Bloodthirty vampires flew high, depressing dramas sank, and many holdovers
held up well at the North American box office. The new horror flick
30 Days of Night

easily ruled the charts while a handful of adult dramas were met with opening
weekend sales that ranged from mild to embarrassing. Oscar-winning actresses
Reese
Witherspoon
and
Halle Berry
both failed miserably with their new serious stories which were both shunned by
ticket buyers. With so many fall offerings eating into each others’ business,
the overall marketplace remained sluggish as for the fifth consecutive weekend
the top ten slumped below year-ago levels.

Sony commanded the top spot with its R-rated gorefest
30 Days of Night

which opened with an estimated $16M over the Friday-to-Sunday period. Attacking
2,855 theaters, the vampires-in-Alaska pic averaged a solid $5,604 and tapped
into a pre-Halloween box office that offered no major scary movies. The lack of
competition helped the $30M
Josh Hartnett
starrer which brought out older teens, young adults, and genre fans. Days
was based on a popular graphic novel and earned mixed reviews which is above
average by horror picture standards.



Tyler Perry
followed up his muscular top spot debut for his latest comedy
Why
Did I Get Married?
with a strong second weekend hold dropping only
43% to an estimated $12.1M. After just ten days in theaters, the Lionsgate
release has already collected a sturdy $38.9M which is just ahead of the $38.1M
that Perry’s first film
Diary of a
Mad Black Woman
took in during its first ten days in 2005. Married
suffered a smaller drop than his other films witnessed indicating that the
filmmaker’s latest entry could be reaching beyond its core African American
audience. Diary fell 50% in its sophomore session while

Madea’s Family Reunion
and
Daddy’s Little
Girls
tumbled by about 57% each. Married looks on course to reach
a remarkable $65-70M which would be a new career high for Perry



Posting the smallest decline in the top ten once again was
The Rock‘s hit family
comedy The Game
Plan
which ranked third in its fourth weekend with an estimated
$8.1M. That represented a slim drop of only 26% and boosted Disney’s cume to
$69.2M. The durable sensation ranks as the actor’s second biggest hit in a lead
role after The Scorpion King which took in $90.5M in 2002.
Game Plan should
easily surpass that mark and has not yet seen a drop of more than 35%.


Also holding up very well was
George Clooney‘s legal thriller
Michael Clayton
which remained in fourth place with an estimated $7.1M. The Warner Bros. title
dropped by only 32% and boosted its total gross to $22M matching its production
budget. The marketplace was crowded with adult dramas targeting Clayton‘s
audience so the strong hold was an impressive performance. Powerful reviews and
good word-of-mouth contributed to the success. A final tally of $40-50M may
result.



Two new films fought fiercely over the number five spot. Miramax estimated that
its kidnapping thriller
Gone Baby Gone
would collect $6M over the weekend from
1,713 theaters for a mild $3,503 average. The directorial debut of
Ben Affleck
stars his brother

Casey Affleck
along with
Morgan Freeman and
Ed Harris and was
greeted with stellar reviews from film critics. Produced for $19M, Gone faced
tough competition from other adult dramas but could have legs in the weeks
ahead.



Aiming for teens and young adults with a dose of immature spoof comedy was
The
Comebacks
which grossed an estimated $5.9M for Fox. The PG-13 sports film
enjoyed a much wider release in 2,812 venues and generated a dull $2,080
average. The debut was nowhere near the numbers that the studio has seen in the
recent past with its other spoof comedies. Both
Epic Movie
from earlier this
year and Date Movie from 2006 debuted to about $19M. Comebacks will be lucky to
reach that amount overall.



Despite the weekend estimates reported by Miramax and Fox, three studios
estimated that Comebacks edged out Gone Baby Gone by a slim margin over the
weekend. Miramax’s estimate factored in a 26% Saturday-to-Sunday decline while
Fox’s figure includes a more reasonable 38% drop. All other films in the top ten
projected Sunday declines of 34% to 51%. Final box office grosses to be reported
on Monday will tell which film truly earns the fifth-place spot. The position is
valuable to studios for the publicity since many news outlets only report on the
top five films each weekend and ignore anything below them.



Falling hardest among holdover titles was the
Joaquin
Phoenix
/Mark
Wahlberg

crime thriller
We Own the Night

which dropped by 49% to an estimated $5.5M in its second weekend. The Sony
release has banked $19.8M in ten days and looks headed for a mediocre finish of
$30-33M.



Generating the hottest average in the top ten was the latest re-release of Tim
Burton’s creepy animated hit
The Nightmare Before Christmas
which debuted to an
estimated $5.1M from only 564 theaters for a potent $9,122 average. The special
3D version was given a wider launch by Disney compared to this weekend a year
ago when it opened in 168 theaters for a $3.3M weekend and sizzling $19,506
average. That re-release bagged $8.7M while its original 1993 run brought in
$50M. With no other good options for parents other than the studio’s own The
Game Plan
, Nightmare proved to be an exciting pre-Halloween option for families.
The PG-rated film will only play for a limited three-week engagement and goes
back into the Mouse House’s vault soon after the pumpkin holiday.



Moviegoers ignored the terrorism drama
Rendition
despite its acclaimed cast
allowing it to barely debut in the top ten. The New Line release opened to an
estimated $4.2M from 2,250 locations for a horrible $1,856 average. It was Reese
Witherspoon’s first film since winning the Academy Award for Best Actress for
2005’s Walk the Line, but fans were not biting. Jake Gyllenhaal,
Meryl Streep,
and Alan Arkin also starred in the R-rated story of a woman in search of her
Egyptian-born husband who is captured by the CIA after being suspected of being
a terrorist. Rendition was the third film in recent weeks dealing with Middle
East issues and entered a marketplace flooded with serious adult dramas. Plus
lukewarm reviews helped to make this a non-priority among ticket buyers this
weekend.



Rounding out the top ten was the
Ben Stiller comedy
The
Heartbreak Kid
with an
estimated $3.9M, off 46%, for a $32.1M cume for Paramount.



Halle Berry joined fellow Oscar-winning actress Reese in striking out with
audiences with her new adult drama. The former Storm headlined the Paramount
release
Things We Lost in the Fire
with
Benicio Del Toro and attracted a measly
$1.6M in business on opening weekend, according to estimates. Debuting in 1,142
locations, the R-rated film about a woman who befriends her dead husband’s
heroin-addicted pal averaged a pathetic $1,405. Reviews were generally favorable
and studio research indicated that two-thirds of the audience consisted of women
over 30. Fire cost a relatively low $16M to produce, but has a long road ahead
of it in order to reach profitability.



Two additional films risked going nationwide and met with embarrassing results.
The teen thriller
Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour
bowed to an estimated
$560,000 from 1,115 theaters for a disastrous $502 average for Freestyle
Releasing. Meanwhile, Rocky Mountain Pictures unleashed its animated pic
The Ten
Commandments
in 830 sites and was met with only $480,000, according to
estimates, for a horrible $578 average. Both films should find their primary
audiences on DVD.

Focus saw a soft bow for its downbeat drama
Reservation Road
which debuted in
just fourteen theaters for a weak estimate of $36,821 for a poor average of
$2,630. The arthouse crowd was just not in the mood for this depressing drama
about the death of a young boy which starred Joaquin Phoenix,
Mark Ruffalo,
Jennifer Connelly, and
Mira Sorvino. Also hurting
Road‘s performance were
reviews that were far from glowing.



With all the new content in the multiplexes, five films were tossed out of the
top ten over the weekend. The costume drama sequel
Elizabeth: The Golden Age

dropped 49% in its sophomore session to an estimated $3.1M giving Universal a
weak $11.2M in ten days. Look for the
Cate Blanchett pic to end its domestic run
with a dismal $16-18M. Overseas prospects do look brighter though.



Sony’s durable musical extravaganza
Across the
Universe
dipped by 29% to an
estimated $2.7M for a solid $16.8M total from less than 1,000 theaters. A
$25-30M final could result. The Saudi Arabia-set political thriller
The Kingdom
fell by 48% in its fourth outing to an estimated $2.4M. Universal has taken in
$44M thus far and should end up with just under $50M which means that the $70M
production will need to still work hard overseas and on video in order to break
even.



The Milla Jovovich threequel

Resident Evil: Extinction
tumbled 60% to an
estimated $1.1M and raised its sum to a cool $50M. Fox’s fantasy adventure
The
Seeker: The Dark is Rising
saw its weekend gross nosedive by an alarming 81% to
an estimated $425,000 lifting the dull total to $8.2M with little left to go.



The top ten films grossed an estimated $73.9M which was down 10% from last year
when The Prestige debuted in first place with $14.8M; but up 13% from 2005 when
Doom opened in the top spot with $15.5M. Author: Gitesh Pandaya, www.boxofficeguru.com

This week at the movies we have Alaskan vamps (30
Days of Night
, starring
Josh Hartnett
and Melissa
George
), imprisoned citizens (Rendition,
starring Jake
Gyllenhaal
and
Reese
Witherspoon
), private eyes (Gone
Baby Gone
, starring
Casey Affleck
and
Michelle Monaghan
), grieving adults (Things
We Lost in the Fire
, starring Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro),
biblical figures (The
Ten Commandments
), athletes (The
Comebacks
), and teen detectives of the supernatural (Sarah
Landon and the Paranormal Hour
). What do the critics have to say?

Many horror films go to great lengths to create a dark atmosphere. 30
Days of Night
does them all one better, venturing to a place where it’s night for
a month: Barrow, AK, the northernmost point in the U.S. Unfortunately, critics
are left cold by this one. Night stars Josh Hartnett and Melissa George
as an estranged couple defending their town against a horde of bloodthirsty
vampires. Critics say the film has some frightful moments that should please
gorehounds, but overall, the film lacks the nuance and sustained tension to
really put this kind of genre exercise over. At 39 percent on the Tomatometer, Night
doesn’t shine.



Hartnett and company check for undead termites.
 

Reese Witherspoon stars in Rendition as a housewife whose husband is imprisoned
and tortured by the U.S. for his suspected involvement with terrorists. Jake Gyllenhaal co-stars as a government employee trying to set him free, with
Meryl
Streep
as a bureaucrat intent on keeping him there. While critics commended the
film for exploring the issue of torture within the context of combating
terrorism, they say the plot is spread thinly across an abundance of characters
and doesn’t give the film the emotional drive it needs, while arriving at an
oversimplified conclusion of this very complex subject. At 39 percent, this
Rendition is less than extraordinary.




Who needs work when you have Snood?
 

Ben Affleck has had a rollercoaster career, but critics say his feature
directorial debut, Gone
Baby Gone
, is one of the high points. Treading
the same rough Boston streets as
Mystic River
(also adapted from one of
source writer Dennis
Lehane
‘s novels), Gone Baby Gone tells the story of
a pair of private eyes (Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan) searching for a
lost four-year-old, a quest that delves into the dark shadows of the city, from
the criminal underworld to corrupt cops. Critics say Baby is grim, but
also deliciously noirish and morally complex, featuring standout performances
from its leads, as well as
Morgan Freeman and
Ed Harris. With a score of 89
percent on the Tomatometer, Gone Baby Gone‘s critical reaction should
assuage Ben’s depression over the current state of his beloved Red Sox. (Check
out this week’s Total Recall, where we examine some of Affleck’s notable
cameos).



Affleck ponders another imminent Red Sox defeat.
 

Susanne Bier, famed in her native Denmark for her dark and complex melodramas,
makes her American debut this week with Things
We Lost in the Fire
. Halle Berry
stars as a grieving widow who invites Benicio Del Toro’s character, her
husband’s childhood friend and heroin addict, to move in with her and her
children. Though it frequently drips into maudlin territory (something Bier
avoided with her previous effort, the Certified Fresh
After the Wedding
),
critics recognize it as at least a sincere tearjerker, and an honest and
emotionally raw portrayal of two tortured people. At 64 percent, Fire isn’t
red-hot but should appease viewers out for a soapy drama.




A therapeutic game of thumb war.
 
Movie lovers who lack the patience to sit through the
The Decalogue
are
in luck:
The Ten Commandments
tells the story of Moses in less than an
hour and a half, and in animated form, no less. But is it any good? Well,
critics are forbidden to bear false witness, and they say it isn’t. The Ten
Commandments
follows Moses’ journey from infancy to the point where he leads
the Chosen People to the Promised Land, and features voice work from the likes
of Ben Kingsley and
Christian Slater. But critics say the film’s middling
animation and lack of nuance make for a dull take on one of the Bible’s most
rousing tales. At 20 percent on the Tomatometer, critics say thou shall not
enjoy The Ten Commandments.

This week, the folks behind both The
Comebacks
and Sarah
Landon and the Paranormal Hour
declined to screen their films for pundits. The
Comebacks
spoofs inspirational sports movies, while Sarah Landon is
about a 17-year-old who discovers spectral activity in her hometown. Our only
guess is that it was assumed each film would receive a critical (buzzer)
beating, or wouldn’t stand a ghost of a chance with the scribes. (Thank you.
I’ll be here all week.) Guess those Tomatometers.



"I’ve got a bad case of athlete’s spoof."
 
Also opening this week in limited release:
Meeting Resistance
, a doc
about Iraqi insurgents, is at 100 percent on the Tomatometer;
Trigger Man
,
an indie about a harrowing hunting trip, is at 100 percent;
Wristcutters: A
Love Story
, a dramedy about the afterlife starring
Patrick Fugit, is at 71
percent; the Spanish import
DarkBlueAlmostBlack
, about the familial
responsibilities of a young janitor, is at 67 percent;
Out of the Blue
, a
fictional retelling of New Zealand’s largest mass-murder, is at 67 percent;
Summer
Love
, a Polish take on the spaghetti western genre, is at 60 percent;
Weirdsville,
a wacky tale of stoners and satanic cults, is at 58
percent;
The Girl Next Door
, a tale of torture beneath the placid façade
of 1950s suburbia, is at 58 percent;
Reservation Road
, a tale of familial
grief starring
Joaquin Phoenix,
Jennifer Connelly, and
Mark Ruffalo, is at 37
percent (check out our interview with director Terry George
here); and
Klimt
,
starring John Malkovich in a biopic of the great painter, is at 30 percent.




"You have a beard but you’re not the bad guy? That’s weird."
 
Finally, props to Bloody Mathias for coming the closest to guessing
Tyler
Perry’s Why Did I Get Married
‘s 48 percent Tomatometer. Try putting a
bandage on it, and perhaps then you won’t be bloody, Mathias.

Recent Ben Affleck Movies:
—————————————-
26% — Smokin’ Aces (2007)
38% — Man About Town (2006)
63% — Clerks II (2006)
70% — Hollywoodland (2006)
7% — Surviving Christmas (2004)

Recent Casey Affleck Movies:
—————————————-
73% —
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
(2007)
69% — Ocean’s Thirteen (2007)
46% — The Last Kiss (2006)
55% — Lonesome Jim (2006)
55% — Ocean’s
Twelve
(2004)

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