(Photo by DreamWorks Animation)
DreamWorks Animation’s first movie was Antz, released two months before A Bug’s Life, and thus this studio was born into incessant comparison to Pixar’s output, molded by it, becoming the snarky and sarcastic foil to its competitor’s earnestness.
DreamWorks Animation would forge most of its identity and formula on the back of one giant, smelly, green ogre: Shrek, which has generated sequels, tie-ins, theme park rides, and billions of dollars, while ensuring Smash Mouth’s “All-Star” never leaving the pop culture’s ironic curriculum.
The studio’s other franchises include Kung Fu Panda, which introduced a whole new world of visual flair and surprising emotional depth to the DreamWorks movie canon, and Madagascar, which pulled off the mega-rare feat of each movie being higher-rated on the Tomatometer than the last. At least the mainline movies. (Penguins of Madagascar 73% is lower than the 79% Madagascar 3 has, but that’s a spin-off.)
Their latest releases were Spirit Untamed and Boss Baby: Family Business, with The Bad Guys and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish on the horizon. Now, we’re ranking all DreamWorks Animation movies by Tomatometer!
(Photo by New Line/ courtesy Everett Collection)
Despite his prodigious presence in the world of acting, Ian McKellen didn’t start appearing on-screen in earnest until his mid-40s, during the 1980s. Things kicked off with 1983’s The Keep, Michael Mann’s hard-to-find WWII fantasy-thriller, with subsequent highlights including early Will Smith drama Six Degrees of Separation, a 1930s-set adaptation of Richard III, and an appearance as Death in Last Action Hero, putting that theater gravitas to good use in a decidedly bad flick.
His Oscar nomination for portraying director James Whale in 1998’s Gods and Monsters brought him to international prominence, setting the stage for one of the great career turns in movie history. In 2000, McKellen became one of comic books’ greatest villains, Magneto, in X-Men. He wouldn’t re-appear until the following year, as one of fantasy’s greatest heroes: Gandalf in 2001’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The two roles would keep McKellen sustained for the next decade and beyond, across three more X-Men movies and five more entries nestled within Middle-Earth.
Playing the legendary detective in Mr. Holmes and putting in his time as Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast are more notable recent works, along with more theater adaptations like The Dresser (opposite Anthony Hopkins, both delivering some career-best performances), as well as, er, Cats. At least he knew the nightmare cinematic hairball that was being coughed up! And now, you shall not pass until we rank all Ian McKellen movies by Tomatometer!
Ever since 1998 and into this Friday’s release of Kung Fu Panda 3, DreamWorks Animation has emerged as one of the dominant forces in animated storytelling worldwide, whose blend of state-of-the-art tech and raucous contemporary humor has carved their own identity in our current cartoon renaissance. Kung Fu Panda 3 inspires this week’s 24 Frames gallery, in which we explore the nearly two-decade history of DreamWorks Animation.
Vince Vaughn and Tom Cruise go head to head at the North American box office this weekend with their latest releases. The dodgeball champ goes for holiday laughs with Fred Claus while the top gun offers up a serious political tale in Lions For Lambs. For those looking for a scare, the horror flick P2 also attacks the multiplexes. Add in last weekend’s holdover titles and the marketplace should deliver three $20M+ grossers for the first time since mid-July.
Taming down their comedy for a family audience, the Wedding Crashers team of Vince Vaughn and director David Dobkin offer up Christmas cheer with the holiday comedy Fred Claus. The PG-rated pic features the comic actor playing the brother of Santa (Paul Giamatti). Rachel Weisz and Kathy Bates both scored a ‘with’ credit while Kevin Spacey‘s agents landed the coveted ‘and’ credit for their client. Family audiences will make up the bulk of the business but Warner Bros. is hoping to draw teens and young adults with Vaughn’s humor.
Reviews have been sour, but these types of holiday films are sold more on the comedy and the marketing. The studio is giving Claus a big jolly push and there are no major live-action options for parents to take their kids to. Bee Movie‘s second weekend will provide most of the competition, but usually two high-profile star-driven family pics can co-exist at this time of year. Debuting ultrawide in more than 3,400 theaters, Fred Claus may laugh up about $28M this weekend.
In a smart move, Lions has downplayed its political storyline involving the Middle East as most others that have gone down that path have crashed and burned at the box office this fall. Audiences have told Hollywood on numerous occasions that they are not interested in paying top dollar for that kind of entertainment. Instead, the film is being positioned as a dramatic thriller with great acting performances almost the same way Cruise’s A Few Good Men was marketed 15 years ago. Lions will skew older than most other releases in the marketplace and will face intense competition for adults from American Gangster. Plus bad reviews will have a big impact too since the target audience plays close attention to the opinions of critics. This could very well be Tom Cruise’s lowest-grossing film in ages. Landing in 2,200 locations, Lions For Lambs might debut with around $10M.
LAST YEAR: Moviegoers kept annoying friends with their best Kazakh impressions as Borat tripled its theatercount and remained at number one for the second week with $28.3M for Fox. Disney’s The Santa Clause 3 and Paramount’s Flushed Away enjoyed sensational holds and stayed put in their spots as well with $16.9M and $16.6M, respectively. Will Ferrell‘s Stranger Than Fiction bowed in fourth with $13.4M on its way to $40.1M for Sony. Lionsgate rounded out the top five with Saw III with $7M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
Following a sluggish fall season, November kicks off with a bang this weekend with two high profile films both reaching for the number one spot while appealing to vastly different audiences. Paramount and DreamWorks target kids with the animated comedy Bee Movie from Jerry Seinfeld while Universal goes after adult audiences with its crime drama American Gangster which pits Denzel Washington against Russell Crowe. With little overlap in business, the overall North American box office should surge and finally beat out year-ago levels leading to a solid kickoff for the holiday movie season.
A decade after conquering the television world, Jerry Seinfeld aims to take over the land of film with Bee Movie. The PG-rated toon tells the story of a bee that must try to save his world from those nasty humans that take their honey. Also lending vocal talents are Renee Zellweger, Matthew Broderick, John Goodman, Oprah Winfrey, and Chris Rock who snagged the coveted ‘and’ credit for what amounts to about 60 seconds of dialogue. Timing for the Paramount/DreamWorks release is as good as it gets. Not only is early November a hot time for kids movies to score at the box office but the marketplace has suffered a virtual drought when it comes to family-friendly entertainment this fall with The Game Plan being the only major contender. Parents are dying to take their kids to something else, anything else.
Bee Movie falls into the lucrative category of digitally animated comedies about talking creatures featuring the voice of a popular comedian. Last November’s Happy Feet with Robin Williams opened to $41.5M, the previous year’s Chicken Little bowed to $40M, and 2004’s Shark Tale debuted with $47.6M. Bee has the slick animation and funny situations that kids like but also features humor that adults will enjoy too so it will play to a broad audience. And the millions of Seinfeld fans that have had nothing but DVD box sets every Thanksgiving will finally have some new material they can check out from their favorite comic. Critics have not been very kind but that should not affect the grosses that much. The studio’s marketing blitz will be enough to make children demand a trip to the local megaplex. With a highly commercial product, no competition for the family audience, and an ultrawide launch in over 3,500 theaters, Bee Movie could win the box office battle this weekend and gross about $42M.
Gangster should play out like a Denzel movie more than anything else since his box office track record is the strongest and has more consistency than those of Scott and Crowe. Having scored ten career number one openings to date, Washington has seen his top bow come from last year’s Inside Man which debuted to $29M and a $10,275 average. Last fall’s organized crime hit The Departed opened to $26.9M and a $8,912 average and makes for a good comparison given its genre, starpower, acclaim, rating, and length. Gangster will attract a larger African American audience than Scorsese‘s award winner did so an opening north of $30M seems likely. Appeal to men and women will be equally strong. Many adult dramas have struggled at the box office this fall but American Gangster has the firepower to go out there and pull in paying audiences. Plus the weekend’s other major offerings will not eat into its customer base by too much. Heading into 3,054 theaters, American Gangster might debut with around $34M this weekend.
Look for a better hold from Steve Carell‘s dramedy Dan in Real Life. The Buena Vista title enjoyed a solid average and has generated good word-of-mouth. The weekend’s new releases may not provide too much competition so a decline of 35% could result. That would put Dan at around $7.5M for a total of $22M after ten days.
LAST YEAR: Crashing into multiplexes on a tidal wave of buzz was the raunchy comedy Borat which only debuted in 837 theaters but scored a potent top spot bow of $26.5M for a sizzling average of $31,607. The Fox blockbuster was the only film in 2006 to hit number one while playing in less than 2,000 venues. Final grosses reached $128.5M domestically and over $260M worldwide. Two new kidpics split the family audience and followed in second and third. Disney’s Tim Allen sequel The Santa Clause 3 bowed to $19.5M on its way to $84.5M while Paramount’s animated comedy Flushed Away debuted close behind with $18.8M before finishing with $64.5M. Falling to fourth was Saw III with $14.8M for Lionsgate while the Warner Bros. crime thriller The Departed rounded out the top five with $7.7M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com,
Only a few months after severing ties with DreamWorks Animation, the mad geniuses at Aardman hooked up with Sony’s animation division. And now they’re announcing their next movies.
"The Cat Burglars" — Described as "Wallace & Gromit" meets "Ocean’s 11" AND as "family-friendly Tarantino," this one will be about, you guessed it, a team of feline felons. (And clay-mated, not CG animated.)
"Pirates" — Aardman co-founder Peter Lord will helm this action comedy about … pirates! (Based on the series of stories by Gideon Defoe.)
"Operation Rudolph" — From one of the "Borat" screenwriters … I’ll let Variety describe this one: "The Christmas movie shows the North Pole operation as an exhilarating ultra-high-tech military procedure on a massive scale, revealing how Santa and his huge army of combat elves get around the whole world in one night." Sounds cool.
Alas, Aardman presently has no plans to deliver a "W & G" sequel. These new ones sound pretty cool though.
Big fan of the Aardman Animation flicks? Well, you are if you dug "Chicken Run," "Flushed Away," and "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit." Unfortunately those last two flicks didn’t make enough money to keep DreamWorks happy, which is why Aardman now has a new home at Sony.
Much ink was spilled on how disappointing the "Flushed Away" box office was, and when DreamWorks bailed on their Aardman contract a few months later, a lot of animation fans in North America went "Aw, man. Not cool." Well now it’s Sony Animation to the rescue, as they’ve signed a deal with Aardman to bring a few of their new projects to American cinemas. (And one of those new ones might be another "Wallace & Gromit" adventure!)
Aardman chief Stephen Moore couldn’t resist taking one last shot at DreamWorks while celebrating his new Sony deal: "The thing that attracted us to Sony is that they have a very broad taste, and they are distributing 20 movies a year around the world … their desire to restrict us was much less, so we can make movies that follow Aardman’s instinctive style." In other words, as Variety points out, Sony will probably let the Aardmaneers do their own thing, whereas DW was a lot more "hands-on" than the filmmakers would have liked.
Apparently Jeffrey Katzenberg is convinced that the decidedly British Aardman attitude simply doesn’t sell well enough in the U.S., but hey, the guys have made three damn good films, regardless of box office, so this new Sony deal is good news all around.
With the marketing of "Cars" in question and the retail potential of "Ratatouille" in doubt, Disney is concerned with how to properly promote their film in a summer packed with formidable family-friendly tentpoles such as "Shrek The Third," "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End," and "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," especially given to the underperformance of mouse-centric animated fare like "Flushed Away" and, in the wake of "Happy Feet’s" grosses, the potential threat of the "Surf’s Up" penguins three weeks prior to "Ratatouille’s" release.
According to Jim Hill Media, "You see, according to Disney’s own internal projections, "Ratatouille" is already expected to sell far fewer tickets than "Cars" … This is why it’s doubly important that Disney’s PR department put together the best possible marketing campaign for this Brad Bird movie." (Check out the "Ratatouille" trailer right here.)
"Ratatouille" is currently scheduled to open on June 29, opposite the adult-skewing "Live Free or Die Hard."
DreamWorks legend, Jeffrey Katzenberg, talks exclusively to RT-UK.
On paper, it seems like the perfect partnership; a license to print money. DreamWorks Animation – the creators of Shrek – and Aardman Features, those nice people behind Wallace & Gromit. But just lately they’ve been having a hard time convincing audiences to support their product where it counts – at the American box office.
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit, although embraced by critics with a whopping 95% on the Tomatometer, disappointed commercially in the States, while Flushed Away, their latest offering, has been perceived as another “money-loser.”
It cost an estimated $142.9 million to make and boasts an all-star cast led by Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet and Sir Ian McKellen, not to mention Bill Nighy, Jean Reno and Shane Richie. But after just two weeks of release in the States, it had only amassed $40 million, prompting talk of a premature end to the partnership.
For Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO/Director of DreamWorks Animation SKG, that couldn’t be further from the truth – and he remains pleased with the progress the two companies are making.
Speaking to Rotten Tomatoes UK in London, he said of the working relationship: “It’s good. We’ve been together now for 10 years. This is our third feature.
“We have not picked the next movie yet. I think – after the first of the year, we will sit down and look at the opportunities we have, what they want to do, what we want to do and make a decision. But the fact that we haven’t made a decision yet has made some people feel as though it’s at an end. Neither of us has come to that conclusion. So I think anything is possible.”
Animation is a notoriously difficult nut to crack and just lately it’s become a very competitive playing field. Flushed Away is an effortless crowd-pleaser, the sort of film the kids will be asking to see again and again, and Katzenberg remains rightly proud of it.
But he is also aware of the commercial implications of a film’s performance, particularly as head of one of Hollywood’s biggest film studios.
“It’s not the first time,” he continued. “It happened to me last year with Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit which went on to win the Academy Award. So, you know, we’re always sort of balancing two things here – art and commerce. If you’re asking about the art of the movie, I couldn’t be happier or prouder. I love what they’ve done and what we’ve done together. Flushed Away is a superb movie and people that go to see it are enjoying it a lot. But on the commerce side of it, we’re a company and we’re required to try and look ahead and have some insight into how things are doing and make sure that our investors are kept current.”
Rather than appearing defeatist about what this might mean or about the sudden glut of animated movies, Katzenberg is relishing the challenges provided.
“For us, what we need to do is adjust how we work in that kind of environment. It used to be basically two companies doing this – Pixar and DreamWorks – and now there are six, seven or eight companies working in the genre. Competition has always been good, I’ve always thrived with competition and I think it makes us better at what we do and strive to continually be the very best that we can be. I have no fear of it. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite – I think we’ll have opportunities.”
The latest opportunity is ensuring that Flushed Away does well with its UK audience %u2013 something that shouldn’t be difficult. The film maintains a distinctly Aardman feel and has been described by co-directors David Bowers and Sam Fell as “a love letter to London”.
It follows the misfortunes of a pampered pet mouse (or rat) named Roddy St James (voiced by Hugh Jackman) who thinks he has it all… until he finds his plush Kensington home invaded by a sewer rat named Sid (Richie) who promptly flushes him down the loo.
Once underground, Roddy discovers a vast metropolis where he meets Rita (Winslet) a street-wise rat on a mission of her own. He enlists her help to get home but only if they can both escape the clutches of a villainous Toad (McKellen) who despises all rodents and has plans for their extermination.
The ensuing adventure is a rollercoaster ride of fun that’s packed with enough gags to fill three movies. As ever, the attention to detail is meticulous even though it marks the first time Aardman Features has abandoned its trademark clay stop-motion animation in favour of going fully computer-animated.
As Katzenberg explains, however, that decision wasn’t as hard as some may have anticipated…
How easy was it persuading Aardman Features to do their first computer-animated movie?
JK: I think the story is what persuaded them. It couldn’t have been done in clay animation because of how much action there is in it and how big the world is. When you’re dealing with clay animation, people forget that every single set is built to scale and by hand. So, to do the kind of film that was called for in this, it just wasn’t possible. I think they were excited about the challenge of trying to maintain the very unique and singular things that are so much the signature of Aardman, and yet be able to do it in computer animation.
What was it about this pitch that grabbed you, given that its central characters are essentially rats?
JK: There’s a great, long tradition in animation of mice and rats that have become quite popular. The thing that was very compelling for this was the design of the characters and the look which came from Aardman. I think Aardman is incapable of designing a character that isn’t charming, no matter what it is. An aardvark would be charming if it was designed by Aardman. They have a way of putting a smile on our faces. So I think from the outset I thought it was a very clever idea for a story and to take the great look and sensibility of Aardman and use state-of-the-art computer animation to make this movie was both a challenge and a great opportunity for us.
What, for you, were some of the biggest challenges of making Flushed Away?
JK: I think the opportunity and the challenge was to preserve what is so wonderful and unique about Aardman. We ended up bringing 16 people from Bristol to the States for several years really to make sure that the creative leadership of the film stayed the course.
I’d imagine it was it easier for you in terms of planning set visits…
JK: [laughs] Yes it made it a little easier for me. I didn’t have to come this way quite so often.
How involved were you on a day-to-day basis?
JK: I was more a cheerleader than anything else. But that’s been true now for the past couple of years on all of our movies. We’ve got great directors, producers, storyboard artists and writers. My job is to create an environment in which they can do their job. So it’s not so much my hands in there doing it. It used to be, years ago, but not for the last couple of years.
Did you have any input or notes about certain things you felt might have worked a bit better?
JK: Truthfully, this is our third collaboration and [co-writer] Peter Lord was really intimately involved in it, from the development of it and the look of the characters to recruiting these guys to direct the movie. Frankly, they were great from the outset and it’s a movie that was a pretty happy production.
As always in the process of previewing the movie, you learn from what the audience reports back. I think there were things that surprised us as to how well they worked – such as the slugs. They were a perfect example of what the audience really, really responded to – so we just did more.
Also, in terms of adjusting along the way – some of the adjustments that were made to Hugh’s character came as the result of feedback. It was all about giving the audience the best ride that we could.
Was Nick Park involved in Flushed Away at all?
JK: A little bit. From time to time he came in and watched the movie and gave notes on it. He’s a good team player.
What makes him so special in your opinion?
JK: He’s a great storyteller. He is unique. He has a completely wonderful, singular sensibility and he lives, breathes and loves Wallace & Gromit.
The cast is another great one. What was it that appealed to Hugh Jackman about playing Roddy?
JK: I think the idea of doing an Aardman movie was very appealing to him. I think he liked the story a lot. And ultimately it was about doing something that he could share with his son, Oscar.
When he saw the finished film with his wife and his family and saw how excited his son was, he said to me, “I have to say, it really was one of the greatest days in my entire career, seeing how happy and proud my son was.”
Finally, going into 2007, Shrek The Third is obviously the big one for you. How excited are you about it and how’s it progressing?
JK: Very excited. We’re in the last six months of finishing it off and it just looks sensational. I think there’s something that’s in the water we drink. We seem to know how to really make those movies great. It’s the same creative team that made the first two movies and they’ve done really, really good work.
Flushed Away is out now in the US and comes to UK cinemas on Friday 1st December.
In what was a very close race for box office supremacy, the dancing penguin cartoon Happy Feet narrowly edged out a strong debut for the new James Bond actioner Casino Royale for the number one spot in North America this weekend.
Final numbers will be released on Monday after all Sunday ticket sales are counted up, but the animated adventure is still expected to lead by a slim margin. If estimates hold, the frame will mark only the second time in box office history that two films have opened with over $40M each on the same weekend. The potent pair also helped to push the top ten to its highest level in four months.
The mighty penguins of Happy Feet flexed their muscles and took over the number one spot this weekend opening to an estimated $42.3M. Warner Bros. launched the computer-animated film in an ultrawide 3,804 locations and averaged a stellar $11,125 per theater. The PG-rated pic finds a young penguin named Mumble trying to find his place in the world and features the voices of Robin Williams, Elijah Wood, Nicole Kidman, and Hugh Jackman. The studio is estimating a optimistically slim Saturday-to-Sunday decline of only 14%.
Happy Feet was backed by a massive marketing campaign and beat out the openings of other recent computer-animated kids movies like DreamWorks’ Over the Hedge ($38.5M), Disney’s Chicken Little ($40M), and Fox’s Robots ($36M). However, it did not reach the Pixar territory of Cars ($60.1M) and The Incredibles ($70.5M). But with competing kids movies The Santa Clause 3 and Flushed Away still in the top five, Happy Feet performed as well as expected given the choices that the target audience has. With the Thanksgiving school holidays approaching, the $100M penguin pic should enjoy a robust sophomore frame.
After a four-year hiatus, Sony and MGM restarted the James Bond franchise with Casino Royale and generated an impressive $40.6M over the weekend, according to estimates, settling in for a close second place finish. The Daniel Craig starrer generated the best per-theater average among all wide releases with a potent $11,823 from 3,434 sites. It was the second biggest opening ever for the franchise trailing the $47.1M bow of the last installment, 2002’s Die Another Day. Casino was never expected to reach the heights of Die since it had a new and mostly unknown star in the lead and no famous co-star like Halle Berry to add more ammunition. Casino did attract rave reviews from critics which helped to sell the idea of a non-Pierce Brosnan Bond film to an American audience that was unfamiliar with Craig.
Brosnan’s first Bond film Goldeneye, which opened on the same weekend in 1995 and was also directed by Martin Campbell, bowed to $26.2M from 2,667 theaters for a $9,826 average. At today’s ticket prices, that would translate to an opening weekend average of roughly $13,000. Brosnan’s future Agent 007 flicks would each post larger openings so Craig, who is contracted for at least two more films, could follow suit and see even bigger grosses in the years ahead as audiences become more comfortable with him. The next adventure is already slated for a November 7, 2008 launch.
Sony’s research showed that Casino Royale’s audience was 55% male and 57% 25 and older. Around the world, Bond dominated the box office with even greater results opening at number one in 27 markets with an estimated $42.2M overseas. The U.K. led the field with a spectacular $25.6M bow.
Following its two-week reign over the U. S. and A., Borat dropped to third place collecting an estimated $14.4M in its third weekend of release. Down 49% from last weekend, the Fox comedy has lifted its cume to a stellar $90.5M in 17 days and could cross the century mark by Thanksgiving Day. Budgeted at only $18M (plus the cost of litigating its many current lawsuits), Borat looks to finish in the neighborhood of $125M domestically.
The two new films topping the charts helped to give most holdover films some hefty declines. Disney’s The Santa Clause 3 dropped 52% to an estimated $8.2M in its third weekend for a cume to date of $51.6M. After two weeks in third place, the animated pic Flushed Away got hit hard by the dancing penguins and dropped to fifth with an estimated $6.8M. Down a steep 59%, the Paramount/DreamWorks venture raised its sum to $48.8M.
The Will Ferrell comedy Stranger Than Fiction had a tough sophomore frame grossing an estimated $6.6M, off 51%, to give Sony a ten-day total of $22.9M. Budgeted at under $30M, the Marc Forster-directed pic should find its way to $35-40M. The cross-continent drama Babel fell 48% in its second weekend of wide release and captured an estimated $2.9M putting the total at $12M for Paramount Vantage. After scorching results in limited release, the Brad Pitt–Cate Blanchett film is having a hard time competing on a nationwide scale.
The horror sequel Saw III followed with an estimated $2.8M, tumbling 60%, putting Lionsgate’s cume at $74.9M. Warner Bros. grossed an estimated $2.6M for The Departed which declined by 50% in its seventh mission giving Martin Scorsese‘s top-grossing film $113.9M to date.
Creeping into tenth place was the experimental film festival called After Dark’s Horror Fest – 8 Films to Die For with an estimated weekend gross of $2.5M. The distributor offered eight different low-budget fright flicks throughout the weekend in 488 locations averaging a solid $5,086. With so many titles, many fans were encouraged to buy more than one ticket throughout the frame. Freestyle Releasing handled distribution.
Debuting poorly outside of the top ten was the jailhouse comedy Let’s Go To Prison which locked up an estimated $2.1M in ticket sales from 1,495 locations for a dismal $1,410 average. According to its distributor Universal, the R-rated revenge comedy played mostly to young men with studio research showing that 67% of the audience was under the age of 25 and 59% was male.
Three high profile films premiered in limited release with varying results. MGM platformed The Weinstein Co. political drama Bobby in only two theaters and grossed an estimated $67,000 for a potent $33,500 average. Written and directed by Emilio Estevez, the star-studded film about the day Robert Kennedy was assassinated boasts a cast featuring Anthony Hopkins, Laurence Fishburne, Elijah Wood, Lindsay Lohan, Sharon Stone, Helen Hunt, Demi Moore, William H. Macy, Heather Graham, Ashton Kutcher, and Martin Sheen. The R-rated film expands nationwide on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day.
Also opening to strong results was Warner Independent’s film industry comedy For Your Consideration which debuted in 23 theaters with an estimated $394,000 for a solid $17,130 average. The Christopher Guest-directed film launched in a dozen cities and will widen to over 600 runs nationwide on Wednesday. The filmmaker’s last picture A Mighty Wind had wider distribution and opened to $2.1M from 133 theaters for a $15,881 average in April of 2003 on its way to a $17.8M overall take.
Arthouse moviegoers did not have an appetite for Fox Searchlight’s junk food industry pic Fast Food Nation which debuted in 321 theaters with an estimated $390,000 for a poor $1,215 average. Starring Greg Kinnear, Wilmer Valderrama, Ethan Hawke, and Patricia Arquette, the R-rated film attracted mixed reviews from critics.
Three films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. The magician pic The Prestige took in an estimated $2M in its fifth frame, down 58%, boosting the cume to $49.4M. Look for a final tally of around $54M for the Buena Vista hit.
A pair of star-driven flops that opened last week crumbled in their sophomore frames losing more than half of their audience. Sarah Michelle Gellar’s suspense thriller The Return grossed an estimated $1.7M, down 62%, for a measly total of $6.9M after ten days. Russell Crowe‘s stab at a romantic comedy, Fox’s A Good Year, fell 56% to an estimated $1.6M putting its total at $6.4M. An embarrassing final total of about $9M should result for each pic.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $129.7M which was down a hefty 23% from last year when Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire opened at number one with a jaw-dropping $102.3M; and down 7% from 2004 when National Treasure debuted in the top spot with $35.1M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
It’s a box office battle royale at the multiplexes this weekend as two guys in penguin suits fight over the number one spot with their new releases.
Warner Bros. offers the animated kids movie "Happy Feet" while Sony counters with the latest James Bond adventure "Casino Royale." Each has a legitimate shot at reaching number one and will play to different audiences. Meanwhile, two-time chart-topper "Borat" plans to stick around and cause trouble (and collect more lawsuits) despite the arrival of two new heavy hitters.
Yet another computer-animated film featuring talking animals hits the big screen this weekend in the form of "Happy Feet" which tells the story of Mumble, a young penguin who can’t sing like all his other classmates can, but can dance up a storm with his toe-tapping skills. The PG-rated film features the voices of Robin Williams, Elijah Wood, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, and Brittany Murphy and is directed by George Miller ("Babe"). Warner Bros. will offer dozens of Imax runs simultaneously with the standard launch of the film which will give the grosses a nice little boost.
The weekend before the Thanksgiving holiday frame has always been a potent one for films that play to kids. Although "Happy Feet" has a story that wanders from one genre to the next, its dazzling digital animation should please audiences. Plus, Williams is in top form voicing two different characters who together provide about 95% of the film’s comedy. Last year, the Oscar-winning actor lent his pipes to Fox’s "Robots" which opened with $36M thanks to the star wattage he brings to a big toon vehicle. "Feet" should be able to debut above that mark.
The marketing push behind "Happy" has been colossal as the studio is hoping for big things from its little penguin. Kids and moms have been bombarded with promotion everywhere they go and awareness with that key demo is sky high. But crossover potential to teens and young adults in questionable. This is not like "The Incredibles" or "Shrek" where every teenager is pumped up and ready to buy tickets. There is also solid competition for the family audience in the current marketplace as "The Santa Clause 3" and "Flushed Away" are set to collect $20M or more worth of ticket sales from the exact same crowd this weekend. But penguin power could edge out Bond’s guns as "Happy Feet" will have around 400 more theaters, a shorter running time, and more starpower. Opening in 3,804 theaters, the animated film might take in about $40M this weekend.
Sony and MGM try to restart one of the most successful film franchises in history with "Casino Royale," the latest James Bond action-adventure tale. Daniel Craig replaces the wildly popular Pierce Brosnan in the role of Agent 007 in the first new installment in the series in four years. Martin Campbell, who directed the former Remington Steele in his first Bond pic "Goldeneye," gets another chance to break in a rookie into one of the industry’s most iconic roles. In the U.S., Craig is practically an unknown actor and with no famous co-stars, "Casino Royale" cannot rely upon starpower to drive in audiences. Instead, it will look to the marquee value of the franchise as well as to reviews from critics which so far have been glowing and even better than what the studio could have hoped for. Many find Craig to be the best Bond ever.
Each of Brosnan’s first three Bond films had the secret agent’s famous digits branded into its opening weekend gross figure. "Goldeneye" opened to $26,205,007 on this same weekend in 1995, "Tomorrow Never Dies" premiered to $25,143,007 in December 1997 when it faced the launch of "Titanic," and "The World is Not Enough" launched with $35,519,007 when the franchise returned to the weekend before Thanksgiving in 1999. No telling if Sony will follow suit with "Casino" and insert Bond’s trademark number into the final opening weekend tally. 2002’s "Die Another Day," the last film in the series, raised the bar even higher debuting to $47.1M on its way to a $160.9M domestic take and $415M worldwide haul.
"Casino Royale" is not likely to reach that bar in its first weekend. With Brosnan gone and many fans not sure yet if they want to try out this new blondie, the debut frame could suffer a bit. Action fans had a routine of going to see a Brosnan Bond film every couple of winters, plus the addition of Halle Berry, who was red hot from her Oscar win that year, boosted the film’s star quotient. "Royale" could have greatly benefited by casting at least one big star to help keep its hold on its fan base. Nevertheless, with no other action movies in the marketplace, "Casino" has almost no direct competition. And its Texas Hold ‘Em storyline could appeal to young men addicted to poker.
But the box office world has changed much since "Die Another Day." Nowadays, action movies that rely on stunts instead of special effects often struggle to attract audiences. Competing globe-trotting spy flick "Mission: Impossible III," which appeals to much the same audience, bowed to an underwhelming $47.7M last May while playing in over 4,000 theaters against no competition. Sure, the Tom Cruise backlash may have contributed. But today’s audiences get plenty of high-quality action for free on network television and want a lot more bang for the buck if they’re expected to pay top dollar at the multiplexes. Also impacting "Casino’s" potential is its long running time which clocks in at nearly two and a half hours. That’s a good 45 minutes longer than "Happy Feet" meaning each screen can accommodate one extra penguin showing per day.
Sony has backed its latest blockbuster with a sizable marketing push. Strong word-of-mouth could allow it to hang on in the long term. But early skepticism may lead many adult moviegoers to a wait-and-see approach as they figure out whether this Bond is worth it. Diving into 3,434 theaters, "Casino Royale" might gross about $38M for the weekend. With recent Bond flicks making 60-70% of their loot from outside of North America, international prospects look sensational over the coming weeks.
Universal quietly tosses the R-rated comedy "Let’s Go To Prison" into the marketplace on Friday hoping to tap into young men in search of bold humor. Directed by Bob Odenkirk, the jailhouse laugher boasts a cast fit for a straight-to-DVD release – Dax Shephard, Will Arnett, and Chi McBride. In this revenge comedy, a felon makes life hell for the son of the judge who sentenced him to the slammer. The marketing push has not been very strong and with "Borat" stealing away the same audience, it will be an uphill battle to find paying customers. Opening in 1,495 cells, "Let’s Go To Prison" might lock down only $5M over the weekend.
Confusing audiences in nearly 500 theaters across the country this weekend will be "After Dark Horrorfest – 8 Films to Die For." For one weekend only, this collection of B-grade fright flicks will play in theaters with moviegoers having the choice of which films they want to see. These include such titles as "The Gravedancers," Takashi Shimizu‘s "Reincarnation," and "Wicked Little Things" plus a special Sunday night presentation of "Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horror" as the ninth creepy tale. To generate interest, After Dark is promoting this as a special event for horror fans featuring films that they were not supposed to see. To fill the dead space on screen between Sunday and Wednesday when many new Thanksgiving weekend films open, theaters will get to run "encore presentations of audience favorites."
In limited release, more potential candidates for awards season make their way into theaters. Fox Searchlight unleashes Richard Linklater‘s newest creation "Fast Food Nation" in 321 theaters across the major markets. The R-rated ensemble pic stars Greg Kinnear, Wilmer Valderrama, Ethan Hawke, and Patricia Arquette in an expose of the American junk food biz.
The stars of "Fast Food Nation."
MGM and The Weinstein Co. go back to June 5, 1968 with the political drama "Bobby" examining the lives of those inside the Ambassador Hotel on the day Senator Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. Another large cast takes to the screen including Anthony Hopkins, Laurence Fishburne, Elijah Wood, Lindsay Lohan, Sharon Stone, Helen Hunt, Demi Moore, William H. Macy, Heather Graham, Ashton Kutcher, Martin Sheen, and son Emilio Estevez who also serves as writer/director. "Bobby" platforms in solo engagements in New York and Los Angeles on Friday and expands nationally next Wednesday.
Packing films with stars seems to be the way to go as showcased again by the film industry comedy "For Your Consideration" from writer/director Christopher Guest ("Best in Show," "A Mighty Wind"). Eugene Levy, Michael McKean, Catherine O’Hara, Parker Posey, Ricky Gervais, and Fred Willard team up for a story about the wackiness that results when a small indie film attracts Oscar buzz for its cast members. Warner Independent Pictures will debut "Consideration" on Friday in ten U.S. markets plus three Canadian cities before expanding next Wednesday into major cities across North America.
After stumbling into the number one spot two weeks ago, "Borat" will have to settle for being bumped a couple of spots this time thanks to the frame’s two new heavyweights. "Casino Royale" will provide some competition but "Happy Feet" should have no effect on the raunchy comedy’s war of terror on the nation’s multiplexes. Midweek business is still very strong so a 35% drop to about $18M could occur. That would give "Borat" a hefty $94M in 17 days and could possibly allow it to crack the $100M mark by Turkey Day.
Disney’s "The Santa Clause 3" and Paramount’s "Flushed Away" have been chart buddies for two weeks now, but the pair of kidpics might have a chance to swap positions this weekend. Both will take direct hits thanks to the arrival of the new penguin pic, but "Flushed" seems to be holding up a bit better. This weekend, we may see it drop 35% to $11M raising its total to $53M. "Santa," meanwhile, may fall 40% to around $10M for a $53M cume as well.
Will Ferrell saw a respectable showing for his new comedy "Stranger Than Fiction," but most of that crowd will be opting for Sony’s other offering this weekend – James Bond. A 45% drop might occur giving the flick $7.5M over the sophomore session and a ten-day tally of $24M.
LAST YEAR: Warner Bros. destroyed the competition with the latest installment of its enduring franchise – "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." The fourth wizard flick bowed to a jaw-dropping $102.3M making it the fourth-biggest opening weekend in history, at the time. "Goblet" was a big winner grossing $290M domestically and a towering $892M worldwide making it the second highest grossing "Potter" pic. Debuting far back in second place, but with solid results of its own, was Fox’s Johnny Cash drama "Walk the Line" with $22.3M. The Joaquin Phoenix–Reese Witherspoon film went on to capture $119.5M plus an Oscar for Reese. Rounding out the top five were Disney’s "Chicken Little" with $14.7M, The Weinstein Company’s "Derailed" with $6.5M, and Sony’s "Zathura" with $5.1M.
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 Pitt–Cate 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 DiCaprio–Matt 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
This weekend, multiplexes hope to cram in lots of moviegoers thanks to a wide selection of new films. Six movies open or expand nationally on Friday making for what will be one of the most competitive weekends of the holiday season.
Adult audiences looking for a laugh can see Will Ferrell in a more mature role in "Stranger Than Fiction." The female vote will be split with daughters going for a scare with Sarah Michelle Gellar in "The Return" while their mothers can spend the evening with Russell Crowe in the romantic comedy "A Good Year." The action flick "Harsh Times" rounds out the menu of new releases targeting young men.
In addition, the cross-continent drama "Babel" expands across the country after two weeks of stellar results in limited release. Despite all the new opponents entering the field, reigning box office incumbent "Borat" will go fully national in an attempt to be re-elected for a second term as commander-in-chief. Rarely does a November weekend have so many new offerings. The fight for screens and moviegoer attention will be fierce. Not every film will survive so some casualties will be left behind on the battlefield by the end of the frame.
After battling Sacha Baron Cohen with race cars last summer in "Talladega Nights," Will Ferrell once again takes on the British comedian at the box office with "Stranger Than Fiction" which will try to stop the seemingly unstoppable "Borat" machine. In the PG-13 film, the funnyman plays an agent with the IRS who begins to hear a voice narrating his life and his every move. Emma Thompson provides the voice while Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, and Queen Latifah co-star. Directed by Marc Forster ("Finding Neverland," "Monster’s Ball"), "Stranger" takes an A-list comedian and puts him in a more mature and serious film that still has some comedic elements. That means that the 14-year-old boys who powered "Talladega Nights" to a $47M opening will take a pass this time around.
When Jim Carrey went arthouse, he saw "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" open to $8.2M with a $6,042 average and "Man on the Moon" bow to $7.5M with a $3,615 average. Adam Sandler‘s "Spanglish" debuted to $8.8M and a $3,617 average. It can often be a tough sell to take a comedian known mostly for mainstream comedies and put him into a more mature film, even if it still has laughs. "Stranger Than Fiction" might find it difficult to pull in teens and young adults, but mature adults will have interest. Reviews have been generally good and the concept makes the film stand out in the current marketplace. Competition for adults will come from both "Babel" and "A Good Year" while "Borat" will continue to steal away millions of moviegoers looking for a good laugh. Launching in 2,264 theaters, "Stranger Than Fiction" might open with roughly $16M.
Halloween may have passed but those in search of a scare, and were disappointed that "The Grudge 2" did not have Sarah Michelle Gellar in a full role, will have a chance to see their favorite vampire slayer in the new supernatural thriller "The Return." With a commercially friendly PG-13 rating, the spookfest finds Gellar playing a young businesswoman guided by mysterious forces to avenge her own death from a previous life. In the horror genre, Gellar is a bonafide star and can pull in teens and young adults. But with so many fright sequels cramming into theaters recently during the pre-pumpkin period, many genre fans might be all scared out by now. Luckily for "The Return," competition will not be too fierce as nothing else is exciting teenage girls at the moment. The marketing push has been decent, but in many ways it does not stand out as something special or unique that is worth seeing right away. Opening in 1,986 theaters, "The Return" might gross around $8M over the weekend.
Russell Crowe reteams with his "Gladiator" director Ridley Scott for a trip to a new genre (romantic comedy) in "A Good Year." The PG-13 film finds the former Maximus playing a financial guru who finds women and wine at a french vineyard he inherits. Talk about a tough sell. On paper, the Scott-Crowe combo is box office gold, only they chose to try out a type of film that will repel fans who spent $187.7M on the 2000 Best Picture Oscar winner. Plus the Fox release has no notable female star to boost its potential. Add to that the bad buzz that "Year" received at the Toronto Film Festival plus the mostly negative reviews from critics, and it surely will have its work cut out for it. Could this be "All the King’s Men" all over again?
"A Good Year" stands as that rare film which reunites an Oscar-caliber director with an Oscar-winning actor that earns bad reviews and lukewarm studio support. Crowe’s last film "Cinderella Man" bowed to $18.3M from 2,812 theaters for a $6,515 average in June of last year and was considered an underperformer. The actor’s latest picture lacks the Ron Howard film’s strong critical support, added starpower from Renee Zellweger, and sizable push from Universal. "A Good Year" should play mostly to adult female audiences as the male appeal is low. That makes "Babel" and "Stranger Than Fiction," which have better cross-gender appeal, direct competitors this weekend for mature couples. Opening in 2,066 theaters, "A Good Year" could find itself with about $8M this weekend and a rough road ahead.
Still in the top ten with "The Prestige," Christian Bale comes back for double duty in the new action thriller "Harsh Times" from MGM. The R-rated film from the writer of "Training Day" finds the Caped Crusader playing an ex-Army Ranger enlisting with the LAPD who still has ties into the crime world in South Central. "Harsh" will play to urban audiences and should skew male but will find the marketplace difficult to navigate with bigger titles like "Borat" and "Saw III" already doing strong business with that demo. Bale lacks the drawing power of Denzel Washington in his Oscar-winning role in "Training Day" so the grosses should not be in the same ballpark. A moderate national release in over 900 theaters will also limit the potential. "Harsh Times" will have to fight hard in order to crack the top ten and could finish the frame with around $3M.
Among holdovers, all eyes will be on "Borat" this weekend. Can the Kazakh superstar spend another weekend at number one? Following its robust $26.5M bow from 837 theaters, the Sacha Baron Cohen starrer has delivered solid midweek results grossing over $3M on both Monday and Tuesday. Now, Fox will expand the raunchy comedy on Friday by more than tripling the run to 2,565 theaters allowing everyone to have easy access to the most-talked-about film of the season. Word-of-mouth has been encouraging and "Borat" might even reach the Holy Grail of the box office – repeat business.
Last weekend’s potent average of $31,607 will certainly come crashing down since the film will be in more theaters and most of the hardcore fans have now already seen it. But the buzz is still hot and the Uzbekistan-hating TV journalist is now trying to crossover into new audience segments not initially sold on the concept last week. With the frame’s new films all a mixed bag without a surefire smash among them, "Borat" looks ready to retain its hold on the number one spot. A weekend gross of around $24M could result giving Fox a stellar $62M in only ten days.
Another cross-cultural film with a five-letter title starting with a B expanding over the weekend is "Babel" starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Paramount Vantage has attracted scorching results in limited release for two weeks and is now hoping that moviegoers nationwide are ready for the acclaimed drama. Last weekend, "Babel" popped into the Top 20 with a stellar $26,264 average from 35 locations. On Friday, the R-rated film expands to over 1,200 sites and should continue to play to an upscale adult audience.
"Babel" is likely to play to the same crowd that powered last December’s "Syriana" to a $11.7M bow from 1,752 theaters for a $6,699 average. That film had more theaters and a star, George Clooney, who is despised by many American moviegoers for his political beliefs. On the other hand, Pitt can cheat on his wife and father a baby with another woman, and the public still can’t get enough of him. That’s pure starpower. But "Babel" is not the type of commercial role that Pitt attracts large crowds to. Still, the average should be solid so given its level of distribution, "Babel" could gross about $10M this weekend.
Disney and Paramount went head to head last weekend with competing kidpics and split the family vote in half pretty evenly. "Flushed Away" is getting better word-of-mouth and is offering audiences something new so its decline might be smaller than that of "The Santa Clause 3." Kid movies opening in early November typically have good legs and enjoy strong second weekend holds. Sophomore drops for recent films of the genre include 21% for last year’s "Chicken Little," 29% for 2004’s "The Incredibles," 15% for 2003’s "Elf," and 15% for 2002’s "The Santa Clause 2." This weekend, "Clause 3" might drop by 25% and "Flushed" could wash away 20% leaving each with a three-day tally in the neighborhood of $15M. That would push ten-day cumes to roughly $39M a piece for the Mouse House pic and the rat toon.
LAST YEAR: Disney’s poultry toon "Chicken Little" stayed at number one for a second weekend with an impressive $31.7M. Three new releases followed within a tight range. Sony’s big-budget kidpic "Zathura" bowed in second with $13.4M on its way to a disappointing $28.2M. Jennifer Aniston was close behind with her thriller "Derailed" which opened to $12.2M. The Weinstein Co. release went on to gross a moderate $36M. Paramount’s urban action pic "Get Rich or Die Tryin’" debuted in fourth place with a $12M weekend and $17.7M over five days. The 50 Cent starrer finished its run with $31M. Rounding out the top five was the military drama "Jarhead" which tumbled 58% to $11.7M. Premiering to sensational results was the period film "Pride & Prejudice" which grossed $2.9M from only 215 theaters for a sizzling $13,326 average. The Focus release went on to become an awards contender and took in $38.4M making it the top-grossing pic among the weekend’s new films.
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 DiCaprio–Matt 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 Pitt–Cate 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
This week at the movies brings us the profound discoveries of a great Kazak journalist ("Borat," starring Sacha Baron Cohen), a battle between Santa and Jack Frost ("The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause," starring Tim Allen), and a tale of rats in the sewer ("Flushed Away," featuring the voice work of Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman). What do the critics have to say?
Jagshemash! Here in U.S and A., what do critic say about "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan?" They like! In fact, the scribes are almost universally pleased with the film, and some are going as far as calling it one of the funniest comedies ever. Part satire, part shockumentary, "Borat" follows the gleefully sexist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic title character (Cohen) on a cross-country trek to learn more about our strange nation; along the way he dredges up the seamy underbelly of American prejudice and ignorance. At 95 percent on the Tomatometer, "Borat" is not only Certified Fresh, it’s the best reviewed wide release of the year, topping such acclaimed movies as "Dave Chappelle’s Block Party," "The Departed," and "United 93." That’s a good thing, since Borat himself has said if the movie doesn’t do well, he will be execute.
It doesn’t sound like the most auspicious subject for a film: mice and rats are flushed down a toilet, where they find a bustling municipality in the sewer. However, in the hands of Aardman Productions, the endlessly imaginative company responsible for "Chicken Run" and "Wallace and Gromit," anything is possible. And so it is with "Flushed Away," which tells the upstairs-downstairs tale of a coddled mouse who finds action and adventure after a trip through the plumbing. Critics say that while "Flushed Away" may not achieve the dizzying heights of "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" (which scored 95 percent on the Tomatometer), it’s an eccentric, inventive family film with plenty of laughs. At 76 percent on the Tomatometer, "Flushed Away" is critically sanitized for your viewing pleasure.
"The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause," was barely screened for critics, much like star Tim Allen‘s last flick, "Zoom." The big difference is that "Clause" at least has a couple good reviews, whereas "Zoom" had none. The story of Santa’s duel with Jack Frost for control over Christmas, "Clause" hasn’t exactly enchanted the critics who have seen it; they say the movie is labored and mostly mirthless. It’s currently at 29 percent on the Tomatometer.
Also opening this week in limited release: "Commune," a documentary about the Black Bear Ranch in California, is at 100 percent; "Romantico," a heartbreaking documentary about a musician working illegally in the U.S., is at 100 percent; Pedro Almodovar‘s "Volver," starring Penelope Cruz in a complex tale of womanhood, is Certified Fresh at 90 percent; "Wondrous Oblivion," the story of a boy and his neighbor who bond over the game of cricket, is at 60 percent; "Death & Texas," a death penalty satire, is at 60 percent; the twisty thriller "Unknown," starring Greg Kinnear, is at 29 percent; "Shottas," a based-on-true-events Jamaican crime flick, is at 20 percent; and "Zerophilia," a gender-bending rom-com, is at 18 percent.
Finally, we’d like to bestow props upon the whimsically monikered killthemall4444, who correctly predicted that the equally whimsical "Saw III" would wind up with a Tomatometer of 28 percent. Congrats, ktm4444.
Best Reviewed Wide Releases of 2006:
95% — Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
93% — Dave Chappelle’s Block Party
93% — The Departed
90% — United 93
88% — Inside Man
84%– Akeelah and the Bee
83% — Slither
83% — The Descent
80% — A Prairie Home Companion
79% — Catch a Fire