This week the shelves are packed, and just in time for the holidays! Check out the long-awaited big-screen debut of Springfield’s finest (The Simpsons Movie), Matthew Vaughn‘s fantastic tale of witches, romance, and flying pirates (Stardust), or, as we strongly advise, take a chance on one of the year’s best cinematic gems (Once).


The Simpsons Movie

Tomatometer: 88%

It took eleven Simpsons scribes to bring the yellowest family in America to the big screen — and a marketing campaign turning 7-Eleven stores into Kwik-E-Marts that can only be described as “inspired” — but the payoff was huge. After 19 more-or-less stellar seasons (ok, quite a few were less but it got better, didn’t it?) Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie made a fashionably late entrance into the movies, to the tune of over half a billion dollars and counting, with a feature-length adventure involving the destruction of Springfield, a pet pig, environmentalism, Albert Brooks, and Green Day.

 



Stardust

Tomatometer: 75%

Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess’ illustrated fairy tale captivated readers upon publication in 1997; a decade later, Layer Cake director Matthew Vaughn enlisted the likes of Claire Danes, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Charlie Cox) in an English town called Wall bordered by a secret realm of magic, pirates and witches, the Certified Fresh Stardust dazzled critics with its heartfelt, if sprawling, tale of romance and adventure. Check out the DVD for behind-the-scenes commentary, deleted scenes, and a blooper reel.

Once

Tomatometer: 98%

John Carney‘s Irish Once is, quite simply, one of the best films of 2007. The micro-budgeted musical — shot for an astounding $160,000 guerilla-style, on the streets of Dublin — stars real-life artistic partners Glen Hansard (of The Frames) and Marketa Irglova, as a busker and an immigrant who meet and form an immediate musical bond. The Grammy-nominated soundtrack bears 13 hauntingly beautiful original songs, which alone are worth the price of admission. If you missed it in theaters — and a lot of you did — pick it up now on DVD.

Blade Runner: The Final Cut


Tomatometer: 96%

In 1982, Ridley Scott unleashed his stylishly noir sci-fi tale of replicants and blade runners onto the world, and geeks the world over were never the same. But whose vision did they see? After a 1992 Director’s Cut that was ironically not Scott-approved, we now have Blade Runner: The Final Cut. At 93 percent, the original version already had overwhelming critical praise; at 96 percent, Scott’s “final” vision, available this week, may be even closer to perfection.

Bring It On: In It To Win It

Tomatometer: N/A

The original Bring it On (2000) was a gem of a teen comedy about a privileged high school cheer captain (Kirsten Dunst) trawling the cutthroat waters of competitive cheerleading; the uninspired sequel, set on a college campus, provoked one to lament “it’s already been broughten.” Thankfully, a third installment (Bring it On: All or Nothing, starring Hayden Panetierre) revived the flagging franchise, leading us to hope, spirit fingers waving, that the feat could be repeated…in a third sequel! Bring it On: In It To Win It is that new hope — a cheertastic take on Romeo and Juliet. Sigh.

Balls of Fury

Tomatometer: 25%

If you’re like me, you love Comedy Central’s Reno 911; maybe, then, you won’t mind the underrated Balls of Fury, an Enter The Dragon-style spoof about the illicit ping-pong circuit starring Dan Fogler, Christopher Walken, Maggie Q and James (Lo Pan!) Hong. Lo Pan!

Underdog

Tomatometer: 15%

Oh Jason Lee, what hath you wrought? You haven’t had this bad a critical ravaging since Stealing Harvard!

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

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


30 Days of Night

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


The Comebacks

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


Reese Witherspoon and Peter Sarsgaard in Rendition

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


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


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

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


Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour

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

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

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

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

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Two new films were met with enthusiasm from North American moviegoers who
powered each film past the openings of their respective predecessors. Fans of
action and horror lined up for the threequel
Resident
Evil: Extinction
which bowed at number one while those in search of a
laugh spent their dollars on the romantic comedy
Good Luck Chuck
.
Both opened with averages of more than $5,000 each and helped to fill the entire
Top Five with R-rated fare as the overall marketplace bounced back after recent
sluggish weeks.

Gamers still love to go to the movies. That’s what Sony learned with its
estimated $24M opening weekend for
Resident
Evil: Extinction
, the third and supposedly final chapter of the popular
movie franchise starring
Milla Jovovich.
If the estimate holds, it will give the latest chapter the best debut of the
series. 2002’s original premiered with $17.7M while its 2004 sequel
Resident
Evil: Apocalypse
bowed to $23M. Final grosses reached $39.5M and $50.7M,
respectively. In a world where third parts rarely enjoy the biggest opening in a
series (The Bourne Ultimatum is the only other of this year’s seven threequels
to do so), Extinction‘s performance is noteworthy in that it generated
its strong gross from 456 fewer theaters than Apocalyspe had three years
ago.





Dane Cook and
Jessica Alba
made a popular couple as their new romantic comedy
Good Luck Chuck

opened in second place with a solid $14M, according to estimates. Lionsgate
released the R-rated pic in 2,612 locations and averaged a commendable $5,360
per site. Critics trashed the film but moviegoers paid no attention. The debut
was 23% better than the $11.4M opening of Cook’s last comedy,
Employee of the
Month
, which the distributor bowed last October. In Chuck, the actor
plays a man who women find lucky since all his ex-girlfriends go on to get
engaged after dating him.
 




Jodie Foster
dropped two spots with her vigilante thriller
The Brave One
which
fell 45% to an estimated $7.4M in its second weekend. The Warner Bros. release
has grossed $25.1M in ten days and should reach the vicinity of $44M, or a
little less than half of the grosses of the last starring roles for the actress
– $89.7M for Flightplan
and $95.3M for Panic
Room
. The Lionsgate Western
3:10 to Yuma

continued to have good legs easing only 29% to an estimated $6.4M for a 17-day
cume of $37.9M.
 



The mob thriller
Eastern Promises
starring Viggo Mortensen expanded into nationwide
release and jumped into fifth place with an estimated $5.7M. Widening from 15 to
1,404 venues, the Focus title averaged a respectable $4,093 per site. Eastern
did not show the same strength as director
David
Cronenberg’
s last film
A History of
Violence
(another Viggo pic that opened limited in September) which
grossed $8.1M and averaged $6,047 when it expanded nationally in its sophomore
frame two years ago. Cume for Eastern stands at $6.5M.
 





Stumbling into sixth place was the new
Amanda Bynes
teen comedy Sydney
White
which bowed to an estimated $5.3M from 2,104 locations for a weak
$2,530 average. The Universal release sets the classic Snow White story on a
modern-day college campus and attracted half the business of Bynes’ last comedy
She’s the
Man
(an adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Twelfth Night) which opened to
$10.7M in March 2006. Sydney skewed to a young female audience, as expected.
 


New Line’s
Billy Bob Thornton
comedy
Mr. Woodcock

dropped 43% in its second weekend to an estimated $5M putting the ten-day total
at $15.7M. A $25-28M final seems likely. Fellow comedy
Superbad
grossed an
estimated $3.1M, off 39%, giving Sony $116.2M to date. The studio also crossed
the $1 billion mark in domestic tickets sales for the sixth year in a row.
 



Universal’s assassin smash
The Bourne Ultimatum

dipped only 32% to an estimated $2.8M pushing the domestic haul to $220.2M.
Universal can now claim the only two summer films to spend eight weeks in the
top ten as the Matt Damon smash joined studio stablemate
Knocked Up
.
Rounding out the top ten was the fantasy adventure
Dragon Wars
with an
estimated $2.5M, down 50%, for a ten-day cume of only $8.6M.
 





Debuting to scorching results in limited release was
Sean Penn‘s
latest directorial effort
Into the Wild

which banked an estimated $207,000 from only four theaters for a potent $51,649
per site. The Paramount Vantage release stars
Emile Hirsch,
earned strong reviews, and helped critics get the bad taste of Penn’s
All the King’s Men

out of their mouths. Wild expands to the top dozen markets next weekend.
 



Warner Bros. got off to a solid start with its Old West tale

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
which made
off with an estimated $144,000 from 15 theaters for a $9,600 average. Ten of the
locations were in Austin with most double-screening the nearly-three-hour outlaw
tale. The Brad PittCasey
Affleck
starrer earned generally good notices from reviewers and will widen
on Friday.
 





With all the new films in wide release, four pictures dropped out of the top ten
over the weekend. New Line’s
Rush Hour 3
took
in an estimated $2.2M, off 33%, giving the
Jackie ChanChris
Tucker
vehicle $136.1M to date. Look for a final domestic gross of about
$142M. Fellow franchise flick
Halloween
tumbled
56% to an estimated $2.2M as well giving MGM $54.6M to date. A finish of $58M
seems likely.
 



A weekend estimate of $1.7M greeted the comedies
Balls of Fury

from Focus and
Mr. Bean’s Holiday
from Universal. The ping pong pic fell 47% for a cume
of $31.3M while the
Rowan Atkinson
Eurotrip eased 36% and has gathered $30.8M to date. A final domestic tally of
$35M should result for each.
 





Expanding successfully was the Sony musical saga
Across the
Universe
with an estimated $2.1M from only 276 theaters for an
impressive $7,428 average. The
Julie Taymor-directed
pic expanded from its platform debut in 23 venues last weekend and has raised
its total to $3M.
 





Paramount launched the summer megahit
Transformers

in Imax theaters over the weekend and saw its weekend take jump 196% to an
estimated $1.4M (including sales from standard-format screens). That pushed the
cume to $313.6M putting the robots in disguise at number 21 on the list of
all-time domestic blockbusters and less than $1 million away from tossing

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
($314.2M) out of the
Top 20.
 





The top ten films grossed an estimated $76.2M which was off 1% from last year
when Jackass:
Number Two
debuted in first place with $29M; and down 10% from 2005 when
Flightplan opened in the top spot with $24.6M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,
www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

After struggling at the box office over the last few years, Russell Crowe scored his first number one film in more than seven years with the critically-acclaimed Western 3:10 to Yuma which bumped fellow Hollywood remake Halloween out of the top spot. The weekend’s other new releases, the action film Shoot ‘Em Up and the comedy The Brothers Solomon, both failed to make much of a dent into the typically-slow early September marketplace. The top ten slumped to its lowest point since late April while aside from Yuma, no wide release managed a per-theater average of more than $3,000.

Lionsgate scored its first top spot debut of the year with 3:10 to Yuma which shot up an estimated $14.1M in its opening frame from 2,652 theaters. Averaging a solid $5,317 per venue, the R-rated drama stars Crowe as a captured outlaw and Christian Bale as the man set to accompany him to the train that will take him to prison. Not since his career-making turn in 2000’s Oscar-winning picture Gladiator has Russell Crowe inhabited the number one spot at the box office. Last year’s dramedy flop A Good Year bowed to an embarrassing $3.7M on its way to a puny $7.5M while 2005’s well-reviewed Cinderella Man debuted below expectations with $18.3M leading to a $61.6M domestic total. Critics were very supportive of Yuma giving much praise to the two lead actors as well as to director James Mangold (Walk the Line).

After a record Labor Day weekend launch, the horror entry Halloween plunged 62% and dropped a notch to second place with an estimated $10M in ticket sales. The Rob Zombie-directed film pushed its ten-day cume up to a rosy $44.2M which already makes it the top-grossing R-rated fright flick of the year. Halloween seems on track to finish with roughly $60M for MGM.

Sony’s teen hit Superbad became the 20th film of 2007 to cross the $100M mark over the weekend. The raunchy sex romp collected an estimated $8M, dropping only 36%, and pushed its total gross to a stellar $103.7M. A final gross in the neighborhood of $125M seems likely for the inexpensive $18M production.

Rival comedy Balls of Fury lost half of its opening weekend audience and placed fourth for the frame with an estimated $5.7M pushing the 12-day tally to a respectable $24.3M. The Focus release should end up with $35-38M.

Matt Damon‘s third blockbuster in less than a year, The Bourne Ultimatum, followed in fifth with an estimated $5.5M, off 47%, lifting the cume to $210.1M from North America. The assassin pic joins Shia LaBeouf‘s Disturbia as the only 2007 films to spend six weeks in the Top Five. Worldwide, Ultimatum climbed past $300M making it the top-grossing film in the Bourne series globally with many international markets still to come.

The new Clive OwenPaul Giamatti action pic Shoot ‘Em Up debuted in sixth place with a disappointing $5.5M gross, according to estimates. Making its way into 2,108 theaters, the R-rated film averaged a weak $2,585 per site for New Line. Reviews were mixed.

New Line’s action sequel Rush Hour 3 followed in seventh with an estimated $5.3M, down 37%, boosting the cume to $129.3M. Fellow funny franchise flick Mr Bean’s Holiday dropped 43% to an estimated $3.4M giving Universal a domestic total of $25.1M. The global gross has now risen to a stunning $215M.

A pair of female-skewing pics rounded out the top ten. The Nanny Diaries grossed an estimated $3.3M in its third weekend, off 35%, giving MGM $21M to date. Leggy musical smash Hairspray dipped only 28% which was good enough to allow the John Travolta hit to climb back into the top ten with an estimated $2M. Cume stands at $114.9M for New Line.

Opening terribly in wide release outside of the top ten was the R-rated comedy The Brothers Solomon which bowed to an estimated $525,000 from 700 theaters for a dismal $750 average. The $10M production failed to even make the Top 20.

A pair of films enjoyed encouraging and almost identical launches in arthouses over the weekend. The lunar mission documentary In the Shadow of the Moon bowed to an estimated $41,200 from four sites for a solid $10,300 average. The ThinkFilm release was “presented” by Ron Howard and will add more theaters within New York and Los Angeles and expand to Chicago, Boston, and Washington D.C. on Friday. MGM’s Richard Gere war drama The Hunting Party debuted in four venues as well and grossed an estimated $40,000 for a strong average of $10,000 per theater.

Two competing late-August action titles were tossed out of the top ten. Fox’s Kevin Bacon revenge pic Death Sentence tumbled 62% to an estimated $1.6M in its sophomore frame for a ten-day sum of only $7.9M. Look for a $10M final. The Jet LiJason Statham actioner War has done somewhat better and took in an estimated $1.4M in its third session. Crashing 68%, the Lionsgate release has taken in $20.5M thus far and should conclude with around $23M.

Among summer megahits still climbing the list of all-time domestic blockbusters, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix rose to $288.2M after its ninth weekend while Transformers inched up to $311.4M after its tenth attack. The July releases now sit at 31 and 21, respectively, on the all-time list.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $62.7M which was up a healthy 28% from last year when The Covenant debuted in first place with $8.9M; but down 11% from 2005 when The Exorcism of Emily Rose opened in the top spot with $30.1M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

A record summer box office ended on a high note
with a record Labor Day weekend led by
Rob Zombie‘s new take on the horror
classic Halloween which scored the biggest opening ever for this holiday frame.
The R-rated creepfest grossed an estimated $31M over the four-day
Friday-to-Monday period for MGM and The Weinstein Co. from an ultrawide 3,472
theaters for a powerful $8,932 average. That was enough to slash through the
previous holiday best of $20.1M from 2005’s
Transporter 2
by a stunning 54%.
Over the Friday-to-Sunday portion, the pic scored $26.5M and a $7,622 average.
The gross for the Michael Myers fright pic surged ahead of industry expectations
and ranked as the best horror opening since
Saw III‘s three-day tally of $33.6M
from last Halloween.

Marking the end of summer and a time when students begin going back to school,
Labor Day weekend is typically the weakest of all the holiday weekends during
the year. But the overall summer movie season was anything but. The domestic box
office generated over $4 billion led by seven blockbusters that crossed the
$200M mark with four sailing past the $300M milestone. Both were new industry
highs.
 






Sony’s two-time champ
Superbad
held up well in its third frame this weekend and grossed an
estimated $15.6M for a 18-day cume of $92.4M. Another comedy aimed at young
people, Balls of
Fury
, opened in the third spot with an estimated $13.8M from 3,052
locations for a decent four-day average of $4,534. Since its Wednesday launch,
the ping pong pic has taken in $16.8M for Focus.
 




For the fourth consecutive weekend the threequels
The Bourne Ultimatum
and
Rush
Hour 3
were back-to-back on the charts. The
Matt Damon assassin smash took in an
estimated $13.2M for a total of $202.6M while the
Jackie ChanChris Tucker
action-comedy dropped to an estimated $10.4M for a $122.2M sum. Bourne crossed
the $200M mark on Labor Day.
 






Following in sixth was Universal’s
Mr. Bean’s Holiday
with an estimated $8.1M
for $21.1M to date. The Nanny Diaries fell to an estimated $6.4M for MGM giving
the comedy just $16.5M in ten days.
Kevin Bacon stumbled into eighth place with
his vigilante thriller
Death Sentence
which bowed to an estimated $5.2M from
1,822 sites for an average of only $2,854 for Fox.
 





Jet Li and
Jason Statham followed in ninth with
War which crumbled in its
sophomore frame to an estimated $5.1M giving Lionsgate $18M in ten days.
Paramount’s fairy tale adventure
Stardust
rounded out the top ten with an
estimated $3.9M for a $31.9M total.
 





Three films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend.
The Simpsons Movie

laughed up an estimated $3.5M and boosted its sensational domestic haul to
$178.4M on its way to what should be a final tally of about $185M. Overseas, the
Fox smash broke through the $300M barrier this weekend and hopes to see its
global gross surge past $500M.
 





New Line’s hit musical
Hairspray
posted another strong performance banking an
estimated $3.5M over four days to raise its cume to $112.3M. A final domestic
gross of at least $120M seems likely. Not faring well was the Nicole Kidman
sci-fi thriller The Invasion which tumbled down to an estimated $1.5M for a poor
$14.1M total after 18 days. Paramount should end up snatching a miserable $16M.
 



The top ten films grossed an estimated $112.7M over four days (a new Labor Day
weekend record) which was up 26% from last year when
Invincible
remained in
first place with $15.4M in its second session; and up 23% from 2005 when
Transporter 2 opened in the top spot with a then-record $20.1M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya,
www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

 

The four-billion-dollar-plus summer comes to a close over the long Labor Day holiday weekend with three new wide releases all targeting male moviegoers. Slasher fans get to relive old days with the latest incarnation of Halloween, teens looking for a laugh get the ping pong comedy Balls of Fury, and adults interested in Kevin Bacon‘s brand of revenge have the action thriller Death Sentence. With target audiences for the new pics having lots of overlap, and the existing holdovers also catering to similar crowds, the marketplace will have to work hard to expand as many of these titles will eat into each other.

Setting a new industry record for the widest opening ever over Labor Day weekend, rock-star-turned-director Rob Zombie‘s Halloween attacks theaters aiming to connect with horror movie fans. The R-rated entry marks the first new installment in five years for a franchise about to hit the three-decade mark. 2002’s Halloween: Resurrection bowed to $12.3M and a solid $6,291 average in mid-July of that summer proving that Michael Myers still had the muscle to draw in his fans. The arrival of a new Halloween flick coupled with the selection of a buzzworthy director makes for an interesting combo that will spark interest with genre fans.

To say that horror has hit some bad luck at the box office this year is putting it lightly. R-rated fright flicks in 2007 have struggled but Halloween will try to change that. Excitement among fans is considerable and with no other gorefests out there, competition will come mainly from the many action films or teen comedies. The Jeepers Creepers films proved how successful Labor Day weekend could be for a horror pic and now MGM and The Weinstein Company hope demand will still be there for their newest entry. Attacking 3,472 theaters, Halloween might collect about $20M over the Friday-to-Monday holiday weekend.


Rob Zombie’s Halloween

The ping pong pic Balls of Fury, enters the marketplace in a good position as the frame’s only new comedy and only new PG-13 flick. The Focus release should stand out as a viable option for teenagers looking to kill some time with goofy immature fun. Starring Dan Fogler, Christopher Walken, George Lopez, Maggie Q, and Aisha Tyler, Balls is trying to market itself as a film that fans of Dodgeball would dig. Of course it doesn’t have the star wattage of a Vince or a Ben so the grosses will be much smaller. But as a B-list comedy, it does its job and should satisfy its target audience in the short term. The marketing push has been good and perfectly matches the silly nature of the film. Focus moved up its release date from a Friday opening to a Wednesday bow hoping to take advantage of most schools still being out of session. Plus the distrib expects some good word-of-mouth midweek could help its chances come the weekend. Playing in 3,052 theaters by Friday, Balls of Fury could launch with about $14M over four days and $17M over six days.


Dan Fogler in Balls of Fury

Aisha Tyler stars in another film opening this weekend taking a supporting role in the Kevin Bacon revenge thriller Death Sentence. Directed by Saw‘s James Wan, the R-rated pic finds the Footloose star playing a mild-mannered executive pushed to the edge to protect his family. Co-starring Kelly Preston and John Goodman, the Fox release should skew to an older adult audience which makes the long-lasting hit The Bourne Ultimatum a direct threat despite being in its fifth frame. The weekend’s other male-skewing pics will also steal away some biz so a modest bow is likely. Opening in roughly 1,900 theaters, Death Sentence might debut with about $7M over the long weekend.


Kevin Bacon in Death Sentence

Sony’s hit comedy Superbad, which has become must-see viewing for high school and college students heading back to school, should lose its crown after two weeks on top. But the raunchy teen smash will still post a solid gross despite heavy competition from new releases. Superbad‘s four-day take might drop 25% from last weekend’s three-day tally to around $13.5M which would boost the 18-day cume to a sensational $90M.

Since Labor Day weekend tends to be a catch-up time when people see popular flicks they’ve missed out on, another strong performance is likely to greet The Bourne Ultimatum which has easily been the top-grossing film of the past month. The new films will cause a distraction with younger moviegoers, but mature adults who may not have had time for Jason Bourne’s identity-revealing saga are sure to line up. Look for the four-day gross to dip by only 10% from last weekend giving the Universal blockbuster about $11M for the long weekend which would allow the assassin pic to cross the $200M mark on Monday.

Fellow threequel Rush Hour 3 should experience a larger drop and could fall by 25% to about $9M. That would put the total at $121M for New Line.

LAST YEAR: Mark Wahlberg scored back-to-back box office touchdowns with his sports drama Invincible which remained at number one for the second straight time with $15.4M over the four-day holiday weekend. Opening in the runnerup spot was Jason Statham‘s action pic Crank with $12.9M over the long weekend which edged out the debuting Nicolas Cage drama The Wicker Man which took in $11.7M. Final grosses reached $27.8M for the Lionsgate film and $23.6M for the Paramount pic. Rounding out the top five were Little Miss Sunshine with $9.6M and The Illusionist with $8.1M over four days.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

This week at the movies, we’ve got ping pong (Balls of Fury, starring Dan Fogler and Christopher Walken); revenge (Death Sentence, starring Kevin Bacon); and the return of Michael Myers (Rob Zombie’s Halloween). What do the critics have to say?

It’s been a good couple years for sophomoric sports comedy; Dodgeball and Blades of Glory each earned cackles by taking the seriousness of athletic competition to absurd heights — and throwing in plenty of raunch. But juvenilia only goes so far; you need a little something more to generate laughs… And critics say laughs are in short supply in Balls of Fury. Randy Daytona (Dan Fogler) is a washed-up pro table tennis player recruited to infiltrate the deadly world of underground extreme ping pong, in which the diabolical Feng (Christopher Walken) oversees a deadly tournament of serve-and-volley. It’s a funny premise, but critics say despite some yucks, Balls runs out of steam pretty quickly, and lacks the sharp comic edge of other sports comedies. At 28 percent on the Tomatometer, Balls of Fury is getting paddled. (Read our interview with Fogler here.)

Balls of Fury

One can’t fault James Wan for trying to branch out a little. With Death Sentence, the man behind Saw and Dead Silence moves from straight horror to the realm of the psychological thriller. After his child is brutally murdered, devoted family man Nick Hume (Kevin Bacon) aims for revenge, and goes gunning for a violent gang that committed the crime. It’s not a bad premise; heck, it worked pretty well in Death Wish, and A History of Violence ventured into the darker realms of an everyman’s outwardly placid façade. But critics say as Death Sentence goes along, it slides into the land of unintentional comedy, gruesome violence, and a mixed message about the nature of vigilantism. At nine percent on the Tomatometer, Death Sentence is facing the critical firing squad. (Check out our interview with Wan from Comic-Con here.)

There can be only two reasons for the fact that the folks behind Halloween didn’t screen the film before its release. Either it’s so scary that movie critics wouldn’t be able to handle it, or they don’t think the pundits will dig it at all. Rob Zombie takes a look at the origins of one of cinema’s greatest psychopaths, Michael Myers, in this remake of the 1978 classic. Kids, Guess that Tomatometer! (Also, check out our rundown of Rob Zombie’s sources of inspiration here.)

Halloween

Also opening this week in limited release: Quiet City, Aaron Katz’ atmospheric film about a chance meeting in New York City, is at 86 percent; The Nines, a Lynchian, numerological mind-bender starring Ryan Reynolds and Hope Davis, is at 71 percent (check out our review from Sundance here); Exiled, Johnny To‘s tale of conflicted hit men, is at 69 percent; Freshman Orientation, the story of a college student who pretends to be gay to attract a girl, is at 60 percent; Self-Medicated, a semi-autobiographical account of a young man’s battle with addiction, is at 55 percent; and the heist flick Ladron que roba a ladron, about two expert thieves who plan to rob an infomercial host, is at 50 percent.

Finally, props to our homie unbreakable_samurai for coming the closest to guessing War‘s 18 percent Tomatometer. U_s is currently one of RT’s favorite U.S. Americans.

Halloweens:
—————–
89% — Halloween (1978)
19% — Halloween II (1981)
33% — Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (1982)
14% — Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
10% — Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
4% — Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1996)
49% — Halloween: H20 (1998)
11% — Halloween: Resurrection (2002)

Recent Kevin Bacon Movies:
———————————–
18% — Loverboy (2006)
39% — Where the Truth Lies (2005)
89% — Forces of Nature (2005)
40% — Beauty Shop (2005)
86% — The Woodsman (2004)

Unless you’re a theater nerd, you may not know who Dan Fogler is…yet. The star of this week’s ping pong spectacular Balls of Fury is like a hairy teddy bear in person, with an infectious belly laugh that erupted many times during our chat at Comic-Con…and he’s got a really lethal table tennis game (read on for more details)!

The 31-year-old Fogler honed his comic timing as an adolescent competitor in the Tony-winning musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and will be seen in a gaggle of comic roles in the upcoming Good Luck Chuck, Fanboys, and Kids in America. He’ll soon also lend his deep, raspy voice to a few animated characters in Horton Hears a Who and Disney’s Rapunzel. But first things first; this week, Fogler stars as competitive ping pong-er Randy Daytona, the troubled hero who stumbles into an Enter the Dragon-style table tennis tournament in Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon‘s Balls of Fury.

We spoke exclusively with Fogler in San Diego during Comic-Con, where the busy actor was promoting Balls of Fury. As we discovered in our chat, while Fogler’s assessment of his own skills borders on what can be construed as athletic enlightenment (“sort of a Buddha level”) his ping pong past harbors some moments of real-life danger (“I detached a man’s retina”). Thankfully, that briefly awkward moment gave way to the most enjoyable interview we’ve done at RT — hey, all it takes is talk of nerds, a hairy Wolverine, and “Eat your way out” candy tanks — and so it is with our pleasure that we introduce you to the man, the mind, the movement: Dan Fogler.

Rotten Tomatoes: So, ping pong…

Dan Fogler: Yeah!

Had you played before?

DF: Yeah, I mean I played in my basement when I was a kid.

I mean, like hardcore play?

DF: No, not until the movie. And then it was all intense and hardcore.

How much training did you do?

DF: So much. I played to the point of…almost insanity. Exhaustion of the spirit. And then there was a breaking…of my soul at one point, and then there was a sort of a rising like a fiery phoenix from the ashes…



Dan Fogler at the Comic-Con press day

Of your soul?

DF: Of my soul, and of my skill, and I became a master and surpassed my masters. And now I’m sort of at a Buddha level with my skills, and it’s not about either winning or losing…it’s just about not playing at all. I mean, I could probably beat anybody in the world. And also I hurt somebody. I hurt somebody really bad.

In a tragic ping pong accident?

DF: Why does everyone say it like that? Yeah, in a tragic ping pong accident.

OK. You don’t have to divulge too much…

DF: Uh…I detached a man’s retina. I was a little kid.

Oh wait. That was real? OK. I’ll scratch that from the record…

DF: No, keep it. I like it. Is that scary?

Yeah. The power you wield with a little paddle…(Changing the subject) I like your sweatband.

DF: Do you?

It makes you look very sporty.

DF: Just in case I have to run from the cops, I can always just wipe my brow. Or if I’m in a bar brawl that just breaks out…

Or if you’re walking through the convention halls [at Comic-Con] and you rub up against too many sweaty nerds…there are a lot of them, I tell you. We should all have sweatbands.

DF: [Laughing] I’m a sweaty nerd!

I was talking with Robert [Ben Garant] and Tom [Lennon] about how this is nerd central…


DF: Yes, Sundance for fanboys.

They’re gonna love your movie; ping pong is the national sport of the nerd.

DF: Is it? Awesome.

That is, aside from video games.

DF: Yeah. But if they ever drop the video games, it’s definitely straight to the ping pong table. Nice! You’re the first one to make that observation, out of everyone today!

Well I work with web engineers; that’s what they do. Are you getting a lot of the same interview questions over and over again?

DF: Of course! But I’m used to it [because of] the Tony nomination experience. That experience sort of prepared me for this experience.



Daytona celebrates a victory in Balls of Fury

Are theater nerds as intense, or more, than regular nerds?

DF: [Laughing] Neeerrrrds!

Sorry, I have nerds on the brain.

DF: You should have a box of candy nerds to throw at people!

[Laughing] I would never have enough boxes!

DF: An entire stack of Nerds…

Nerds, the candy company, would make a fortune here! They should set up a booth…

DF: Yeah, like a giant nerd booth…or like, “Eat your way out” or something…

Although that is a big choking hazard, I think.

They’re so tiny! Wouldn’t that be awesome if you were walking around Comic-Con and you look around and there’s a booth where this dude is in a tank full of nerds, trying to eat his way out, and everyone’s just like, “Go! Go!” I think that’d be great!



Fogler gets sweet-talked by a scene-stealing James Hong at the Balls of Fury Comic-Con panel

Since we’re at Comic-Con, if you were to play any superhero which one would you want to be? Have you been asked that before?

DF: I haven’t! Oh man…well, if they wanted to go the Wolverine route, if they wanted to make Wolverine authentic — a runt of the litter, a hairy maniac — I would love to take a stab at that at some point, get totally buffed out. I’d also love to be some kind of flying superhero, but I hear the harnesses they have to wear… I had to wear a harness once in Balls of Fury. I was hanging from a rope bridge, and I don’t know how much you understand this…these things are built so that the entire weight of your body has to be held by your pelvis.

So?

DF: Well, I’m above 200 pounds…so try and figure that one out.

OK, one serious question…Number 13 has you as Alfred Hitchcock — that sounds pretty interesting, can you tell me more?

DF: Sure! It’s in pre-pre-pre-production, but like Shakespeare in Love — it would be Hitchcock in Love. You see him in his twenties as a struggling artist, and he’s got bills to pay. You see him with his first project, which is supposed to be a comedy — but it’s not funny, so he finds his own niche and he finds out that it can be brilliant if it’s a thriller. And then you see over the course of the movie, little things that happen — oh, that’s the impetus for Psycho, or that’s where he got the idea for The Birds.

So ended our delightful chat with Dan Fogler. See him harness the power of the pong this Wednesday in Balls of Fury!

It made a billion dollars and I can’t remember talking to ONE person who actually liked it. But you knew it was coming. The ball is rolling on another Night at the Museum.

And I’d be willing to bet that’s what they call it, too: "Another Night at the Museum." Because that’s what passes for clever these days.

OK, I’ll put the sarcasm away. According to Dark Horizons, screenwriters Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon (who have Balls of Fury on the way) have confessed: Yes, they’ve started in on the sequel’s screenplay. Then again, Night at the Museum was a pretty big step up from their other screenplays. Shield your eyeballs and then scan those credits. Yep, the same guys who co-created the hilarious Reno 911! and The State — also co-wrote Taxi, The Pacifier, Herbie: Fully Loaded, and Let’s Go to Prison. I’m not sure if Ben Stiller is signed yet, but that shouldn’t be a problem. That guy will do just about any flick for a paycheck. (And how the heck did the Reno 911! movie turn out so rotten?)

Having said all that, the Balls of Fury trailer did make me chuckle a few times — about five months ago. But back to the main issue: Another Night at the Museum? Who’s up for that? Be honest. The first flick didn’t gross $250 million by itself.

Source: Dark Horizons

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