Archive for the ‘Atonement’ Category

Weekend Preview: Is Cloverfield The New Snakes On A Plane?

January 18, 2008

     Hey, fellow Box Office Junkies!  Sorry for the lack of posts this week- life’s been utterly crazy for the past few days, and I haven’t been able to update nearly as much as I’ve wanted to.  Luckily for you, though, everything is back on track today with this Weekend Preview.  I have to confess, because of the sheer amount of analysis that a certain monster movie has required me to do, I’m only going to be writing about the three new releases this week, but you can see my full Top 12 predictions at the end of the post.  Suffice it to say, January 2008 should remain very well ahead of January 2007 in this third weekend of the year.  Alright, let’s get started.
     Remember way back in 2006 when a little movie called Snakes On A Plane debuted?  You know, the one where Samuel L. Jackson yelled the famous line, “I have had it with these mother f***ing snakes on this mother f***ing plane!”  Greeted with an absolutely deafening amount of online buzz, from the moment Snakes On A Plane (Whoa- you can abbreviate with SOAP!) debuted its title, it had what seemed to be an endless legion of die-hard online fans who could not wait to see the movie as soon as it came out.  It was the first virally promoted film to take full advantage of the tech-savvy blogging community, as almost all the excitement and anticipation for SOAP came from the web.  Box office analysts were expecting a huge opening and a great box office total.  After all, we’d never seen a movie with this kind of online excitement behind it.

     Well, when SOAP finally debuted on August 18, 2006, analysts quickly realized that judging the movie’s potential success based on internet buzz was a mistake.  Snakes opened with a disappointing $15.2 million, and then went on to a totally underwhelming $34.5 million.  It was one of the biggest letdowns in recent history, based on the gigantic expectations.  How is this all relevant, you ask?  Well, the reason I bring this up now is that there is another film hitting screens today that has followed a very similar viral-crazed path of promotion: Cloverfield.
          The brain child of hotshot producer J.J. Abrams (the creator of the TV series Lost), Cloverfield is a super-secretive monster flick that’s been buzzed about since its very first trailer, which featured that glorious shot of the Statue of Liberty’s head falling onto the street in NYC.  Bloggers and fanboys have been raving for months anticipating the film, and awareness for Cloverfield is very high.  Judging by the apparent excitement on the web, it would seem that this mystery-monster-movie was poised to open with the kind of numbers that many people expected SOAP to start with.  But will it similarly disappoint?  I don’t think so, and here’s why:

     Cloverfield‘s marketing contains one essential ingredient that SOAP‘s lacked, and that is mystery!  People who went to see Snakes on a Plane got exactly what title said they would get: snakes on a plane.  Cloverfield, on the other hand, is totally mysterious.  What does this monster look like?  Is it anything like Godzilla?  How tall is it?  Does it get killed?  Does it destroy all of New York?  Why does it decapitate Lady Liberty?  Curiosity is going to drive a lot of people into the theaters this weekend, and it helps that Cloverfield is not so clearly a B-movie for geeks only.
     Also, Cloverfield is a proven formula with a slight tweak.  Special-effects-driven disaster movies have impressed time and time again at the box office (Jurassic ParkThe Day After Tomorrow, I Am Legend to name a few), and Cloverfield‘s slight tweak of a familiar story should keep the crowds coming.  Also setting this film apart is its unique photography style.  Supposedly captured entirely on the protagonists home video, Cloverfield takes a page out of The Blair Witch Project‘s book with a shaky cam style.  Some critics hate this, but most are praising the film for the freshness it brings to the table, and it’s getting some very good reviews.  Personally, I think the shaky cam can get a bit annoying (Paul Greengrass, can we just watch Jason Bourne fight sometimes?!), but I appreciate the stylistic chance that Cloverfield is taking with it.  All of this is to say that I think that Cloverfield‘s opening (and the second weekend drop) is going to be big.  Launching onto 3,411 theaters, Cloverfield might find about $39 million in three days, and $47 million over the extended weekend (because of MLK Day), easily giving it the #1 spot.

     The other big opener this weekend is Fox’s romantic comedy 27 Dresses, which should do some very solid business with women this weekend.  Starring Katherine Heigl, who’s hot off her debut in Knocked Up, and James Marsden, who actually isn’t the third wheel here, 27 Dresses tells the story of a woman who has been a bridesmaid 27 times.  Just when it looks like her love life is hopeless, she suddenly finds herself falling in love with her own sister’s fiancee.  The story is a fresh one, and Fox, which has been pushing this film hard, has done a great job of selling the story.  It looks like the massive amounts of advertising should pay off.  Heigl, already popular with women because of her role on TV’s Grey’s Anatomy, proved her comedic chops with Knocked Up last summer, and while 27 Dresses is not pulling in anywhere near the kind of reviews that that movie received, her rising star should help the romantic comedy debut well.  James Marsden has never carried a movie as a leading man, so it will be interesting to see how he fares.  In March 2006, the Sarah Jessica Parker/Matthew McConaughey feature Failure To Launch debuted to $24.4 million on its way to a fantastic $88.7 million total, and it looks like 27 Dresses could surpass that performance.  Walking down the aisle in 3,057 theaters, 27 Dresses should earn about $27 million over the four-day weekend.

     And then we have Mad Money, the female heist film about robbing the Federal Reserve.   Proving that Hollywood doesn’t have any roles for older women, Mad Money stars Diane Keaton as a down-on-her-luck janitor at the Federal Reserve, who pairs up with sassy Queen Latifah and ditzy Katie Holmes to steal a huge load of cash that’s meant to be shredded up and recycled.  Critics are trashing the film (who would’ve thought that Katie Holmes could get an even more negative response for this than her role in Batman Begins?), calling it unfunny and implausible.  The excitement meter is very low for this one, and of the three leading ladies, only Keaton has any real drawing power.  The main problem for this film is that 27 Dresses will be the primary choice for women this weekend.  The aforementioned romantic comedy will provide direct competition for Mad Money, which is the first release for fledgling studio Overture Films.  Unfortunately, the young studio will probably be mad at how little money Mad Money makes.  Entering into 2,470 theaters, the female heist comedy might earn a small $8.5 million over the holiday weekend.
 
Predicted Top Twelve for January 18-21
1. Cloverfield – $47 million
2. 27 Dresses – $27 million
3. The Bucket List – $12.6 million
4. Juno – $11 million
5. First Sunday – $10.3 million
6. Mad Money – $8.5  million
7. National Treasure: Book of Secrets – $6.7 million 
8. Alvin and the Chipmunks – $6.5 million
9. Atonement – $5 million
10. I Am Legend – $4.9 million
11. One Missed Call – $2.9 million
12. P.S. I Love You – $2.6 million

Golden Globe Winners Come From All Over The Globe

January 14, 2008

     In case you weren’t one of the people who tuned into the hour long half-hour press conference that announced the Golden Globes recipients, here’s a rundown of the winners.  I’ve listed the big categories below, but check out the full list of winners here.
     My reactions?  All the winners are very deserving.  The choices might be a bit out of touch with the average American’s movie taste (no love for Juno?), but that’s the case every year.  What really strikes me is the internationalization of the award winners.  This year, it looks like the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has earnestly tried to live up to its name, presenting a very European list of victors.  Atonement is a British film, and Julie Christie, and Daniel Day-Lewis both hail from England as well.  La Vie En Rose‘s Marion Cotillard and Julian Schabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly are both French imports.  Finally, Javier Bardem (pictured), winner of Best Supporting Actor – Drama, hails from Spain.
     Hollywood has been emphasizing the globalization of the film world for a while now (most notably with the incessant glorification of Babel last year), but these Golden Globes are a clear sign that Americans are very slowly beginning to accept foreign films as credible works of art.  

Best Motion Picture – Drama
Atonement

Best Actress – Drama
Julie Christie Away From Her

Best Actor – Drama
Daniel Day-Lewis There Will Be Blood

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Sweeney Todd

Best Actress – Musical or Comedy
Marion Cotillard La Vie En Rose

Best Actor – Musical or Comedy
Johnny Depp Sweeney Todd

Best Director
Julian Schnabel The Diving Bell And The Butterfly

Weekend Fix: Treasure Threepeats, Juno Exceeds Expectations

January 6, 2008

     The first weekend of 2008 got the year off to good start, continuing the solid weekend performances that the box office has had for the last three weeks.  Of course, the holidays are pretty much over now, and the Top 12’s box office fell an expected 27% from last weekend, but with only one new film opening, the Top 12 films still managed to gross a collective $123.9 million, which represents a great 19% increase over the first weekend of last year.

     For the third weekend in a row, National Treasure: Book of Secrets held the top spot.  The Nicholas Cage flick earned $20.2 million this weekend, off 43% from last weekend.  Playing in a whopping 3,762 theaters, Disney’s Da Vinci Code rip-off had a pretty good $5,376 venue average.  Probably because of its weak reviews and rehashed story, Book of Secrets hasn’t held up as well as the original National Treasure did, but it will still end up outgrossing its predecessor (I’m seeing a final gross somewhere around $220 million).  After three weekends, National Treasure: Book of Secrets has earned a nice $171 million.
     I Am Legend, Warner Brothers’ apocalyptic thriller starring Will Smith, continued to utterly dominate at the box office.  In its fourth weekend, the sci-fi action movie earned $16.4 million, a 40% drop from last weekend.  After its huge $77 million opening, I Am Legend has been quite leggy, and by next weekend, it will have tripled its opening.  In its fourth weekend, it had a sturdy $4,490 per theater average, which is great for a film of its age.  In 24 days it has grossed a phenomenal $228.7 million.

     The third place film is the real success story of the weekend.  Juno, which expanded into 1,925 theaters this weekend, earned a stunning $16.2 million over the past three days.  Word of mouth has propelled this indie comedy to its incredible level of success, and with an amazing $8,429 per theater average, Juno is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon (Vote on the poll to the right that asks if Juno can break $100 million).  Although many awards voters won’t admit it, a film’s box office definitely matters when it comes to choosing award winners, and Juno‘s setting itself up for some major victories in the coming months.  After five weeks Fox Searchlight’s feature has earned $52 million.
     Finally out of the top three, Alvin and the Chipmunks fell 45% this weekend to $16 million.  The rodent comedy had a $4,622 venue average, and it has earned $176.7 million overall.  The terribly reviewed children’s movie just won’t die!  Mark my words, if the Writers Guild of America weren’t on strike right now, Fox would already be in the stages of preproduction for a sequel, and with $200 million right around the corner, a new installment of Alvin will be cranked out as soon as possible.

     One Missed Call, the weekend’s sole opening film, debuted to an alright $13.5 million.  The Warner Brothers horror film, which could win an award for not receiving a single positive review, had a very front-loaded weekend.  With a $5.2 million Friday, One Missed Call could only achieve a 2.6 internal multiplier, which implies that it will have very short legs at the box office.  It had an okay $6,038 per theater average, which is not terrible, but certainly nothing special, and I’m guessing that One Missed Call will probably finish its run with a bad $30 million.  No one’s going to miss this one…
     In sixth place, Charlie Wilson’s War kept on redeeming its slow start.  Down 32%, Universal’s Tom Hanks/Julia Roberts political comedy grossed $8.2 million this weekend, giving it a fairly small $3,155 venue average.  Overall, Charlie Wilson’s War has grossed $52.6 million, and while this is lower than one would expect given the pedigree of its stars, it’s very good considering how poorly the film opened.  It could end with about $70-80 million overall.

     P.S. I Love You fell a tiny 14% to $8 million, as it continued its inexplicable endurance at the box office.  With a venue average of $3,244, P.S. I Love You isn’t breaking any records, but it is notable that the Warner Brothers romantic comedy did better in its third weekend than it did in its opening.  I guess word-of-mouth is good among teenage girls, who just love to cry at the movies.  In three weeks, Hilary Swank’s foray into female roles has earned a not-too-shabby $39.4 million.
     The Water Horse was back in eighth place this weekend.  The children’s fantasy has been utterly overlooked, and was down 31% this weekend, for a $6.3 million gross, and a low $2,269 per theater average.  In total, Sony’s The Water Horse has splashed up a disappointing $30.9 million after three weeks.
     Sweeney Todd looks to be following a very similar trajectory to Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, which finished up with $53 million.  This weekend, Dreamworks/Paramount’s slasher musical, Sweeney Todd, found another $5.4 million, a 34% drop.  It was a good decision to keep the theater count low on this one, as it still has a fairly good $4,323 venue average in its third weekend.  This should keep in theaters a while longer, and with a few awards, Sweeney Todd could become a bona fide success.  We’ll have to wait and see.  For now, the musical gorefest will have to live with its $38.5 million total.

     Taking a page out of Juno‘s book, Atonement also had a very successful expansion this weekend.  Moving into 583 theaters, Atonement increased 64% to $5.1 million.  Its per theater average of $8,790 was the best in the Top 12, which should merit further expansions in the future.  It remains to be seen whether Atonement can outgross director Joe Wright’s previous picture, Pride and Prejudice, which earned $39 million, but I’m thinking it should have no trouble doing so.  Thus far, the Focus Features film has made $19.2 million
     Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem deteriorated in its second weekend, dropping 58% to $4.3 million, proving that everyone who really wanted to see this has already done so.  The weekend gross gave Fox’s mindless action movie a wretched $1,624 venue average, and assured that it will disappear from theaters quickly.  So far, AVP:R has grosses $30.5 million, with about a third of that coming from its opening day alone.

     Rounding out the Top 12 is Denzel Washington’s The Great Debaters, which earned $4.2 million over the weekend frame.  The small MGM drama had an okay $3,291 per theater average.  With $22 million overall, The Great Debaters hasn’t performed spectacularly, but its done pretty well for a small film that had absolutely zero buzz going for it.  A few awards could help its cause tremendously.
     Next weekend brings four new films: the old-people laugher, The Bucket List, the Veggie Tales production, The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything, criminal comedy, First Sunday, and Uwe Boll’s latest (awful) video game adaptation, In The Name Of The King.  At this point, none seem to have real breakout potential, and the box office may be relying on holdovers for yet another week.  Check back next week for the Weekend Preview.

Top 12 for January 4-6

# Movie Title Weekend Gross Total
1 National Treasure: Book of Secrets $20,225,000 $171,033,000
2 I Am Legend $16,380,000 $228,718,000
3 Juno $16,225,000 $52,031,842
4 Alvin and the Chipmunks $16,000,000 $176,737,736
5 One Missed Call $13,525,000 $13,525,000
6 Charlie Wilson’s War $8,184,070 $52,630,360
7 P.S. I Love You $8,015,000 $39,383,000
8 The Water Horse $6,300,000 $30,893,000
9 Sweeney Todd $5,400,000 $38,472,000
10 Atonement $5,124,297 $19,215,527
11 Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem $4,250,000 $36,820,839
12 The Great Debaters $4,245,000 $22,007,817

All Numbers Courtesy of Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.

Friday Estimates: Not Everyone Misses One Missed Call

January 5, 2008

     Well, it looks like the holidays are coming to an end. While the box office isn’t behaving especially poorly, everything except Juno, Atonement, and (based on low expectations) One Missed Call is just average or a little bit underwhelming.
     National Treasure: Book of Secrets will lead for the third weekend in a row, and on Friday the treasure-hunters found $6.4 million. A $19 million weekend seems likely.
     One Missed Call and I Am Legend both pulled in $5.2 million on Friday, but they should finish about $3 million apart. One Missed Call, which now has some shockingly bad reviews, was marketed almost exclusively to teens.  It will be very front-loaded should finish with $13 million. I Am Legend, which has already proven its longevity, will pull in a much better $16 million.
     Juno continued to exceed its buzz, earning a great $5.2 million on Friday. The indie comedy can’t seem to do anything wrong during its run, and even in almost 2,000 theaters, it will have a very good per theater average of about $7,500! Look for a $15 million weekend.     Atonement also fared well in it expansion, pulling in a solid $1.5 million yesterday. It should slightly exceed my prediction of $4.2 million, setting itself up for a truckload of awards.
     Everything else performed pretty much as expected, so there’s not much to report, but to see the final weekend grosses, check back in tomorrow for the Weekend Fix.

Friday Estimates for January 4
1. National Treasure: Book of Secrets – $6.4 million
2. I Am Legend – $5.2 million
3. One Missed Call – $5.2 million
4. Juno – $5.2 million
5. Alvin and the Chipmunks – $4.6 million
6. P.S. I Love You – $2.6 million
7. Charlie Wilson’s War – $2.5
8. The Water Horse – $1.9 million
9. Sweeney Todd – $1.8 million
10. Atonement – $1.5 million
11. Alien Vs. Predator – $1.4 million
12. The Great Debaters – $1.2 million

Weekend Preview: Will "Call" Hit Or Miss?

January 4, 2008

     In the first weekend of 2008, with just one new film opening, the box office will have to rely on holdovers to sustain the great grosses of the holiday season. Still, 2008’s offerings should have no trouble outgrossing 2007’s first weekend, when Night At The Museum was on top. This year, National Treasure: Book of Secrets should top the box office for a third weekend in a row, but Alvin and the Chipmunks could be some stiff competition. Newcomer One Missed Call hopes to break out, while Atonement and Juno receive major expansions.

     One Missed Call, a remake of a Japanese horror film, is the sole opener this weekend. With a story that sounds remarkably similar to The Ring (and every other techno-supernatural Japanese thriller), One Missed Call tells the story of a woman who hears her own death over her cell phone, and then must figure out how to prevent her inevitable fate from occurring. Released by Warner Brothers, One Missed Call hopes to garner some of the success that other early-January horror releases have seen. In January 2005, White Noise opened with $24 million, and in 2006, Hostel surprised with a $19.6 million opening. Unfortunately, in 2007, moviegoers firmly rejected new horror titles. Hostel: Part II, The Hills Have Eyes 2, Vacancy, Hannibal Rising, The Reaping, and The Mist all finished with less than $30 million, and the Japanese style of horror has been out ever since torture-porn came along (Though, judging by the failures I just listed, it looks like torture-porn is out too). Advertising has been solid, but the movie still looks terribly generic- And what do you know? It wasn’t screened for critics! Launching in 2,240 theaters, One Missed Call might find a small $8 million over the weekend.
     The first major expansion of the weekend comes with Juno, which almost doubles its theater count to 1,925 venues. The teen pregnancy comedy has been picking up steam at an almost exponential rate in the last two weeks, performing more like a studio release than an indie flick, and while the expansion will cause a decrease in the per theater average, Juno should still have a great weekend. With a $14 million weekend, the Fox Searchlight picture will be pushing a phenomenal $50 million. Suddenly, $100 million seems like a possibility!     With Juno acting like such a champ, its easy to forget about a film like Focus Features’ Atonement, which has been quietly performing very solidly in its own right. The Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, and Saoirse Ronan (whose being hailed the next Dakota Fanning) movie has already earned $14 million, and with awards on the way, it still has a lot left in it. Atonement expands into 583 theaters this weekend, and it should pull in about $4.2 million.
     Among holdovers, small 30-45% drops should be the case for most films. National Treasure: Book of Secrets should again be on top, and a 40% decrease will give Disney’s Jerry Bruckheimer production about $21 million for the weekend, and $171 million overall. Right on its heels, Fox’s Alvin and the Chipmunks should have a smaller drop, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it even took the top spot. The Fox film should earn about $19 million in the next three days, giving it a $170 million running total. America, I hope you’re ready for sequels… In third, Sony’s I Am Legend will find an additional $16 million for a huge $227 million total.

Predicted Top 12 for January 4-6
1. National Treasure: Book of Secrets – $21 million
2. Alvin and the Chipmunks – $19 million
3. I Am Legend – $16 million
4. Juno – $14 million
5. Charlie Wilson’s War – $8 million
6. One Missed Call – $8 million
7. P.S. I Love You – $6.1 million
8. The Water Horse – $5.5 million
9. Sweeney Todd – $4.6 million
10. Alien Vs. Predator – $4.5 million
11. Enchanted – $4.2 million
12. Atonement – $4.2 million

Weekend Fix: National Treasure Lives Up To Its Name

December 23, 2007

     Led by the solid opening of National Treasure: Book of Secrets, the box office continued to perform strongly this weekend.  Despite the rather tepid debuts of some of the openers, I Am Legend and Alvin and the Chipmunks held well enough to sustain the overall box office.  During the December 21-23 frame, the Top 12 films earned a cumulative $153.5 million, up 1% from last weekend, and a great 41% from the same weekend last year, when Night At The Museum opened in the top spot.
     National Treasure: Book of Secrets struck gold this weekend at the movies, getting off to a great start with $45.5 million in its debut.  The Disney adventure film blazed onto the scene in a huge 3,832 theaters, but it still racked up a very good $11,874 venue average.  Being a Disney film, Book of Secrets has a good deal of family playability, so it should remain a prominent force throughout the holiday season.  The original National Treasure opened in November, 2004 with $35 million, but held wonderfully through the holidays, eventually making a delightful $173 million.  This gave National Treasure a terrific 4.9 multiplier, and while Book of Secrets probably won’t see such small drops (it had an internal multiplier of 2.7, which is low, but typical for sequels), it should still perform very solidly throughout the Winter season.  It should hit $100 million in a week or so, with much more to come in the new year.

     I Am Legend held up the second spot quite nicely, dropping 56% to $34.2 million for the weekend.  The Warner Brothers sci-fi thriller retained an incredible second weekend per theater average of $9,454, which proves its popularity among audiences and assures that it will retain its theater count.  I Am Legend should be Will Smith’s biggest film since 1997’s Men In Black, which grossed $250 million.  After ten days, I Am Legend has earned a great $137.5 million, well on its way to the $200 million club.
     Also dropping one spot from last weekend is Alvin and the Chipmunks.  The CGI rodent comedy continues to astound me with its phenomenal performance (just look at its reviews!), and this weekend it stole another $29 million from innocent families, which represents a small 35% drop.  The Fox comedy also retained a great venue average with $8,288 in each theater.  Alvin is doing a great job of filling the void left by The Golden Compass, and it is the go-to choice for families of the kindergarten set.  It has earned an amazing $84.9 million in two weekends.

     Charlie Wilson’s War comes in fourth place this weekend, earning a rather small $9.6 million in its opening frame.  The Universal political comedy starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts failed to effectively communicate its story in its advertising campaign.  It’s war-themed nature didn’t help either.  As I see it, people go to the movies for escapism, not to see more of the depressing stuff that’s already on TV, and I’ll say this until the day that I die: If you want your movie to succeed, show audiences that they will have FUN by seeing it.  Even with a small $3,735 per theater average, Charlie Wilson’s War‘s performance is not a disaster.  During the holidays, weekend figures are not as important, and since no one has school or work, movies play well during the week as well, so if this film can build some significant awards buzz (and it boasts some good reviews), it could save itself.  We’ll have to wait and see.     In fifth, Sweeney Todd sang its way to the tune of a $9.4 million opening.  Being a Tim Burton film, this comes with a built-in cult audience who rush out to see his films on opening night, and with a 2.4 internal multiplier, it had a very front-loaded weekend.  Playing in just 1,249 venues, Sweeney Todd grabbed a nice $7,486 per theater average.  Dreamworks’ gory slasher musical (there’s a first) has earned great reviews, and it should perform pretty well in the coming weeks.

     P.S. I Love You performed as expected, earning a modest $6.5 million in its opening weekend.  The Warner Brothers romantic comedy, which stars Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler , has a small per theater average of $2,651.  There was nothing that made this film stand out form the crowd, and it looked generic and sappy.  Once again we see that just because an actress wins an Oscar (or two in this case) doesn’t mean she can open a film.
     In its fifth weekend, Enchanted displayed its staying power, dropping just 25% to $4.2 million.  The magical Disney comedy has done very well for itself, and after five weeks, it has earned a fantastic $98.5 million.

     The biggest shock of the weekend has to be the awful performance of Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.  Walk Hard, a Sony film, flopped with a terrible $4.1 million opening.  Though it boasts great reviews, its advertising (which featured tremendously creative commercials of an older Dewey Cox) didn’t give audiences a clear idea of what to expect.  Also, Judd Apatow, the producer of the spoof, may only have drawing power when it comes to what made him famous: the raunchy sex comedy.  With a very bad $1,547 per theater average, Walk Hard will unfortunately not last very long.
     New Line’s The Golden Compass continued its utter free-fall this weekend, earning just $4 million, a 55% decrease.  This cold film has not caught on with audiences, who want to feel good during the holidays, and the hugely expensive fantasy film has earned just $48.4 million after three weekends.

     In tenth place, Juno continued to impress with a great $3.4 million out of just 304 theaters.  The teen pregnancy comedy has been surrounded by almost deafening buzz, and it is totally living up to it.  With a stunning $11,184 venue average, Juno has everything going for it, and it is catching on in a big way with audiences.  It’s kind of wonderful to see a smart, fresh, independent comedy garner such massive amounts of interest, and when it goes wide on Christmas day, it should continue to perform very strongly.  So Juno it has made $6.4 million.
     Atonement, another film with tons of awards potential, had a good weekend as well.  Expanding into 297 theaters, the Focus feature earned $2 million, giving it a solid $6,648 per theater average.  With tons of awards on the way, it should do well over the next month.  So far, Atonement has grossed a strong $5.7 million.
     Back in twelfth, No Country For Old Men dropped 40% to $1.7 million.  The Miramax thriller, which is almost assured a Best Picture nomination, has grossed a smashing $36.7 million after seven weekends.
     Overall, though there were some dull openings, things remained bright at the box office this weekend.  It’s important to keep in mind that opening weekends don’t matter as much during the holiday season, so while some of the figures may be rather low, for the box office, the next two weeks are virtually an extended weekend, where movies do incredible business.
Top Twelve for December 21-23
1. National Treasure: Book of Secrets – $45.5 million
2. I Am Legend – $34.2 million
3. Alvin and the Chipmunks – $29 million
4. Charlie Wilson’s War – $9.6 million
5. Sweeney Todd – $9.4 million
6. P.S. I Love You – $6.5 million
7. Enchanted – $4.2 million
8. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story – $4.1 million
9. The Golden Compass – $4 million
10. Juno – $3.4 million
11. Atonement – $2 million
12. No Country For Old Men – $1.7 million
*All numbers courtesy of Exhibitor Relations

Weekend Preview: National Treasure Should Strike Gold

December 21, 2007

     After two movies singlehandedly saved the box office last weekend, the latest crop of newcomers has a lot to live up to.  Luckily, this weekend, five extremely diverse wide releases hit theaters, offering something for every moviegoer.  National Treasure: Book of Secrets explodes onto the scene with rollicking adventure.  Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story brings some spoof comedy to the table.  Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street sings a few eerie show tunes.  Charlie Wilson’s War  provides some star-studded dramedy.  And P.S. I Love You fills the romantic comedy slot.  As if that wasn’t enough for you, another four films go wide on Christmas day!  That’s right, folks, we’ve officially reached the holiday season.
     National Treasure: Book of Secrets should easily top the box office this weekend.  Back in 2005, the original National Treasure was a surprise juggernaut.  The film followed Nicholas Cage as a treasure hunter, who was on the hunt for a secret American treasure.  An adventure film for conspiracy theorists, the film was a ludicrous Da Vinci Code rip off, but it didn’t pretend to be anything else.  The Jerry Bruckheimer adventure was pure, popcorn-munching fun, and Disney marketed it perfectly.  After a good $35 million opening, it struck a chord with audiences, endured through the holiday season, and went on to gross a sensational $173 million.  A franchise was born.
     Book of Secrets sticks to the proven formula, pitting Nic Cage against a band villains in a race to find a “city of gold” that was hidden by America’s founding fathers.  Critics love to trash this kind of movie, and reviews (which won’t matter much for this movie) are equally mediocre to the original, but I have to admit, National Treasure is one of my favorite guilty pleasures.  It’s got a great sense of humor, and though the plot is preposterous, it provides moviegoers with the main thing that they are seeking: FUN!  So many studios forget to advertise the fact that you will have fun if you go see their movie, but Disney, the best advertiser in the business, always sells this point.  Diane Kruger, Harvey Kietel, John Voight, Justin Bartha, and Helen Mirren all star in this swashbuckling installment, for which Disney is already planning subsequent sequels.  National Treasure: Book of Secrets should open bigger than the original, and it could outpace I Am Legend by the end of its run.  It’s opening in a massive 3,832 theaters, and it might earn a big $50 million over the weekend.

     Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, a movie produced by the on-fire Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad), is spoof of the musical biopic.  Starring John C. Reilly and Jenna Fischer, Walk Hard sends up Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and Bob Dylan, among others.  Reviews are very good, and it’s exciting to see a true spoof movie- not simply a rehash of famous scenes, like the dreadful Epic/Date/Scary Movie.  I’m a bit concerned that Walk Hard could be too smart for its own good, for some of the ads make it somewhat hard to tell that this is a spoof, and that could confuse potential moviegoers.  However, the Apatow brand is absurdly strong, and he is really the main draw for this feature, so it should still perform well.  Playing in 2,650 venues, Sony’s Walk Hard might rock its way to a $14 million opening.

     Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymour Hoffman star in the fast-talking political comedy, Charlie Wilson’s War.  Set during the Cold War, Tom Hanks plays the title character, a womanizing, slick U.S. Senator who finds himself feeling suddenly convicted to improve the world.   He consequently convinces the CIA to train fighters in Afghanistan that will help fend off the Soviet Union. As a marketable concept, this is questionable.  War-themed movies like The Kingdom and Lions for Lambs, have failed at the box office lately, and the story is too complex to advertise effectively.  Universal is relying completely on star power from America’s favorite actor and actress to carry Charlie Wilson’s War to success.  Much like last year’s The Good Shepherd, this plays to an older audience, and while its opening might be smaller, it should have great legs.  Reviews are pretty good, and it’s garnered some awards attention, which will help its business substantially.  Still, though, with exciting choices like I Am Legend and National Treasure: Book of Secrets playing, it could be easy to overlook Charlie Wilson’s War.  In 2,574 theaters, it should earn about $14 million this weekend.

     Sweeney Todd is the latest film from Tim Burton, so it should come as no surprise that it stars Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, who seem to star in every Burton project these days.  Sweeney Todd is a strange story about a man named Benjamin Barker who escapes from prison and takes on the identity of Sweeney Todd.  He does this to exact revenge on the judge who originally imprisoned him, and he kills many people in this grisly revenge movie.  What makes all this even more interesting is that Sweeney Todd is a full musical, adapted from the stage show by Stephen Sondheim.  Full of creepy, macabre music and fine acting performances, critics are hailing Burton’s direction, and the film has received wonderful reviews.  Sweeney Todd is opening in just 1,249 theaters, but advertising has been strong, and Johnny Depp and Tim Burton have a built-in fan base.  This should result in a very solid per theater average and $13 million weekend.

     The final new wide release of the weekend is P.S. I Love You, a romantic comedy starring Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler.  Swank plays a woman whose husband (Butler) has just passed away.  As it turns out, her husband knew he was dying and left her a series of letters to help her transition out of her grief and back into life.  Though the concept is sweet, Hillary Swank isn’t the right woman for this kind of role.  She lacks the cute, girly factor that is so necessary in a romantic comedy, and after Million Dollar Baby and Boys Don’t Cry, it’s tough for audiences to accept her outside of strong, dramatic roles.  On top of this, there simply isn’t very much excitement for this film, and reviews are very bad.  Produced by Warner Brothers, P.S. I Love You is being released in 2,454 theaters, and it should earn about $7 million over the next three days.
     Among the returning films, I Am Legend should place second.  It’s shown decreasing grosses during its weekdays, which signifies a rather large drop for this weekend.  A 55% drop would give it $34 million for the weekend and a marvelous $136 million overall.  Alvin and the Chipmunks should hold better because of its family-friendly nature.  As sad as it makes me, Alvin might pull in an additional $26 million this weekend, for an $81 million total.  After multiple award nominations in almost every circle of critics, Juno and Atonement both expand into about 300 theaters this weekend.  They should each see their weekend grosses increase to about $3.6 million and $3 million, respectively.
Predicted Top 12 for December 21-23
1. National Treasure: Book of Secrets – $50 million
2. I Am Legend – $34 million
3. Alvin and the Chipmunks – $26 million
4. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story – $14 million
5. Charlie Wilson’s War – $13 million
6. Sweeney Todd – $12 million
7. P.S. I Love You – $7 million
8. The Golden Compass – $4.5 million
9. Enchanted – $3.8 million
10. Juno – $3.6 million
11. Atonement – $3 million
12. No Country For Old Men – $2.3 million

Golden Globes Nominations

December 13, 2007

     The Golden Globes nominations were announced this week, and there are definitely some things that make me very happy! Atonement led the pack with 7 nominations, and got nominated in all 5 major categories: Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor, Actress. Charlie Wilson’s War, the Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts film coming out next weekend, garnered 5.  No Country For Old Men got 4, and Michael Clayton, the annual politically-conscious George Clooney movie, got 4 as well.

     Other nominations that boosted my spirits?  James McAvoy for Best Actor – Drama.  Amy Adams for Best Actress – Musical or Comedy.  Ryan Gosling for Best Actor – Musical or Comedy.  Ratatouille and The Simpsons Movie for Best Animated Film.  Juno got 3 nominations, including Best Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Screenplay, and Best Actress for the 17 year-old Ellen Page!  (It goes wide on Christmas and I can’t wait!)  Also, it’s kind of cool that three of the five movies up for Best Picture – Musical or Comedy are actually musicals- that almost never is the case.  I was hoping Once, a fantastic musical film from this summer, would make that category, but I suppose it was just too small to be noticed.  Here are the big categories, while a full list of the nominations can be found here.
Best Motion Picture – Drama
American Gangster
Atonement
Eastern Promises
The Great Debaters
Michael Clayton
No Country For Old Men
There Will Be Blood
Best Actress – Drama
Cate Blanchett  Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie  Away From Her
Jodie Foster  The Brave One
Angelina Jolie  A Mighty Heart
Keira Knightley  Atonement

Best Actor – Drama
George Clooney  Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis  There Will Be Blood
James McAvoy  Atonement
Viggo Mortensen  Eastern Promises
Denzel Washington  American Gangster

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Across the Universe
Charlie Wilson’s War
Hairspray
Juno
Sweeney Todd
Best Actress – Musical or Comedy
Amy Adams  Enchanted
Nikki Blonsky  Hairspray
Helena Bonham Carter  Sweeney Todd
Marion Cotillard  La Vie En Rose
Ellen Page  Juno

Best Actor – Musical or Comedy
Johnny Depp  Sweeney Todd
Ryan Gosling  Lars and the Real Girl
Tom Hanks  Charlie Wilson’s War
Philip Seymour Hoffman  The Savages
John C. Reilly  Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Best Director
TIm Burton  Sweeney Todd
Ethan Coen & Joel Coen  No Country For Old Men
Julian Schnabel  The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
Ridley Scott  American Gangster
Joe Wright  Atonement

Friday Estimates: I Still Love You, Nicole

December 8, 2007

     Uh oh.  The box office is not in good shape right now.  The Golden Compass, the only new wide release, looks like it’s going to undercut my prediction substantially.  It earned $8.8 million on Friday, but it probably won’t have a great weekend multiplier, due to fanboys who rushed out to see the adaptation on its first day. This is not good news for New Line, who spent $150 million to make the film, and that’s not including advertising costs.  A $25 million weekend is a terrible result, but that’s where The Golden Compass looks headed.  Alright- I’m declaring it now, Nicole Kidman is box office poison.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out why her salary is $10-15 million per movie, when all her movies perform so poorly!  Look at her last three films she’s acted in: Bewitched: $63 million ($80 million budget).  Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus: $0.2 million.  The Invasion: $6 million ($80 million budget).  All of these were huge financial busts.  Granted, The Golden Compass‘ sub-par start can’t really be blamed on her, but I’m just saying, she isn’t as bankable as you would think an Oscar-winning actress should be.

     In news that makes me delighted, though, Juno and Atonement opened fantastically!  In 30 theaters, Atonement earned $225,000, and in just 7 theaters, Juno made $125,000.  That means that their daily per theater averages were $7,000 and $17,800, respectively! Wider releases are guaranteed with numbers like that!
Friday Estimates for December 7
1. The Golden Compass – $8.8 million
2. Enchanted – $2.9 million
3. This Christmas – $1.5 million
4. Beowulf – $1.3 million
5. Fred Claus – $1.3 million
6. No Country For Old Men – $1.3 million
7. August Rush – $1.2 million
8. Awake – $1.1 million
9. Hitman $1 million
10. The Mist $0.8 million
11. American Gangster $0.8 million
12. Bee Movie $0.6 million

Get Excited! Juno and Atonement

December 6, 2007

     Moviegoers are in luck this weekend, as there’s a wonderful variety of new openers, including two Oscar hopefuls.  In my previous post, I mentioned the fantasy spectacle, The Golden Compass, but what I’m really excited about this weekend, are two other releases: literary adaptation, Atonement, and teen pregnancy comedy, Juno.
     Based on the acclaimed novel by Ian McEwan, Atonement takes place in World War II England, and it tells the story of a young girl named Briony, who is intrigued by her gorgeous older sister Cecelia, and her boyfriend Robbie.  When Briony witnesses a mysterious sexual act between them, she gets lost in her own adolescent confusion, and she makes a rash accusation that not only ruins Robbie’s life, but tears her family apart.  Over the course of her lifetime, Briony realizes her mistake, and tries to remedy the damage she has caused.
         The book Atonement takes place in three separate parts, and the movie adopts this strategy.  13-year-old Briony is played by Saoirse Ronan, 18-year-old Briony is played by Romola Garai, old woman Briony is played by Vannesa Redgrave, and all three actresses have received majorly positive accolades for their work.  Keira Knightley gets the flashier role as seductive Cecelia, and James “Mr. Tumnus” McAvoy plays Robbie, a wonderfully complex role that McAvoy deserves.  After his impressive directorial debut with 2005’s Pride and Prejudice, Director Joe Wright reunites with Knightley to make Atonement.  Critics are praising his direction and he’s getting major attention for a beautiful three-minute tracking shot of the Battle of Dunkirk.  Having read the book, I know the intense emotional punch of McEwan’s story, and I am bursting with excitement to see it on the silver screen.  Atonement has had plenty of awards buzz around it for months, and it’s nice to see reviews that match the anticipation.  It’s quality should carry it to solid box office receipts, and I predict that it will surpass Pride and Prejudice‘s $38 million total.  It is now open in select cities.

     Moving from a period piece to a film about a missed period, we have the darkhorse indie comedy that has everything going for it, Juno.  After debuting to rave reviews at the Telluride and Toronto International Film Festivals, the comedy has become the little engine that could, building buzz at an almost exponential rate.
     Juno stars Ellen Page (who broke out last year in Hard Candy) as the title character, who gets knocked up by her friend, Paulie, played by Superbad‘s Michael Cera.  Upon discovering their daughter’s pregnancy, Juno’s parents, played by the always hilarious J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney, aren’t quite sure how to react, and neither is Juno.  She contemplates giving up her child to a picture-perfect couple, played by Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman, but she later second-guesses her decision.  It’s wonderful to see a comedy that deals so honestly with the real, dirty issues of life.  The screenplay (penned by Diablo Cody) is receiving much praise, and the Jason Reitman film is being called a totally original, warm, genuine, hilarious comedy that’s full of heart.

     Fox Searchlight seems to have another Little Miss Sunshine on its hands.  Fox Searchlight took that small, independent, quirky movie, and they platformed its release perfectly.  It caught on with audiences and went on to earn a delightful $59 million.  With reviews that equal those of Little Miss Sunshine, and a more marketable, mainstream concept (newly marketable, that is, after similarly themed Knocked Up made a whopping $148 million), Juno could easily surpass Sunshine‘s gross, and become the sleeper hit of the holidays.  It gets a limited release this Friday, and then a general release on the 14th.  I can’t wait!
     Both Juno and Atonement have enormous potential, and there is some major awards anticipation behind the pictures.  Atonement is the more obvious (dare I say pretentious?) choice for a best picture nomination, but I could easily see Juno coming out of nowhere and nabbing a nomination for itself.  If the films do receive awards recognition, expect it to buoy business tremendously.  We’ll have to wait and see…