Luke Skywalker’s epic journey from moisture farmer to cave hermit continues this Friday with Star Wars: The Last Jedi!

Wait, a movie with ‘The Last‘ in its title? Turns out we’ve seen that one before, prompting this week’s gallery of 24 best and worst Last movies.

March Madness hits the North American box office as three new releases hit the multiplexes hoping to take down the reigning Dr. Suess toon. Tyler Perry returns with his latest comedic drama Meet the Browns, Owen Wilson makes a return of his own in the comedy Drillbit Taylor, and Joshua Jackson jets off to Japan for his horror flick Shutter. The Good Friday holiday will help boost weekend numbers since the majority of students and many adults have the day off. But the start of the NCAA college basketball tournament will keep many male moviegoers and sports fans glued to their flat-screens watching the endless string of games all day everyday over the weekend. Fox meanwhile will try to repeat at number one with its animated hit Horton Hears A Who which could become the top-grossing film of 2008 after only ten days.

Shooting for his fourth $20M+ opener, filmmaker Tyler Perry goes hunting for elephants at the box office with his latest work Meet the Browns. The PG-13 pic stars Angela Bassett as a Chicago single mother down on her luck who travels down to Georgia after the death of her father to meet the family she never knew. Starpower will come primarily from Bassett and from Perry himself who in addition to writing and directing brings the wildly popular Madea character back to the big screen after a two-year absence. The role is small but the marketing has made it known that the outlandish law-breaking matriarch is back for some laughs. Former basketball star Rick Fox also has a major role and could be useful in drawing hoops fans.

Perry has been a dependable box office sensation for over three years now drawing in sizable African American moviegoers with stories that skew a bit female. There’s no reason to believe that Browns will fail to reach the heights of his last film Why Did I Get Married? which opened to $21.4M in October. Good Friday and Easter should help boost the numbers too. Hollywood routinely underestimates Perry’s power so expect a sizzling average here. Hitting his top debut, $30M for Madea’s Family Reunion, may not be in the works, but a strong second place showing is a virtual guarantee. Lionsgate will open Meet the Browns in 2,006 theaters and may find itself with around $23M this weekend.


Rick Fox and Angela Bassett in Meet the Browns

Owen Wilson takes up the title role of Paramount’s new high school comedy Drillbit Taylor playing a homeless soldier of fortune who takes an assignment to protect a trio of teenage nerds. The actor’s biggest commercial hits have come from pairings with other big-name actors like Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller. Here he flies solo as the only star and historically that that has led to small grosses. Younger teens will make up the primary crowd so the PG-13 rating may give pause to parents of kids in the high single digits. A slight male skew is also likely. There’s ample competition so a large debut is not likely, plus Wilson’s main draw comes with adults not twelve-year-olds. The Friday holiday will get things started well, but word-of-mouth will have to take it the rest of the way. Reviews have not been too bright and March Madness will take many boys out of the picture this weekend. Debuting in about 2,700 theaters, Drillbit Taylor could punch up about $12M this weekend.


Owen Wilson in Drillbit Taylor

Another spooky Asian fright film gets the photocopy treatment by the idea-starved American horror industry in Fox’s Shutter. The PG-13 chiller stars Joshua Jackson as a photographer who discovers creepy images of a dead woman in his snapshots. The insatiable horror audience is the target here and the rating will make sure that younger teens up for a scare will be able to buy a ticket. Jackson is far removed from his Dawson’s Creek days and lacks the drawing power he once had. Plus the studio’s marketing push has not been very forceful so awareness is low. Don’t look for this one to open like The Eye or One Missed Call which both bowed in the $12-13M range. The only factors working for it are the 85 minute running time and the fact that there have been no horror films released since the Jessica Alba‘s thriller from the first weekend of February. Snapping into around 2,700 locations, Shutter could gross about $8M this weekend.


Shutter

Fox has no intentions of giving up its hold on the number one spot. The studio’s Seuss hit Horton Hears A Who looks unlikely to be defeated by the newcomers and should take advantage of the Good Friday school holiday to post a better-than-usual sophomore hold. Ice Age dropped by 35% in its second frame in 2002 while its Fox sibling Robots fell by 42% in 2005. Both were March openers but neither had the Easter holiday helping the sophomore session. The well-liked Horton might drop by 30% to about $31M and boost its ten-day total to a robust $91M.

10,000 BC should stabilize after its 53% plunge last weekend. A fall of 45% seems likely giving Warner Bros. $9M for the weekend and $76M after 17 days. A similar decline could await Never Back Down putting it at $4.5M for a ten-day sum of $16M for Summit. Martin Lawrence hasn’t exactly been setting the box office on fire with his latest comedy College Road Trip. The Disney title might drop by 30% to roughly $5.5M and lift its cume to $33M.

LAST YEAR: A six-pack of new releases cleaned house in the top ten led by the animated actioner TMNT which still had turtle power with a $24.3M debut. Warner Bros. went on to bank $54.1M with the toon which had weak legs. The studio followed in second with its Spartan blockbuster 300 which collected $19.9M in its third fight. Modern-day action was at the center of Mark Wahlberg‘s Shooter which opened in third with $14.5M on its way to a solid $47M for Paramount. Disney’s Wild Hogs followed with $13.9M. New Line’s The Last Mimzy bowed in fifth with $10M while the horror sequel The Hills Have Eyes 2 debuted close behind with $9.7M. Final grosses reached $21.5M and $20.8M, respectively. Adam Sandler‘s dramatic turn in Reign Over Me led to a $7.5M launch before a $19.7M finish. Lionsgate suffered the worst opening among the new titles with just $3.5M for the swimming drama Pride which ended with a $7.1M take.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Will Ferrell scored the gold medal at the North American box office with his latest comedy "Blades of Glory" which skated to a top spot bow. Disney settled for a silver for its new animated kids offering "Meet the Robinsons" which debuted impressively as well.

Each film had room to connect with its target audience without eating into the other’s business. Holdovers saw mixed results with some seeing moderate declines while others tumbled.

Grossing an estimated $33M in its first weekend, the Paramount release "Blades of Glory" easily led the frame during the final weekend of a robust March box office. The PG-13 film averaged a stellar $9,786 from 3,372 locations. Studio research indicated that the audience was split evenly between males and females and that 74% of the crowd was under 35. Blades was produced for just over $60M and was the fifth film of the first quarter to open above $30M – a new industry record.

Opening in second with a strong showing of its own was "Meet the Robinsons" with an estimated $25.1M from 3,413 locations for a $7,341 average. The CG toon was Disney’s third consecutive bow north of $20M following "Bridge to Terabithia" and "Wild Hogs." Robinsons carries a G rating and played to a family audience.

After leading the charts last weekend with the top two films, Warner Bros dropped to third and fourth, respectively. with "300" and "TMNT." The Spartan epic dropped 44% to an estimated $11.2M and pushed its remarkable cume to $179.7M. The Ninja Turtles pic saw a direct hit from rival toon "Meet the Robinsons" and tumbled 62% to an estimated $9.2M giving the crime fighters $38.4M in ten days.

The motorcycle comedy "Wild Hogs" followed in fifth with an estimated $8.4M, off 39%, for a total of $135.4M for Buena Vista. Paramount’s Mark Wahlberg actioner "Shooter" dropped 45% to an estimated $8M giving the sniper flick $27.2M after ten days. Sandra Bullock‘s suspense flick "Premonition" scared up an estimated $5.1M, down 47%, putting Sony’s cume at $39.3M.

Three sophomores rounded out the top ten and lifted their mediocre cumes into the teens. The New Line sci-fi film "The Last Mimzy" crumbled 60% to an estimated $4M for a sum of $16.2M. Taking in an estimated $3.9M was the horror sequel "The Hills Have Eyes 2" which fell 60% as well and has grossed $15.8M to date. Adam Sandler‘s latest money-losing stab at drama "Reign Over Me" collected an estimated $3.7M, down 50%, for a $13.3M total.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $111.5M which was down 12% from last year when "Ice Age: The Meltdown" opened at number one with $68M; but up 19% from 2005 when "Sin City" debuted on top with $29.1M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Two promising new comedies target different age groups and look to close off a red hot March box office with strong opening weekend sales.

Paramount offers the Will Ferrell pic "Blades of Glory" while Disney goes after the kids with the animated flick "Meet the Robinsons." Together, the pictures should help the marketplace surge and allow the top ten to cross the $100M mark for the fifth consecutive frame. The box office has not seen this kind of streak since last summer. Smaller films entering the multiplexes include the action pic "The Lookout" from Miramax and Universal’s uplifting drama "Peaceful Warrior."

Comedy king Will Ferrell skates into theaters everywhere looking for another gold medal with his newest laugher "Blades of Glory." The PG-13 film finds the funnyman and Jon Heder playing rival figure skaters who must team up as a pair in order to compete again. Amy Poehler, Will Arnett, Jenna Fischer, and Craig T. Nelson co-star. "Blades" boasts the two main ingredients to a successful comedy hit – a bankable star and a unique concept. Add in the very funny commercials and trailers and Paramount is well-positioned to score its second number one hit of the year joining fellow star-driven comedy "Norbit." Both pics were produced by DreamWorks.

Ferrell left the competition in the dust last summer with "Talladega Nights" which bowed to a robust $47M on its way to a $148M final. "Blades" doesn’t have as big of a marketing push or the prime summer play period so its opening will not soar as high. But the former "Saturday Night Live" star will again prove that he is a reliable draw. The industry had some doubts in 2005 when both "Bewitched" and "Kicking and Screaming" failed to reach $65M. Ferrell’s 2004 hit "Anchorman" debuted to $28.4M and "Blades" should play out like that one, only bigger. Teens and young adults will be the driving force plus there is plenty of cross-gender appeal. Though the marketplace is crowded with many options, there aren’t too many direct threats. "Wild Hogs," the only major comedy, is getting old as is "300" which most high school and college students have already seen. Spinning into over 3,000 theaters, "Blades of Glory" should finish in first place and win about $37M over the weekend.


Ferrell and Heder in "Blades of Glory."

Disney uses its patented moves to go after the family audience with its latest animated offering "Meet the Robinsons." With most digital toons these days being of the PG variety, "Robinsons" carries a G rating which it hopes will help convince parents to buy tickets for even the youngest of their children. The story follows an orphan boy who befriends a kind family and features the voices of Angela Bassett, Tom Selleck, and Adam West. In the cartoon world, films sell best when they are comedies and feature popular comedians in central roles. "Robinsons" at least has the first factor working for it.

The marketing has been strong and trailers have been funny. But unlike the studio’s last film for kids, "Bridge to Terabithia," this time competition will be a force. "TMNT" and "The Last Mimzy" will only be in their second weekends and are set to steal away about $20M worth of business from the same target audience. Luckily, the weekend’s two other new films will attract different segments of the moviegoing crowd. "Meet the Robinsons" does not have the firepower to reach the heights of Pixar pics. Rather, it may bring out the same size audience as last fall’s "Open Season" which bowed to $23.2M from an ultrawide 3,833 locations. "Meet the Robinsons" bows in roughly 3,200 sites but could exploit its studio’s brand name to deliver a similar gross of about $23M.


Let’s "Meet the Robinsons."

Years after leaving the sitcom world of NBC’s "3rd Rock From the Sun," Joseph Gordon-Levitt anchors the heist thriller "The Lookout." The R-rated Miramax release comes from writer-turned-rookie-director Scott Frank and co-stars Jeff Daniels. Starpower is seriously lacking here and that will hurt its box office prospects. Reviews have been good, but the target audience of young adults have "Blades of Glory," "300," and "Shooter" to choose from and all of them offer more for the money. With only so much marketing and distribution strength behind it, the film will have a tough time just getting an invite to the top ten. "The Lookout" debuts in about 1,000 theaters on Friday and could collect about $4M over three days.


Jeff Daniels and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in "The Lookout."

In an unorthodox approach, Universal will be releasing the inspirational drama "Peaceful Warrior" in 615 theaters this weekend but most moviegoers will actually be getting free tickets through a promotion with Best Buy. The PG-13 film starring Nick Nolte was given a limited release last summer and grossed more than $1M from just over 40 theaters. Universal will report box office grosses that include regular paid sales plus full ticket prices for each free admission. With $15M worth of free tickets allocated for opening weekend, it will be unlikely that the paid portion will make up a sizable amount. Film fans who visit the promotional web site can get up to ten complimentary tickets each. However, the studio should get some extra buzz that it could benefit from when the DVD is released a few months down the road.


Nick Nolte and Scott Mechlowicz in "Peaceful Warrior."

The Ninja Turtles ruled the box office last weekend in "TMNT," but will face a formidable foe in Disney’s "Meet the Robinsons" which will play to the same audience. A 40% drop would give the animated actioner $14M for the frame and $43M after ten days. Warner Bros has also been raking in the dough with its stylish war epic 300 which has been holding up surprisingly well. Another 40% fall will put the R-rated battle pic at $12M boosting the cume to $180M after 24 days. Mark Wahlberg‘s "Shooter" could decline by 45% to $8M giving Paramount a ten-day total of $27M.

LAST YEAR: Smashing the March opening weekend record set four years earlier by its predecessor, "Ice Age: The Meltdown" shot straight to number one with a colossal $68M debut. The Fox juggernaut went on to gross $195.3M domestically and a towering $657M worldwide giving the "Ice Age" duo over $1 billion in global grosses. Dropping to second was "Inside Man" with $15.4M. Warner Bros. launched its urban drama "ATL" in third with $11.6M on its way to $21.2M. Rounding out the top five were "Failure to Launch" with $6.5M and "V for Vendetta" with $6.3M. The horror flick "Slither" creeped into eighth place with a $3.9M opening leading to a $7.8M final. Sony claimed the year’s most notorious flop with "Basic Instinct 2" which bowed to $3.2M on its way to a pathetic $5.9M before sweeping the Razzie Awards.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

A crowded box office saw six new films shove their way into the multiplexes this weekend, but it was the Warner Bros. animated film "TMNT" that led the way knocking the studio’s own historical battle film "300" from the number one spot.

Mark Wahlberg‘s new sniper pic "Shooter" enjoyed a decent opening in third place while the rest of the debuting films saw more modest results. Overall, the box office was vibrant with seven different pictures hitting double digit millions.

Turtle power conquered North America as "TMNT" ruled the weekend with an opening of $25.5M, according to estimates. The PG-rated toon averaged a powerful $8,183 from 3,110 theaters and collected an amount that was almost identical to the record $25.4M debut of the live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from March 1990. However, ticket prices were much lower 17 years ago and films played in fewer theaters so that hit’s $12,661 average from 2,006 locations was more impressive. With few new choices for kids in recent weeks, "TMNT" was able to corner the market for young ones. However, long term success could be challenging as Disney will unleash its rival animated entry "Meet the Robinsons" this Friday.

After two weeks on top of the charts, the Spartan war epic "300" dropped to second place but still held up well despite the onslaught of new films. The Warner Bros. blockbuster fell by only 38% to an estimated $20.5M and lifted its cume to a staggering $162.4M after 17 days. The R-rated smash now looks likely to reach the $200M mark domestically — a level no March film has ever reached before.

Overseas, "300" dominated the marketplace with its invasion of the U.K. and several key European countries with a colossal $48M from 33 markets with 5,000 prints. That pushed the international total to $79M and the global gross to $241M. 300 should dominate the spring box office worldwide and could go on to surpass $500M.

Mark Wahlberg‘s new action thriller "Shooter" opened in third place with an estimated $14.5M from 2,806 locations. The Paramount release averaged a good $5,168 per theater and played to an adult aduience. Studio research showed that two-thirds of the crowd for the R-rated film was age 25 or older. "Shooter" finds the recent Oscar nominee playing a former marine wrongly accused of trying to kill the U.S. President. The budget was just over $60M.

With no new comedies opening among the half-dozen new releases, Buena Vista’s motorcycle laugher "Wild Hogs" held strong once again and slipped only 25% to an estimated $14.4M. The Tim AllenJohn Travolta pic has upped its cume to $123.8M to date making it 2007’s second biggest blockbuster trailing only the Spartan tale. "Hogs" is also the top-grossing release for Disney since Johnny Depp‘s pirate smash from last summer.

Three films claimed estimates near the $10M mark and could see their rankings get shuffled when final numbers are reported on Monday. New Line opened its kids adventure "The Last Mimzy" with an estimated $10.2M from 3,017 theaters for a mild $3,381 average. The sci-fi tale earned mixed reviews and faced stiff competition for children from "TMNT."

After enjoying a career-high opening, Sandra Bullock saw her critically-panned suspense thriller "Premonition" fall by a reasonable 43% in its second weekend to an estimated $10.1M. Sony has scared up a solid $32.2M in ten days for the $20M production and should conclude with $55-60M.

Fox Atomic, the studio’s division that targets teens and young adults, bowed its horror sequel "The Hills Have Eyes II" to the tune of $10M, according to estimates. Averaging a mediocre $4,087 from 2,447 locations, the R-rated zombie flick opened 54 weeks after its predecessor which itself was a remake. The first "Hills" performed better and opened to $15.7M and a $5,996 average last March on its way to $41.8M. Eyes 2 cost $15M to produce and played mostly to an under-25 audience. Males and females were almost equally represented.

The Adam Sandler drama "Reign Over Me" debuted in eighth place with an estimated $8M from 1,671 sites for a commendable $4,788 average per theater. The R-rated film about a man who loses his way in life after his family is killed on September 11 earned good marks from critics. Given the difference in subject matter, "Reign" played primarily to adult women and not to the young male crowd that the funnyman usually attracts with his comedies. Studio research showed that 59% of the audience was female and 60% was 25 or older. The $20M production co-stars Don Cheadle and Jada Pinkett Smith and opened a bit below Sandler’s mature pic "Spanglish" which bowed to only $8.8M in 2004.

Lionsgate’s swim team drama "Pride" tanked in its opening weekend diving into just $4M, according to estimates. Starring Cheadle’s "Crash" co-star Terrence Howard, the PG-rated film averaged a weak $2,655 from 1,518 locations and earned mixed reviews from critics. Rounding out the top ten was the killer doll flick "Dead Silence" with an estimated $3.5M in its second weekend. Off a steep 55%, the Universal release has grossed $13.3M in ten days and should finish with just under $20M.

With all the new faces, six films tumbled out of the top ten over the weekend with declines of more than 50% each. Chris Rock‘s latest film "I Think I Love My Wife" fell 51% in its second weekend to an estimated $2.8M for a ten-day cume of only $10M. A final gross of about $15M seems likely. Disney’s fantasy drama "Bridge to Terabithia" dropped 55% to an estimated $2.3M in its sixth frame. With a strong $78.9M in the bank, Bridge looks to end its run with $82-84M.

Sony’s "Ghost Rider" took in an estimated $1.7M, down 59%, for a $113.2M cume. The Nicolas Cage actioner should finish with roughly $116M. Paramount’s serial killer drama "Zodiac" has been one of the year’s big underperformers and crumbled 63% to an estimated $1.2M. The $65M film has collected only $31.7M thus far and looks to end with a disappointing $34M.

The Eddie Murphy hit "Norbit" has performed much better for Paramount and grossed an estimated $1M this weekend, off 63%, pushing the total to $94.1M. A $96M final is likely. Hugh Grant‘s latest comedy has made half as much. "Music and Lyrics," co-starring Drew Barrymore, fell 60% to an estimated $920,000 pushing the total to $49.2M. Look for a $51M final.

Fox Searchlight once again generated the best per-theater average in the Top 20 with Mira Nair‘s "The Namesake" which expanded from 41 to 117 theaters and grossed an estimated $1.4M. Averaging a sturdy $11,581 per site, the PG-13 pic upped its total to $2.7M and will add another 125 theaters this Friday.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $120.6M which was up 27% from last year when "Inside Man" opened at number one with $29M; and up 39% from 2005 when "Guess Who" debuted on top with $20.7M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

A half-dozen new soldiers enter the marketplace this weekend trying to topple the kingdom of "300" which has reigned supreme at the box office for the past two weeks.

Mark Wahlberg toplines the sniper thriller "Shooter," animated ninja turtles fight crime in "TMNT," and mutated zombies attack in "The Hills Have Eyes 2." In addition, moviegoers will get to choose from the kids adventure "The Last Mimzy," the sports saga "Pride," and the Adam Sandler drama "Reign Over Me." Holdovers should witness some large declines as these new pics all fight over the time and attention of ticket buyers. The box office may not have room for all to survive.

Seventeen years after shocking the film industry with a record March opening, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are back but in animated form in "TMNT." The Warner Bros. toon features the voices of Patrick Stewart, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Ziyi Zhang and carries a PG rating that is friendly for kids. Given the violence, "TMNT" should skew more to boys and might even pull in those who grew up with the characters in the late 1980s and early 1990s. With all the R-rated films recently, there have not been too many choices for kids this spring. "The Last Mimzy" is the only new release that will provide direct competition for that audience. Bringing its turtle power to 3,110 theaters, "TMNT" may generate a bow of roughly $16M this weekend.


They’re back.

Hot off his recent Oscar nomination, Mark Wahlberg hits the big screen in the action thriller "Shooter" playing a former Marine sniper trying to clear his name after being wrongly accused of trying to assassinate the U.S. President. The R-rated film comes from "Training Day" director Antoine Fuqua and co-stars Danny Glover and Michael Peña. The film is banking on the starpower of Wahlberg who has been able to anchor hits in recent years. Late summer pics like last year’s "Invincible" and 2005’s "Four Brothers" opened to $17M and $21.2M, respectively, and brought in solid sales overall. "Shooter" is targeting the adult action crowd with appeal that will reach both men and women. Certainly "300" will play to much of the same audience and be a factor. Though no Damon or Cruise, Wahlberg has indeed become a believable action hero and is in a role that audiences will buy him in. Plus his Academy nod for "The Departed" has only increased audience respect for the former rapper. Opening in 2,600 theaters, "Shooter" might take in about $16M for the weekend.


Mark Wahlberg, playing a guy named Swagger, in a movie called "Shooter."

Last March, Fox Searchlight hit gold with the horror remake "The Hills Have Eyes" which bowed to $15.7M and grossed $41.8M overall. A year later, the sequel is born this time coming out through Fox Atomic, the studio’s new division geared towards young adult audiences with genre fare. "Eyes 2" once again is targeting the horror crowd with slick marketing hoping to lure in those seeking R-rated gore and violence. Plus the distributor is premiering the trailer to the upcoming fright sequel "28 Weeks Later" with the new "Hills" installment to help give moviegoers more for their money. Much of the audience for the first pic will probably return, although the sequel will face more competition as "300" and "Shooter" will both be drawing in young men. Attacking 2,500 theaters, "The Hills Have Eyes 2" could open to around $13M this weekend.


"The Hills Have Eyes, Too."

New Line studio chief Bob Shaye steps back into the director’s chair with the family adventure "The Last Mimzy" based on a popular short story. The "E.T."-like film about a boy and a girl who find a mysterious animal with mystical powers hopes to attract an audience of kids and parents, but will have to face some stiff competition from its studio’s former heroes, the Ninja Turtles. That toon should take away more boys than girls so "Mimzy" may end up skewing a bit more female. New Line hopes that much of the crowd that spent $75M and counting on "Bridge to Terabithia" will take a spin with this new effects-filled fantasy so sneak previews were held to help raise awareness and get buzz spreading. Still, a competitive environment will probably cut into its potential. Landing in over 3,000 sites, "The Last Mimzy" might gross about $12M this weekend.


"The Last Mimzy."

Targeting the African American audience this weekend is Lionsgate with its swim team drama "Pride" starring Terrence Howard. The PG-rated film will try to appeal to males with the sports saga and females with its human drama and half-nude muscular men. But Howard has not yet proven that he can open a picture on his own and "Pride" may not be the one to increase his future salary demands. "Remember the Titans" and "Coach Carter" both opened north of $20M and much of that was due to starpower. Plus Chris Rock found out last week that African Americans will not just show up for any film with a predominantly black cast. Diving into 1,518 theaters, "Pride" could swim to a weekend gross of about $7M.


Terrence Howard in "Pride."

Adam Sandler goes back to serious territory with the R-rated drama "Reign Over Me" playing a man whose life fell apart after his wife and kids were killed on 9/11. It’s no surprise Sony is releasing the film given all the cash the comedian has made for the studio over the years. Don Cheadle and Jada Pinkett Smith co-star. Given the subject matter, the rating, and Sandler’s Bob Dylan haircut, the actor’s core audience of immature young males will not be lining up this time. Remember "Spanglish‘"s $8.8M bow? Well, it could get worse for "Reign." After "United 93" and "World Trade Center," demand isn’t very high for yet another look at September 11. Given all the choices in the marketplace, adult audiences will be divided between many films so only a small slice might go this way. Debuting in 1,671 venues, "Reign Over Me" could open with about $6M.


Sandler and Cheadle in "Reign Over Me."

The mighty King Leonidas barely broke a sweat over the last two weeks in his box office victories. But the invading armies this weekend will pose a great threat to "300"’s rule. "Shooter" and "Hills" will provide the most direct competition. A 50% drop may be in order which would leave the Warner Bros. epic with roughly $16.5M for the frame and an impressive $157M in 17 days.

"Wild Hogs" may finally see a normal drop and slide by 40% to $11M giving Buena Vista $121M to date. "Premonition" should lose half of its audience and fall to $9M for a ten-day cume of $30M.

LAST YEAR: Spike Lee and Denzel Washington joined forces for the heist thriller "Inside Man" and found themselves at number one with a potent $29M opening. Universal went on to collect $88.5M domestically and $183M worldwide. The competing actioner "V for Vendetta" dropped from first to second with $12.3M falling 52% in its second weekend. Debuting in third was the horror flick "Stay Alive" with $10.7M on its way to $23.1M for Buena Vista. Rounding out the top five were "Failure to Launch" with $10.5M and "The Shaggy Dog" with $9M, both in their third weekends. Bowing in seventh place was the blue collar comedy "Larry the Cable Guy" with $6.9M leading to a $15.7M final.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

This week at the movies we’ve got turtle power ("TMNT"), whimsy ("The Last Mimzy," starring Timothy Hutton), conspiracies ("Shooter," starring Mark Wahlberg), buddies ("Reign Over Me," starring Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle), swimmers ("Pride," starring Terrence Howard), and cannibals ("The Hills Have Eyes 2"). What do the critics have to say?

"TMNT" marks a CG return for the pizza-loving, sewer-dwelling 1980s icons. However, to paraphrase the theme song, it appears movie critics are unwilling to cut "TMNT" any slack. The film details the turtles’ attempt to defeat an army of ancient warriors and the Foot Clan, despite dissention in the ranks. Critics say the CG animation looks fine, but the story is lacking, and "TMNT" lacks the goofy charm of its lower-fidelity predecessors. At 20 percent on the Tomatometer, this one appears to be a bit short on turtle power.


"20 percent Tomatometer? Oh…shellshock…!"

Based upon a short story by Lewis Padgett, "The Last Mimzy" tells the fanciful tale of two siblings who, after discovering a box of discarded toys, gain special powers, get involved with time travel, win a science contest, and run afoul with the Patriot Act. If this sounds ambitious for a kids flick, critics agree. In fact, they’re saying it’s too ambitious: despite excellent moments, "Mimzy" lacks focus and frequently veers towards awkward, New Age feelgoodness. It’s at 52 percent Tomatometer.


"Through concentration, I can raise and lower my cholesterol at will."

Leaving the extravagance of "King Arthur" and "Tears of the Sun" behind, director Antoine Fuqua tones it down for "Shooter," a simpler kind of action flick. One man, one gun, one word for the title. Mark Wahlberg stars as former Army sniper Bob Lee Swagger (a movie moniker if there ever was one) who finds himself on the run and in the midst of a government conspiracy. The scribes say Wahlberg does a decent job, but the film skimps on logic and contains more plot holes than a target down at your local gun club. At 29 percent on the Tomatometer, "Shooter" misses the mark.


"I have a coupon for this I got from the penny saver."

In "Reign Over Me," Adam Sandler, looking like "Blonde on Blonde"-era Bob Dylan, stars as a man still reeling from the loss of his family in the 9/11 attacks. He drops in on his college roommate (Don Cheadle), who’s got family issues of his own. Critics say "Reign Over Me" provides proof, were it needed after "Punch Drunk Love," that Adam Sandler is capable of playing serious roles, and helmer Mike Binder manages to keep the film funny and touching without overdosing on sentiment. At 73 percent on the Tomatometer, "Reign" shines.


"Everybody’s gone but me and you, and I can’t be the last to leave."

Terrence Howard is a terrific actor, but critics say he can’t save "Pride," a by-the-numbers sports flick based on an interesting true story. Howard stars as Jim Ellis, the coach of an all-African American high school swim team; the squad faces a number of obstacles, from racism to unsympathetic city officials. The pundits say Howard gives another outstanding performance, but "Pride" sinks under the weight of cliché. It currently stands at 38 percent on the Tomatometer.


"If you want respect, you’ve got to ask nicely and say please."

The peepers of critics have yet to grace "The Hills Have Eyes 2," since it wasn’t screened. This sequel to a remake tells the tale of a group of National Guardsmen who stumble upon a group of cannibals in the New Mexico desert. Finish up that tasty meal you’re eating and Guess the Tomatometer.


"You know, a little lotion would help those dry hands."

Also opening this week in limited release: "Air Guitar Nation," a spirited rockumentary about the art of the air strum, is at 100 percent; "Offside," Iranian master Jafar Panahi’s examination of politics through the lens of soccer, is at 95 percent; "The Page Turner," a Hitchcockian tale of revenge and music from France, is at 88 percent; "Boy Culture," featuring the trials and tribulations of three gay roommates, is at 86 percent; "Journey From the Fall," a drama about a family’s struggles at the end of the Vietnam’s civil war, is at 67 percent; "Colour Me Kubrick," a comedy about a man impersonating the director starring John Malkovich, is at 58 percent; and the noirish "First Snow," starring Guy Pearce and Piper Perabo, is at 50 percent; and "Memory," a sci-fi thriller starring Ann-Margaret and Dennis Hopper, is at 20 percent.


"Don’t move. You have a bee on your head."

And finally, props to SlyDante for coming the closest to guessing "Dead Silence"’s 24 percent Tomatometer.

Recent Mark Wahlberg Movies:
————————————-
93% — The Departed (2006)
70% — Invincible (2006)
52% — Four Brothers (2005)
61% — I Heart Huckabees (2004)
73% — The Italian Job (2003)

Recent Adam Sandler Movies:
————————————-
32% — Click (2006)
30% — The Longest Yard (2005)
52% — Spanglish (2004)
43% — 50 First Dates (2004)
42% — Anger Management (2003)


Bob Shaye is known for a lot of things in Hollywood that don’t have much to do with directing movies (heading New Line Cinema, producing the “Nightmare on Elm Street” series, sparring with Peter Jackson). Now the uber-exec’s going back to semi-uncharted territory with the family fantasy “The Last Mimzy,” marking what is only his second directorial effort to date.

We met Shaye a few months back at the Sundance Film Festival, where New Line held a special screening of “Mimzy” to commemorate Shaye’s thirty years in the movie biz. Contrary to many a “LOTR” fan’s worst dreams, he’s a genial guy with an obvious affection for the movies whose passion for this project spanned more than a decade. With “Mimzy,” Shaye steps out of the deal-making/producing arena to take on his first directing gig in seventeen years (Shaye’s first and, until now, last film was 1990’s “Book of Love”).

We spoke with Shaye about the making of “Mimzy” (based on Lewis Padgett’s 1943 short story “Mimsy Were The Borogroves”), the film’s core sci-fi logic that could be real, and Shaye’s own take on sitting in the director’s chair. [During the festival, New Line bought remake rights to Slamdance film “King of Kong,” a documentary to be released later this year by Picturehouse about obsessively competitive video game rivals — look for Shaye’s businessman take on that as well.]


Bob Shaye tenderly cradles his Rotten Tomatoes t-shirt

Q: “The Last Mimzy” is said to have been at least 12 years in the making. Why did it take so long?

Bob Shaye: Well, for a couple of reasons. One, because I wasn’t exclusively focused on it, and neither was Michael Phillips, who was the producer. Second of all, it came from a really great science fiction short story, but it was a short story that had for me a fascinating premise, but a totally incomplete story arc.

It’s the story about two kids who find a box of objects, and they don’t know what they are but they look like toys and they start playing with them; what they are in fact are teaching machines from the future. And it’s a true scientific fact that kids’ brains don’t get hardwired until they’re about six or seven years old, when they start throwing off all these synapses that are in there and their whole brain system starts to focus and reduce.

So if there was a way, theoretically, to communicate with kids whose brains are not hardwired yet, by somehow…getting a five year old girl to figure out what non-Euclidean geometry is, as an example, of something I haven’t a clue about, and other sorts of scientific stuff, those kids could theoretically become beyond what we consider genius now. And I thought that was a really fascinating idea.

[“The Last Mimzy”‘s press notes cite current research in physics and neuroscience alluding to theoretical possibilities of both time travel and the genetic loss of traits like innocence, both of which ground the film’s fictional logic.]

But it took a long time to put together, and we didn’t really know how to end the film; at least when we started the development process, we had the story…[it] actually ends with the kids getting their brains changed, and they become super geniuses and they disappear, and that’s the end of the story. I didn’t think that was going to be such a hot storyline for a movie! So we had to figure out a bunch of stuff — what the toys were, where they came from, what they were doing here, what is the effect on the family altogether, and eventually what the kids would do with them and what would make it into an exiting adventure that also was touching.

Q: The story is a bit reminiscent of “E.T.“…

BS: Well, obviously any reference to that is a great compliment, as long as people don’t think I was knocking off Steven Spielberg, ’cause I definitely wasn’t. But what we were hoping, and what initial screenings indicated, is that it’s a film that parents like to bring their kids to. There’s enough with Rainn Wilson and Kathryn Hahn, who play a kind of comedic sidebar, there’s a lot for parents to like; the extra pleasure for them is to have kids with them that they can see enjoying the film as much as they do, without being bored. It’s definitely not a pink pony movie. Actually, it was written too by the guy who wrote and won an Academy Award for “Ghost,” Joel Rubin. I thought he was so clever in putting the Whoopi Goldberg character in the middle of that great dramatic story, so I asked him to write Rainn Wilson’s role, and Kathryn’s, so there was some comedy, there was some grown up stuff in it. But it’s still a PG movie, and we wanted to make sure that parents felt comfortable bringing their kids to it, as well as enjoying the movie themselves.

Q: It’s great that the concept of the kids doesn’t pander to children, like many children’s movies.

BS: And then there’s the last theme, that — I’ll say to you, as I’ve said to others — I’m definitely not a message filmmaker, I often quote Samuel Goldwyn, “If I want to send a message I use Western Union,” and being pedantic or pointing a finger is absolutely not one thing I want to do. But in the context of this story, and what the toys are doing and what was happening, it did begin to dawn on me that there was a comment — not an instruction, but a comment — that we do seem to be losing our innocence a little bit, and that’s kind of the subtext of the movie.


Youngsters Noah and Emma find a trove of strange toys in “The Last Mimzy”

Q: It occurred to me that maybe this film couldn’t resonate so well ten years ago, if you had made it right away, because we’re so technologically-obsessed right now.

BS: Yeah, that’s just great synchronicity. The movie’s about synchronicity, and Jung and all that stuff, in some very, very subtle way. But yeah, I don’t think this film would have worked ten years ago. There hasn’t been a movie like this, I don’t believe, for a very long time — since “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” perhaps. The producer, Michael Phillips, produced “Close Encounters” before this. It’s about that we are very mortal, and sometimes some of us forget what being mortal really means.

Q: How would you characterize your directorial style, since we haven’t seen a lot from you?

BS: Well, my style is…first of all, I had a lot of baggage when I signed on to this thing — I was head of a company, started a company, I’d only directed one movie before, I directed some shorts and stuff, but still…it’s hard to ask professionals to put themselves on the line, you know, because I am the director and they can’t go off and make the movie without the director, like a symphony without a conductor.

So first of all I got to be great friends with all of the actors, including the kids. But my style is basically, let’s talk about the scene, let me tell you what I think about it, why don’t you give me some idea, show me what you want to do! And the most important thing for this movie, because it is so full of fantasy, is that they play it so straight, and real, and honest. So everybody did that, and I think they pulled it off very well.

Q: How’s the experience (at Sundance) different as a director rather than an exec?

BS: Well, they once asked Stanley Kubrick ‘have you ever taken a vacation,” and he said “A vacation from what?” So it’s fun to be treated a little bit like talent and not like some crummy distributor or evil producer, which has also been the case. It’s nice to be part of the product in this way as opposed to being a bystander.

Q: Not to stray off the bat, but a purchase was just made recently here at the festival, “King of Kong.” Did you have input into that?

BS: Oh yes. It was brought to my attention, and we’re hoping eventually that the film could have a remake as a dramatic film, and we saw the documentary and liked it a lot. It started to resonate with me, it took a little bit of time to “get it,” — but not too long, I thought about it overnight — and Toby Emmerich, who’s president of our production company was very enthusiastic, as was Richard Brenner, who’s his Number Two guy. I supported it, I’m very proud that they selected us; I know there was a lot of competition for it. Picturehouse, first and foremost, is going to be distributing the documentary, which is a perfect platform. If we get inspired, and come up with a good script and a good cast, it’ll really be a fun feature film.

It’s gonna be comedic, and we’ve got several outstanding comedians in mind to play the two guys.

Q: Anyone in particular?

BS: I can’t tell you. Stay tuned!

Robert Shaye is known for a lot of things in Hollywood that don’t have much to do with directing movies (heading New Line Cinema, producing the "Nightmare on Elm Street" series, sparring with Peter Jackson). Now the uber-exec’s going back to semi-uncharted territory with the family fantasy "The Last Mimzy," marking what is only his second directorial effort to date.

We met Shaye a few months back at the Sundance Film Festival, where New Line held a special screening of "Mimzy" to commemorate Shaye’s thirty years in the movie biz. Contrary to many a "LOTR" fan’s worst dreams, he’s a genial guy with an obvious affection for the movies whose passion for this project spanned more than a decade. With "Mimzy," Shaye steps out of the deal-making/producing arena to take on his first directing gig in seventeen years (Shaye’s first and, until now, last film was 1990’s "Book of Love").

RT spoke with Shaye about the making of "Mimzy" (based on Lewis Padgett’s 1943 short story "Mimsy Were The Borogroves"), the film’s core sci-fi logic that could be real, and Shaye’s own take on sitting in the director’s chair. [During the festival, New Line bought remake rights to Slamdance film "King of Kong," a documentary to be released later this year by Picturehouse about obsessively competitive video game rivals — look for Shaye’s businessman take on that as well.]


Bob Shaye tenderly cradles his Rotten Tomatoes t-shirt


Rotten Tomatoes: "The Last Mimzy" is said to have been at least 12 years in the making. Why did it take so long?

Bob Shaye: Well, for a couple of reasons. One, because I wasn’t exclusively focused on it, and neither was Michael Phillips, who was the producer. Second of all, it came from a really great science fiction short story, but it was a short story that had for me a fascinating premise, but a totally incomplete story arc.

It’s the story about two kids who find a box of objects, and they don’t know what they are but they look like toys and they start playing with them; what they are in fact are teaching machines from the future. And it’s a true scientific fact that kids’ brains don’t get hardwired until they’re about six or seven years old, when they start throwing off all these synapses that are in there and their whole brain system starts to focus and reduce.

So if there was a way, theoretically, to communicate with kids whose brains are not hardwired yet, by somehow…getting a five year old girl to figure out what non-Euclidean geometry is, as an example, of something I haven’t a clue about, and other sorts of scientific stuff, those kids could theoretically become beyond what we consider genius now. And I thought that was a really fascinating idea.


Emma Wilder (Rhiannon Leigh Wryn) hugs Mimzy

["The Last Mimzy"’s press notes cite current research in physics and neuroscience alluding to theoretical possibilities of both time travel and the genetic loss of traits like innocence, both of which ground the film’s fictional logic.]

But it took a long time to put together, and we didn’t really know how to end the film; at least when we started the development process, we had the story…[it] actually ends with the kids getting their brains changed, and they become super geniuses and they disappear, and that’s the end of the story. I didn’t think that was going to be such a hot storyline for a movie! So we had to figure out a bunch of stuff — what the toys were, where they came from, what they were doing here, what is the effect on the family altogether, and eventually what the kids would do with them and what would make it into an exiting adventure that also was touching.

RT: The themes are a bit reminiscent of "E.T."…

BS: Well, obviously any reference to that is a great compliment, as long as people don’t think I was knocking off Steven Spielberg, ’cause I definitely wasn’t. But what we were hoping, and what initial screenings indicated, is that it’s a film that parents like to bring their kids to. There’s enough with Rainn Wilson and Kathryn Hahn, who play a kind of comedic sidebar, there’s a lot for parents to like; the extra pleasure for them is to have kids with them that they can see enjoying the film as much as they do, without being bored. It’s definitely not a pink pony movie. Actually, it was written too by the guy who wrote and won an Academy Award for "Ghost," Joel Rubin. I thought he was so clever in putting the Whoopi Goldberg character in the middle of that great dramatic story, so I asked him to write Rainn Wilson’s role, and Kathryn’s, so there was some comedy, there was some grown up stuff in it. But it’s still a PG movie, and we wanted to make sure that parents felt comfortable bringing their kids to it, as well as enjoying the movie themselves.

RT: It’s great that the concept of the kids doesn’t pander to children, like many children’s movies.

BS: And then there’s the last theme, that — I’ll say to you, as I’ve said to others — I’m definitely not a message filmmaker, I often quote Samuel Goldwyn, "If I want to send a message I use Western Union," and being pedantic or pointing a finger is absolutely not one thing I want to do. But in the context of this story, and what the toys are doing and what was happening, it did begin to dawn on me that there was a comment — not an instruction, but a comment — that we do seem to be losing our innocence a little bit, and that’s kind of the subtext of the movie.


Youngsters Noah and Emma find a trove of strange toys in "The Last Mimzy"

RT: It occurred to me that maybe this film couldn’t resonate so well ten years ago, if you had made it right away, because we’re so technologically-obsessed right now.

BS: Yeah, that’s just great synchronicity. The movie’s about synchronicity, and Jung and all that stuff, in some very, very subtle way. But yeah, I don’t think this film would have worked ten years ago. There hasn’t been a movie like this, I don’t believe, for a very long time — since "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," perhaps. The producer, Michael Phillips, produced "Close Encounters" before this. It’s about that we are very mortal, and sometimes some of us forget what being mortal really means.

RT: How would you characterize your directorial style, since we haven’t seen a lot from you?

BS: Well, my style is…first of all, I had a lot of baggage when I signed on to this thing — I was head of a company, started a company, I’d only directed one movie before, I directed some shorts and stuff, but still…it’s hard to ask professionals to put themselves on the line, you know, because I am the director and they can’t go off and make the movie without the director, like a symphony without a conductor.

So first of all I got to be great friends with all of the actors, including the kids. But my style is basically, let’s talk about the scene, let me tell you what I think about it, why don’t you give me some idea, show me what you want to do! And the most important thing for this movie, because it is so full of fantasy, is that they play it so straight, and real, and honest. So everybody did that, and I think they pulled it off very well.

RT: How’s the experience (at Sundance) different as a director rather than an exec?

BS: Well, they once asked Stanley Kubrick ‘have you ever taken a vacation,’ and he said ‘A vacation from what?’ So it’s fun to be treated a little bit like talent and not like some crummy distributor or evil producer, which has also been the case. It’s nice to be part of the product in this way as opposed to being a bystander.

RT: Not to stray off the bat, but a purchase was just made recently here at the festival, "King of Kong." Did you have input into that?

BS: Oh yes. It was brought to my attention, and we’re hoping eventually that the film could have a remake as a dramatic film, and we saw the documentary and liked it a lot. It started to resonate with me, it took a little bit of time to "get it," — but not too long, I thought about it overnight — and Toby Emmerich, who’s president of our production company was very enthusiastic, as was Richard Brenner, who’s his Number Two guy. I supported it, I’m very proud that they selected us; I know there was a lot of competition for it. Picturehouse, first and foremost, is going to be distributing the documentary, which is a perfect platform. If we get inspired, and come up with a good script and a good cast, it’ll really be a fun feature film.

It’s gonna be comedic, and we’ve got several outstanding comedians in mind to play the two guys.

RT: Anyone in particular?

BS: I can’t tell you. Stay tuned!

"The Last Mimzy" opens Friday in wide release.

In this week’s Ketchup, The much anticipated return of "Indiana Jones" is confirmed, and the "National Treasure" sequel gets a flashy title.

Also, "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" heads to the small screen (again), and we’ve got another trailer for "Spider-Man 3" and "Transformers" (anyone sensing a pattern here?). Read on.

This Week’s Most Popular News:

"Indiana Jones" Returns…Again!

Action-adventure fans rejoice! Producer George Lucas has announced that "Indiana Jones 4" (sequel #3, if you’re counting) will begin filming in 2007!

"National Treasure" Sequel Gets a Title and Release Date

We know most of the crew is returning for a sequel to "National Treasure," but what’s the movie going to be called?

"Mr. & Mrs. Smith" Make the Leap to the Small Screen

Director Doug Liman and screenwriter Simon Kinberg are about to bring their "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" to network television — only I wouldn’t expect Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie to reprise their roles. (Funny but true: There was a "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" series a few years ago; it starred Scott Bakula and Maria Bello, and it went nowhere fast.)

First Official TV Spot for "Spider-Man 3"

We’ve all watched the "Spider-Man 3" trailer about 19 times by now, so here’s something new: The very first TV spot! Hey, we’ll take what we can get…

Spielberg and Bay Say Konnichi-wa, Japan with New "Transformers" Trailer!

In addition to a couple of character shots not included in the US trailer, watch the Japan-only "Transformers" teaser to see Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay hurdle over the language barrier and address their Japanese audience…in Japanese!


What are the odds of getting another "Transformers" teaser next week?

In Other News:

  • THINKFilm has acquired rights to "War Dance," a documentary that will premiere at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.
  • Hank Azaria will make his feature directorial debut on the comedy "Outsourced," for Columbia Pictures.
  • The script of the sci-fi romance "The Time Traveller’s Wife" is reportedly undergoing a rewrite, with Bruce Joel Rubin ("Deep Impact," "Ghost") undertaking the project for New Line.
  • The Weinstein Company has acquired North American and U.K. rights to "I’m Not There," the biographical film about legendary singer Bob Dylan.
  • Corbin Bernsen is writing, directing and producing the Christmas comedy "3 Day Test" which will begin filming in February in Kipling, Saskatchewan.
  • "Heroes" star Masi Oka is in negotiations to play a supporting role in Columbia Pictures’ casino-thriller "21."
  • New Line Cinema has acquired Les Firestein’s script for a comedic take on the "Indecent Proposal" theme, in which the rich man will proposition a married man.

No word yet if his biopic will feature mostly unintelligible dialogue.

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