Ryan Phillippe, Eva Green, and Sam Riley are heading into the future.

Variety reports that the trio has signed on to star in Franklyn, the feature-length debut from director Gerald McMorrow. The film’s synopsis, from the article:

Pic, set in contemporary London and a future metropolis dominated by faith, weaves the tale of four lost souls divided by two parallel worlds on course for an explosive collision when a single bullet will decide all their fates.

Yeah, we don’t really understand it either. But McMorrow’s previous effort, a short film titled Thespian X, won the Turner Classic Short Film Festival prize at the London Film Festival, as well as awards at the Tribeca and Berlin festivals, so he must know what he’s doing. Franklyn will be Riley’s first feature since appearing as doomed Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis in Anton Corbijn‘s Control.

Source: Variety

Chris Cooper - Mark Von Holden/WireImage.comOne of America’s most respected stage actors, Texas-born Chris Cooper has been quietly rising through the Hollywood ranks ever since his screen debut in John SaylesMatewan. His breakthrough came when he played Kevin Spacey‘s militaristic neighbour in American Beauty and, alongside Meryl Streep and Nicolas Cage, an orchid thief in Spike Jonze’s Adaptation.

His latest, Breach, directed by Billy Ray, sees him play Robert Hanssen, a real-life FBI computer expert who was arrested in February 2001 following an investigation by agent Eric O’Neill (played by Ryan Phillippe). During his 22-year career, Hanssen divulged countless secrets to the Soviet Union — the worst security breach in US history.

You were attached to Breach from very early on I understand…

Chris Cooper: I was very fortunate from the get-go. People I work with and people who work with me, I don’t know the particulars of it, but they got the script that little bit early – maybe a week before it went out to the general talent. With one read-through I realised that this was quite a good script. It was a bit unusual – there’s protocol in these situations but I really wanted to go after this one so I sent word back to see if Billy would be interested in working with me and he was.

How did you sell yourself convincingly to persuade them you were the man for this role?

CC: Well, I didn’t have to do much convincing. It was as simple as my agent getting hold of Billy and telling him of my interest and Billy knew my work and right off the bat said, “I’d be happy to work with Chris”. I did something I don’t usually do, too – I phoned the head of Universal and told her that the bigger names are going to be sniffing around and I understand if you’d feel more comfortable with these bigger name actors but she said, “No, we’ll support you – we’ll stay with you.”

Whether a role’s big or small, do you approach it the same way? Do you feel a bigger responsibility if you’re in the lead?

CC: Hmmm. I think I get the gist of what you’re saying. But, talking in terms of ‘carrying the film’, I don’t think in those terms. If I’m interested in a role, I want to get that script as early as possible to do whatever work I can. When I work on a script, I work on it every day.

What did you do to research Hanssen? Were you able to meet him at all?

CC: No. It’s impossible. Billy tried to but all he was allowed to do was submit some questions. He submitted 13 to the FBI and they struck one of the questions – one that asked Hanssen something like, “If you were in charge of the Bureau, how would it run differently?”. But, as it turned out, Hanssen decided not to reply to any of them.

Chris Cooper
Staring into co-star Ryan Phillippe’s dreamy eyes in Breach

Ryan Phillippe had complete access to Eric O’Neill whereas you had the opposite situation. What choices did you make when constructing Hanssen for the movie?

CC: Well, I had as much access to Eric as Ryan. Eric was a great source of information and I had a thousand and one questions for him. Some very peculiar questions at times, that took him a little off balance. Also, shortly after Hanssen’s apprehension, there were a number of books that came out about him. They were great studies and some had interviews with some Hanssen’s grade school acquaintances and relatives and colleagues in the FBI, so I had a great resource of material to develop this character.

He doesn’t come across as a committed communist. Obviously nobody knows, but why do you think he did what he did?

CC: We don’t know, but as an actor making choices about the character I did do a sort of linear take on his 25-year career and why he did what he did. And his colleagues in the FBI have come to similar conclusions as to why he did it. But I made very strong choices, just for me. They were that, early in his career, being newly married, paying the mortgage and him being very, very intelligent – he was one of the early computer geeks – I supposed he did it for the money. And during the course of that career, I know he expected to rise in rank higher than he did.

But also at this time, computers were getting more and more… Forgive me, because I’m completely computer illiterate… But there were improvements if that’s the right word, in computers and he knew how vulnerable the FBI was with its antiquated technology. Combine that with his trying to inform the FBI about this, plus not rising in the ranks of the FBI. I decided that Hanssen developed the notion of getting revenge against the Bureau.

In one of Hanssen’s last drops to the Kremlin, which was one of his last letters, he said something very curious. He described himself as being ‘insanely loyal’ to his country to the point where he would give the Soviets information to show the US how vulnerable it is. He said that he thought of America as being like a child that was ‘powerfully built but retarded’.

Do you think he wanted to be caught?

CC: No. I really don’t, because I think he adored his wife although he did some very strange things involving her – like he hooked up a monitor in the guest bedroom so a friend of his visiting could watch him making love to his wife – and he loved his kids. I think he had a great fear of failure so I can’t believe he wanted to be caught.

Up to the point of his capture he was sending goodbye letters to the Kremlin, he was about to retire, he was suspicious that the FBI suspected him. I only think it’s because the FBI sent word out to the Kremlin – they sent out a reward because they were on the wrong track. And so a Soviet agent sent one of Hanssen’s drops back and it had an audiotape of Hanssen and also his fingerprints on the package. But when the Bureau listened to the audiotape they immediately recognised it was Robert Hanssen.

The film had the complete blessing of the FBI — this was the first film ever to be allowed to shoot inside the FBI building. What is it about the story that made them so cooperative? I mean, they did capture Hanssen, but only after 22 years of letting him get away with it. The line where Laura Linney‘s character outlines the damage Hanssen’s done – “For the last 22 years we might as well all have stayed home” – pretty much sums it up.

CC: It was curious to me. It was of great embarrassment to the FBI that this went on for so long. Why they were so supportive of the film, I don’t know. But they were.

Chris Cooper
Revolutionary makeshift work-out system, as pioneered by Chris Cooper in Breach.

Having studied him so closely, do you have any sympathy for the man?

CC: No, none at all. But what I do strongly believe was that he was a religious man. Plus, when he was apprehended he underwent over 30 hours of psychiatric questioning and analysis and the psychiatrists did indeed say that Hanssen had some great psychological demons that stemmed from childhood. But my thought was – and I don’t think it’s so unusual – that he was a man who could compartmentalise his life and justify on one hand being this rabid anti-communist and on the other giving information to the Soviets that cost lives, not to mention around $28 billion of US tax-payers money.

What about Hanssen’s sexual predilections? They’re only really hinted at in the movie because we see the story unfold from Eric’s point of view but how did the fact he got up to some crazy stuff affect the way you played him?

CC: I asked Eric about that and his take was that Hanssen was strongly heterosexual but he liked to push people’s buttons and he’d often invade the usual boundary of two people together. Eric said Hanssen would often come and stand behind him at his desk and put his hands on his shoulders and things like that would just drive Eric up the wall.

Did he really have a thing for Catherine Zeta-Jones?

CC: Yeah, he did.

I understand the sets were completely accurate reconstructions of the FBI headquarters — how did those sets, and the scenes you shot in real locations in Washington, add to the acting experience?

CC: It’s really hard to describe but when you go to that neighbourhood where he was apprehended and you park your car at the location and we’re working there throughout the day and there is this woman living in the house who actually saw his arrest — it just adds something to the intensity of the work.

Three new competitors were no match this weekend for the mighty action epic "300," which easily defended its box office crown to rule North American theaters for a second straight time. Sandra Bullock reached a new career high with the thriller "Premonition," which debuted in third place while the horror film "Dead Silence" and the Chris Rock comedy "I Think I Love My Wife" opened in the top five with mixed results. "300" grossed as much as all three new releases combined.

It was another decisive victory for Warner Bros. as "300" commanded the top spot with an estimated $31.2M in its second weekend dropping a sizable 56% from its record launch. Averaging a stellar $9,537 from 3,270 locations, the R-rated historical actioner raised its ten-day tally to a remarkable $127.5M making it the top-grossing film of 2007 in a short period of time.

300’s second weekend gross was even bigger than the opening weekends for recent R-rated spring actioners like "Sin City," "Constantine," and "V for Vendetta." Those films all dropped by more than half in their sophomore frames and collected 66-69% of their final grosses in the first ten days. 300 could follow in the same pattern and reach a colossal $180-190M domestically. That would be an impressive tally for a film with an estimated production cost of $60-65M.

Overseas, the Spartan sensation scored number one openings this weekend in South Korea, Turkey, Thailand, Hong Kong, and India and grossed an estimated $15.6M overall from over 1,300 screens in 13 markets. The international total stands at $24.6M with major invasions scheduled this week in Europe and the United Kingdom.

Buena Vista held steady in second place again with the motorcycle comedy "Wild Hogs," which dropped only 32% to an estimated $18.8M in its third weekend. The Tim AllenJohn Travolta hit crossed the $100M mark on Sunday in its 17th day of release pushing the cume to $104M. Despite dreadful reviews, "Wild Hogs" is holding up very well and could find its way to a sensational $150M domestically.

Sandra Bullock scared up the biggest opening of her career with the supernatural thriller "Premonition," which collected an estimated $18M to land in third place. The PG-13 film about a woman who relives a day in her life and tries to prevent the death of her husband averaged a solid $6,358 from 2,831 venues. Reviews were mostly negative for the Sony release. "Premonition," Bullock’s first spooky thriller, beat out her previous best opening weekend performance of $16.2M which was generated by both "Speed 2" in 1997 and "The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" in 2002. Adult women as expected led the way for the $20M production with studio research showing that 66% of the audience was female and 61% were 25 or older.

Universal scared up a decent opening for its new horror entry "Dead Silence," which debuted in 1,805 theaters to an estimated $7.8M. Averaging a moderate $4,305 per location, the R-rated film about a ventriliquist’s dummy on a deadly rampage was marketed as being from the director of "Saw," James Wan. Reviews were not too bad for a fright flick not screened in advance for critics and actually scored the best marks of the weekend’s three new releases.

Chris Rock saw a mild opening for his new comedy "I Think I Love My Wife," which bowed to an estimated $5.7M from 1,776 locations for a $3,218 average. The Fox Searchlight release was written, directed, and produced by the former Oscar host who also played the lead, a mild-mannered husband tempted by a lovely young woman. Reviews were mostly negative. The opening for Wife failed to reach the heights of some of Rock’s other spring comedies like 2001’s "Down to Earth" ($17.3M, $6,850 average) or 2003’s "Head of State" ($13.5M, $6,278 average), which he also directed.

Disney’s "Bridge to Terabithia" enjoyed the smallest decline in the top ten dipping just 24% in its fifth weekend to an estimated $5.1M for a solid $74.9M cume. Sony actioner "Ghost Rider" fell 40% to an estimated $4M lifitng the domestic total to $110.2M. Worldwide, the Nicolas Cage film will surpass the $200M mark later this week.

Paramount’s acclaimed serial killer drama "Zodiac" continued to struggle with paying customers tumbling another 54% to an estimated $3.1M giving the David Fincher thriller a disappointing $28.9M in 17 days. The critically-panned Eddie Murphy comedy "Norbit," on the other hand, has been pleasing audiences and dropped 36% to an estimated $2.7M pushing the cume to $92.4M for the studio. Rounding out the top ten was the Hugh GrantDrew Barrymore comedy "Music and Lyrics" with an estimated $2.2M, down 41%, giving Warner Bros. $47.4M to date.

Three films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. The slave trade drama "Amazing Grace" had strong legs once again and slipped just 17% to an estimated $2M. With $14.4M in the bank, the Samuel Goldwyn/Roadside Attractions release could end its run with $20M or more. Universal’s FBI thriller "Breach" has found success with its moderate release. The R-rated entry grossed an estimated $1.5M, off 42%, for a $31.3M total while playing in roughly 1,500 theaters during the past month. A $34M final seems likely. Jim Carrey‘s horror flick "The Number 23" has grossed $33.5M to date and should finish with a not-so-impressive $35M overall.

In limited release, the best per-theater average once again came from Fox Searchlight’s "The Namesake," which expanded from six to 41 theaters and grossed an estimated $692,000 for a strong $16,874 per location. The total for the well-reviewed Mira Nair film has reached $1.1M and the Indian-American drama will widen to over 100 theaters this Friday. Also doing well in limited play was the foreign language Oscar winner "The Lives of Others," which took in an estimated $839,000. The German film dipped only 2% with no extra theaters and Sony Classics has grossed $4.6M to date.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $98.6M which was up 10% from last year when "V for Vendetta" opened at number one with $25.6M; but off 4% from 2005 when "The Ring 2" debuted on top with $35.1M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

The mighty Spartans won a glorious victory at North American theaters as the bloody war epic "300" exploded with a record-breaking opening and powered the overall marketplace to the biggest March weekend in box office history.

Selling more tickets than all its enemies in the top ten combined, the ancient battle film exceeded even the loftiest of industry expectations conquering every multiplex it invaded. Despite the colossal strength of "300," holdovers performed well with most witnessing relatively small declines of 35% or less.

Capitalizing on intense pre-release anticipation, the Warner Bros. actioner "300" rallied to a staggering $70M opening weekend, according to estimates, ruling the box office with the greatest of ease. The violent and stylish R-rated tale played in only 3,103 theaters and averaged a sensational $22,567 per theater. The tally included a potent $3.4M from 62 higher-priced Imax venues ($54,839 average) marking a new opening weekend record for the large-screen format. Rival studios were scared away from the frame as no other major film dared to go head-to-head in wide release. The lack of competition helped to keep the focus of moviegoers on just one entertaining feature.

If the estimate holds, "300" will set a new March opening weekend record beating the $68M bow of "Ice Age: The Meltdown" from last year. That PG-rated toon played to a wider family audience and averaged a weaker $17,163 from nearly 4,000 theaters. The saga of King Leonidas and his battalion of brave Spartan warriors grossed a stunning $27.7M on Friday (including midnight shows from Thursday night), dropped an understandable 11% to $24.5M on Saturday, and is projected to slide only 27% to $17.8M on Sunday. Final weekend grosses will be reported on Monday.

"300" also generated the third largest opening ever for an R-rated film trailing just "The Matrix Reloaded" ($91.8M) and "The Passion of the Christ" ($83.8M). And among non-sequels, it was the seventh biggest debut in history following "Spider-Man" ($114.8M), "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone" ($90.3M), "Passion," "The Da Vinci Code" ($77.1M), "The Incredibles" ($70.5M), and "Finding Nemo" ($70.3M). 300 also posted the sixth largest bow in studio history for Warner Bros. after the four "Potter" pics and the first "Matrix" sequel.

The sheer size of the audience was eye-popping for the stylish film which chronicles the Battle of Thermopylae between the warriors of Sparta and the mighty Persian army led by its ruler Xerxes in 480 B.C. Historical war epics like "The Last Samurai" and "Troy" made tons of money worldwide ($450-500M each) but after flops like "Alexander" and "The Alamo," Hollywood ran the genre into the ground. Warner Bros. developed a new look that audiences would crave with "300" which is based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller. With digital effects, a stylized look, and brilliant marketing materials, the film began generating excitement last fall when the first trailers debuted. The studio should send a case of Cristal to the team that cut the trailers as they certainly ignited the spark leading to the fever-pitched anticipation.

With a reported budget of only $65M, "300" will easily become a major moneymaker for the studio especially since international theatrical and worldwide video revenue look to be explosive. The film had no pricey stars and featured epic battle scenes created by computers thereby eliminating the need to shoot on location with thousands of extras. In fact, only one scene in the enite film was shot outdoors. "300" debuted in only a handful of overseas markets this weekend but box office was impressive there as well. The film opened at number one in Greece, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, and the Philippines with a combined gross of $6.2M from just 337 prints for a $18,398 per-print average which is phenomenal given the average ticket prices in those countries. The bloody actioner invades Korea later this week and attacks France, Italy, Spain, Mexico, and the U.K. on the following weekend.

For those in a less violent mood this weekend, Buena Vista’s middle-aged motorcycle movie "Wild Hogs" was the ticket. The Tim AllenJohn Travolta biker comedy dropped only 29% in its second weekend to an estimated $28M giving the studio a fantastic $77.4M in only ten days of release. Moviegoers are paying no attention to the universally poor reviews for "Hogs" which has now generated the second highest ten-day start of any film this year after "Ghost Rider"’s $79M. The star-driven comedy could be on course to reach $150M or more domestically giving Disney a lucrative hit.

Ticket buyers were fixated on either "300" or "Wild Hogs" this weekend as the dynamic duo combined for a towering $98M in grosses accounting for a whopping 72% of all cash spent on the top ten films. Overall, the top ten posted its second best performance of 2007 with $136.1M narrowly trailing the $138.1M three-day tally from Presidents’ Day weekend when "Ghost Rider" attacked. The North American box office is clearly alive and well.

The rest of the top five saw three films in a narrow range with estimates that were separated by less than $100,000. Final data to be released on Monday could see the rankings change. Third place, for now, went to Disney’s "Bridge to Terabithia" which grossed an estimated $6.9M, down only 23%, for a $67M cume. Also in its fourth weekend, Sony’s "Ghost Rider" fell 41% to an estimated $6.8M raising the total to $104.1M making the Nicolas Cage actioner the first film of 2007 to break the $100M mark. 300 and "Wild Hogs" could also join the century club as early as next weekend.

Fifth place went to the well-reviewed serial killer pic "Zodiac" which took in an estimated $6.8M, down a disturbing 49%, for a ten-day tally of $23.7M. Paramount’s $65M production hoped to benefit from word-of-mouth, but instead suffered the worst drop by far of any film in the top ten thanks in part to competition from its R-rated foe 300. A disappointing final take of $34-37M seems likely making it director David Fincher‘s lowest grossing film ever.

A pair of funnymen followed with estimated weekend grosses of $4.3M a piece. Jim Carrey‘s psychological thriller "The Number 23" dipped 33% and upped its cume to $30.5M for New Line. The Eddie Murphy comedy "Norbit" also shed one third of its audience but lifted its total to a more impressive $88.3M for Paramount.

"Music and Lyrics," the romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore, followed with an estimated $3.8M. Off only 22%, the Warner Bros. title has taken in $43.8M to date. Universal’s thriller "Breach" collected an estimated $2.6M, down 28%, for a $29.1M sum. The slave trade drama "Amazing Grace" rounded out the top ten with an estimated $2.5M. Distributors Samuel Goldwyn and Roadside Attractions added over 200 theaters and enjoyed the smallest dip in the top ten sliding just 11%. Cume to date stands at $11.4M.

Fox Searchlight generated the biggest opening weekend average of the year with the launch of Mira Nair‘s "The Namesake" which bowed to an estimated $251,000 from only six locations for a muscular per-theater average of $41,794. Starring Kal Penn, the PG-13 film about an Indian family and their American-born children platformed in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Toronto and will expand on Friday into additional markets. Reviews were mostly good.

Also opening in limited release was the Korean monster movie "The Host" with an estimated $320,000 from 71 theaters for a mild $4,507 average. The Magnolia release about a family that fights a mutated sea creature made its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival last year and has already played in most of Asia. Critics were overwhelmingly giving praise.

Fox Faith, the new division of Fox dedicated to uplifting religious-themed pictures, opened its new film "The Ultimate Gift" over the weekend to an estimated $1.2M from 816 sites for a poor $1,471 average. The PG-rated film stars James Garner and Abigail Breslin and did not earn many positive reviews.

A pair of struggling films tumbled out of the top ten over the weekend suffering large declines. The Samuel L. JacksonChristina Ricci pic "Black Snake Moan" fell 55% in its second weekend to an estimated $1.9M. The Paramount Vantage release has collected only $7.3M in its first ten days and should end with around $10M. Fox’s comedy "Reno 911!: Miami" collapsed in its third weekend dropping 65% to an estimated $1.4M. With $19.1M in 17 days, look for a finish just north of $20M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $136.1M (a new March record) which was up a stunning 53% from last year when "Failure to Launch" opened at number one with $24.4M; and up a solid 35% from 2005 when "Robots" debuted on top with $36M.

Source: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Moviegoers rallied behind the star-driven comedy "Wild Hogs," which raced to number one at the North American box office, zooming past all expectations from Disney. Meanwhile, Viacom saw less-than-stellar debuts from its serial killer drama "Zodiac" from Paramount Pictures and the southern fried saga "Black Snake Moan" from arthouse unit Paramount Vantage. Overall, the box office remained healthy and surged well ahead of last year’s performance.

Buena Vista powered its way to an estimated $38M in opening weekend sales for its road comedy "Wild Hogs," delivering the largest March debut in history for a live-action film. The PG-13 pic starring Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, and William H. Macy as four middle-aged men on a motorcycle adventure averaged a stellar $11,561 from 3,287 theaters. It was the year’s second biggest opening after "Ghost Rider‘s" $45.4M bow two weeks ago. According to studio research, 54% of the audience was actually female. Travolta’s everlasting sex appeal, Allen’s pull with moms thanks to his many Disney flicks, and the cast’s appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" last week probably contributed to the solid turnout by women. The stars also allowed the film to tap into different audience segments.

"Wild Hogs" posted the best opening ever in March for a non-animated film and the third biggest overall. The only movies to debut better in this month were the "Ice Age" flicks of 2002 and 2006. It also gave Travolta the biggest opening by far of his career, beating the $23.5M of 2005’s "Be Cool," and the second best bow for Allen after the $57.4M bow of 1999’s "Toy Story 2." As expected, "Hogs" was slammed by critics but reviews are practically irrelevant for a star-driven comedy like this. This is a crowdpleaser, not a criticpleaser. Audiences make their decisions based on if they think they will get a good laugh or not and Buena Vista’s marketing push was indeed solid. Though the overall weekend gross was strong, what was even more encouraging was the significant Friday-to-Saturday boost of 49% which is rare for any new release. A journey into nine-digit territory seems likely.

Debuting far back in second place was the serial killer pic "Zodiac," with an estimated $13.1M from 2,362 sites. Averaging a respectable $5,546 per theater, the R-rated film from director David Fincher played to an older audience as two-thirds of the crowd was over the age of 25, according to studio research from Paramount. Males and females were evenly represented. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., and Mark Ruffalo, "Zodiac" follows the investigation behind one of California’s most notorious murderers from the 1960s and 70s. The $65M film fared better than last fall’s murder mysteries set in the Golden State, "The Black Dahlia" and "Hollywoodland," which debuted to $10M and $5.9M respectively.

Reviews were overwhelmingly positive for "Zodiac," but its 160-minute length may have cut into its grossing potential. Plus when factoring in ticket prices increases over the years, it can be estimated that "Zodiac" sold the fewest opening weekend tickets of any of Fincher’s films. Admissions were roughly the same as for "Fight Club," which bowed to $11M in 1999. The studio is hoping that good word-of-mouth can carry the film in the weeks ahead.

After leading the pack for two full weeks, the Johnny Blaze flick "Ghost Rider" fell to third but only dropped 43% for an estimated $11.5M gross. Sony’s Nicolas Cage starrer has taken in $94.8M in 17 days and should become the first new release of 2007 to break the $100M barrier. Disney’s "Bridge to Terabithia" also held up well dipping 39% in its third adventure to an estimated $8.6M. Cume stands at $57.9M.

Jim Carrey‘s thriller "The Number 23" fell from second to fifth place in its sophomore scare and collected an estimated $7.1M. Down an understandable 52%, the New Line title has taken in a semi-decent $24.7M in ten days and looks headed for a $35-38M finish.

Eddie Murphy‘s latest comedy "Norbit" enjoyed the smallest decline in the top ten and dipped 34% to an estimated $6.4M for a $83M sum. Fellow laugher "Music and Lyrics" dropped just 36% to an estimated $4.9M giving the Hugh GrantDrew Barrymore pic $38.7M to date.

Paramount Vantage bowed its Samuel L. JacksonChristina Ricci drama "Black Snake Moan" and collected an estimated $4M from 1,252 theaters. Averaging a mild $3,208, the debut was half the size of writer/director Craig Brewer‘s last film "Hustle & Flow," which opened in July 2005 to $8M from 1,013 theaters on its way to $22.2M and an Oscar. Jackson has witnessed many of his headlining vehicles struggle at the box office including "Freedomland," "The Man," and even "Snakes on a Plane," which despite hitting the top spot, grossed much less than expected given its media hype last summer.

The Fox comedy "Reno 911!: Miami" tumbled 64% in its second weekend to an estimated $3.8M for a ninth place finish. The R-rated pic has grossed $16.4M in ten days and should conclude with roughly $20M. Rounding out the top ten was the FBI thriller "Breach" with an estimated $3.5M, off 42%, for a $25.4M total.

Three smaller films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. The slave trade drama "Amazing Grace" dipped only 26% in its second weekend to an estimated $3M. With $8.2M in ten days, the Samuel Goldwyn/Roadside Attractions period pic may find its way to $15-18M. The Billy Bob Thornton flop "The Astronaut Farmer" grossed an estimated $2.2M, down 52%, and put its sum at an embarrassing $7.7M. Look for a $11M final.

Lionsgate’s Tyler Perry comedy "Daddy’s Little Girls" fell 53% to an estimated $2.3M in its third frame and upped its cume to $28.4M. By comparison, the distributor saw stronger 17-day grosses of $44M and $55.7M respectively for the director’s last two films, "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and "Madea’s Family Reunion." "Daddy’s" should end its run with $30-33M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $100.8M which was up a stunning 30% from last year when "Madea" stayed at number one with just $12.6M; but off 4% from 2005 when "The Pacifier" debuted on top with $30.6M.

Source: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage ruled Oscar weekend with his skull-on-fire motorcycle actioner "Ghost Rider," which held steady at number one in North America for the second straight time. Moviegoers delivered different verdicts to the handful of new releases led by the Jim Carrey thriller "The Number 23," which fared best and debuted in second place. Overall, the top ten was about even with the corresponding weekends from the last two years.

Dropping 57% from its powerful opening weekend, "Ghost Rider" took in an estimated $19.7M over the weekend and pushed its ten-day tally to a sensational $78.7M. The big-budget Sony actioner adapted from the popular Marvel comic book series suffered a decline similar to that of 2003’s "Daredevil," which sank 55% in its second frame after an explosive bow over Presidents’ Day weekend. That super hero flick captured 68% of its domestic total in the first ten days. "Ghost Rider" is so far following the same path which means a final gross of $115-120M seems likely.

Comedy guru Jim Carrey took a stab at horror with his new psychological thriller "The Number 23" and saw moderate results with a $15.1M launch, according to estimates. Playing in 2,759 theaters, the R-rated film averaged $5,476 per location for New Line. Critics were brutal to the scary pic, but the opening fared better than those of most of Carrey’s previous non-comedies.

Disney’s "Bridge to Terabithia" dropped 40% in its sophomore adventure and pulled in an estimated $13.6M in ticket sales. The PG-rated fantasy has banked an impressive $46.2M in ten days and may be heading for around $75M overall.

Fox saw a not-so-arresting debut for its cop comedy "Reno 911!: Miami," which opened in fourth place with an estimated $10.4M. The R-rated feature adapted from the moderately successful Comedy Central series averaged a mild $3,849 from a wide release in 2,702 theaters. By comparison, openings for other recent R-rated comedies based on popular television properties include $26.5M for "Borat" and $29M for "Jackass: Number Two," both of which bowed at number one.

Eddie Murphy‘s comedy "Norbit" dropped 42% to an estimated $9.7M in its third weekend raising its total to $74.7M for Paramount. Warner Bros. followed with its own comedy "Music and Lyrics," which pulled in an estimated $8M in its sophomore weekend. Down a reasonable 41%, the Hugh GrantDrew Barrymore pic has taken in $32.1M in 12 days and could be headed for the $50M mark.

Universal’s "Breach" dipped 41% in its second weekend to an estimated $6.2M. With $20.5M in ten days, the FBI thriller in on course for a $35M total. The Tyler Perry comedy "Daddy’s Little Girls" lost half of its audience in the second weekend just like the director’s last two February comedies. The Lionsgate release grossed an estimated $5.3M, down 53%, and has taken in $25.6M. Both "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and "Madea’s Family Reunion" made about 75% of their total grosses in the first ten days so a $35M final for Girls seems likely.

A pair of new releases rounded out the top ten. Warner Bros. saw a dismal opening for its Billy Bob Thornton drama "The Astronaut Farmer," which grossed an estimated $4.5M from 2,155 locations. Averaging a poor $2,093 per theater, the PG-rated film earned mixed reviews from critics.

Goldwyn’s historical slave trade drama "Amazing Grace" enjoyed a solid bow with an estimated $4.3M from only 791 sites for a respectable $5,442 average matching "Ghost Rider’s" per-theater average to the dollar. Reviews were mostly favorable.

Four films dropped out of the top ten over the weekend. The runaway smash "Night at the Museum" collected an estimated $2.2M in its tenth weekend and upped its total to $241.7M putting it at number 44 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters ahead of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," which made $241.4M in 2002. "Museum" fell 41% this weekend and should go on to reach around $246M domestically and over $500M worldwide.

Universal’s Diane Keaton comedy "Because I Said So" grossed an estimated $2.9M, down 44%, putting its cume at a decent $38.4M. A final gross of $43-45M seems likely. Sony’s thriller "The Messengers" grossed an estimated $1.6M, tumbling 58%, for a $33.4M cume. The $16M production should conclude with a healthy $35M. MGM’s "Hannibal Rising" has grossed about $26M to date and should end its run with only $30M.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $96.7M which was up 1% from last year when "Madea’s Family Reunion" opened at number one with $30M; but off 2% from 2005 when "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" debuted on top with $21.9M.

Source: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Hollywood studios opened five new wide releases targeting different audiences and were rewarded with a record-breaking Presidents’ Day holiday weekend tally as moviegoers opened their wallets and spread their cash across a variety of films. The comic book actioner "Ghost Rider" led the way with an explosive debut while the family drama "Bridge to Terabithia" was a solid performer in the runnerup spot.

The quintet of freshman films pumped in more than $100M of new business over the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the long weekend as the top ten soared to the highest gross in box office history during the January-to-April span.

Nicolas Cage led the bustling box office and set a new career high in the process with "Ghost Rider" which opened at number one grossing an estimated $44.5M over three days doubling the performance of its nearest competitor. Averaging a scorching $12,296 from an ultrawide release in 3,619 locations, the Sony smash based on the popular Marvel Comics character outgunned the $35.1M bow of "National Treasure," Cage’s previous best opening. The studio reported a preliminary four-day estimate for "Ghost Rider" of $51M over the extended Friday-to-Monday holiday span.

The PG-13 film performed much like director Mark Steven Johnson‘s last film, 2003’s "Daredevil," which was also based on a Marvel Comics character and launched over the same holiday frame. That Ben Affleck vehicle bowed to $40.3M over three days and $45M over four days which at today’s ticket prices would be almost identical to the "Ghost" numbers. Cage’s new motorcycle actioner will also set a new opening weekend record for the Washington-Lincoln holiday session beating the $45.1M four-day launch of the studio’s own "50 First Dates" from 2004.

Fanboys as expected powered "Ghost Rider" to its stellar grosses. Sony research indicated that an exceptionally high 62% of the turnout was male while 55% was under the age of 25. The effects-driven pic accounted for one-third of all ticket sales within the top ten and posted the largest opening of any film over the last six months.

Finishing the weekend in second place was Disney’s "Bridge to Terabithia" which collected an estimated $22.1M worth of ticket stubs over the Friday-to-Sunday period. The PG-rated fantasy about two seventh graders who imagine a magical wonderland to escape to averaged a sturdy $7,032 from 3,139 theaters. Earning strong reviews from critics, "Bridge" was adapted from the popular novel and played to younger children and their parents.

Last weekend’s number one flick "Norbit" fell 51% in its second weekend which considering all the new competition was a decent hold for the Eddie Murphy comedy. The Paramount release collected an estimated $16.8M over three days and lifted its ten-day cume to a solid $58.9M. The studio also reported a preliminary four-day estimate of $20.6M which would send the 11-day cume to $62.7M. "Norbit" marked the best ten-day start for a Murphy live-action picture since 2000’s summer hit "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps" which took in $76.7M by the end of its second weekend on its way to $123.3M.

Opening in fourth place with an estimated $14M was the Hugh GrantDrew Barrymore romantic comedy "Music and Lyrics." The Warner Bros. release about a washed up 80s singer who falls for a plant waterer averaged a respectable $4,738 from 2,955 locations and took in $19.5M since debuting on Wednesday for Valentine’s Day. Reviews were mixed for the PG-13 film and the three-day gross was similar to the opening of Grant’s 2002 hit "Two Weeks Notice" ($14.3M) and a bit better than Barrymore’s "Fever Pitch" which bowed to $12.4M two years ago. In its second weekend in the U.K., "Music" slipped only 17% and has grossed $10.5M in that market thus far and $14.2M overall internationally.

Lionsgate followed in fifth with another date film that bowed on the love holiday, Tyler Perry‘s "Daddy’s Little Girls." The PG-13 pic grossed an estimated $12.1M from 2,111 theaters for a solid $5,732 average over three days. Since launching on Wednesday, the tale of an attorney who couples up with a single working class father has taken in $17.8M. The opening was a far cry from the debuts of the filmmaker’s recent comedy hits. Last February, "Madea’s Family Reunion" opened to $30M on its way to $63.3M while the previous year, "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" opened to $21.9M before finishing with $50.4M. Both films were released by Lionsgate on the last weekend of February and starred Perry as the outrageous Madea character. "Girls" may have generated less audience interest without Perry on screen.

Older adults lined up for the FBI thriller "Breach" which debuted better than expected with an estimated $10.4M from only 1,489 sites. The PG-13 film which stars Ryan Phillippe and Chris Cooper averaged a strong $6,965 per theater and earned good reviews. According to studio research from Universal, half of the audience was over the age of 50 and 52% of the crowd was female. The studio also reported a preliminary four-day estimate of $12.1M and $8,155 average.

"Hannibal Rising" sank to seventh place in its second weekend tumbling 58% to an estimated $5.5M. With $22.2M in ten days, look for the MGM release to reach about $30M. Universal’s comedy "Because I Said So" followed with an estimated $5M, off 46%, for a $33.2M cume.

Sony’s former number one "The Messengers" dropped 47% and scared up an estimated $3.8M giving the thriller a total of $30.5M. Fox’s Ben Stiller action-comedy "Night at the Museum" grossed an estimated $3.7M, down 36%, and lifted its tally to $237.3M becoming the first film to spend nine straight weekends in the top ten since last winter’s "The Chronicles of Narnia." "Night" also climbed up to number 46 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters sandwiching itself between a pair of action-comedy hits from 1984 – "Ghostbusters" ($238.6M) and "Beverly Hills Cop" ($234.8M). Of course, ticket prices were much lower two decades ago so "Night" has sold fewer tickets.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $137.8M over three days which was up a stunning 30% from last year when "Eight Below" opened at number one with $20.2M; and up a healthy 26% from 2005 when "Hitch" remained on top with $31.4M in its sophomore session.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Five new films, each targeting its own audience, cram into North American multiplexes giving moviegoers plenty of entertainment options over the four-day Presidents’ Day holiday weekend.

Segregating the races on Wednesday’s Valentine’s Day holiday with competing romantic comedies, Warner Bros. bowed the Hugh GrantDrew Barrymore starrer "Music and Lyrics" for white audiences while Lionsgate countered with Tyler Perry‘s "Daddy’s Little Girls" for black moviegoers. Adding to the overcrowded frame on Friday will be Sony’s comic book actioner "Ghost Rider," Disney’s tween adventure "The Bridge to Terabithia," and the FBI thriller "Breach" from Universal. Although studios jammed too many films into this particular frame, audience overlap seems minimal so the box office should easily expand to its largest size of the year finally beating 2006 levels.

Johnny Blaze leads the way over the extended weekend as Nicolas Cage steps into the role of the Marvel Comics character in the big-budget actioner "Ghost Rider." The PG-13 film is directed by Mark Steven Johnson whose "Daredevil," another effects-driven action flick based on a B-level Marvel hero, topped the box office over the Presidents’ Day frame four years ago with a powerful $45M with Ben Affleck in the lead. Much of the same audience of young males and comic fans will be back, however moviegoers have since been subjected to endless super hero flicks so don’t be surprised if some take a pass this time. Sony has been loud in its marketing campaign and awareness is sky high with the target audience. A crowded marketplace could keep the grosses in check. But with the most theaters of any new release by far, the motorcycle pic should ride off with the box office crown with ease. "Ghost Rider" opens in 3,619 theaters on Friday and could collect around $35M over the four-day span.


Nicolas Cage in "Ghost Rider"

Disney goes after the always reliable family audience with the fantasy drama "The Bridge to Terabithia," a film adaptation of the beloved book. In the PG-rated tale, a seventh grade boy befriends the new girl who moves in next door and together create a fantasy world through their imaginations as an escape from the struggles of real life. Kidpics based on books usually find themselves with a built-in audience showing up on opening weekend and with "Terabithia" launching over a school holiday session, the target audience will be very available. Last year, the studio won the weekend going after a similar crowd with "Eight Below" which opened to a solid $25M over four days. "Bridge" lacks big star names, but should still pull in families especially since that segment has few other titles in the current marketplace to be excited about. Younger teens may however get pulled away by the crude physical comedy of "Norbit" or the comic book action of "Ghost Rider." Launching in over 2,800 theaters, "The Bridge to Terabithia" may gross around $18M over the Friday-to-Monday period.


"The Bridge to Terabithia"

Following up his number one hits "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and "Madea’s Family Reunion," Tyler Perry returns to the big screen with his latest comedy, "Daddy’s Little Girls." The PG-13 film stars Gabrielle Union as an attorney who falls for a working class driver who has three daughters. Unlike his last two February chart-toppers, "Girls" finds Perry strictly behind the camera and not playing the outrageous matriarch Madea.

In recent years, nobody has proven the power of the African American audience more than Perry who exceeded industry expectations both times with the $21.9M bow of "Diary" and the stronger $30M debut of "Reunion" a year ago. Both debuted on the weekend after the Presidents’ Day frame. Lionsgate once again handles distribution duties, but various factors indicate that sales should deflate a bit. Starpower is less for "Girls," most notably because of Perry’s absence. Plus competition will be much tougher than in past years with "Norbit" in its second weekend playing to much of the same audience. However, the Tyler name sells and sell-outs are sure to occur in all parts of the country. Opening Wednesday in 2,111 theaters, "Daddy’s Little Girls" could take in about $16M over four days and $23M over six days.


Tyler Perry’s "Daddy’s Little Girls"

Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore find love in the new romantic comedy "Music and Lyrics" which also opened on Wednesday to capture the date crowd on Valentine’s Day. On paper, the PG-13 film has all the ingredients to become a box office hit thanks to the starpower and timing of its release. But a poor script and lack of chemistry could impact weekend grosses if mid-week ticket buyers spread bad word of mouth. Both actors are proven draws at the turnstiles and their first pairing will undoubtedly spark interest from women and couples. Warner Bros. has been pushing the 80’s music angle since Grant plays the washed up half of a pop music superduo from that era. Competition for white women over 25 is not too fierce among the weekend’s other contenders so a strong start is likely. Composing tunes in 2,929 locations, "Music and Lyrics" may find itself with around $16M over four days and about $22M over six days.


Hugh Grant, in a sadly realistic portrayal of an 80s popstar, in "Music and Lyrics."

Ryan Phillippe stars as a young FBI agent out to catch his boss who has been selling secrets to the Soviet Union in the new political thriller "Breach." The PG-13 pic co-stars Chris Cooper, Laura Linney, and Dennis Haysbert and is being released by Universal. Three factors will prevent big grosses for Reese’s ex-hubby. "Breach" lacks starpower, has too much competition to face, and is not being booked in too many theaters. Though the cast features some respected actors, none is a box office anchor that can draw in large paying crowds. Plus with four other new films hitting the multiplexes, and a collection of acclaimed Oscar contenders all attracting the attention of serious-minded adults, "Breach" cannot stand out. Academy pics may all be grossing small numbers individually, but moviegoers spent nearly $20M on the ones in the Top 20 last weekend and this long holiday frame will be the last full weekend to catch up on the contenders. Opening in just 1,487 theaters, "Breach" might steal about $7M over the four days.


"Breach," with Chris Cooper, Ryan Phillippe, and some blurry guy.

Among holdovers, Oscar nominee Eddie Murphy may get driven out of the top spot by Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage. Both of their new films, of course, are for commercial gain and not critical acclaim. "Norbit" will be coming off of a solid opening, but will face competition from many of the new releases. The four-day gross could slide 30% from last weekend’s three-day opening and reach roughly $24M for the frame. That would give the Paramount release a terrific $64M in 11 days. A larger drop is in the works for "Hannibal Rising." The MGM release may fall 40% to about $8M for a cume of $23M after a similar 11 days.

LAST YEAR: The battle for Presidents’ Day weekend was won by the family adventure "Eight Below" which debuted on top with $25M over the four-day frame. Disney’s hit kids flick went on to collect $81.6M. Fox settled for second with its spoof comedy "Date Movie" which bowed to $21.8M over the Friday-to-Monday period on its way to $48.5M. "The Pink Panther" dropped from first to third with $20.9M followed by fellow kidpic "Curious George" with $15.4M. Rounding out the top five was "Final Destination 3" with $11.5M. Samuel L. Jackson flopped with his new drama "Freedomland" which debuted to just $6.7M over four days leading to a weak $12.5M final for Sony.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

This week at the movies, we’ve got skulls ("Ghost Rider," starring Nicolas Cage), songwriters ("Music and Lyrics," starring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore) secret worlds ("Bridge to Terabithia"), single parents ("Daddy’s Little Girls," starring Tyler Perry and Gabrielle Union), and spies ("Breach," starring Chris Cooper and Ryan Phillippe). What do the critics have to say?

In the world of popular music, there are a number of great songwriting duo: Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Gerry Goffin and Carole King, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. In "Music and Lyrics," Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore team up to write a tune, and critics say the movie is as disposable — and sweet — as your average summer hit. Grant plays a washed-up pop star commissioned to write a tune for a pop starlet; he discovers that Barrymore, who waters his plants, has a way with words, and the two make beautiful music together. The pundits say the film is as predictable as they come, but its stars elevate the material beyond the usual rom-com fare. At 66 percent on the Tomatometer, "Music and Lyrics" has a good beat, and you can dance to it.


Opening for Speed Metal! in Seattle, WA.

Ah, the pre-teen years. Such an angst-ridden period in one’s life. "Bridge to Terabithia," the story of two 10-year-olds who retreat into a fantasy land to escape the sadness in their lives, is a movie that understands what it’s like to be a kid, and for that, critics say it’s family entertainment of a very high order. "Terabithia" is a coming-of-age tale about friendship that doesn’t skimp on tragedy, but doesn’t lack for uplift, either. And it features engaging performances from its young stars, Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb. At 88 percent on the Tomatometer, "Terabithia" may be a worth a trip.


"Lightning bolt! Lightning bolt!!"

Madea may be gone, but Tyler Perry’s back with "Daddy’s Little Girls," his second film as a director, and the first in which he doesn’t play his no-nonsense, straight-talking alter ego. This time, he’s a single dad locked in a custody battle with his wife for their three daughters; he enlists a beautiful attorney (Gabrielle Union) to help, and romance blossoms. The pundits say Perry’s filmmaking skills have improved with this effort, but the film is ultimately too predictable and preachy to work. It currently stands at 22 percent on the Tomatometer.


"And I think American Idol should be on five times a week!"

Director Billy Ray is carving out an interesting niche spinning tales of frauds in high places. His first film, "Shattered Glass," told the story of the journalist/fabulist Stephen Glass; now comes "Breach," based upon the career of imprisoned FBI turncoat Robert Hanssen. Ryan Phillippe stars as a young agent assigned to check up on Hanssen (Chris Cooper), who his superiors believe may be leaking information to the Soviets. Critics say "Breach," despite a lack of explosive action scenes, is a first-rate mind-game thriller that authentically captures the culture within the agency. "Breach" is currently at 88 percent on the Tomatometer.


Chris Cooper practices a Bob Dole impression.

"Ghost Rider," the comic book adaptation starring Nicolas Cage as a stunt motorcyclist who finds his cranium ablaze after a Faustian bargain, was not screened for critics in time to make this week’s Critical Consensus. So get off your Harley and Guess that Tomatometer.


"Have you got any ibuprofen? I have a burning headache."

Also opening this week in limited release: "Avenue Montaigne," a comedy a about a young woman’s introduction to Paris and France’s official selection for Academy consideration, is at 82 percent; "Bamako," the tale of a troubled small town in Mali starring Danny Glover, is at 80 percent; and "Close to Home," a tale of young women in the Israeli army, is at 40 percent.


Parisians: never too cool for a staring contest.

Recent Nicolas Cage Movies:
————————————
63% — The Ant Bully (2006)
71% — World Trade Center (2006)
14% — The Wicker Man (2006)
61% — Lord of War (2005)
60% — The Weather Man (2005)

Recent Drew Barrymore Movies:
—————————————
71% — Curious George (2006)
64% — Fever Pitch (2005)
68% — My Date With Drew (2005)
42% — 50 First Dates (2004)
90% — Donnie Darko: The Director’s Cut (2004)

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