For the first time in three weeks, studios will pack a Friday with plenty of new releases as four films open or expand nationwide giving the box office chart a major shakeup. Leading in the polls and getting the widest release is The Bucket List starring Oscar winners Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. Challenging Hollywood’s old guard are three younger agents of change. Ice Cube campaigns for a spot in the top five with the comedy First Sunday, Jason Statham heads up the adventure tale In the Name of the King, and some cartoon vegetables headline the kidpic The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything. Hoping to play the spoiler is the indie smash Juno which once again expands into wider release. The films should each play to different audiences which will help the overall marketplace expand.
After spending the last decade directing flops, Rob Reiner hopes to score his first number one hit in over fifteen years with The Bucket List which features the Academy Award-winning actors Nicholson and Freeman on screen together for the first time. The PG-13 pic tells the story of two dying old men who set out to fulfill their last wishes before taking the big trip upstairs. Financing a major film anchored by two men who celebrated their 70th birthdays last year is not something Hollywood studios typically do. It’s usually seen as a risky endeavor. But Warner Bros. is counting on mature adults, men and women alike, to take interest and come out to see two legends on the big screen together.
Hurting Bucket‘s chances are the mixed reviews it’s been getting from critics. The target audience for this particular movie will definitely be affected by what reviewers have to say. Also, the picture has come up almost empty-handed during awards seasons so it has less marketing tools in its arsenal than the handful of acclaimed adult dramas touting their awards and nominations. In limited release, Bucket scored muscular per-theater numbers over the last two frames averaging $20,989 and $20,424 from only 16 locations. Co-star drawing power will not shoot this film up to the opening weekend levels of recent Jack flicks like The Departed or Anger Management. But even his less flashy films generate solid debut numbers due to his loyal fan following. Kicking its way into 2,911 theaters, The Bucket List could debut with about $15M.
First Sunday comes a week before the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday frame which historically has been a good time for films led by black casts. Cube’s pictures usually are dependable when it comes to drawing a crowd. However his last two releases, the Sony sequels Are We Done Yet? and XXX: State of the Union, were not exactly major hits. Plus the story of stealing from church may not go down well with some folks. Breaking into roughly 2,000 theaters, First Sunday might open with around $12M.
After enjoying the second three-week box office reign of his career (the first being his other turn as Ben Gates), Nicolas Cage will see National Treasure: Book of Secrets drop down a couple of spots in the standings. The Buena Vista smash could fall by 40% to about $12M boosting the overall total to $187M which would make it one of the top ten blockbusters of 2007. Also hopping into that list will be fellow PG-rated holiday hit Alvin and the Chipmunks. Fox’s family comedy looks to slide by 35% this weekend to roughly $10M giving the singing chipmunks a robust $189M to date.
Scary movies from last weekend’s top five should witness larger declines. Will Smith‘s I Am Legend which is the highest grossing zombie movie of all-time may fall by 45% to about $8.5M for a $240M cume. The supernatural thriller One Missed Call should depreciate faster and fall 50% to around $6M giving Warner Bros. a respectable $21M after ten days.
LAST YEAR: The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend was ruled by the urban dance drama Stomp the Yard which generated a powerful $25.9M debut over the four-day extended frame. The Sony hit went on to finish with a solid $61.4M. Holdovers filled up the rest of the top five led by three-time champ Night at the Museum with $21.8M over the long weekend. Will Smith’s The Pursuit of Happyness followed with $10.7M with Dreamgirls in fourth with $10.3M and Hilary Swank‘s Freedom Writers ranking fifth with $8.8M over four days. Three new releases opened lower on the charts. Universal’s action drama Alpha Dog bowed to $7.4M on its way to $15.2M. Debuting in more theaters but with smaller grosses were Buena Vista’s horror pic Primeval with $6M and MGM’s kidpic Arthur and the Invisibles with $5.7M. Final grosses reached $10.6M and $15.1M, respectively.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
Good news, schoolchildren of America: Getting suspended is now a viable ticket to cinematic immortality.
Provided you earn your suspension in a suitably outlandish fashion, that is. And fight it on First Amendment grounds in front of the Supreme Court. Do all those things, and you could find yourself in the position of Joseph Frederick, the Alaskan high school student who took his battle for, um, freedom of expression all the way to the highest court in the land. From Variety:
Frederick already had a contentious relationship with the school principal when he got suspended for 10 days for displaying a “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” message on a 14-foot sign outside the school. The principal felt the banner promoted drug use. The case made national headlines, and Frederick became a poster boy for the First Amendment, but in a split decision, the Supreme Court upheld the principal’s right to suspend the student.
Bong Hits 4 Jesus is now, Variety reports, the title of a Paramount/MTV Films production which will be produced by Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher. The story, to be written by Mark Poirier, will revolve around Frederick’s suspension — and the effect it had on his family. From the article:
“The heart of this story is the relationship between a father and son,” Shamberg said. “Frank Frederick was an insurance adjuster facing the loss of his job if his son didn’t back down.”
Frederick, who’d often discussed the importance of First Amendment rights with his son at the dinner table, would not force his son to drop the case, and he was fired from his job. Father and son now teach English in China.
Shamberg, whose previous collaborations with Sher have included the similarly ripped-from-the-headlines Freedom Writers, World Trade Center, and Erin Brockovich, describes Bong Hits 4 Jesus as being similar to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, saying it’s “about a young man standing up for his rights.”
Stomping into the number one spot over the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend was the college dance drama "Stomp the Yard," which grossed an estimated $22M in its opening weekend to push three-week champ "Night at the Museum" into second place. Exceeding even the loftiest of expectations, the PG-13 step dancing pic averaged a loud $10,726 from only 2,051 theaters.
Over the past 22 months, only "Borat" has reached the top spot with fewer theaters. With Monday being a holiday, studios will release complete four-day weekend estimates then. "Stomp the Yard" was budgeted at only $14M and generated two-thirds of its business this weekend from African American moviegoers, according to studio research.
After ruling the box office for three weeks, the effects-driven comedy "Night at the Museum" slipped to second place but still posted healthy numbers grossing an estimated $17.1M. Fox has now collected a hefty $185.8M and saw its weekend tally decline by only 28%. Sliding only 29% was Will Smith‘s Golden Globe-nominated turn in "The Pursuit of Happyness" with an estimated $9.1M in its fifth frame. Sony has banked $136.5M while the popular Museum-Pursuit duo has grossed a stunning $322M together.
Paramount expanded its hit musical "Dreamgirls" from 852 to 1,907 theaters and climbed a notch into fourth place with an estimated $8.1M. Off only 6%, the DreamWorks production has taken in $65M thus far with the $100M mark expected to be broken in the near future. "Dreamgirls" is considered the frontrunner to win the Golden Globe award for Best Picture – Comedy or Musical on Monday night and is looking to secure several Oscar nominations next week which the studio hopes will allow the pic to have legs. But after four weeks of incredible averages, the PG-13 film saw its per-theater average slide to $4,259 from its nationwide release.
The studio also expanded its urban high school drama "Freedom Writers" from 1,360 to 2,179 sites and ranked fifth with an estimated $7.1M. The gross dipped by only 24% for the Hilary Swank flick while the average tumbled by 53%. Total stands at $18.4M.
Three of the top five films over MLK weekend featured predominantly African American casts while "Freedom" boasted a multicultural school saga. For the Hollywood film industry, it was a rare sight. However between the King frame and Black History Month, a handful of studios have discovered how to tap into the sizable African American moviegoing audience with the right films in the January-February corridor.
Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón followed in sixth with his futuristic drama "Children of Men" which grossed an estimated $6.4M, down 37%, for a $21.4M total to date. The Clive Owen thriller was given 299 more theaters, but suffered a slowdown as its average dropped 49% in only its second weekend of wide play. "Children" has also grossed $32.5M overseas.
Three new releases followed but ticket buyers were not too excited about any of them. The drug dealer drama "Alpha Dog" bowed in seventh place with an estimated $6.1M from 1,289 locations for a respectable $4,765 average. Justin Timberlake, who conveniently announced his breakup with Cameron Diaz just days before the film opened, stars in the ensemble cast of the R-rated drama.
The serial killer pic "Primeval" debuted close behind in eighth place with an estimated $6M from 2,444 theaters. Despite having the widest release in the freshman class, the R-rated chiller averaged a weak $2,450 for Buena Vista. MGM released The Weinstein Company’s kidpic "Arthur and the Invisibles" but bombed with an estimated $4.3M from 2,247 playdates for a poor $1,914 average. The PG-rated adventure featured both live action and animation plus featured the voices of Madonna, Snoop Dogg, and Robert De Niro. Audiences had no interest.
Rounding out the top ten was De Niro’s spy thriller "The Good Shepherd" with an estimated $3.9M, down 39%, for a $54.3M cume.
Sony Classics widened its Chinese historical epic "Curse of the Golden Flower" from 55 sites in limited release to 1,234 theaters nationwide and collected an estimated $2M. That gave the Zhang Yimou drama a flimsy average of only $1,624 with a total to date of $4.4M. Moviegoers were more in the mood for dancers stomping than daggers flying.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $90.2M over the Friday-to-Sunday period which was off 3% from last year when "Glory Road" opened at number one with $13.6M; and down 20% from 2005 when "Coach Carter" debuted on top with $24.2M over three days.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
There was no stopping the runaway smash comedy Night at the Museum which North American audiences picked as their favorite film for the third straight weekend. New releases were met with varying levels of success. Both the futuristic saga Children of Men and the high school drama Freedom Writers earned high marks while playing in moderate national play. However, the animated film Happily N’Ever After and the action-comedy Code Name: The Cleaner were both met with soft openings.
Overall, the first weekend of 2007 was solid and holdovers displayed considerable strength as audiences continued to find time to see all the interesting films in the marketplace. A remarkable 14 movies collected weekend sales of $4M or more giving the box office great breadth.
The Ben Stiller comedy Night at the Museum easily topped the charts over the weekend with an estimated $24M in its third weekend of play boosting its cume to a stellar $164.1M. Down only 35% from the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the New Year’s holiday frame, the Fox blockbuster matched the comedian’s hit Meet the Fockers from two years ago which also topped the charts over the same three weekends. With its lucrative start and impressive holding power, Museum should be able to zoom past the $200M mark domestically.
Will Smith’s The Pursuit of Happyness also stayed put for the third straight weekend taking the number two spot again with an estimated $13M. The Sony hit enjoyed the smallest decline in the top ten slipping only 33% and pushed its cume to $124.2M. Pursuit could be headed for $160M or more.
Adult audiences responded to Alfonso Cuaron’s futuristic drama Children of Men which expanded nationally in its second weekend and took third place with an estimated $10.3M. The critically acclaimed Universal release averaged a sturdy $8,515 from 1,209 theaters and has collected $11.9M since its limited opening a week earlier.
Hilary Swank saw impressive results for her school teacher drama Freedom Writers which debuted in fourth place with an estimated $9.7M from only 1,360 theaters. Averaging a strong $7,136 per location, the PG-13 film from Paramount and MTV Films connected with a young and multicultural audience. According to studio data, 62% of the audience was under the age of 21 and 50% were non-white. The road ahead for Freedom looks promising as the film scored an exceptionally high A grade from CinemaScore and 93% of those polled would definitely recommend it. Paramount will widen the picture on Friday into 700 more theaters for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. school holiday weekend.
The studio’s hit musical Dreamgirls followed in fifth place with an estimated $8.8M in its second full weekend of wide release, off 37%. The Jamie Foxx-Beyonce Knowles pic upped its total to $54.5M and continues to post the best average in the top ten with a stellar $10,358 from 852 sites. Paramount will add about 1,000 more theaters on Friday.
Family audiences were not too charmed by the new animated offering Happily N’Ever After which opened in sixth place with just $6.8M, according to estimates. The PG-rated fairy tale satire averaged a lukewarm $2,856 from 2,381 locations for Lionsgate and could not compete with Night at the Museum which continued to dominate the family crowd.
Competing kidpic Charlotte’s Web followed closely with an estimated $6.6M for Paramount, down 43%, pushing the cume to $67M. Universal’s CIA thriller The Good Shepherd ranked eighth with an estimated $6.5M, off 41%, for a mediocre $48.4M sum.
Rocky Balboa punched up an estimated $6.3M for MGM dropping 41% and raised its cume to an impressive $60.9M. Rounding out the top ten was another sports drama, the football saga We Are Marshall, which fell 37% to an estimated $5.1M giving Warner Bros. an underwhelming $35.4M to date.
Debuting poorly in eleventh place was the action-comedy Code Name: The Cleaner which bowed to an estimated $4.6M from 1,736 for a messy $2,650 average. The New Line release stars Cedric the Entertainer and Lucy Liu.
Three films fell from the top ten but still generated weekend grosses of $4M or more. The fantasy adventure Eragon took in an estimated $4.6M, down 44%, for a $66.8M total to date. Tied with $4M a piece were the Cameron Diaz comedy The Holiday and the penguin toon Happy Feet. Sony’s holiday comedy fell 41% and upped its sum to $59M while the animated smash dropped 48% lifting its cume to $185.4M.
Several arthouse films in limited release expanded over the weekend. Fox Searchlight’s Judi Dench pic Notes on a Scandal expanded from 22 to 93 theaters and grossed an estimated $1.1M for a potent $11,828 average. The film widens to over 200 sites on Friday and then into over 600 playdates on January 26. Cume is $2M. Paramount’s Perfume was not as successful in its expansion going from three to 280 sites grossing an estimated $551,000 for a weak $1,968 average. Total to date stands at $649,000.
Warner Independent went from 37 to 72 theaters for its period drama The Painted Veil and grossed an estimated $480,000. Averaging a solid $6,667, the pic has taken in $1.2M to date and will expand to 200 runs on Friday. MGM’s Miss Potter continues to attract mediocre numbers grossing an estimated $123,000 from 26 playdates for a mild $4,731 average. Cume is $140,555 for the Renee Zellweger film.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $97.2M which was off 1% from last year when Hostel opened at number one with $19.6M; and up 4% from 2005 when Meet the Fockers remained on top in its third weekend with $28.5M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
Three new releases welcome in the new year this weekend, but moviegoers are likely to keep spending their cash on holiday holdovers.
Family audiences have the new toon "Happily N’Ever After," teens will be offered the drama "Freedom Writers," and the comedy crowd will have "Code Name: The Cleaner." Also, the sci-fi drama "Children of Men" expands across the country after a powerful debut last weekend in limited release. Early January is usually home to two kinds of films – weak pictures that can’t cut it during the competitive holiday season and acclaimed films expanding wider hoping for awards. This frame will see just that with current chart-topper "Night at the Museum" hoping for a third reign in the number one spot.
Kids who have had enough of digital penguins will have a chance to see a new animated film this weekend with Lionsgate’s "Happily N’Ever After." The PG-rated film tells the story of Fairy Tale World after Cinderella’s wicked stepmother takes charge. Sigourney Weaver, Andy Dick, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and hubby Freddie Prinze Jr. lend their voices. "After" has a funny premise and with "Shrek the Third" still four months away, some audiences may give this one a try for the time being. Last January, "Hoodwinked" posted some strong numbers playing to the same crowd and bowed to $16.9M over four days with a potent $7,051 average. "Happily" does not have the same marketing strength behind it plus it faces more competition. Last weekend, six films with G or PG ratings sold over $10M
worth of tickets over four days and even with heavy declines, there will be lots of choices for family audiences. Looking to attract the biggest opening among the three new films on Friday, "Happily N’Ever After" enters 2,381 theaters and may take in around $7M this weekend.
Two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank takes the Michelle Pfeiffer route and plays a teacher schooling a group of inner city kids in "Freedom Writers" from Paramount and MTV Films. Directed by writer-turned-director Richard LaGravenese, the PG-13 film also stars "Grey’s Anatomy" hunk Patrick Dempsey. Teens and urban youngsters will make up the core audience here as Swank’s mature adult following will likely pass on this role. The actress just doesn’t have the commercial chops to anchor a film like this on her own and the buzz is not loud enough for this to become the next "Dangerous Minds." Paramount is hoping that its push on MTV will help bring in the young vote, but the pic lacks the bang to make teens want to spend the bucks. Opening in about 1,200 theaters, "Freedom Writers" could debut with around $5M.
Also expected to put only a small dent into the box office this weekend is the comedy "Code Name: The Cleaner" starring Cedric the Entertainer and Lucy Liu. Pairing black and Asian actors in an action comedy worked wonders for "Rush Hour," but here audiences will likely find the premise forced. Cedric plays a janitor who is duped into becoming an undercover agent and finds himself in the middle of an arms scandal. Both stars are great supporting players but neither has a track record of anchoring big hit films. Interested moviegoers will probably wait for the DVD. Look for the New Line release to also debut in the vicinity of $5M.
Expanding nationwide on Friday into 1,200 locations after a powerful limited bow is Universal’s futuristic drama "Children of Men." The Alfonso Cuaron-directed pic about the London of the future where no humans have been born in eighteen years stars Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, and Michael Caine. The R-rated film debuted to $702,982 from only 16 theaters for a sensational four-day average of $43,936. Serious adult moviegoers are the target audience here so the studio’s own CIA thriller "The Good Shepherd" will be the primary competitor. Reviews have been strong which will help. For the weekend, "Children of Men" could deliver roughly $7M.
Since the incoming line-up of films is not likely to do too much damage to the box office charts, it should be smooth sailing for "Night at the Museum" which looks to spend its third straight weekend at number one. "Happily N’Ever After" will take away a bit of the family crowd, but overall competition should not be too intense. Coming off of the holiday weekend, the Ben Stiller smash may drop 40% and collect $22M worth of tickets and push its stellar cume to $163M.
Will Smith‘s Golden Globe-nominated performance in "The Pursuit of Happyness" has kept moviegoers interested for three weeks. The Sony hit may slide 40% as well grossing $11.5M which would give the father-son venture $123M to date. "Dreamgirls" has been generating the best averages around since opening. Paramount could witness a 35% drop to around $9M for the frame and lift its cume to $55M.
LAST YEAR: Horror fans powered the new fright flick "Hostel" to the number one spot over the first weekend of 2006 with a $19.6M debut. The low budget Lionsgate hit went on to scare up $47.3M. Holdovers filled up the rest of the top five. "The Chronicles of Narnia" slipped to second with $15.6M followed by "King Kong" with $12.6M. The comedies "Fun with Dick and Jane" and "Cheaper by the Dozen 2" took up the next spots with $11.9M and $8.4M, respectively. The weekend’s two other new releases bombed miserably. Fox’s comedy "Grandma’s Boy" bowed to just $3M while the actioner "BloodRayne" barely made it into the Top 20 with $1.6M. Final grosses reached $6.1M and $2.4M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
This week at the movies, we’ve got a postmodern fairy tale ("Happily N’Ever After," with voicework from Sigourney Weaver and Sarah Michelle Gellar), a wacky conspiracy caper ("Code Name: The Cleaner," starring Cedric the Entertainer and Lucy Liu), a committed teacher ("Freedom Writers," starring Hilary Swank), and a chilling dystopia ("Children of Men," starring Clive Owen and Michael Caine). What do the critics have to say?
Once upon a time, in the land of make-believe (better known as Hollywood), there was a brand new formula for making dazzling kiddie movies. It was called CG, and children all over the world rejoiced when such fare as "Toy Story" and "Shrek" hit the theaters. But then an evil curse plagued the land, as a string of mediocre stories threatened to make CG stale. The latest: "Happily N’Ever After," a postmodern "Cinderella" spoof. Critics say this is a pretty charm-free affair, with less-than-dazzling images and a bland storyline. At six percent on the Tomatometer, this is a pretty grim fairy tale. And among CG features, only "Doogal," at five percent, is lower-rated.
"Sure, magic will do the dishes, but can it make my movie funny?"
Cedric the Entertainer is a funny guy, and as a supporting player he’s stolen scenes in everything from "Lemony Snicket" to "Be Cool." Sadly, he’s yet to have a starring vehicle that has utilized his comedic talents to the fullest, and it appears "Code Name: The Cleaner" is no exception. In this action/comedy, Cedric plays a janitor who stumbles into the middle of a government conspiracy, from which he tries to extricate himself with the help of Lucy Liu. The critics say the weak script does none of the actors any favors, playing up absurd thriller elements to leaden effect. At a big fat zero percent on the Tomatometer, this one’s in dire need of a "Clean-" up.
"Yes, I’ve always enjoyed the sophisticated yet robust taste of Xtreme Fruit Skittles."
Liberal and conservative education experts both have it wrong. What our inner city schools need is neither greater funding nor vouchers. In order to save the impoverished students of America, we need an unconventional, no-nonsense teacher to instruct students in ballroom dance, football, or poetry, preferably in the guise of Antonio Banderas, The Rock, or Michelle Pfeiffer. In "Freedom Writers," Hilary Swank plays a fresh-faced teacher who gets her students in touch with their creative writing side, and — wonder of wonders — it’s getting reasonably good reviews. The critics say the film may be clichéd, but it’s earnest and features strong performances. At 64 percent on the Tomatometer, this may be one to "Write" home about.
"Remember, Bagels for Complacency Day is next week."
Director Alfonso Cuaron may have made his best movie yet with "Children of Men," continuing a hot streak that began with "Y Tu Mama Tambien" and "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." This time, Cuaron has envisioned a world where women have become infertile and every country has become a dystopia or slipped into a fascist state. At 92 percent on the Tomatometer, critics are praising not only the film’s technical aspects (including seamless CG work, fluid camerawork, and complex battle scenes), but also the emotional story and performances.
"Any fool knows a dog needs a home and shelter from pigs on the wing."
Also opening this week in limited release is "Thr3e," a psychological serial killer flick with a spiritual twist, which is currently at 17 percent.
Alex Vo contributed to this article.