It’s a bit of a slow week for home video releases, led by Eli Roth’s torture-for-hire gore fest (Hostel II) and Disney’s latest kid pic (Meet the Robinsons). Thankfully, those wonderful folks at Criterion have another wave of beautifully restored classics for us (Breathless, Days of Heaven, and Under the Volcano), all chock full of extra features!



Hostel Part II


Tomatometer: 45%

Writer-director Eli Roth has earned a bad rap for his gore-filled flicks, but we love a filmmaker who employs subversive themes and sly cinematic references in his works. (What up, Ruggero Deodato!) In this sequel to the 2005 hit, a trio of young coeds find that their European spa getaway is really pricey. As in, it’ll cost them their lives. Gruesome torture ensues, of course, but you might also like the commentary with Roth, his producer brother Gabe Roth, and Quentin Tarantino, four featurettes, a “Blood and Guts” montage, deleted scenes, and more.

 


Meet the Robinsons


Tomatometer: 64%

A charming CG-animated pic about a boy inventor seeking his birth mother with the help of a futuristic friend, Disney’s Meet the Robinsons is this week’s best new family-friendly release. The frenetic tale boasts the vocal talents of Angela Bassett, Tom Selleck and Adam West, with a features menu that includes a director commentary, deleted scenes, music videos and a kid’s character matching game.

 


Fido


Tomatometer: 65%
Andrew Currie. When the Robinson family buys a new household pet — a domesticated zombie named Fido — both young Timmy (K’Sun Ray) and his mother (Carrie-Ann Moss) develop a bond with their undead help. The DVD includes deleted scenes, a blooper reel, and commentary track.

 



Into Great Silence


Tomatometer: 86%

Director Philip Groening lived with and filmed the monks of the Roman Catholic Grand Chartreuse monastery in the French Alps for four months shooting this meditative documentary about daily life in the slow-moving religious order, where members live with their vows of silence. Look for extras like a making-of feature, scenes showing the monastery’s famous Chartreuse liquor distillation, and a guide to the silent lives of the Carthusian monks.

 




The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, Volume One


Tomatometer: N/A

If you’re like us, you’ve been waiting over a decade for the George Lucas-produced Young Indiana Jones Chronicles to hit the home video circuit; if you’re really like us, the news of the series coming to DVD this week even brought a tear to your eye, out of sheer gratitude. Starring a dashing then-27-year-old Sean Patrick Flanery (playing a full decade-younger teen Indy), Chronicles showcased the early exploits of Indiana Jones as he traipsed the globe and encountered various historical figures in 44 hour-long episodes, written and directed by filmmakers like Lucas, Frank Darabont, Mike Newell, and Jonathan Hensleigh. In this first of three volumes, you’ll get 12 discs with episodes, historical documentaries, and a primer on being a real-life archaeologist.


Criterion Corner — Salivate, Cinephiles!

Breathless
Tomatometer: 96%

I know what you’re thinking: how have the folks at Criterion not yet released Breathless, Jean-Luc Godard‘s utterly groundbreaking noir homage about a wanted Parisian thug and his American girlfriend? Well, we say better late than never, because this two-disc release of the seminal French New Wave classic is predictably stuffed with all the Breathless goodies your heart could desire: archival interviews with Godard, his actors Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg, and Godard mentor Jean-Pierre Melville (who appeared as a pompous author); a detailed roadmap explaining the pop culture references sprinkled throughout the film; and a 1959 short film by Godard, starring Breathless leading man Belmondo. Add to that a retrospective documentary about the making of Breathless, new crew interviews, the French theatrical trailer, an 80-page booklet, and more — not to mention a beautifully crisp new digital transfer — and this is a definite must-have for any cinephile.

Days of Heaven
Tomatometer: 91%

Thought by many to be one of the most beautiful films ever made, Terrence Malick‘s turn-of-the-century tragic tale has been newly restored under the supervision of the director himself. The 1978 film was only his second after making his debut with Badlands, and Malick took an infamous two decade break from filmmaking shortly thereafter, but his transcendental, poetic style affected here (and again in his later The New World) marked the hand of a visionary auteur. Pick up the Criterion edition for the new restoration print, a crew commentary track, and an interview featuring notoriously Oscar-snubbed cinematographer Haskell Wexler.




Under the Volcano

Tomatometer: 71%

John Huston‘s faithful adaptation of Malcolm Lowry’s 1947 novel covers a day in the life of Geoffrey Fermin (Albert Finney), a British ambassador in a small Mexican town who finds himself booze-soaked and self-destructing on the Day of the Dead. The film earned two Oscar nominations for Best Actor (Finney) and Original Score, and would be the great director’s antepenultimate film before his death three years later. Criterion’s gone and given the 1984 pic a new shine, and offer a 1984 audio interview with Huston, new interviews with star Jacqueline Bisset and screenwriter Guy Gallo, a 1984 on-set documentary, and more.

Knowing is Half the Battle




Mr. Brooks

Tomatometer: 55%

Kevin Costner stars in this split personality thriller about a family man and upstanding citizen who also happens to be a serial killer. While some critics thoroughly enjoyed Costner’s murderous star turn, others found the plot too full of twists. You be the judge!


Home of the Brave
Tomatometer: 24%

Four members of an army unit return from Iraq to deal with the repercussions of war in Irwin Winkler‘s film. While critics found its performances moving — including contributions from the likes of Samuel Jackson, Jessica Biel, and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson — overly hammy direction and an almost old-fashioned sensibility made this first mainstream film about the Iraq war an unfortunate misfire.


The Tripper
Tomatometer: 24%

From Hollywood’s wackiest real-life pairing — married couple David Arquette and Courteney Cox — comes this comic slasher flick about a bunch of hippies being stalked in the woods of Northern California by a staunchly anti-drug crusading Ronald Reagan-lookalike killer. Press notes call it the “perfect 4:20 AM cult horror-druggie-comedy film”; critics insisted otherwise.

Until next week, happy renting!

Universal looks to score its first number one hit in nearly a year this weekend with the new Steve Carell comedy "Evan Almighty" which hits the multiplexes on Friday targeting a broad family audience.

Reaching out to adult moviegoers are MGM with the John Cusack chiller "1408" and Paramount Vantage with the Angelina Jolie starrer "A Mighty Heart." Overall, the marketplace could slow down a bit this weekend before another wave of high-profile summer blockbusters arrives towards the end of June.

The sixth consecutive sequel to open at number one has a different formula up its sleeve. "Evan Almighty" loses Jim Carrey from "Bruce Almighty," drops the rating from PG-13 to PG, and shifts the plot over to a Biblical story while courting family audiences. Michael Bay isn’t the only one with a transformer at the box office this summer. Universal’s big-budget comedy offering should easily top the charts, however the financial picture will be very different. Steve Carell, whose starpower has blossomed since the 2003’s "Bruce," takes over as the lead playing a TV anchorman-turned-congressman who is told by God to build an ark because a mighty flood is coming. Morgan Freeman reprises his supporting role as the big G.

On a budget rumored to have ballooned to $175M thanks to extensive special effects and overages, "Evan Almighty" stands as one of the priciest comedies ever. The loss of Jim Carrey means it has almost no chance of reaching the $68M three-day opening weekend gross of "Bruce" from four years ago when it shocked the film industry by kicking "The Matrix Reloaded" out of the top spot in only its second frame. It reached a domestic haul of $242.8M. "Evan Almighty" could conceivably gross half the amount of "Bruce," while costing twice as much to produce. Does that mean it will lose money? Not necessarily. "Evan" would love nothing more than to follow in the footsteps of "Night at the Museum," another effects-driven comedy led by a popular comedian aimed at families, which has grossed over $570M worldwide. If it can tap into that crowd, then it will be a divine road ahead.

"Evan"’s trim running time of about 90 minutes will help since multiplexes can schedule numerous showtimes per day. Competition will come from current chart-topper "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer," another action-comedy sequel tamed down to a PG to cater to eight-year-old boys on summer vacation. Teens and young adults who have to wait until the fall to see new episodes of Carell’s "The Office" may line up for "Evan" and give it a try, despite the negative reviews. There’s not much else exciting that demo right now. And given its themes, moviegoers in the Bible Belt may contribute some solid sales on opening weekend as the studio is wisely targeting churches in its marketing outreach. Opening in 3,602 theaters, "Evan Almighty" could premiere to about $40M this weekend.


"Evan Almighty"

John Cusack hopes to avoid the current horror curse at the box office with his new psychological thriller "1408." The MGM release finds the actor playing a writer who checks into a haunted hotel room that many have died in. Samuel L. Jackson co-stars in the PG-13 pic. Scary movies have been slaughtered at the cash registers lately. Even star-driven adult thrillers have struggled as witnessed by openings of $11.2M for "Perfect Stranger" starring Halle Berry and Bruce Willis, $10M for Hilary Swank‘s "The Reaping," $10M for Kevin Costner‘s "Mr. Brooks," and $7.6M for Luke Wilson‘s hotel-themed "Vacancy." Managing to surge a bit higher were Sandra Bullock‘s "Premonition" with $17.6M and Jim Carrey’s "The Number 23" with $14.6M. "1408" may not scare up that much business given consumer apathy towards fright flicks right now. Plus Cusack and Jackson are not really known for packing them in on opening weekend unless there are bigger stars present. Checking into 2,678 theaters, "1408" might take in about $12M this weekend.


John Cusack in "1408"

Angelina Jolie headlines this weekend’s serious offering for adult audiences, "A Mighty Heart." Directed by Michael Winterbottom ("The Road to Guantanamo," "Welcome to Sarajevo"), the R-rated film finds the Oscar-winning actress playing Mariane Pearl, wife of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, and documents her struggle to find her kidnapped husband in Pakistan. In a summer of sequels and effects-driven action pictures for kids on vacation, Paramount Vantage is going after the adults that are often neglected at this time of year. Reviews for "Heart" have been strong with Jolie already earning kudos buzz and the film should appeal to the same audiences that came out for other acclaimed political thrillers like "United 93" ($11.5M, $6,395 average), "The Constant Gardener" ($8.7M, $6,444), and "Syriana" ($11.7M, $6,699). Competition will come from "Ocean’s Thirteen" and "Knocked Up" which have both been playing well with the 30-plus crowd. Debuting in about 1,350 theaters, "A Mighty Heart" might open in the vicinity of $7M.


Angelina Jolie in "A Mighty Heart"

Last weekend, Fox’s "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" opened at the top and was just one of six sequels to land in the top ten. Its 2005 predecessor tumbled 59% in its second weekend thanks to poor word-of-mouth and intense competition from newcomers "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and "Wedding Crashers" which stole over $90M worth of ticket sales away from holdover pics. "Silver Surfer" has been greeted with marginally better responses and will not face as much competition from the incoming class this weekend, although "Evan Almighty" will be gunning for that PG-loving family crowd. A drop of 55% would give the new "Fantastic Four" saga around $25M for the frame and a ten-day cume of $103M.

"Ocean’s Thirteen" will see some of its adult audience get pulled away by the weekend’s two new mature-skewing flicks. A 40% decline will leave the caper sequel with roughly $12M pushing the total to $91M after 17 days for Warner Bros. Universal’s comedy sensation "Knocked Up" will smash through the $100M mark this weekend, probably on Friday. Look for a 30% fall to around $10M boosting the cume to $108M.

LAST YEAR: Adam Sandler scored his usual table at the top spot with his comedy "Click" which bowed to $40M for Sony on its way to $137.3M domestically and over $235M worldwide. The Disney/Pixar toon "Cars" dropped to the runnerup spot but dipped only 31% to $23.3M. Sophomores "Nacho Libre" and "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" were both hit hard and tumbled by more than 50% each to $12.7M and $9.8M, respectively. Focus launched the Tyrese Gibson actioner "Waist Deep" to a solid $9.4M from just over 1,000 theaters on its way to $21.3M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Fox scored its first number one hit in five months with "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" which grossed an estimated $57.4M on its opening weekend, tripling its nearest competitor’s sales.

Carrying a milder PG rating into 3,959 theaters, the super hero sequel averaged a sturdy $14,499 and just barely edged out the $56.1M bow of the first "Fantastic Four" pic from July 2005. A sequel has now topped the box office for seven consecutive weekends.

Reviews were mixed, but were better than for its predecessor which was critically panned. The sequel brought back director Tim Story along with the four main cast members Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, and Michael Chiklis. However, the iconic Marvel Comics character Silver Surfer was prominently added to the film, and even to its title, to help bring back comic fans who may have had a bad taste after the first "Fantastic" pic. Laurence Fishburne provided the voice for the computer-generated space traveler.

The latest summer sequel kicked off the weekend on Friday with $22M, dipped an understandable 11% to $19.6M on Saturday, and is projected to drop by another 19% on Sunday to $15.8M. Fox also reported that "Rise of the Silver Surfer" opened in 32 overseas markets with a combined $25.4M this weekend although most were minor territories. Russia, Italy, and the United Kingdom were among the only major international markets that launched this frame with more to come in the weeks ahead.

"Ocean’s Thirteen" enjoyed a good hold in its second weekend dropping only 47% to an estimated $19.1M in its sophomore frame. Warner Bros. has now made off with $69.8M in ten days. Threequels often drop by 55% or more and "Ocean’s Twelve" even fell by 54% in its second try. That caper sequel grossed $18.1M in its second weekend and bagged a similar $68.5M worth of loot in its first ten days. "Thirteen," which will not benefit from holidays like Christmas and New Year’s prolonging its run, could be on track to finish with $105-110M domestically which would still be the lowest in the "Ocean’s" series.

Universal’s sleeper hit "Knocked Up" continued to capitalize on strong word-of-mouth and held onto third place with an estimated $14.5M, off only 26%, for a $90.5M cume. The R-rated smash will join the century club next weekend making it the studio’s first $100M hit since its last June romantic comedy offering "The Break-Up."

Disney’s "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End" followed dropping 43% to an estimated $12M in its fourth adventure. Cume stands at $273.8M which is up 31% from 2003’s "Curse of the Black Pearl" after its fourth weekend, but down 24% from last summer’s "Dead Man’s Chest" at the same point. "At World’s End" did manage to rise to number 32 on the all-time domestic blockbusters list sailing past the $267.7M of 2001’s "Shrek."

A trio of kidpics followed. The animated penguin movie "Surf’s Up" sank 47% in its second weekend to an estimated $9.3M giving Sony a not-so-cool $34.7M after ten days. A final gross of about $60M could result. "Shrek the Third" landed in sixth place with an estimated $9M, off 41%, for a $297.2M total. Knocking on the triple-century mark, the Paramount release now stands at number 24 on the all-time list just behind the first "Pirates" film which banked $305.4M four years ago.

Moviegoers passed on solving a mystery with "Nancy Drew" which opened poorly in seventh with only $7.1M, accoridng to estimates. Averaging a weak $2,732 from 2,612 theaters, the PG-rated film starring Emma Roberts failed to make a dent in the summer box office this weekend. "Nancy" opened in the same neighborhood as other films aimed at tween girls like "Ice Princess," "Little Black Book," and "Aquamarine" which all bowed to roughly $7M a piece.

Lionsgate saw its horror sequel "Hostel Part II" tumble 64% after its weak opening to an estimated $3M this weekend. With only $14.2M taken in thus far, the torture pic should finish with just under $20M, or less than half of the $47.3M of the first "Hostel" flick from last year. MGM’s "Mr. Brooks" grossed an estimated $2.8M, off 43%, pushing the cume to only $23.4M for the Kevin Costner thriller.

"Spider-Man 3" rounded out the top ten with an estimated $2.5M falling 42% from last weekend. With $330M after its seventh frame, the Sony sequel climbed to number 15 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters right behind "Finding Nemo" which took in $339.7M in 2003.

Opening dead on arrival was the new actioner "D.O.A.: Dead or Alive" which bowed to an estimated $232,000 from 505 theaters for a pathetic $460 average. The Weinstein Co. title was released with little fanfare and should see most of its business on DVD.

A pair of hits fell from the top ten over the weekend. Fox Searchlight’s indie darling "Waitress" grossed an estimated $1.3M, down only 21%, for a $14.1M cume to date. A final tally of $17-20M from a limited national release is likely. Paramount’s Shia LaBeouf thriller "Disturbia" collected an estimated $250,000 in its tenth frame pushing the stellar cume to $78.3M. Look for a $79M final which will serve as an appetizer to the studio’s next Shia offering — "Transformers" opening July 3.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $136.8M which was down 2% from last year when "Cars" remained at number one with $33.7M; but up 8% from 2005 when "Batman Begins" debuted in the top spot with $48.7M over three days.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Hollywood served up more of the same dishes and moviegoers said enough is enough and found their weekend entertainment elsewhere. The latest star-studded heist sequel "Ocean’s Thirteen" managed to open at number one, but with the weakest debut of the franchise.

"Surf’s Up," the second animated penguin movie in seven months, attracted a mild debut while the horror sequel "Hostel Part II" was butchered on its opening weekend. Overall, the marketplace generated the worst showing for the second weekend of June since 2003.

George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Al Pacino made off with the North American box office crown with "Ocean’s Thirteen" which debuted on top with an estimated $37.1M. Averaging a solid $10,401 from 3,565 locations, the Warner Bros. release bowed a bit below the openings of the previous installments in the heist franchise. 2001’s "Ocean’s Eleven" debuted to $38.1M and a $12,393 average while its 2004 sequel premiered to $39.2M and a $11,901 average. Both opened in early December.

"Thirteen"’s top spot debut marked the sixth consecutive weekend when a threequel ruled the charts. Given higher ticket prices, additional theaters, the more high-profile summer launch, and the publicity generated from the much-hyped world premiere at Cannes, "Ocean’s Thirteen" was expected to open stronger by some in the industry. However, competition for adults was stronger with this chapter with holdovers "Pirates" and "Knocked Up" grossing a combined $41M. Plus the non-stop assault of sequels may have made some moviegoers sick of paying to see the same characters in the same situations again and again. Reviews were mostly upbeat for the PG-13 caper pic.

"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End" tumbled another 52% in its third frame and dropped down to second place with an estimated $21.3M pushing its cume to $253.6M. Both previous Captain Jack films, 2003’s "The Curse of the Black Pearl" and 2006’s "Dead Man’s Chest," did better in their third weekends with $23.1M and $35.2M, respectively. The latest Disney pic now stands at number 38 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters after 2001’s "Monsters, Inc." which grossed $255.9M. At its current rate of decline, "At World’s End" now has no guarantee of reaching the $300M mark which was always seen as an easy milestone before the film’s release. As with the "Spider-Man" franchise, the third chapter should become the lowest-grossing installment in the series domestically.

But just like with the webslinger, international business is on fire for the latest "Pirates" which grossed an estimated $51.3M overseas this weekend, down 50%. That puts the overseas tally at $493.5M and the global gross at a colossal $747M.

Universal’s hot comedy "Knocked Up" delivered a solid hold in its second weekend thanks to strong word-of-mouth. The R-rated pic collected an estimated $20M, off 35%, for a ten-day cume of $66.2M. By comparison, director Judd Apatow’s last film "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" opened weaker and dipped only 24% to $16.3M in its second weekend for a total of $48.6M in its first ten days. "Knocked Up" is proving that a film that is good and original can attract a large paying audience and should go on to gross more than "Ocean’s Thirteen" this summer despite having a smaller budget and no bankable stars. A final gross of about $120-130M could result for the pregnancy comedy quadrupling its $30M production cost.

The penguin toon "Surf’s Up" opened in fourth place with a mediocre launch. Sony’s big summer family pic took in an estimated $18M from an ultrawide 3,528 theaters for a decent $5,102 average. The PG-rated film tells of a young penguin who competes in a surfing competition and was made in a mockumentary style. The debut was weaker than last year’s animated releases from the studio – "Open Season" ($23.6M) and "Monster House" ($22.2M). "Surf’s Up" also bowed to less than half of the $41.5M that last November’s penguin pic "Happy Feet" took in on its debut frame. Sony saw a six-week gap between the openings of the summer megatoons "Shrek the Third" and Pixar’s "Ratatouille" and positioned its entry right in the middle.

Close behind in fifth was rival toon "Shrek the Third" with an estimated $15.8M in its fourth frame. Off a reasonable 44%, the Paramount release has grabbed $281.9M to date putting it at number 29 on the all-time domestic list. A final gross of around $320M seems likely. The latest ogre now stands as the second biggest DreamWorks film ever after "Shrek 2" ($436.7M) and the third largest hit in Paramount history after "Titanic" ($600.8M) and "Forrest Gump" ($329.7M).

Yet another horror failure followed in sixth place. Lionsgate’s "Hostel Part II" opened to an estimated $8.8M from 2,350 theaters for a weak $3,723 average. That was less than half of the $19.6M bow that the first "Hostel" generated in January 2006 on its way to a solid $47.3M domestic gross. The R-rated sequel once again examines the torture of American students in Slovakia, only with female victims this time. "Part II" even opened weaker than other recent horror sequels like "28 Weeks Later" and "The Hills Have Eyes II" which both bowed to just under $10M each. With so many fright flicks flooding the multiplexes recently and moviegoers ignoring most of them, Lionsgate has to be a bit worried about getting genre fans back into theaters for the fourth consecutive Halloween with its "Saw IV."

The Kevin Costner thriller "Mr. Brooks" fell 50% to an estimated $5M and placed seventh with a $18.7M total. "Spider-Man 3" dropped 45% to an estimated $4.4M in its sixth mission giving Sony $325.7M to date. That keeps the third webslinger adventure at number 17 on the all-time domestic list just behind "The Lion King"’s lifetime cume of $328.5M. A $335M final seems likely.

Enjoying the smallest decline in the top ten once again was Keri Russell’s comedy "Waitress" which dipped only 18% to an estimated $1.7M pushing the cume to $12M for Fox Searchlight. Paramount’s "Disturbia" rounded out the top ten with an estimated $550,000, down 51%, giving the thriller $77.8M to date.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $132.5M which was down 8% from last year when "Cars" opened at number one with $60.1M; and off 1% from 2005 when "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" debuted in the top spot with $50.3M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Disney still claimed the most popular film in the land with "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End" despite a drop that was sizable even by tentpole standards. Universal generated a stronger than expected debut for its new adult comedy "Knocked Up" which pushed its way into the runnerup spot sending Shrek the Third down to third in weekend number three.

For the first time in over a year, three different films grossed over $25M each in the same weekend. But the overall marketplace posted numbers typical for early June and did not flex the kind of muscles the industry would expect when three of the most expensive films ever made were all playing simultaneously.

Johnny Depp was still king of the world and collected an estimated $43.2M for "At World’s End" in its second weekend in theaters. Down a sharp 62%, the latest high seas adventure has now taken in a solid $216.5M worth of treasure in ten-plus days of release. The drop was identical to the fall that "Spider-Man 3" suffered in its sophomore session last month but larger than the 54% decline witnessed by "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest" last July.

Sophomore drops for other effects-driven action pictures debuting over the Memorial Day holiday frame include 67% for last year’s "X-Men: The Last Stand" and 60% for 2004’s "The Day After Tomorrow." Those two films saw their ten-day cumes account for 75% and 70% of their final cumes, respectively. Based on its opening and sophomore drop, "At World’s End" may end up with $310-320M domestically. Though it would be significantly behind the $423.3M of "Chest," the third chapter will still collect a lot of loot in North America.

Just like with "Spider-Man 3," "At World’s End" is holding up better in offshore markets. The Captain Jack saga grossed an estimated $105.4M internationally this weekend dropping only 46% from last weekend’s Friday-to-Sunday period. That puts the overseas tally at an amazing $408.8M after less than two weeks and the worldwide cume at a towering $625.3M with 65% coming from abroad. Chest saw 60% of its sales come from international waters. "At World’s End" looks to be on course to gross at least $850M globally and could certainly sail past the $900M mark too.

Delivering a healthy opening in second place was the new pregnancy comedy "Knocked Up" with an estimated $29.3M in its first weekend. Averaging a very fertile $10,200 from 2,871 theaters, the R-rated pic debuted 37% stronger than writer/director Judd Apatow’s last film, "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," which bowed to $21.4M from a similar number of theaters in August 2005. After a month of big-budget sequels, Knocked Up served as a breath of fresh air in the marketplace. Critical praise, a lack of comedies for adults, and a marketing campaign that reminded moviegoers of the director’s last work all helped to bring in ticket sales that led to the best per-theater average of any wide release.

Universal’s research showed that 57% of the audience was female and 56% was over the age of 30 for the Seth RogenKatherine Heigl comedy. "Knocked Up"’s long-term playability looks strong given that 92% of audiences polled rated the film "excellent" or "very good." "Virgin" went on to gross five times its opening weekend take ending up with $109.3M. Especially impressive was "Knocked Up"’s ability to approach the opening weekend numbers of recent comedy hits like "Blades of Glory" ($33M debut, $9,791 average) and "Norbit" ($34.2M, $10,904) despite its harsher rating and lack of any bankable A-list star. Plus its $30M production budget will make it easy to become a profitable venture for the studio as an invite to the century club seems guaranteed.

The ogre sequel "Shrek the Third" fell 50% in its third weekend and finished in third place with an estimated $26.7M. It was a steep drop for this kind of picture at this point in time especially since there was little new direct competition. By comparison, weekend declines of other recent animated films from DreamWorks on the weekend after Memorial Day were 24% for last year’s "Over the Hedge," 41% for 2005’s "Madagascar," and 47% for 2004’s "Shrek 2" which was greatly affected by the record $93.7M debut of the third "Harry Potter" film. Still, "Shrek the Third" boosted its total to $254.6M landing it at number 37 on the list of all-time domestic blockbusters, a hair behind rival toon "Monsters, Inc." which took in $255.9M in 2001. At its current pace, a final domestic tally of $320-330M could result for the newest ogre tale.

MGM went after older adults with its crime thriller "Mr. Brooks" and saw a mediocre fourth place debut. The Kevin CostnerDemi Moore pic bowed to an estimated $10M from 2,453 locations for a mild $4,085 average. Studio research showed that 57% of the audience was female and 67% was over the age of 30.

Dropping down to fifth place in its fifth frame was "Spider-Man 3" which grossed an estimated $7.5M, off 48%. Sony has boosted its North American haul to $318.3M putting it at number 17 on the list of all-time domestic hits just ahead of the $317.6M of 2001’s "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone." A final gross of $330-340M seems likely. The international total for the third webslinger has climbed to $526M putting the global gross at an amazing $844M making it the biggest "Spider-Man" ever worldwide beating out the $822M of the first in the series. The first two installments made roughly 52% of their global box office from overseas markets, but "Spider-Man 3" has really exploded abroad with 62% of its current tally coming from outside of North America.

Overall, the box office was healthy this weekend. However, by comparing the top ten cume to the weekend after the Memorial Day holiday in recent years, it’s hard to detect that we have three juggernauts in the current marketplace. The $123.6M collected this weekend is slightly behind the same frames in 2006 and 2005. The tally is below those of 2004 and 2003 when big hits like "Harry Potter" and "Finding Nemo," respectively, opened in those years. The threequels all opened big, but are falling faster than even normal tentpole films do. And at their current trajectories, "Spider-Man 3" looks to remain the top-grossing of the trio domestically.

Fox Searchlight’s indie hit "Waitress" dropped one spot to sixth with an estimated $2M from 605 theaters for a mild $3,347 average. Despite adding 95 theaters, the film dropped by 34% and was probably affected by "Knocked Up" doing so well with young adult women. But the distributor is being patient knowing that good word-of-mouth will allow many more to eventually find it and will add another 100 screens on Friday. Cume stands at $9.5M.

Girl power was also behind the number seven film, the soccer drama "Gracie," which opened to a poor estimate of $1.4M. Averaging a weak $1,171 from 1,164 theaters, Picturehouse’s PG-13 pic played mostly to teen girls.

Crumbling 63% in its second weekend was the Ashley Judd horror flop "Bug" with an estimated $1.2M in eighth place. With a measly $6.1M in ten days, look for the Lionsgate thriller to quickly finish its run with only $8M.

Another fright flick collecting an estimated $1.2M over the weekend was "28 Weeks Later" which fell 53% and boosted the cume for Fox to $26.6M. Rounding out the top ten was the hit voyeur thriller "Disturbia" with an estimated $1.1M in its eighth frame, down 42%, for a $76.7M total for Paramount.

Opening in limited release was the Russian fantasy thriller "Day Watch" with an estimated $46,000 from only five theaters for a solid $9,265 average. The effects-driven sequel to "Night Watch" has grossed over $30M in Russia making it one of the all-time biggest blockbustrs in that market. Fox Searchlight will expand to eight more cities on Friday.

Three films were pushed out of the top ten this weekend. Buena Vista’s hit comedy "Wild Hogs" grossed an estimated $819,000, down 43%, and boosted its stellar total to $164.4M. A final domestic haul of $167M is likely. Universal’s "Georgia Rule" saw its female audience stolen by the studio’s new pregnancy comedy this weekend. The offscreen antics of its younger actress last week didn’t help sales either. "Rule" tumbled 69% to an estimated $581,000 raising the disappointing cume to only $18.1M. A $19M final seems set. New Line’s Anthony HopkinsRyan Gosling thriller "Fracture" grossed an estimated $500,000, off 60%, for a $38.1M total. Look for a decent $39M final.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $123.6M which was down 4% from last year when "The Break-Up" opened at number one with $39.2M; and off 2% from 2005 when "Madagascar" climbed into the top spot with $28.1M in its second weekend.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

Call it the weekend of the actor/producer. Three new films with stars that do double duty behind the scenes (or have good agents that can snag a free credit) enter a marketplace filled with big-budget tentpole pics quickly eroding away.

Seth Rogen headlines and executive produces the new comedy "Knocked Up," Kevin Costner stars and produces the crime thriller "Mr. Brooks," and Elisabeth Shue acts in and co-produces the sports drama "Gracie." Following an explosive May at the box office, the first weekend of June should see ticket sales calm down a bit before George and Brad usher in the next big wave of sequels.

For adult moviegoers sick of pirates, ogres, and webslingers, Universal has the answer – the raunchy romantic comedy "Knocked Up." The R-rated film from Judd Apatow ("The 40-Year-Old Virgin") stars Rogen and Katherine Heigl as a stoner loser and a just-promoted entertainment newswoman, respectively, who share a one night stand which leads to an unplanned pregnancy. Older teens, young adults, and couples make up the target audience here and the studio is hoping to bring back the same folks that opened "Virgin" to $21.4M on its way to a stellar $109.3M (five times its debut) two summers ago.

With mindless popcorn sequels dominating the marquees for the past month, "Knocked Up" brings a breath of fresh air into the multiplexes. Moviegoers looking for new characters and new situations will be pleased. The marketing push has been strong but television spots are not too funny, mostly because the bulk of the humor is too racy to feature on broadcast television. But when opening weekend audiences find out how much funnier the actual film is compared to the trailer and commercials, red hot word-of-mouth will keep the pic playing week after week.

The public’s appetite for studio comedies has been healthy over the last six months with "Wild Hogs," "Night at the Museum," "Blades of Glory," and "Norbit" selling an amazing $626M worth of ticket stubs combined. "Hogs" even popped back into the top ten last weekend in its thirteenth session signaling the hunger in the marketplace right now for something good that will make people laugh. Universal enjoys going after adults on the weekend after Memorial Day. In 2005 it debuted the serious Russell CroweRenee Zellweger boxing pic "Cinderella Man" to $18.3M while last year the studio exceeded expectations with the $39.2M bow of the date flick "The Break-Up." "Knocked Up" should play to much of the same audience as the Jennifer Aniston film, although with less starpower and no tabloid gossip about the star’s personal lives, the grosses won’t soar as high.

Critics have been praising "Knocked Up" and its strong cross-gender appeal will make it a hit with the date crowd. A unique concept and a great title will also help sell the film. "Pirates" will only be in its second weekend and will still be pulling in a broad audience so there will be some competition. But "Knocked Up" has great buzz and will start selling itself after people begin pouring out of the Friday night shows. Opening in 2,873 theaters, the Universal release may gross about $24M this weekend and witness small declines in the weeks ahead.


"Yay, pregnancy."

Less than a year after co-starring with Ashton Kutcher in "The Guardian," Kevin Costner teams up with the "Punk’d" star’s gal pal Demi Moore in the new psychological thriller "Mr. Brooks." In the R-rated film, the former bodyguard plays a family man who moonlights as a serial killer while the ex-G.I. Jane stars as a detective hot on his trail. The MGM release should play to the oldest audience of any major release out now. That’s a good thing since direct competition will not be too fierce. But despite some moderately good reviews, Brooks is anchored by two aging actors who were bulletproof box office stars fifteen years ago, but are not all that reliable at the turnstiles nowadays.

"Knocked Up" has much more buzz around it and will take away much of the thirtysomething crowd, but the forty-plus audience might give "Mr. Brooks" a try. Older adults did little for "Georgia Rule" which bowed to just $6.8M but April’s "Fracture" had a decent $11M opening. Costner should draw an audience more like the one that came out for the Anthony Hopkins thriller. The marketing push has not been too forceful so a large turnout is not likely. Invading 2,453 theaters, "Mr. Brooks" may generate a $9M debut.


Where Dane Cook gets his career advice.

Picturehouse targets the Lady Foot Locker crowd with its new drama "Gracie" which tells the true story of a teenage girl in the late 1970s who fought to play competitive soccer when the sport did not open its doors to her gender. The PG-13 flick stars Dermot Mulroney, Elisabeth Shue, and Carly Schroeder and has been marketed squarely to its core audience of teenage girls. "Gracie" is unlikely to score any goals with other audience segments and is not being released in too many theaters so a modest opening is likely. Reviews have been mixed. Kicking its way into about 1,000 locations, "Gracie" might find itself with an opening weekend take of around $3M.


The mullet-headed heckler is always an important training component.

Fox Searchlight invades the arthouses once again with its Russian fantasy epic "Day Watch," the sequel to Timur Bekmambetov‘s "Night Watch" which became a mammoth blockbuster in its home country in 2004. Last year, "Night Watch" bowed in the U.S. to a sturdy $35,475 average from only three theaters and eventually collected $1.5M from 158 sites. "Day Watch" continues the battle of Light vs. Darkness in an adventure set in Moscow with digital effects that could rival any $200M-budgeted Hollywood tentpole pic. The R-rated film debuts on Friday in New York and Los Angeles with two theaters in each city plus a solo house in San Francisco. More markets across the country will be added in the weeks ahead.


"Day Watch"

None of the newbies looks like first-place material so "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End" should easily retain its box office crown. However, a substantial fall is likely. As a third part of a franchise coming off of a big holiday bow, the drop would of course be large. "Dead Man’s Chest" fell by 54% in its sophomore frame. Add in the fact that fan reaction isn’t exactly stellar and the ship should sink by a large amount. Don’t expect the latest "Pirates" to suffer the 67% crash that the third "X-Men" flick saw a year ago when it came off of the Memorial Day frame. Instead, it could perform more like 2004’s "The Day After Tomorrow" which fell 60% coming off of the same holiday weekend. Luckily for Johnny Depp and pals the competition is not too fierce this weekend. A similar 60% tumble would give "At World’s End" about $46M worth of weekend loot which would boost the ten-day cume to $218M.

"Shrek the Third" will also not have much in the way of competition for its family audience, but comedy fans will certainly abandon ship and head for "Knocked Up." The ogre franchise makes a sizable portion of its money from teens and young adults and those folks are going to be moving on. Last weekend’s 56% drop was affected by the arrival of "Pirates." This weekend, it could stabilize and fall by 45%. That would give "Shrek the Third" around $29M for the weekend and $256M after 17 days.

"Spider-Man 3," the only May threequel with the actual number three in its title, has also been fading away. A 45% drop would give the Sandman saga roughly $8M boosting the cume to $319M.

LAST YEAR: Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn proved more popular than super heroes as their romantic comedy "The Break-Up" knocked "X-Men: The Last Stand" out of the number one spot in only its second weekend. The Universal comedy opened to $39.2M on its way to a better-than-expected $118.7M. The mutant sequel tumbled 67% to $34M in its sophomore frame for the runnerup position. Paramount’s toon sensation "Over the Hedge" held up well in third with $20.6M followed by "The Da Vinci Code" with $18.6M and "Mission: Impossible III" with $4.7M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

This week at the movies we’ve got matters of life ("Knocked Up," starring Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen), death ("Mr. Brooks," starring Kevin Costner and Demi Moore), and soccer ("Gracie," starring Elisabeth Shue). What do the critics have to say?

When director Judd Apatow titles a movie, you always know what to expect. Like, what else could something called "The 40-Year-Old-Virgin" possibly have been about? And Apatow’s newest flick, "Knocked Up," is just as bluntly advertised: a perpetually stoned schlub (Seth Rogen) impregnates a woman way out of his league (Katherine Heigl) after a one-night stand, putting the kibosh on his arrested development. But, like "Virgin," "Knocked" has a sweetness and depth that extends well beyong most comedies; critics call it a hilarious, poignant, and refreshing look at the rigors of courtship and child-rearing, with a sometimes raunchy, always witty script that is ably acted and directed. At 88 percent on the Tomatometer, "Knocked Up" isn’t just Certified Fresh, it even tops "Virgin"’s 82 percent.


"Magenta?"

In "Mr. Brooks," Kevin Costner plays a successful businessman and loving father with a big secret: he’s a serial killer on the down low. It’s an admittedly intriguing setup, and critics say "Mr. Brooks" gives its talented cast, which includes Demi Moore, William Hurt, and Dane Cook (!) a chance to take on some meaty roles, as well as providing audiences with some amusing, smarter-than-average plot twists and thrills. Unfortunately, the pundits also note that "Mr. Brooks" is overstuffed with said twists, making for a film that becomes more preposterous as it goes along. "Mr. Brooks" currently stands at 53 percent on the Tomatometer.


"They call me Mister Brooks!"

"Gracie" is the latest in a long line of inspirational sports movies that feature a dogged protagonist overcoming prejudice and family trauma. The film, a fictional treatment of star Elisabeth Shue’s high school sports career, tells the story of a 15-year-old (Carly Schroeder) who wants to play soccer at a time when there isn’t a girls’ squad at her school. Couple the sexism Gracie faces with the tragic death of her brother, and you’ve got the stuff that sports movies are made of, right? Well, critics say that "Gracie" can be rousing and touching in spots, but it’s ultimately undone by its predictable story arc and a lack of nuance. At 42 percent on the Tomatometer, "Gracie" is something of a draw.


Apparently trying out an interesting new soccer maneuver.

Also opening this week in limited release: "The Trials of Darryl Hunt," a doc about a man falsely accused of murder, is at 100 percent; "Radiant City," a visually expressive doc about suburban sprawl, is at 91 percent; "Crazy Love," a doc about a remarkably dysfunctional relationship, is at 87 percent; "Day Watch," the second installation in Timur Bekmambetov’s vampire trilogy, is at 73 percent; "Pierrepoint – The Last Hangman," which tells the tale of a conflicted executioner, is at 73 percent; and the indie rom-com "I’m Reed Fish" is at 67 percent.


"I can’t help it if I think the last season of ‘Gilmore Girls’ sucked."

Recent Kevin Costner Movies:
————————————-
38% — The Guardian (2006)
18% — Rumor Has It… (2005)
74% — The Upside of Anger (2005)
78% — Open Range (2003)
7% — Dragonfly (2002)

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