Ben Stiller‘s new comedy


The Heartbreak Kid
stumbled in its opening frame and
forced the overall box office to plunge to the worst October weekend in eight
years. Incumbent family comedy
The Game Plan
posted a strong sophomore hold and
retained its position as North America’s most popular film. But two other new
releases did nothing to energize the multiplexes as the top ten films together
grossed what just the top three pictures did a year ago on this same weekend.
The calendar may say October but the dismal box office grosses make it seem like
September never ended.

Surprising industry watchers once again, Disney’s
The Game Plan
held onto the
number one spot for a second time grossing an estimated $16.3M for a slim 29%

decline. That gave
The Rock‘s first entry into the world of kid’s movies a solid
$42.8M in only ten days allowing the PG-rated comedy to already surpass the
total
grosses of his last two films

Gridiron Gang
($38.4M) and
Doom
($28M). All three pics were number one openers. Last weekend, many expected
Game Plan to
debut in second place behind
The Kingdom
while this weekend
Heartbreak was
widely seen as debuting on top. In both cases the quarterback daddy flick
swiped the top spot and with little family competition in the weeks ahead, a
trip to the $100M club could be in the works.

 


Disney is still benefiting from the fall season’s shocking lack of product for
families. For the third consecutive weekend, seven of the top ten films carried
R ratings
giving parents few other options for their children. The studio has virtually no
foes to deal with until
Jerry Seinfeld‘s animated pic
Bee Movie hits theaters on

November 2. Game Plan‘s second weekend drop was even smaller than the 40%
decline that the studio’s
Vin Diesel family film
The Pacifier experienced in
March 2005 on its way to a stunning $113.1M tally. The Game Plan now looks
certain to surpass the $90.5M of 2002’s The
Scorpion King
to become The
Rock’s highest grossing film in a lead role.

 



The weekend’s big disappointment came from the Ben Stiller-Farrelly brothers
collaboration

The Heartbreak Kid
which debuted in second place with an
estimated $14M from 3,229 theaters. Averaging a mediocre $4,345 per site, the
R-rated film marked the first reteaming of the actor with the filmmakers since
the
1998 sleeper smash

There’s Something About Mary
which grossed a stunning $176.5M
that year. Heartbreak was universally expected to open at number one
and was thought to have the potential to capture at least $20M in opening
weekend business for DreamWorks and Paramount. The budget was more than $60M,

according to the studios.

 



For Stiller, Heartbreak‘s opening was half the size of the bows of his other
recent comedies like
Night at the Museum
($30.4M),
Starsky and Hutch
($28.1M), and Along Came Polly ($27.7M). Those were PG or PG-13 films but the
comedian was still expected to draw a large crowd this weekend. However
for the Farrelly brothers, the performance was better than the $12.4M of their
last pic
Fever
Pitch
in 2005 and the $9.4M of 2003’s
Stuck
on You
. Reviews were

mostly negative which is par for the course with these types of comedies.

 



The Heartbreak Kid put Stiller’s box office power to the test and the results
were discouraging. Most of the comedian’s hits feature other big stars to help
bring in
a paying audience. This time Stiller was the only major name and audiences did
not bite. In fact the launch was very similar to that of rival R-rated romantic
comedy
Good Luck Chuck which debuted to $13.7M and a better $5,227 average just two
weeks ago. That film offered some star wattage from both genders with
Dane Cook and
Jessica Alba.


Universal’s Middle East drama
The Kingdom

dropped 46% in its second weekend to an estimated $9.3M and placed third. The
Jamie Foxx pic has taken in
$31.4M in ten days and should find its way to $50-55M. Sony’s action-horror
sequel
Resident Evil: Extinction
fell 47% to an estimated $4.3M and pushed its

17-day cume to $43.5M.
 




 

Failing to find an audience on opening weekend was the fantasy adventure film
The Seeker: The Dark is Rising
which bowed to an estimated $3.7M from a
very wide 3,141 theaters for a dismal $1,186 average. The PG-rated pic from the
new venture between Fox and Walden Media targeted young boys but got
nowhere at the box office. Seeker‘s debut was even worse than the $5M launch of
Dragon Wars from just two weeks ago which went after the same audience.
But thanks to a sluggish marketplace, Seeker‘s weak opening still landed the
film in the top five even though its nearly $40M budget will take much time to
recoup.


The Lionsgate comedy
Good Luck Chuck  grossed an estimated $3.5M, off 44%, for a
$29.1M sum. The dance drama
Feel the Noise
delivered a seventh place
debut with an estimated $3.4M from just 1,015 theaters. Averaging a mild $3,350
per site, the PG-13 film played to urban teens and came from the new
Sony/BMG film division.
 



A trio of R-rated films rounded out the top ten. The long-lasting Western
3:10 to Yuma
once again enjoyed the smallest decline in the top ten sliding only 28%
to
an estimated $3M in its fifth frame for a solid cume of $48.6M for Lionsgate.
The Warner Bros. vigilante thriller
The Brave One
dropped 39% to an estimated

$2.3M giving
Jodie Foster
and her gun $34.3M to date.
Mr. Woodcock
claimed the
ten spot for New Line with an estimated $2M, down 31%, and a new total of
$22.3M.
 


The weekend’s most notable fireworks came in limited release as the increasingly
crowded arthouse scene saw some red hot numbers from awards hopefuls.

George Clooney
led the way with his legal thriller



Michael Clayton
which bowed
in only 15 theaters but grossed an estimated $704,000 for an astounding
$46,933 average. Powered by strong reviews and starpower from the Oscar-winning
actor, the R-rated film is hoping to keep the momentum going when it
expands nationally on Friday into more than 2,400 theaters.


A pair of acclaimed filmmakers enjoyed encouraging sophomore expansions with
their latest efforts and delivered the next best averages.
Wes Anderson‘s comedy
The Darjeeling
Limited
widened from two New York houses to 19 locations in seven
markets and grossed an estimated $553,000 for a powerful $29,099
average. Fox Searchlight will continue to open in more cities over the next two
weekends before going nationwide into more than 800 playdates at the end of the

month. Ang Lee‘s NC-17 romantic thriller
Lust, Caution also held up very well as
it entered new cities. The Focus release went from a solo Manhattan house to
17 venues and collected an estimated $369,000 for a potent $21,696 average.
Totals stand at $$477,000 for Lust and $781,000 for Darjeeling.

 




Also expanding and still generating good averages in their third frames were
Sean Penn‘s
Into the Wild
and
Brad Pitt‘s

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
. Paramount Vantage widened
Wild from 33 to 135 houses and
grossed an estimated $1.3M for an impressive $9,593 average. Warner
Bros. made a leap from five to 61 locations with Jesse and made off with an
estimated $408,000 for a respectable $6,689 average. Cumes are $2.5M and
$746,000 respectively and each film will continue to add more cities and
theaters in the weeks ahead.
 



Not faring well in its national expansion was the drama The
Jane Austen Book Club
which grossed an estimated $1.5M from 1,232 sites for a weak $1,247
average. Last weekend, the Sony Classics release averaged $4,700 from only 41
venues. Total sits at $2M.



Three films fell out of the top ten over the weekend. The Focus mob thriller
Eastern Promises

dipped 33% to an estimated $2M giving the
David Cronenberg

David
Cronenberg
pic

$14.3M overall. A decent $20M final seems likely which would put it about
one-third below the $31.5M of the director’s last film
A History of Violence

which
also starred
Viggo Mortensen
.

Sony’s Beatles-themed musical feature
Across the
Universe
continued to have
great legs easing a mere 8% in its fourth outing to an estimated $1.9M. With $8M

in the bank from limited release, the Julie Taymor-directed pic goes wide on
Friday into more than 700 sites. Universe joins the music-themed films

Hairspray
and
Once
as movies with some of the best legs at the box office over the last
several months. But it was a sad tune for Universal’s teen comedy
Sydney White

which tumbled 49% to an estimated $1.3M for a weak total of just $10.2M. Look
for a poor $13M finish.
 


The top ten films grossed a disappointing estimate of $61.9M which was down a
substantial 37% from last year when
The
Departed
debuted in first place with $26.9M; and off 23% from 2005 when


Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
opened in the top spot with
$16M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

This week at the movies, we’ve got honeymooners (The
Heartbreak Kid
, starring
Ben Stiller
and
Michelle Monaghan
), teenage heroes (The
Seeker
, starring

Alexander Ludwig
), bookworms in love (The
Jane Austen Book Club
, starring
Maria Bello
and Emily
Blunt
), and fledgling rappers (Feel
the Noise
, starring

Zulay Henao
). What do the critics have to say?

For Rhode Islanders, the work of
Bobby and
Peter Farrelly has long been a source
of regional pride; their best work (There’s Something About Mary,
Dumb
and Dumber
) deftly combined taboo-busting, gross-out yucks with an
undeniable sweetness. So it breaks the heart of this Ocean State native to
report that their latest,
The Heartbreak Kid
, isn’t generating all that
much warmth with the critics. Based upon
Elaine May‘s 1972 semi-classic, Kid
stars Ben Stiller as a recently-married guy who quickly learns his new bride has
much more baggage than he bargained for; on his honeymoon, he meets Miranda
(Michelle Monhagan), who just might be the right gal for him. The pundits say
that while the film does contain a smattering of raunchy laughs, they seemed
shoehorned into the film, undercutting character development and any kind of
message. At 48 percent on the Tomatometer, this Kid isn’t alright. It’s
certainly a cut below the original (at 89 percent).




The Village People recruits its seventh member.


If a compelling, magical fantasy world is something you’re actively seeking,
critics say you may want to avoid
The Seeker
. Based upon the Newberry
Award-winning book series, The Seeker is the story of a 14-year-old who
discovers he’s the last in a long line of noble fighters dedicated to battling
an evil force called the Dark. (Uh, so was Thomas Edison, like, the greatest of
those warriors? Just asking.) Critics say The Seeker is several notches
below the
Harry Potter
films in terms of emotional resonance and
filmmaking quality, and underutilizes the talents of
Ian McShane and
Frances
Conroy
. At 25 percent on the Tomatometer, The Seeker may not be what
you’re looking for.




They seek him here, they seek him there, his clothes are loud but
never square.


If your sensibilities run toward action flicks, you are likely prejudiced
against light comedies about smart people and their relationship troubles. In
the case of
The Jane Austen Book Club
, the critics say you might want to
swallow your pride. The film tells the story of a group of six women whose book
club assignment is for each to read one of Austen’s novels; they soon find
events in their lives eerily paralleling the texts they’re reading. The critics
say that what could have been a bland exercise in chick-flick-dom is elevated by
an outstanding cast that includes Maria Bello, Emily Blunt, and
Kathy Baker;
each of the principals plays her part with intelligence and warmth. If you’re so
inclined, The Jane Austen Book Club‘s 72 percent Tomatometer should offer
ample persuasion to check this film out.




"Okay, so you take a left after Northanger Abbey, and a right at Mansfield Park…"



Critics weren’t allowed to come on and
Feel the Noise
, perhaps because
it’s either too wild, wild, wild for them to understand, or it isn’t all that
good. Either way, this tale of an aspiring rapper who finds love and redemption
in the Puerto Rican Reggaeton scene was not screened before hitting theaters.
You know the drill: Guess that Tomatometer!

Also opening this week in limited release:
Lake of Fire
,
Tony Kaye‘s
expressionist, evenhanded documentary about the abortion debate, is at 100
percent; Desert Bayou, a doc about the plight of African-American
Hurricane Katrina refugees in Utah, is at 100 percent;
My Kid Could Paint
That
, a portrait of an artist who’s a very young girl (and may not be solely
responsible for her highly-valued canvases), is at 100 percent;
For the Bible
Tells Me So
, a doc that explores the Good Book’s teachings on homosexuality,
is at 89 percent;
Kurt Cobain: About a Son
, an impressionistic look at
the life of the Nirvana frontman, is at 82 percent;
Michael Clayton
,
starring George Clooney as a corporate whistleblower, is at 81 percent (check
out our review from the Toronto Film Fest
here);
Finishing the Game, a
mockumentary about an attempt to complete
Bruce Lee‘s
Game of Death
after
his untimely demise, is at 50 percent; and
The Good Night
, starring
Gwyneth Paltrow in the tale of a romance that takes place in a man’s dreams, is
at 46 percent.




Trivia question: which of these men has been around the world, from London
to the Bay?

Recent Ben Stiller Movies:
——————————–
44% — Night at the Museum (2006)
52% —
Tenacious D In: The Pick of Destiny
(2006)
25% — School for Scoundrels (2006)
55% — Madagascar (2005)
69% —
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

(2004)

Following a six-week streak of R-rated films topping the charts, The Rock‘s family comedy The Game Plan led the box office last weekend. Now, adult fare comes back to claim the crown with the new Ben Stiller comedy The Heartbreak Kid which is aiming for an easy number one debut. Also opening nationally are the fantasy adventure The Seeker: The Dark is Rising and the music-filled drama Feel the Noise. With the Columbus Day holiday falling on Monday, some students will have extra time off making for a solid start for the month of October.

Almost a decade after There’s Something About Mary became a sleeper smash, directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly reunite with Stiller for another raunchy relationship comedy with The Heartbreak Kid. A remake of the 1972 film written by Neil Simon, the Paramount release stands as another number one hit inherited from the DreamWorks factory. The pic tells the story of a man who marries too early and then falls for another woman during his honeymoon. In the past year, the R-rated envelope-pushing comedies Borat, Knocked Up, and Superbad grossed nearly $400M in combined domestic box office proving that there is gold to be mined in this genre when films are made well and deliver the laughs that audiences want.

Plus star-driven comedies with major Hollywood faces routinely lure moviegoers away from the home and into the multiplexes. Heartbreak will probably not reach the $30.7M opening weekend figure of Knocked Up which had more buzz plus opened in June when most college students were out of school. But reviews so far have been quite good for this type of film so adults will certainly give it a try. And with so many dark and serious films about outlaws, vigilantes, and terrorists out there, audiences definitely want something light and funny right now. Opening in over 3,000 theaters, The Heartbreak Kid may debut with about $27M this weekend.


Ben Stiller and Malin Aklerman in The Heartbreak Kid

The time-travel adventure film The Seeker: The Dark is Rising heads into very wide release (possibly too wide) this weekend aiming for young boys in fantasy mode. Rated PG, the Fox release is based on the popular series of novels and will try to tap into a built-in audience of readers. Of course this is no Harry Potter and currently The Rock is doing a good job bringing in business from the lads so it will be an uphill battle at the box office. Overall buzz does not seem too strong so a huge crowd is not expected. Also there is no real starpower so the film will have to rely on special effects and fans of the literary property. Attacking 3,141 venues, The Seeker may generate around $9M over the weekend.


The Seeker

A Harlem rapper discovers Reggaeton music in Puerto Rico in the urban drama Feel the Noise from producer Jennifer Lopez. Sony is using her name prominently in the marketing which makes sense since there is not much starpower on screen. Latino and African-American youth are being targeted by the PG-13 film which should play mostly to a teen audience. The pic has a clear shot at this crowd since Seeker and The Game Plan skew younger and The Heartbreak Kid and The Kingdom will play older. The studio is trying to tap into the same audience that came out in surprisingly potent numbers for its past films like You Got Served and Stomp the Yard. Noise will open in half as many theaters and the buzz is a bit softer so the numbers will undoubtedly be smaller. Still an impressive average is likely. Stepping into 1,000 locations, Feel the Noise might bow to around $5M.


Feel the Noise

Opening in just 15 theaters in a handful of cities is the George Clooney legal thriller Michael Clayton from Warner Bros. In the R-rated pic, the Oscar-winning actor plays a hotshot attorney who is called in to manage a crisis when his firm’s top litigator suffers a breakdown while defending a top client. Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, and Sydney Pollack co-star. Reviews have been strong and the studio hopes that buzz from a few select markets will spread when Clayton expands nationally next weekend. But a crowded marketplace for serious adult dramas will make things tough.


George Clooney in Michael Clayton

The Rock‘s kidpic The Game Plan delivered a powerful debut last weekend and with little competition from new releases, plus the Columbus Day holiday, a solid hold should result. Seeker will distract a few young boys, but overall it shouldn’t be that much of a threat. A decline of 30% could occur giving the Disney hit around $16M for the session boosting the ten-day cume to an impressive $42M.

The Middle East drama The Kingdom has been ranking number one during the week since kids are busy with school and less able to see Game Plan. Universal should see a 45% drop to about $9.5M which would put the Jamie Foxx actioner at $32M after ten days. Look for Resident Evil: Extinction to slide 50% to roughly $4M leaving Sony with $43M to date.

LAST YEAR: October kicked off with a bang with the top spot debut of Martin Scorsese‘s The Departed with $26.9M. Warner Bros. went on to gross $132.4M domestically and $288M worldwide plus scored four Oscars including the coveted Best Picture statue. Opening in second place with $18.5M was Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning which was the first of three horror sequels that month. New Line found its way to $39.5M. Sony’s toon hit Open Season dropped to third with $15.6M in its sophomore frame. The Lionsgate comedy Employee of the Month bowed in fourth with $11.4M on its way to $28.4M. The Guardian rounded out the top five with $9.6M in its second weekend.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

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