(Photo by Paramount/courtesy Everett Collection.)
William Friedkin’s win for the Best Director Oscar on The French Connection, which would also take Best Picture that same ceremony, heralded the peak of the New Hollywood movement. Beginning with late-1960s films like the iconoclastic Bonnie and Clyde and counterculture-defining Easy Rider, and the destruction of the industry’s self-censoring Hays Code, filmmakers in America had been en masse telling darker, more explicit stories. Young, rebellious directors working under this New Hollywood banner included Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and Friedkin. His police thriller French Connection polishes this era’s tendencies to a grubby shine: It was shot cinema vérité-style (Friedkin had cut his teeth directing live television and documentaries) with a morally questionable hero and a crazed, open ending. The film’s most famous sequence (Gene Hackman’s detective Popeye Doyle racing his car against an elevated train) includes unscripted vehicles collisions, refining the movie’s feel of gritty reality.
Just two years later, Friedkin was back in the Best Director Oscar hot seat for 1973’s The Exorcist. With the movie advertised as the scariest movie ever made since its release, and which became a cultural horror touchstone, Friedkin brought a clinical, matter-of-fact approach to the religious and supernatural possession story. The Exorcist would become the first horror movie to be nominated for Best Picture, though the award that year would go to The Sting, whose helmer George Roy Hill would also take Best Director.
Friedkin sought to make a triple-play with audiences in directing 1977’s Sorcerer, a bruising remake of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear. Sprawling yet relentlessly taut, with a story both ambitious and ambiguous, Sorcerer would be no match to the compact escapist thrills of Star Wars, released one week earlier. Friedkin claims nothing could withstand being in the wake of such a phenomenon; other films released in the immediate wake of Star Wars include Smokey and the Bandit, Exorcist II: The Heretic, New York, New York, and The Rescuers.
Friedkin has remained working in mid-budget dramas and thrillers since. 1980’s Cruising with Al Pacino generated immediate protest and controversy for its presentation of New York’s gay nightclub scene. (A decade earlier, Friedkin had directed the landmark LGBTQ+ film The Boys in the Band.) 1985’s To Live and Die in L.A. saw Friedkin attempting to top his own achievement for most impressive car chase.
Jade, Blue Chips, and an acclaimed TV-movie version of 12 Angry Men were among Friedkin’s output in the ’90s. Likely inspired by the success of the Star Wars Special Editions, Friedkin and Warner Bros. then revisited The Exorcist, restoring cut scenes (including lil’ Reagan’s spiderwalk) and changing the soundtrack, and released “The Version You Never Saw” in 2000. Friedkin’s latest narrative films are 2006’s Bug and 2011’s Killer Joe.
Now, we’re ranking all William Friedkin movies by Tomatometer!
Back for its fifth season, the newly branded American Horror Story: Hotel takes place at the fictional and haunted Cortez in Los Angeles, a place where the guests check in but they don’t check out. But at least Lady Gaga’s here! Anyways, it’s inspiring this week’s 24 Frames gallery, a look at some of the bloodiest and crappiest hotels from movie and TV history.
In an age of fast-rising Hollywood production costs, the young actresses who strive to keep movie budgets down — specifically in the wardrobe department — deserve to be saluted.
To that end, noted film critic Mr. Skin has unveiled his Top 20 Nude Scenes of 2007. Calling the last twelve months “A surprisingly strong year for big-screen nudity…among this decade’s very breast,” the renowned nakedologist has compiled the following list:
1. Marisa Tomei – Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
2. Keeley Hazell – Cashback
3. Natalie Portman – Hotel Chevalier
4. Christina Ricci – Black Snake Moan
5. Sienna Miller – Factory Girl
6. Roselyn Sanchez – Yellow
7. Malin Akerman – The Heartbreak Kid
8. Eva Mendes – We Own the Night
9. Lena Headey – 300
10. Stormy Daniels and Nautica Thorne – Knocked Up
11. Alexa Davalos – Feast of Love
12. Chelan Simmons – Good Luck Chuck
13. Wei Tang – Lust, Caution
14. Ashley Judd – Bug
15. Olivia Wilde – Alpha Dog
16. Ana Claudia Talancon – Alone With Her
17. Danielle Harris – Halloween
18. Heather Matarazzo – Hostel: Part II
19. Amber Valletta – The Last Time
20. Lucy Liu – Blood Hunter
Adjust your Netflix queues accordingly.
Source: PR Newswire
William Friedkin will forever be remembered as one of the legendary New Hollywood directors of the 1970s. He and the “film brats” worked feverishly during a decade-long confluence of bewildered (but rich) studio executives who entrusted young (but learned) filmmakers to win back disaffected (but daring) audiences by filming innovative and accessible stories. Friedkin and his band of precocious auteurs loved movies more than anything and only when their egos and wallets grew larger than their desire to continue the cinematic innovation of the European New Waves did it all come crashing down.
Friedkin’s best known and most-celebrated work is The French Connection (for which he won a Best Director Oscar at the age of 26), which he followed with the ever-controversial The Exorcist. Outside of dedicated cinephiles, most would be hard-pressed to name his other films. However, Friedkin continues to work even today (see this year’s psycho-thriller Bug), creating movies that, while not as groundbreaking as his earlier work, share a strong thematic consistency and show the artist to be as keen and original as he ever was, if in smaller ways.
RT met with the notorious director — who’s been featured with the likes of Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Bogdanovich, and Martin Scorsese in Peter Biskind‘s unforgiving tome on 1970s cinema, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls — to discuss his 1980 film Cruising, which will get the deluxe DVD treatment from Warner Home Video on September 18. Cruising stars Al Pacino as Steve Burns, an undercover cop who must infiltrate the gay New York City underworld to attract a serial killer whose modus operandi is to pick up young men in S&M bars. Armed only with the information that the murderer targets men of his type (but not certain if the victims are even related, or whether there are multiple killers), Pacino must shed his inhibitions and adopt a homosexual persona until he himself gets “cruised.” When the film opened, liberal culture in America was ending just as the gay rights movement got underway. Cruising portrays a paranoid era when personal identity had suddenly become a dangerous secret.
You’ve always been an unflinching director, both with the subject matter you choose and how you treat those subjects onscreen — there’s a sense of immediacy and rawness. Cruising follows your other work in that sense. Is that what attracted you to the story? How S&M was a subterranean culture that you could explore in a way both shocking and revealing?
William Friedkin: I think that’s probably a good way to put it. I never thought of it as anything shocking at the time. I thought it was fascinating. There are many outside events that led to making Cruising but what drew me toward it more than anything was that it was based on an actual series of murders that took place in Manhattan around that time, and they were unsolved. I was making a film about unsolved murders. That was really the unusual and unique thing about it.
Because at that time, and even more so today, a movie about a murder starts and it’s two hours long, at the end of two hours the murder is solved and everything gets put back neatly into its drawer. This convention is nowhere worse than on television. At nine o’clock somebody gets murdered and at 10 o’clock the murder is completely solved and put away. I realized because of a lot of contact that I had with police officers all over the country and many parts of the world that’s not how it works. There are many more unsolved murders than solved. There is this evil out in the world that’s vying with good on a constant basis. The thing that attracts me to almost every film I’ve made is the thin line between good and evil. In all the characters there are no real, single villains or heroes. There’s a part of good and [a part of] evil in all the characters, which is what I really believe. So this was a way of making a film about unsolved murders. And at the time, that had not been done. I don’t know if it’s been done since. But it was considered, if not confusing to audiences, then ambiguous. And it may to some extent still be, because audiences are conditioned to know who the killer is. When a normal movie’s over, you walk out saying, “I knew it was that guy all the time!” But Cruising isn’t “that guy.” And that’s what happened in the series of murders that took place, which prompted me to do the film. They weren’t solved.
In that sense, the story has connection to San Francisco through a comparison to the Zodiac murders; the sense of everyman killers — your neighbor could be a murderer — that sense of paranoia.
WF: Those were unsolved. And the BTK [bind, torture, kill] murders in Kansas City [between 1974 and 1991]. They got the guy 30-some years later.
Is that why you always resist resolution at the end of your movies?
WF: There is no resolution. I don’t resist it. Cruising is a film about a series of murders that took place to which there were no clear answers. They pretty much knew who did one or a couple of the murders, but not all of them. Nor is it suggested that the murder was gay. One or two of the murderers may have been gay. They may also have been seeking vengeance against gay people. There was a lot of that going on at the time. Even in recent years where young people are victimized because of their religion or sexual preference or something else. It’s pretty frightening that’s still occurring.
WF: Cruising definitely reflected the attitude of the times: The temper of the times. How the culture was either accepted or ignored, at that particular time, and then attention would be brought on it because of this or that event, like the murders. But what was happening during the time we were making the film, there were all of these gay people dying and it wasn’t clear why. There was a “gay disease”. And it was the beginning of AIDS, but those were considered unsolved deaths at the time. Shortly after, maybe by the mid-1980s, the largest group of AIDS victims was women in prison. Then they were able to trace it to needles, and the exchange of needles, either for transfusions or drugs. But at first it was thought to be a plague that struck only gay people. And so, again, it was a series of unsolved murders. Unsolved killings: Why, all of a sudden? I had many friends who were contracting AIDS, and many of them were not outwardly gay. It’s hard to underestimate how paranoid people became with the onset of AIDS.
The sense of suspicion comes through in the movie. And in the middle of it, you interject this character of Steve Burns (Al Pacino). You put this guy in the middle of all these shifting identities, hidden identities that conceal potential danger, and his own identity starts to shift. He starts to question his own sexual orientation. Could you talk about how you found that character with Pacino?
WF: Steve Burns is based on a guy who went through that; a police officer named Randy Jurgensen. He [Jurgensen] plays a detective in the movie, in the morgue scene and in the interrogations. He was also in The French Connection. He had a 20-year career as a New York City detective. He was involved in the periphery of the actual French Connection case, and the murders in the Harlem mosque, and he had a number of extraordinary cases. He was sent into the leather bars, which were at that time subterranean, because there was a series of killings where the victims all had a similar appearance, and they looked like Randy; about his height, dark hair, mustache, swarthy complexion. The police had no clues and basically threw up their hands.
Randy was sent in to try and attract the killer. These were his experiences, much more so than anything that’s in Gerald Walker’s book, Cruising. I used the basic foundation from that book, but his book is not set in the leather bars. Randy’s life was. He went through that. He told me how he became disoriented and confused as a result of that experience. Because you’re dealing with basic human needs, sexual and emotional, quite apart from whatever sort of religious or moral or social or ethical rules we’re given, you’re dealing with life at its most primitive level. Randy was in there to do the job of a police officer, and he had no idea what in the hell he should be doing. But he was being held out there as bait for a killer. So it was Randy’s very vivid descriptions of his life during this period that formed the basis of Cruising.
The description of the killer that Burns was given is equivalent to the modern “black male between 18 and 30, between 5’5” and 6’5””, which is so general it’s practically useless. So he does have to put himself out there; he has to be very open, but suspicious at the same time.
WF: It’s fear. He wasn’t allowed to carry a gun. He was afraid. As with all undercover police work, you’re asked to be an actor: A convincing actor. A handful of them were [convincing actors], and those were the guys we made movies about. Most of the undercover detectives cracked under the tension or emotion distress of being thought of for 20 years as part of this or that Mafia outfit. Most of that went very badly for the guys who did it, because they weren’t actors.
To succeed, you have to give yourself over to the farce so completely that you’re at risk of truly becoming the role.
WF: Yes, exactly. Of course, the very best cops are the ones who think like criminals anyway, who could have gone either way.
That theme of play-acting as a policeman is made explicit in the ironic scene when Pacino shows up to “Precinct Night” at the local leather bar, and he’s the only one who’s not dressed as a cop, so he gets kicked out, even though he’s the only one there who’s actually a cop.
WF: There was “Precinct Night” where everyone had to dress up as a cop. And it was interesting because the bars in New York were owned at that time by two groups: the Mafia and cops. Sometimes working cops, but sometimes ex-cops who made so much money that they retired. The police that were supposedly out there for protection were actually owners of the clubs where these crimes were originating.
WF: Not the way it was. I mean, I don’t want to say this in a way that can be construed as sour grapes, but there are no giants at work in cinema today, or for any long period of time. Perhaps that will develop. But there are no Antonionis, no Fellinis, no Bergmans, no Truffauts, the guys who brought modern cinema into the category of art. That’s not happening today. Most of the popular films are remakes or sequels or teen-oriented comedies. But the people who work at these DVD divisions of major studios are big film buffs. Most of them are guys who were stuck in the 1970s and developed a great love for the history of film, both American and international. They represent the true cinematheque. That’s the real American cinematheque; the guys who run the DVD companies that bring back classic films, some of which had very small footprints in their day but were remembered as classics and would have no other way to be seen by subsequent generations were it not for DVD technology.
And I don’t mean VHS, because while the VHS did bring back a lot of great classic films, they didn’t look good. The process wasn’t that great; it’s more of a recording device than a restoration device. But DVDs also involve restoration. In a way its similar to how the great painting around the world look better than they ever did since they were first painted — because time takes its toll even on a Rembrandt or a Vermeer — and a restorative painter has to be someone not only of genuine talent by him or herself, but someone who can appreciate what the original artist intended. So the way we make these DVDs now is better and with more t.l.c. than they ever received as prints.
The DVD is basically a flawless process. I see these films on DVD that I first saw in theaters that look better than they ever looked in the theaters. You run a 35mm print through a projector and it picks up scratches immediately. On each subsequent run, there are more scratches, and tears, and re-splicings. I saw four films by Antonioni recently on DVD, and I remember them very well because I saw them over and over again in theaters, and the DVD is much better. It’s a fantastic way to see films. The print of Cruising for theaters is also done with digital remastering. We don’t have a 35mm print anymore. It doesn’t exist. The negative was so screwed up and the sound was out of sync. The guy who worked on it with me to restore it told me that the only negative he’s seen that was worse than Cruising was the negative for The Godfather. He said it was allowed to completely deteriorate. Because it was shot so dark, and 35mm fades after a while, that when a scene is dark it tends to go mushy as it deteriorates; the delineation between light and dark disappears and you have mush.
Do you think there’s a danger in almost — how to phrase this? — in Hollywood embalming itself in the DVD process; in enshrining its old classics and not concentrating on creating new classics?
WF: Well, if you feel that exhibition is “embalming.” I don’t. Do you feel that the paintings of Van Gogh are “embalmed” in museums? No. They’re there to be seen by subsequent generations. The first performance of Hamlet, which I think was in about 1601, with Richard Burbage playing Hamlet, if they had no other way to distribute that play it would have been seen then and then only. But along came the printing press, and the publication of Shakespeare’s plays, the first folio, which during his time did not exist. People couldn’t read Shakespeare’s plays when they were performed unless they were acting in them. And even in that time, the plays were changing from performance to performance and the actors were saying, “Wouldn’t it be better if I did this, or said this?”
Shakespeare’s plays were reconstructed by two guys named Heminge and Condell, who went around to the surviving actors of the Globe Theatre and asked them, “What did you say? What were your lines?” And these guys recalled their lines. That’s why there’s a lot of controversy about the authenticity of Shakespeare’s plays. At the very first performance of Hamlet— which was done to an audience at the Globe Theatre in Stratford where they had no chairs– they had to stand for four hours, and eat, and they used to talk back to the actors. When Richard Burbage played the death scene in Hamlet the audience screamed out, “Die again, Burbage! Die again!” He played the death scene three times at the first performance. Then they reproduced Shakespeare’s plays. Is that embalming them? No. It gave them a new life for subsequent generations. Each generation interprets these plays in their own way. Each generation will interpret Cruising in their own way, based on the mores that exist, and the progress that the gay community has made since then. This was a very provocative issue when it came out because gays were just emerging from the closet. There is no closet now, really. I mean, yes, there are people who don’t wish to announce their proclivities, but they don’t have to [stay silent], as people did then. At that time if you said you were gay you might get fired. If you were a movie star and it came out that you were gay and you were an action hero or a romantic lead, your career was over.
WF: It was that, indeed. And I remember that. It was around then, but now it’s gone. To find someone in the closet, or to find a communist, today you have to go to a museum. Cruising was released during the early stages of gay activism, and progress toward understanding, or at least accommodation. So it was viewed by a different audience. Now, to have Warner Brothers create a DVD that looks and sounds better than the original ever did, it’s a filmmaker’s dream. Someday some of the films that are very popular today will disappear completely off the radar and then come back perhaps when a new technology is invented, and a new generation will be able to see and appreciate them. I applaud this technology. It has saved the legacy of international cinema.
In Peter Biskind’s book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls he quotes you as saying, “The thing that drove me and still keeps me going is Citizen Kane. I hope to one day make a film to rank with that. I haven’t yet.” So, do you have a Citizen Kane in pre-production?
WF: No. No, that’s unattainable. I haven’t read Peter Biskind’s book, I know about it. It’s made up largely of facts, lies and rumors, as near as I can tell. What he chose to do more than interview the subjects themselves was to talk with ex-girlfriends, ex-wives, whatever. In any case, I probably said that, and I meant that. Citizen Kane is the film that inspires me. It’s like a composer saying, “I hope to one day write a symphony that rival’s Beethoven’s Fifth.” It’s impossible. It’s just not possible to do that anymore. It becomes a watermark. It’s because of those kinds of symphonies that symphonies continue to be written. It’s because of films like Citizen Kane, or the paintings of Rembrandt or Vermeer, that people are continually inspired to create. There are only two responses if you’re a filmmaker and you see Citizen Kane: One is, ‘that’s how I’m going to measure my work,’ the other is, ‘I quit.’ That’s it. Imagine looking at a Rembrandt portrait and you want to be a portrait painter. What’re you gonna do?
Take up photography.
WF: Take up photography, or give up, or commit suicide. And that’s true of all the iconic works of art: They’re to be aspired to. Unlike baseball’s home run record, they will never be exceeded. There will be others that may join them in the pantheon of great works, perhaps, but they will never be exceeded.
Hopefully through DVDs Citizen Kane will not be forgotten and will continue to influence directors.
WF: Hopefully, yes. Now, Citizen Kane is very much of its time. It influenced everything that came after. It was like a quarry for filmmakers. Like Joyce’s Ulysses or Proust’s In Search of Lost Time are quarries for writers. It’s all there. In Citizen Kane the very finest screenplay, acting, lighting, editing, cinematography, music, it’s all at its highest level in that one film. It’s all together. Maybe some day that’ll come together in an American presidency. We’ll have another president like Lincoln or Roosevelt.
Do you think that’s possible with modern media culture?
WF: You live and hope.
The deluxe collector’s edition DVD of Cruising is out next Tuesday, September 18.
Another wide assortment of summer offerings will hit the multiplexes across North America this weekend. The action-comedy sequel Rush Hour 3 leads the way as the main course and will be joined by side dishes like the fantasy adventure Stardust, the family comedy Daddy Day Camp, and the horror flick Skinwalkers. The third mega-opening in a row should keep overall ticket sales abnormally high for this time of year.
Six years and one week after the last installment opened, Rush Hour 3 hits theaters from coast to coast hoping to recapture the magic that made its two predecessors shatter industry expectations. Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, and director Brett Ratner have all reteamed (with some handsome raises) for a story about the world’s biggest organized crime syndicate whose secrets are hidden in Paris. The first Rush Hour smashed the September opening weekend box office record with a $33M launch in 1998. Rush Hour 2 set a new August opening record in 2001 with its $67.4M debut which it held until last weekend’s The Bourne Ultimatum arrived. Together, Carter and Lee have arrested $367M domestically and $575M worldwide with their pair of cross-cultural buddy cop hits.
But a lot of time has passed since the last Rush Hour film and some fans may have lost interest in a formula that can easily get tired the third time around. The new pic should play mostly to existing fans and will not create too many new ones. Still, Rush Hour 3 does offer the most ethnic starpower of any film this summer so business from multicultural moviegoers should be very strong. Jason Bourne’s second weekend will provide ample competition for the action crowd, then again Rush Hour 2 had to deal with the second weekend of Planet of the Apes which opened the week before with a similarly potent $68.5M which at the time was the second biggest opening in history. So Chan and Tucker can handle the pressure. Expect those who like this dish to come back for a third helping for what should be the final big bow of the summer season. Crashing into more than 3,100 theaters, Rush Hour 3 could speed to about $61M this weekend.
Fox’s hit toon The Simpsons Movie, already the third highest grossing animated film of the year after the ogre threequel and the rodent comedy, should stabilize this weekend after its hefty sophomore slump of two-thirds. A 50% decline would give Homer and pals around $12.5M for the weekend and a 17-day total of $153M.
LAST YEAR: Will Ferrell stayed put at number one with the hit comedy Talladega Nights despite a 53% drop to $22.1M in its second lap for Sony. Buena Vista raced past expectations with its teen sensation Step Up which bowed in the number two spot with a stellar $20.7M on its way to $65.3M. Paramount’s 9/11 drama World Trade Center debuted in third with $18.7M over three days and $26.5M over five days. The Oliver Stone pic went on to gross a solid $70.3M. The studio’s animated film Barnyard slipped only 39% in its sophomore session to $9.7M taking fourth place. Opening to mild results in fifth was the thriller Pulse with $8.2M on its way to $20.3M for The Weinstein Co. Sony crashed and burned in ninth with the kidpic Zoom which bowed to just $4.5M leading to a weak $11.6M final.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
The stars come marching out to do battle with the pirates for the number one spot this weekend.
For the sixth consecutive weekend, a threequel is poised to command the top spot at the North American box office as Warner Bros. rolls out the caper pic "Ocean’s Thirteen" reuniting Hollywood’s fun boys. Sony counters with the family offering "Surf’s Up" while Lionsgate goes after the horror crowd with "Hostel Part II." Each film should target its own audience so there should be space for all newcomers.
George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and their endless list of co-stars are back again as everyone’s favorite criminals in "Ocean’s Thirteen." The PG-13 pic finds the group back in Las Vegas on a heist driven by revenge against a real estate mogul, played by Al Pacino, who is launching his latest luxury hotel/casino. The first two in the series had December openings of $38.1M for 2001’s "Ocean’s Eleven" and $39.2M for 2004’s "Ocean’s Twelve." They also had little direct competition for adults. Although they opened in the same fashion, the sequel was not as well-liked and found its way to $125.5M, or about one-third less than the $183.4M cume of the original which itself was a remake.
"Thirteen" should play to the exact same audience of mature adults. Appeal is equally strong for males and females and even some teen interest should be there. Reviews have been generally positive but that should have little impact. Moviegoers know exactly what they are getting the third time around and will decide based on if they want to take another two-hour trip seeing slick actors, with slick hair, and slick clothes, acting cool. Those soured by "Twelve" may take a pass on "Thirteen." Plus "Pirates" and "Knocked Up" will provide some solid competition. But the sheer amount of starpower should make this entry hard to resist to many looking for a fun mature film without pirates, super heroes, and endless special effects. "Ocean’s Thirteen" rolls the dice in 3,565 locations this weekend and might win about $37M over three days.
For those kids who can’t get enough of talking cartoon penguins, Sony unleashes its big summer animation entry "Surf’s Up." Delivered in a mockumentary style, the PG-rated film tells the story of penguins that compete in a surfing competition, and of course crack jokes along the way. Arriving just three weeks after "Shrek the Third," "Surf’s Up" will have to deal with competition from the ogre toon and to some extent the other aging threequels which combined should gross north of $40M this weekend. The new penguin pic does not have the buzz or the starpower of a Robin Williams that helped "Happy Feet" shoot to number one last November with a $41.5M bow on its way to a terrific $198M.
Instead, "Surf’s Up" seems to be in the same middle category with recent films like "Open Season" and "Meet the Robinsons" which opened to $23.6M and $25.1M, respectively. With children in the process of ending their school years and starting their summer vacations, parents should be in the mood to take them to the movies for some non-violent fun. "Surf’s Up" lands in over 3,000 theaters on Friday and could debut with about $24M.
Yet another horror sequel makes its way into theaters with Lionsgate’s "Hostel Part II." The first "Hostel" was a number one hit last year opening to $19.6M on its way to an impressive $47.3M off of a tiny budget. The new R-rated entry finds three American students in Rome who find themselves caught in a grisly game of torture and mayhem. Horror fans have been suffering from fright fatigue lately. The recent sequels "The Hills Have Eyes II" and "28 Weeks Later" both opened to just under $10M failing to match the bows of their predecessors. Other horror flicks like "Bug," "The Condemned," "The Reaping," and "Vacancy" all underperformed over the last several weeks and have helped to scare fans away from the genre.
But Lionsgate is among the best at selling this type of fare to older teens and young adults and the distributor is hoping to tap into a built-in audience. Just as with the first one, Quentin Tarantino whores his name out again with a ‘presents’ credit on the marketing materials. It would be interesting to know what kind of compensation, monetary or otherwise, he gets for these transactions. Locking up ticket buyers in 2,350 theaters, "Hostel Part II" may open with around $12M.
Following its two frames at number one, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End" should give up the top spot this weekend, although the runnerup slot is not necessarily a guarantee. The pricey Disney adventure fell by 62% last weekend and could see its drop dip to 50% this time. That would give Johnny Depp and his buddies about $22M for the session and $254M overall.
Last weekend’s number two flick "Knocked Up" raced past "At World’s End" to claim the number one spot on Monday and Tuesday thanks to great buzz and is prepared to see a solid hold this time around. Two summers ago, the R-rated comedies "Wedding Crashers" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" both dipped by only 24% in their sophomore frames thanks to stellar word-of-mouth and no major competition from new releases. "Knocked Up" has the same great satisfaction from moviegoers, but will see much of its adult audience get tempted away by Brad and company. A 30% drop would still give it a great hold with about $21M for the frame. That would push the cume to a stunning $68M in only ten days.
"Shrek the Third" will face direct competition from rival toon "Surf’s Up" this weekend. That could lead to a 40% decline to roughly $17M boosting the cume to $282M.
LAST YEAR: Disney and Pixar joined forces for the number one opening of "Cars" which cruised into the top spot with $60.1M. The animated comedy raced to $244.1M domestically becoming the summer’s biggest non-Captain Jack flick, and over $462M worldwide. Universal’s comedy "The Break-Up" fell 48% in its second date grossing $20.3M and was followed by "X-Men: The Last Stand" with $16.1M. The horror remake "The Omen" bowed to $16M over the weekend and a creepy $36.3M over six days since its Tuesday launch on 6/6/06. Fox scared up $54.6M eventually. "The Da Vinci Code" rounded out the top five with $10.4M in its fourth lap. Debuting to solid results in a moderate launch was "A Prairie Home Companion" with $4.6M from 760 locations for a $6,008 average. The Picturehouse release found its way to $20.3M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
Disney still claimed the most popular film in the land with "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End" despite a drop that was sizable even by tentpole standards. Universal generated a stronger than expected debut for its new adult comedy "Knocked Up" which pushed its way into the runnerup spot sending Shrek the Third down to third in weekend number three.
For the first time in over a year, three different films grossed over $25M each in the same weekend. But the overall marketplace posted numbers typical for early June and did not flex the kind of muscles the industry would expect when three of the most expensive films ever made were all playing simultaneously.
Johnny Depp was still king of the world and collected an estimated $43.2M for "At World’s End" in its second weekend in theaters. Down a sharp 62%, the latest high seas adventure has now taken in a solid $216.5M worth of treasure in ten-plus days of release. The drop was identical to the fall that "Spider-Man 3" suffered in its sophomore session last month but larger than the 54% decline witnessed by "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest" last July.
Sophomore drops for other effects-driven action pictures debuting over the Memorial Day holiday frame include 67% for last year’s "X-Men: The Last Stand" and 60% for 2004’s "The Day After Tomorrow." Those two films saw their ten-day cumes account for 75% and 70% of their final cumes, respectively. Based on its opening and sophomore drop, "At World’s End" may end up with $310-320M domestically. Though it would be significantly behind the $423.3M of "Chest," the third chapter will still collect a lot of loot in North America.
Just like with "Spider-Man 3," "At World’s End" is holding up better in offshore markets. The Captain Jack saga grossed an estimated $105.4M internationally this weekend dropping only 46% from last weekend’s Friday-to-Sunday period. That puts the overseas tally at an amazing $408.8M after less than two weeks and the worldwide cume at a towering $625.3M with 65% coming from abroad. Chest saw 60% of its sales come from international waters. "At World’s End" looks to be on course to gross at least $850M globally and could certainly sail past the $900M mark too.
Delivering a healthy opening in second place was the new pregnancy comedy "Knocked Up" with an estimated $29.3M in its first weekend. Averaging a very fertile $10,200 from 2,871 theaters, the R-rated pic debuted 37% stronger than writer/director Judd Apatow’s last film, "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," which bowed to $21.4M from a similar number of theaters in August 2005. After a month of big-budget sequels, Knocked Up served as a breath of fresh air in the marketplace. Critical praise, a lack of comedies for adults, and a marketing campaign that reminded moviegoers of the director’s last work all helped to bring in ticket sales that led to the best per-theater average of any wide release.
Universal’s research showed that 57% of the audience was female and 56% was over the age of 30 for the Seth Rogen–Katherine Heigl comedy. "Knocked Up"’s long-term playability looks strong given that 92% of audiences polled rated the film "excellent" or "very good." "Virgin" went on to gross five times its opening weekend take ending up with $109.3M. Especially impressive was "Knocked Up"’s ability to approach the opening weekend numbers of recent comedy hits like "Blades of Glory" ($33M debut, $9,791 average) and "Norbit" ($34.2M, $10,904) despite its harsher rating and lack of any bankable A-list star. Plus its $30M production budget will make it easy to become a profitable venture for the studio as an invite to the century club seems guaranteed.
The ogre sequel "Shrek the Third" fell 50% in its third weekend and finished in third place with an estimated $26.7M. It was a steep drop for this kind of picture at this point in time especially since there was little new direct competition. By comparison, weekend declines of other recent animated films from DreamWorks on the weekend after Memorial Day were 24% for last year’s "Over the Hedge," 41% for 2005’s "Madagascar," and 47% for 2004’s "Shrek 2" which was greatly affected by the record $93.7M debut of the third "Harry Potter" film. Still, "Shrek the Third" boosted its total to $254.6M landing it at number 37 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters, a hair behind rival toon "Monsters, Inc." which took in $255.9M in 2001. At its current pace, a final domestic tally of $320-330M could result for the newest ogre tale.
MGM went after older adults with its crime thriller "Mr. Brooks" and saw a mediocre fourth place debut. The Kevin Costner–Demi Moore pic bowed to an estimated $10M from 2,453 locations for a mild $4,085 average. Studio research showed that 57% of the audience was female and 67% was over the age of 30.
Dropping down to fifth place in its fifth frame was "Spider-Man 3" which grossed an estimated $7.5M, off 48%. Sony has boosted its North American haul to $318.3M putting it at number 17 on the list of all-time domestic hits just ahead of the $317.6M of 2001’s "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone." A final gross of $330-340M seems likely. The international total for the third webslinger has climbed to $526M putting the global gross at an amazing $844M making it the biggest "Spider-Man" ever worldwide beating out the $822M of the first in the series. The first two installments made roughly 52% of their global box office from overseas markets, but "Spider-Man 3" has really exploded abroad with 62% of its current tally coming from outside of North America.
Overall, the box office was healthy this weekend. However, by comparing the top ten cume to the weekend after the Memorial Day holiday in recent years, it’s hard to detect that we have three juggernauts in the current marketplace. The $123.6M collected this weekend is slightly behind the same frames in 2006 and 2005. The tally is below those of 2004 and 2003 when big hits like "Harry Potter" and "Finding Nemo," respectively, opened in those years. The threequels all opened big, but are falling faster than even normal tentpole films do. And at their current trajectories, "Spider-Man 3" looks to remain the top-grossing of the trio domestically.
Fox Searchlight’s indie hit "Waitress" dropped one spot to sixth with an estimated $2M from 605 theaters for a mild $3,347 average. Despite adding 95 theaters, the film dropped by 34% and was probably affected by "Knocked Up" doing so well with young adult women. But the distributor is being patient knowing that good word-of-mouth will allow many more to eventually find it and will add another 100 screens on Friday. Cume stands at $9.5M.
Girl power was also behind the number seven film, the soccer drama "Gracie," which opened to a poor estimate of $1.4M. Averaging a weak $1,171 from 1,164 theaters, Picturehouse’s PG-13 pic played mostly to teen girls.
Crumbling 63% in its second weekend was the Ashley Judd horror flop "Bug" with an estimated $1.2M in eighth place. With a measly $6.1M in ten days, look for the Lionsgate thriller to quickly finish its run with only $8M.
Another fright flick collecting an estimated $1.2M over the weekend was "28 Weeks Later" which fell 53% and boosted the cume for Fox to $26.6M. Rounding out the top ten was the hit voyeur thriller "Disturbia" with an estimated $1.1M in its eighth frame, down 42%, for a $76.7M total for Paramount.
Opening in limited release was the Russian fantasy thriller "Day Watch" with an estimated $46,000 from only five theaters for a solid $9,265 average. The effects-driven sequel to "Night Watch" has grossed over $30M in Russia making it one of the all-time biggest blockbustrs in that market. Fox Searchlight will expand to eight more cities on Friday.
Three films were pushed out of the top ten this weekend. Buena Vista’s hit comedy "Wild Hogs" grossed an estimated $819,000, down 43%, and boosted its stellar total to $164.4M. A final domestic haul of $167M is likely. Universal’s "Georgia Rule" saw its female audience stolen by the studio’s new pregnancy comedy this weekend. The offscreen antics of its younger actress last week didn’t help sales either. "Rule" tumbled 69% to an estimated $581,000 raising the disappointing cume to only $18.1M. A $19M final seems set. New Line’s Anthony Hopkins–Ryan Gosling thriller "Fracture" grossed an estimated $500,000, off 60%, for a $38.1M total. Look for a decent $39M final.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $123.6M which was down 4% from last year when "The Break-Up" opened at number one with $39.2M; and off 2% from 2005 when "Madagascar" climbed into the top spot with $28.1M in its second weekend.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
Movie fans filled up multiplexes around the world giving "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End" the largest global opening in box office history. In North America, the latest Johnny Depp adventure broke the record for the biggest Memorial Day weekend debut ever while still competing with fellow big-budget threequels "Shrek the Third" and "Spider-Man 3."
Ashley Judd’s new horror film "Bug" was mostly ignored but Keri Russell’s indie comedy "Waitress" made a splash expanding into national release and climbing all the way up to number five despite playing in just a fraction of the theaters of the other big holiday offerings. Overall, moviegoers spent nearly a quarter of a billion dollars on tickets for the top ten films over the long four-day weekend making it the highest-grossing Memorial Day frame ever.
Disney launched its assault on the summer box office with "At World’s End" which easily topped the charts and grossed an estimated $142.1M over the Friday-to-Monday holiday frame and a total of $156.1M since its early opening on Thursday night with 8pm shows. The amount was similar to the $153.8M that its predecessor "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest" collected in its first four days last July. That film did not have an early Thursday debut and was not over a holiday weekend, but faced less competition in the marketplace. "At World’s End"’s four-day figure set a new record for the holiday easily beating the $122.9M of "X-Men: The Last Stand" from a year ago.
Over the Friday-to-Sunday period, the new "Pirates" tale took in $115.1M making it the fourth biggest opening weekend ever behind "Spider-Man 3," "Dead Man’s Chest," and "Shrek the Third." "At World’s End"’s journey began on Thursday with $14M from shows beginning at 8pm. Friday saw $43M in ticket sales starting from 12:01am showtimes, Saturday dipped 11% to $38.2M, Sunday eased another 11% to $33.8M, and Monday is estimated to drop by 20% to $27M. The new "Pirates" set sail in a record 4,362 theaters in North America and averaged $26,377 over three days, $32,566 over four days, and $35,776 overall including Thursday.
"At World’s End" reunited the cast and crew of the first two films in the series including actors Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, and Geoffrey Rush along with producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski. Critics were harsh on the new installment and especially thought it was too long at 2 hours and 47 minutes. The pic’s B+ grade from over 19,000 users of Yahoo Movies suggests that fans are moderately satisfied with the latest Jack Sparrow tale.
Across the world, Disney claimed the all-time opening record with an estimated haul of $401M in ticket sales over six days from Wednesday through Monday. The first handful of countries bowed the effects-driven pic on Wednesday and by Saturday it was playing in 102 international territories where it looted an estimated $245M by the end of Monday. That was enough to break the old records set just three weeks ago by "Spider-Man 3" of $231M international and $382M global over its own six-day launch.
"Shrek the Third" fell sharply in its second weekend and claimed second place with a still-impressive $69.1M over the four-day weekend, according to estimates. The Friday-to-Sunday tally of $53M represented a disturbing 56% fall from its opening weekend. "Shrek 2," which also opened a week before the Memorial Day holiday frame, suffered a more manageable 33% drop over the three-day portion of its sophomore session. "Third" has not been as well-liked by moviegoers and faced tougher competition with "Pirates" launching. After 11 full days of release, the latest ogre tale has commanded $219.4M and seems on course to finish its North American journey in the neighborhood of $330M.
Swinging down to the number three position was the month’s first threequel, "Spider-Man 3," with an estimated $18M over four days. The super hero saga’s three-day portion dropped a troubling 52% but the cume after 25 days is now a towering $307.6M. The new Spidey crossed the $300M mark on Sunday after only 24 days and now sits at number 21 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters after "Independence Day" which took in $306.2M in 1996, when ticket prices were much lower. A final North American haul of about $340M still seems likely. The latest webslinger sequel also pulled in $19.1M over the three-day weekend internationally to push the overseas gross to $499M. That puts the global gross at a stunning $806M and counting. By next weekend, the Venom pic will become the top-grossing "Spider-Man" film ever in terms of worldwide box office.
May’s trio of hotly anticipated threequels has definitely generated lots of cash at the domestic box office with a combined cume to date of $683M. Corresponding totals for the top three May releases by Memorial Day over the past three years were $384M for last year, $394M for 2005, and $481M for 2004. However, moviegoers are not going crazy over any of them and seem to be left with lukewarm feelings which is hurting the long-term prospects. Many even feel that each is the worst installment in its own trilogy. Second weekend drops were mighty large for "Spider-Man 3" and "Shrek the Third" and "At World’s End" might play out the same way. In fact, it’s possible that none of the big threequels will reach the $350M mark domestically. If ticket buyers start feeling sequel fatigue this early with so many familiar characters and stories, it could pose a problem to the many summer sequels still on tap for the three months ahead. Films offering something new and fresh may just grab the attention of the public soon.
Lionsgate opened its new horror film "Bug" in fourth place but was met with a dismal $4.2M, according to estimates. The Ashley Judd starrer averaged a poor $2,529 from 1,661 sites over four days. Over the Friday-to-Sunday span, the R-rated chiller grossed $3.3M and averaged a dismal $1,993.
Fox Searchlight’s indie sensation "Waitress" jumped into the top five this weekend as it expanded from 116 to 510 theaters across the country grossing an estimated $4M. The Keri Russell comedy averaged a solid $7,843 over four days and played as the alternative for adult audiences not interested in third helpings of bloated Hollywood franchises. With $6.5M after only its third weekend, "Waitress" could become a sleeper hit this summer and its high chart position will certainly help it nab more media attention this week. Over three days, the Sundance title grossed $3.1M and averaged $6,078.
The horror sequel "28 Weeks Later" ranked sixth with an estimated $3.3M over four days to push Fox’s total to a decent $24.4M. "Disturbia" collected an estimated $2.4M in seventh place boosting its cume for Paramount to a sturdy $74.9M.
Universal’s dramedy "Georgia Rule" followed with an estimated $2.4M giving the Jane Fonda-Lindsay Lohan pic a weak $16.8M to date. Moviegoers spent an estimated $1.6M on Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling as their thriller "Fracture" spent its sixth weekend in the top ten for a $37.1M sum. Disney’s comedy "Wild Hogs" jumped back into the top ten with an estimated $1.4M raising its stellar cume to $163.3M. Remaining holdover films earned less than $1M each over four days.
In the arthouses, Fox Searchlight’s musical romance "Once" expanded and was still a potent player. The Irish film grossed an estimated $433,000 over four days from only 20 sites for a sturdy $21,626 average over the long weekend. Cume is now $537,000 and the distributor will widen this Friday into ten additional cities to roughly 60 playdates total.
Miramax saw strong results for the debut of its Italian film "Golden Door" which opened to an estimated $37,000 from a pair of houses. Averaging $18,500 per location, the immigrant tale expands further on Friday.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $247.8M over four days which was up 8% from last year when "X-Men: The Last Stand" opened at number one with a then-record $122.9M; and up 11% from 2005 when "Star Wars Episode III" remained on top with $70M.
Multiplexes are stocking up on popcorn, soda, and overpriced candy in anticipation of record crowds that could make this Memorial Day holiday frame the biggest weekend in box office history.
Leading the charge will be the Johnny Depp-anchored megaflick "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End," the followup to last year’s number one hit and the third biggest global grosser of all-time. Ashley Judd is set to take in a little less cash with the long weekend’s other new nationwide release, the horror film "Bug." And with holdovers like "Shrek the Third" in its second round and "Spider-Man 3" in its fourth spin, the North American box office will expand greatly as moviegoers may just spend all their free time at the local moviehouse.
Hysterical anticipation for the return of Captain Jack Sparrow will help Disney become a much richer studio. After the cliffhanger ending of last summer’s "Dead Man’s Chest," "At World’s End" is ready to bring all those fans back once again for another ticket purchase. Its spot at the top of the charts this weekend, and probably next weekend too, is guaranteed so the real question is will the new "Pirates" film break the all-time opening weekend record set just three weeks ago by "Spider-Man 3"?
If the ultimate answer ends up being no, that won’t necessarily be a bad thing or anything to be disappointed by. "At World’s End" is having a different type of debut so it will not be an apples-to-apples comparison. Firstly, the new high seas adventure begins its run with 8pm shows on Thursday night which are being aggressively advertised. "Dead Man’s Chest" grossed a scorching $9M from its Thursday night shows which began at midnight so with the earlier time, the treasure chest will be much more full. But the night-before shows will pull millions of dollars of sales from hardcore fans out of the official weekend period of Friday-to-Sunday thus diluting the three-day take. "Spider-Man 3" began with midnight shows on Thursday night so those numbers were all concentrated within the official opening weekend tally.
Also, "At World’s End" will face tremendous competiton, something Spidey did not have to deal with. The rest of the top five is likely to steal away over $80M during the three-day portion of the holiday weekend. For the latest webslinger’s bow, the next four films in the market made less than $16M. And although "Pirates" will secure thousands of screens, it will still enter a box office where close to 15,000 auditoriums will already be booked up with the third servings of "Shrek" and "Spider-Man." It will be tougher for "Pirates" to land that sixth or seventh screen within a megaplex.
But working in Sparrow’s favor is the Monday holiday which will make Sunday perform more like a Saturday which will certainly help its quest for new records. Also overall anticipation for the franchise seems to be higher than it was for Peter Parker. MovieTickets.com reported that advance sales for "At World’s End" is beating both "Spider-Man 3" and "Dead Man’s Chest" at the same point in their sales cycles. Plus "Pirates" has the highest female appeal for any action movie franchise out there which is a key contributor to its immense grosses. This one will bring in everyone and with all Americans having extra time off, there will be plenty of time for people to eventually find a showtime that’s not sold out.
Reviews have been mixed for the latest "Pirates" and its running time with trailers is close to three hours. But the two biggest openings of all-time were also long pics at about two-and-a-half hours in length each without trailers so multiplexes will find a way to dump underperforming titles (and there are plenty to choose from) and make room for Davy Jones and his gang. Friday-to-Monday starts for those smashes were $161.4M for "Spider-Man 3" and $153.8M for "Dead Man’s Chest." Seizing screens in over 4,000 theaters, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End" might open to about $162M over four days and roughly $183M from Thursday to Monday.
The daring folks at Lionsgate will open their own film nationally on Friday challenging the triumvirate of threequels. The horror flick "Bug" stars Ashley Judd as a lonely waitress who thinks that insects (spiders that bite teenage photographers maybe?) are out to get her. The R-rated film will try to court the fright crowd not interested in ahoy matey shenanigans, but will find an incredibly tough time floating in this weekend’s marketplace. There is nothing about "Bug" that tells fans that they should pay top dollar now instead of renting the DVD a mere three months down the road. Judd’s starpower has been on the decline for years. She’s not that hot star from "Double Jeopardy" anymore. And marketing the film as being from the director of "The Exorcist" will do little as well. Opening in 1,661 theaters, "Bug" might crawl to about $6M over four days.
Dropping to the runnerup spot with what could be one of the largest grosses ever for a second-place film will be the animated blockbuster "Shrek the Third" which is coming off of the third largest debut in box office history. "Shrek 2" had mostly the same release pattern in 2004 and saw its four-day Memorial Day weekend tally dip only 12% from its three-day opening weekend figure. The holiday is one of the busiest times for families at the multiplexes so kidpics typically hold up very well. As the third chapter in the series, audience erosion should be faster for the new ogre film. Plus with "Pirates" set to launch with such astonishing numbers, "Shrek the Third" can’t help but be pushed aside by the competition. Still a 35% drop would give Paramount a stunning $80M over four days and would make the 11-day total skyrocket to $230M.
"Spider-Man 3" will drop another notch to third and should definitely see much of its audience get swiped by Depp and company given how much overlap there is between the audiences for the two franchises. "X2: X-Men United," another Marvel super hero sequel that opened on the first weekend of May, saw its four-day Memorial Day weekend gross drop by only 24% in 2003 when "Bruce Almighty" was the new opener. "Spider-Man 3" has more direct action competition and less fan support so a larger decline is likely. The Venom flick could drop 35% and post a four-day gross of about $19M which would boost the webslinger’s cume to $308M.
LAST YEAR: Mutants were all the rage as "X-Men: The Last Stand" towered over the competition with a record Memorial Day opening of $122.9M over four days. The Fox super hero saga went on to collect $234.4M domestically, making it the third biggest grosser of the summer, and over $455M worldwide. Tom Hanks ranked second with "The Da Vinci Code" which fell sharply but still took in $42.4M over the long holiday weekend for Sony. Paramount followed with the DreamWorks toon "Over the Hedge" with $35.3M in its sophomore round. Action entries "Mission: Impossible III" and "Poseidon" rounded out the top five with $8.9M and $7.1M, respectively.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
This week at the movies, it’s the pirates ("Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End," starring Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley) versus the bugs ("Bug," starring Ashley Judd). We know who’ll take the box office, but who emerges victorious with the critics?
Another week, another money-printing franchise closes its first trilogy. Johnny Depp returns as Jack Sparrow in "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End," along with his army-sized supporting cast, boundless CGI, and about a dozen unresolved plot threads left over from "Dead Man’s Chest." Sound awesomely excessive? The critics think so too. Except for the awesome part. They contend that when it’s not exhausting the viewer with over-the-top action sequences, "At World’s End" is boring the viewer with talky scenes of exposition and strained dialogue. At 53 percent, "At World’s End" is on par with "Dead Man’s Chest," but a far cry from the original’s Certified Fresh 79 percent.
Ignoring 1990’s obscure "The Guardian," "Bug" represents director William Friedkin’s first major foray into horror since "The Exorcist." Ashley Judd stars as Agnes, a depressed waitress who holes up in a seedy motel (is there any other kind?) with an unstable war veteran who sees creepy crawlies everywhere. The critics are calling this a return to form for Friedkin. Though "Bug" descends into incomprehensibility at the end, they’re nevertheless impressed by "Bug"’s cinéma vérité camerawork and palpable dread. At 63 percent, horror and thriller fanatics should consider going buggin’ this weekend.
Also opening in limited release: "Paprika," an animated head trip from director Satoshi Kon, is at 92 percent; "The Boss of It All," the new black comedy from the notorious Lars von Trier, is at 92 percent; "Ten Canoes," a unique tragicomedy set among an Aboriginal tribe, is at 91 percent; "Golden Door," a romantic fable about an Italian clan coming to America, is at 60 percent; "Angel-A," likely Luc Besson’s last live action film, is at 43 percent; and "Hollywood Dreams," a comedy about a struggling actress in Tinseltown, is at 25 percent.