.6M debut) and John Cena in last fall’s "The Marine" ($7.1M bow). Both films averaged less than $4,000 on their opening weekends. Young men will make up the only audience segment for the new Lionsgate title and "Next" will provide some direct action competition. Still some hardcore wrestling fans will turn up to theaters since a movie ticket will be cheaper than ordering a pay-per-view event. But overall, prospects seem bleak. "The Condemned" will attack 2,310 theaters and may end up with $6M.


Steve Austin and some unfortunate soul in "The Condemned."

As if moviegoers don’t have enough scary films to choose from, Buena Vista offers up one more with the supernatural thriller "The Invisible." The PG-13 film follows a high school student whose spirit wanders after a brutal accident. Fright flicks have been flopping left and right recently and there is no reason to believe that this one will turn things around. The marketing volume has been stuck on low as this remake of a Swedish pic is more of a spring cleaning film tossed into the marketplace hoping to be forgotten soon. With no starpower, there will be almost nothing driving in traffic. "The Invisible" will appear in over 2,000 theaters this Friday, but might only collect roughly $5M.


One of them is "The Invisible."

Jamie Kennedy headlines the new comedy "Kickin’ It Old Skool" playing a 1980s breakdancer that falls into a coma and awakens two decades later to a much different world. Yari Film Group is targeting teenagers with this PG-13 pic which essentially offers the same laughs as the comedian’s 2003 film "Malibu’s Most Wanted." That modest hit bowed in late April to $12.6M from 2,503 theaters on its way to a $34.4M domestic final. "Skool" does not have a big studio marketing push behind it but it may grab the attention of some young dudes killing time before Peter Parker busts into theaters. DVD is where most people will find this one. Breaking into 1,600 theaters, "Kickin’ It Old Skool" could find itself with around $5M over three days.


Jamie Kennedy and Webster kick it "Old Skool."

Among holdovers, two-time champ "Disturbia" will find it difficult to hold onto its crown given the arrival of Nicolas Cage. But Paramount won’t care as it should still claim the number one film for the fifth consecutive weekend. A 40% decline would give the Shia LaBeouf pic about $8M for the frame and a healthy $51M after 17 days. The Anthony HopkinsRyan Gosling thriller "Fracture" has been well-received and competition is not too fierce so a 40% drop could be in order as well. That would leave New Line with $6.5M and a ten-day tally of $21M.

LAST YEAR: Three new flicks topped the charts led by the family comedy "RV" starring Robin Williams which opened at number one with $16.4M. The Sony hit enjoyed stellar legs and went on to collect $71.3M. Universal followed in second with the 9/11 thriller "United 93" which debuted in half as many theaters with $11.5M. The critically acclaimed pic went on to gross $31.5M. Buena Vista’s gymnastics film "Stick It" bowed in third with $10.8M on its way to $26.9M. Rounding out the top five were "Silent Hill" with $9.3M and "Scary Movie 4" with $7.8M. Also opening was the spelling drama "Akeelah and the Bee" with a weak $6M leading to a $18.8M final for Lionsgate and its promotional partner Starbucks.

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

This week at the movies, we’ve got comedians in the White House ("Man of the Year," starring Robin Williams), continued creepy curses in Tokyo ("The Grudge 2, starring Amber Tamblyn and Sarah Michelle Gellar), a marine with a missing wife ("The Marine," starring John Cena), and a dramatization of the Book of Esther ("One Night with the King," starring Tiffany DuPont). What do the critics say?

It’s an election year, so it seems like a pretty good time to satirize our cherished democratic process, right? Perhaps, but the critics don’t believe "Man of the Year," starring Robin Williams and Laura Linney, is the movie to do it. Williams plays a late night talk show host who runs for president as a joke — only to find the electorate is more receptive to his campaign than he thought. Critics say the film benefits from some good performances — including Linney and Christopher Walken as Williams’ manager — but writer-director Barry Levinson‘s script doesn’t know whether it’s a satire, a thriller, or a romantic comedy. Worse, this political send-up lacks bite when it comes to, well, politics. At 21 percent on the Tomatometer, "Man of the Year" is dipping in the polls.


Watch as sparks fly between Linney and Williams in "Man of the Year."

It seems it is a momentous time to be a wide-release movie. This week, not one, not two, but three films were not screened for the scribes!

First up, we’ve got "The Grudge 2," starring Amber Tamblyn and Sarah Michelle Gellar in a sequel to director Takashi Shimizu‘s 2004 remake of his own Japanese-language horror flick, "Ju-On." The first "Grudge" garnered 40 percent on the Tomatometer; go ahead and guess how the pale-faced little ghost boy and his frighteningly hirsute mother will fare this time around.


The Grudge does everything in her power to prevent critics from screening her latest.

Next, there’s "The Marine," WWE Films’ fourth release starring pro-wrestler John Cena as an Iraq vet who must rescue his kidnapped wife from bad guys. The last WWE release, "See No Evil," scored a miniscule Tomatometer of 6 percent. If it helps to Guess The Tomatometer for "The Marine," the freestyling Cena was known back in his WWE days as the "Marky Mark of wrestling."


Not screened for critics — it’s hard to believe, I know.

And finally, completing the trifecta of this week’s releases not screened for critics, we have "One Night With The King," Fox Faith’s second theatrical release geared toward the Christian set. In this retelling of the Book of Esther, a young Jewish girl (newcomer Tiffany DuPont) grows up to save her people; screen greats Omar Sharif, Peter O’Toole and John Rhys-Davies fill out the cast. As does Tommy "Tiny" Lister (AKA Deebo from "Friday"). Guess away.

Also opening this week in limited release: "Deliver Us from Evil," a searing documentary about a convicted pedophile Catholic Priest, is at 100 percent on the Tomatometer (check out Jen Yamato’s review from the Toronto Film Fest here); "So Much So Fast," a documentary about a man with ALS and his family’s response, is at 100 percent; "Driving Lessons," a coming-of-age Brit-com starring Rupert Grint and Laura Linney, is at 73 percent; "Infamous," starring Toby Jones and Sandra Bullock and based on Truman Capote‘s experiences writing "In Cold Blood," is at 58 percent (See Tim Ryan’s Toronto Review here); "Nearing Grace," about a family coping with the death of their wife and mother, is at 40 percent; "Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker," the tale of a teen secret agent, is at 37 percent; and "Tideland," Terry Gilliam‘s perverse take on "Alice in Wonderland," is at 21 percent.

Recent Robin Williams Movies:
————————————–
22% — RV (2006)
42% — The Night Listener (2006)
79% — The Aristocrats (2005)
62% — Robots (2005)
11% — House of D (2005)

Recent Movies Starring Pro Wrestlers:
———————————————–
6% — See No Evil (Kane) (2006)
16% — Grandma’s Boy (Kevin Nash) (2006)
53% — The Devil’s Rejects (Diamond Dallas Page) (2005)
29% — The Longest Yard (Stone Cold Steve Austin, Goldberg, Kevin Nash, The Great Khali) (2005)
27% — Blade: Trinity (Triple H) (2004)

Recent J-Horror Remakes:
——————————-
13% — Pulse (2006)
44% — Dark Water (2005)
40% — The Grudge (2004)
72% — The Ring (2002)

Authors: Tim Ryan and Jen Yamato

With the pumpkin holiday approaching, Sony unleashes the terror with its frightfest "The Grudge 2" which aims to dominate the marketplace this weekend.

Giving ticket buyers some not-so-scary alternatives are the political comedy "Man of the Year," the action flick "The Marine," and the historical epic "One Night with the King." After a September slump, the North American box office should continue its October rebound.

Two years after shocking the film industry with one of the biggest openings ever for a horror film, Sony returns to the scene of the crime with its new supernatural thriller "The Grudge 2." Director Takashi Shimizu is once again at the helm, but the PG-13 pic this time tells the story of a young woman who investigates the curse that previously afflicted her sister in Tokyo. Amber Tamblyn ("Joan of Arcadia") and Jennifer Beals ("Flashdance") star in this new installment. "The Grudge 2" has one of the best release dates a studio with a horror film could ever ask for – a Friday the 13th in the middle of the Halloween month of October. But with Sarah Michelle Gellar having only little face time this time around, the sequel has lost significant starpower. The former "Buffy" star was integral in getting teens, young adults, and genre fans out on opening weekend last time. With the story now shifting to her character’s sister, many of those who turned up on opening weekend for the first, will decide to skip the second installment in theaters.


Amber Tamblyn, no longer talking to God in "The Grudge 2."

Sony has been giving "Grudge 2" a healthy marketing push hoping to reach young females once again. As a fright flick, guys will automatically be there. The sequel should give the underserved audience of teenage girls an exciting option and the rating opens the door to plenty of business. Even the teen date crowd could contribute a nice chunk of change. However, the competing horror pic "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning" is coming off of a strong bow and will take dollars from some older teens away. Numbers should not come close to Gellar’s first "Grudge" which had the whole horror crowd to itself two Octobers ago with a potent $39.1M launch on its way to a $110.2M domestic final. Still, between the relatively low costs and the solid sales in theaters and on DVD, these types of scary sequels tend to become very profitable, very fast. "The Grudge 2" will spook audiences in 3,211 locations and could gross about $27M this weekend easily giving it the number one spot.

Fresh off of his hit family picture "RV" from last spring, Robin Williams tries to get his career back in order with the new political satire "Man of the Year." Written and directed by Barry Levinson ("Rain Man," "Wag the Dog"), the PG-13 film finds the former Mork playing a popular talk show host who decides to run for U.S. President adding lunacy to an otherwise dull election. Christopher Walken, Laura Linney, Jeff Goldblum, and Lewis Black round out the cast. After struggling for hits after 1998’s "Patch Adams," Williams rebounded at the box office by appealing to kids. He lent a voice to last year’s animated Fox pic "Robots" and enjoyed great legs with "RV" which went on to gross $71.4M after spending seven weeks in the top ten.


Robin Williams and Laura Linney in "Man of the Year."

Now the Oscar winner goes after adults with "Man" which is not likely to pull in many votes from teens and young adults. The subject matter will appeal most to the 30+ crowd making last weekend’s well-liked champ "The Departed" a serious competitor. Universal’s mid-October release makes sense as the studio is placing the pic in the marketplace just weeks before the country’s mid-term elections when politics are on the minds of many citizens. But the story will not be too big of a factor in pulling in audiences which means Williams will see his starpower put to the test once again. Luckily he is back with a comedy which is his comfort zone when it comes to commercial success. Casting votes in 2,515 theaters, "Man of the Year" might debut with about $11M.

Wrestling superstar John Cena anchors his first Hollywood film in "The Marine" playing, well, a marine discharged from duty in Iraq that must fight to save his kidnapped wife. The PG-13 actioner will play mostly to young males who follow the antics of the champ in the squared circle. Crossover potential is limited as those not familiar with who he is will probably take a pass. Fox won’t see many good reviews and a bigger audience should find it on DVD early next year. Marching into 2,546 locations, "The Marine" could open with roughly $8M this weekend and find itself dismissed soon after.


John Cena means business in "The Marine."

Babylon is the setting for the epic historical adventure "One Night With the King" which stars Tiffany Dupont, Omar Sharif, John Rhys-Davies, and Peter O’Toole. The PG-rated tale following the rise of the Queen of Persia is using church-based marketing to reach Christian audience members looking for entertainment that the whole family can enjoy together. These types of grassroots efforts have worked magic at the box office in the past, but not every time. Distributor 8X generated a respectable $5,011 opening weekend average with 2001’s "Megiddo: Omega Code 2" but struggled with a $3,315 average for "Carman: The Champion" earlier that year. While those films never made it past 400 theaters, "King" will enter about 900 sites and is getting a more mainstream promotional push so the potential could be more. A $4M bow may result.

Last weekend’s top choice "The Departed" plans to stick around and still be a popular film in its second weekend. Strong reviews and word-of-mouth will help the Warner Bros. crime thriller hold up well in the sophomore frame. Plus there is little competition for adult audiences as "Grudge" and "Marine" should skew younger while the comedy of Robin Williams may play to a different segment of the mature crowd. "The Departed" might fall by 35% this weekend which would give the DiCaprioDamon hit around $17M and an impressive ten-day cume of $55M.

On the other hand, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning" will face a direct threat from the "Grudge" sequel beginning on Friday. Horror franchise flicks typically drop hard anyway so a 55% tumble would give the New Line prequel about $9M and a respectable $32M after ten days.

LAST YEAR: The horror remake "The Fog" topped the charts with the worst gross of the year for a number one film bowing to $11.8M to lead the weak box office. Sony’s fright offering stumbled to just $29.5M. Close behind in second place was the DreamWorks toon "Wallace and Gromit" with $11.5M in its second weekend. Paramount’s Orlando BloomKirsten Dunst pic "Elizabethtown" opened in third place with $10.6M on its way to a mild $26.9M. Rounding out the top ten were Hollywood blondes Jodie Foster with $6.5M for "Flightplan" and Cameron Diaz with $6.1M for "In Her Shoes." Bloom’s Caribbean queen Keira Knightley fared even worse with her action flop "Domino" which debuted to just $4.7M. New Line eked its way to just $10.2M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

The second flick to spring from WWE Films (after the woeful "See No Evil") is "The Marine" which stars wrestler John Cena as an unkillable former soldier who must rescue his hot wife from a bunch of scummy criminals.

Click right here for the trailer, which is jam-packed with goofy dialogue, numerous explosions, and Robert Patrick having a good time as an ultra-evil jerkface villain.

The annoyingly PG-13-rated "The Marine" storms into theaters on October 13th.

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