Stacy (Brittany Murphy) is a greenhorn TV producer for the New Jersey-based syndicated talk show Kippie Kann Do. She is in a seemingly happy relationship with Derek (Ron Livingston) and doesn't seem to mind that her beau never discusses his ex-girlfriends or has never introduced her to his parents-until her co-worker Barb (Holly Hunter) plants the dirty little seed of distrust into her head. So when Derek leaves on a business trip to Detroit and accidentally leaves his Palm Pilot behind Stacy's interest is piqued. "Seconds before opening the metallic case I envisioned all the evil flowing into the world: I was Pandora " our heroine quips. "Then I got over it." Through her snooping Stacy discovers that Derek is still in contact with many of his ex-girlfriends and in the case of Joyce (Julianne Nicholson) seeing her on a regular basis. Using the show as a ruse Stacy decides to interview Derek's exes including Joyce a successful chef but the two become friends in the process. What's worst is someone on Kippie Kann Do decides to turn Stacy's mock interviews into an actual live show for sweeps. But what will Stacy do when confronted by Derek Joyce and the rest about her lies? The most interesting twist of all however is how the conundrum is resolved-and who gets the man.
Murphy who shot to stardom as the homely-turned-cute character Tai in the 1995 hit comedy Clueless is one of those funny comedians you can't help but like on screen. While it was apparent from her performance as a disturbed young woman hiding a valuable secret in the thriller Don't Say a Word that Murphy could handle complex characters comedy seems to be her forte. In Little Black Book a role far better suited for her than her less challenging turn in Just Married Murphy delivers a performance with moxie. Her Stacy is sweet clumsy smart and ambitious-contrasting qualities that are hard to encompass in one believable and likable character. Murphy's infamous "I'll never tell" line from Don't Say a Word may made have made her a recognizable star but this role should elevate her to a hot Hollywood ticket. Whether Murphy has chemistry with her leading man Livingston is irrelevant here which sounds odd considering this is a romantic comedy. But with Livingston's character being out of town for most of the film Murphy has more interaction with Hunter who plays her co-worker Barb. Barb a senior producer with Kippie Kann Do takes on a motherly role here as she takes a naïve Stacy under her wing. Hunter is wonderful as a producer with a chip on her shoulder passively bitter about most of her ideas constantly getting passed up.
Director Nick Hurran who helmed several little-known films including Girls' Night and Remember Me? gets credit for turning out a romantic comedy that defies Hollywood's convention of the genre. What helps is the story written by scribes Melissa Carter and Elisa Bell which is completely unpredictable in its approach. The story's most intriguing aspect is the elusive character Derek who is painted in a positive light at the beginning but then is cast in shadows throughout the film. Could he really be the scoundrel his Palm Pilot is making him out to be? This is precisely the same question that plagues Stacy and the audience gets to go along for the ride. But what's even more surprising is how the story plays out; complete with a denouement that proves happy endings come in all shapes and sizes. Hurran also pays homage to Working Girl which is especially touching if you're a fan of 1988 romantic comedy. Like Melanie Griffith's character Tess Stacy is a New Jersey girl with dreams of one day making it big in the Big Apple. Carly Simon who won an Oscar for Working Girl's title track "Let the River Run " plays an instrumental role here: Stacy turns to her records like her mother did for guidance and inspiration.
Hollywood.saw sharp declines across the board at the box office over the post-Thanksgiving weekend as moviegoing gave way to holiday shopping.
Buena Vista/Disney and Pixar's G-rated computer-animated blockbuster "Toy Story 2" held on to first place in its third weekend with a 50% drop that reflected how most films in the marketplace performed.
"Toy 2" snapped up a still hefty estimated $28.30 million (-50%) at 3,238 theaters (+2 theaters, $8,734 per theater). Its total is approximately $117.3 million, heading for a domestic theatrical total of $250 million-plus.
"Toy 2's" per-theater average was the highest for any film playing in wide release last weekend. Directed by John Lasseter, it features the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Kelsey Grammer, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Annie Potts, Wayne Knight, Laurie Metcalf, Estelle Harris and R. Lee Ermey. Its score and two new songs were composed by Grammy Award winner Randy Newman.
The original "Toy Story" grossed about $190 million in the United States and Canada in 1995. It did about $360 million in worldwide ticket sales and sold more than 22 million videocassettes in the United States alone. If "Toy 2" hits $200 million by Dec. 31, Buena Vista will become the only distributor ever to have two films reaching $200 million in the same calendar year. The studio's blockbuster "The Sixth Sense" crossed the $200 million mark in early September.
"It's down 50% from Thanksgiving weekend, and I do not consider that bad at all," a Buena Vista distribution executive said Sunday morning. "It took us 11 days to reach $100 million (on Saturday). It is the biggest weekend for the first week in December, (beating) the original 'Toy Story' with $20.2 million."
MGM's PG-13-rated "The World Is Not Enough," the 19th James Bond epic, held on to second place in its third weekend with a quieter estimated $10.60 million (-55%) at 3,163 theaters (theater count unchanged, $3,345 per theater). Its total is approximately $90.4 million, heading for $120 million in domestic theaters. Directed by Michael Apted, it stars Pierce Brosnan in his third performance as 007.
Universal and Beacon Pictures' R-rated action-fantasy adventure "End of Days" came in third again with a less lively estimated $9.71 million (-53%) at 2,599 theaters (+6 theaters, $3,735 per theater). Its total is approximately $45.9 million. Directed by Peter Hyams, it stars Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"We all knew this was going to be a tough weekend. This is traditionally not a great weekend at the box office, but look at the numbers -- they were again record-breaking," Universal Distribution President Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning. "People are going to the movies. The economy is good. They're out there doing things. They're doing their Christmas shopping. That's what happens in a good economy. You don't have to choose between entertaining yourself or buying Christmas presents. You do both."
The rise of Internet shopping may be a helpful factor, as well, according to Rocco: "People have more free time for entertainment. You spend an hour in the morning online (shopping on the Web), and you can still go out and go to the movies and relax. There's more time for recreation."
Paramount's R-rated period action adventure "Sleepy Hollow" continued in fourth place in its third weekend with a sleepier estimated $9 million (-51%) at 3,069 theaters (+2 theaters, $2,933 per theater). Its total is approximately $74.3 million, on its way to $100 million in domestic theaters. Directed by Tim Burton, it stars Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci and is based on Washington Irving's classic "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."
"It's not unexpected," Paramount Distribution President Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning, focusing on the post-Thanksgiving marketplace. "Obviously, you'd like for it to hold up better than it is. But it still gets us to a little over $100 million with the picture."
Universal's R-rated suspense thriller "The Bone Collector" rose one notch to return to the top five in its fifth weekend with a strong estimated $3.15 million (-43%) at 2,518 theaters (+18 theaters, $1,250 per theater). Its total is approximately $58.1 million. "Bone's" 43% drop was the lowest for any film in the top five. Directed by Phillip Noyce, it stars Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. Sony's Columbia Pictures unit is partnered 50-50 with Universal on "Bone's" worldwide film rentals. Sony is releasing the picture internationally.
"We've been very fortunate. Where 'Bone Collector' is playing, it's just lingering in the multiplexes," Rocco said Sunday morning. "It's back in the top five, and it's hanging on. The goal was always $65 million (in domestic theaters) with this picture. It's certainly getting to $65 million, and it probably will get to $70 million."
Rocco noted that "Bone's" success is even greater given its relatively low production cost of about $40 million.
Warner Bros.' G-rated Japanese animated feature "Pokemon: The First Movie" slipped one peg to sixth place in its fourth weekend with a soft estimated $2.21 million (-69%) at 3,043 theaters (theater count unchanged, $726 per theater). Its total is approximately $80.6 million, heading for a domestic theatrical gross in the low $90 millions.
Lions Gate's release of "Dogma," the controversial R-rated irreverent comedy it took over from Miramax, held on to seventh place in its third weekend with an OK estimated $2.15 million (-37%) at 1,292 theaters (theater count unchanged, $1,664 per theater). Its total is approximately $24.5 million. Directed by Kevin Smith, it stars Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Linda Fiorentino, Salma Hayek, Jason Lee, Jason Mewes, Alan Rickman and Chris Rock.
Buena Vista/Touchstone's critically acclaimed R-rated drama "The Insider" rose one rung in its fifth weekend to eighth place with a quiet estimated $1.40 million (-45%) at 1,483 theaters (-189 theaters, $912 per theater). Its total is approximately $23.9 million. Directed by Michael Mann, it stars Al Pacino and Russell Crowe.
USA Films' R-rated comedy "Being John Malkovich" added theaters and jumped one slot to ninth place in its sixth weekend with an encouraging estimated $1.39 million (-33%) at 624 theaters (+35 theaters, $2,224 per theater). Its total is approximately $13.9 million. Directed by Spike Jonze, it stars John Malkovich, playing himself, John Cusack, Cameron Diaz and Catherine Keener.
"It's amazing," USA Films distribution head Jack Foley said Sunday morning. "We probably had the smallest drop among all the films out there from last weekend. At this level (of theaters), it puts you out there so you're going to feel the effects of the marketplace on you. We've held well. I think last weekend more people discovered the picture. And even in these shopping days, we're beginning to benefit (from word of mouth). This is a delight.
"Now as the (year-end critics) lists come in, hopefully, it will keep it buoyed up in everybody's mind. It is defying gravity. You know it's a great film, but to say (such an unusual) picture could have penetrated the markets of America this way and get this response is amazing."
Rounding out the Top 10 was 20th Century Fox's PG-13-rated mother-daughter drama "Anywhere But Here," down two notches in its fourth weekend with a calm estimated $1.30 million (-54%) at 1,628 theaters (-58 theaters, $799 per theater). Its total is approximately $16.4 million. The film is directed by Wayne Wang and stars Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman.
OTHER OPENINGS Weekend 49 also saw the arrival of 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilms Ltd.'s reissue of "Star Wars: Episode One -- The Phantom Menace" for a one-week charity run, placing 11th with a down-to-earth estimated $1.18 million at 832 theaters ($1,412 per theater). Its total s approximately $429 million.
Columbia's R-rated romantic drama "The End of the Affair" kicked off at 7 theaters, placing 23rd with an engaging estimated $0.20 million ($29,000 per theater). Directed by Neil Jordan, it stars Ralph Fiennes, Julianne Moore and Stephen Rea.
Sony Classics' PG-13 dark comedy "Sweet and Lowdown" opened exclusively in New York at 3 theaters, placing 24th with a strong estimated $0.10 million ($33,333 per theater). Sony Classics does not have its grosses tracked and released to the industry, but distribution insiders said they were hearing that the film did about $100,000. Directed by Woody Allen, it stars Sean Penn and Uma Thurman. Allen's films typically perform best in New York.
TriStar's R-rated youth appeal "Virtual Sexuality" kicked off at 101 theaters, placing 27th with a soft estimated $0.045 million ($450 per theater). Directed by Nick Hurran, it stars Laura Fraser and Rupert Penry.
Miramax's R-rated dark comedy "Holy Smoke" opened an Oscar qualifying run at 2 theaters, placing 28th with a promising estimated $0.032 million ($16,000 per theater). Directed by Jane Campion, it stars Kate Winslet and Harvey Keitel.
"'Holy Smoke!'s' a pretty good start," Miramax's senior vice president, marketing, said Sunday morning. "It's always tricky when you do a one-week qualifying run (for Oscars) because the second week will tell you so much more. But it's pretty good, actually. There were a lot of Academy qualifier (runs this weekend), and we were leading that pack. Jan. 14 we reopen in the top 40 markets on about 100 screens."
Avalanche Releasing's romantic comedy "Spanish Fly" opened in 30th place to a dreary estimated $0.011 million at 7 theaters ($1,570 per theater). Written and directed by Daphna Kastner, it stars Kastner and Toni Canto.
USA Films' R-rated comedy-drama "Agnes Browne," directed by and starring Anjelica Huston, opened an Oscar qualifying run at 2 theaters, placing 31st with an unexciting estimated $0.006 million ($2,929 per theater). The film will open in March, USA Films' Foley said Sunday morning.
Also opening was First Look Entertainment's drama "A Map of the World" in L.A. and New York for a weeklong Academy Awards-qualifying run. No estimates were available since First Look does not have its grosses tracked and released to the industry. Directed by Scott Elliott, it stars Sigourney Weaver and Julianne Moore.
SNEAK PREVIEWS Weekend 49 saw no national sneak previews. EXPANSIONS On the expansion front, Weekend 49 saw Miramax's PG-13-rated comedy "Mansfield Park" widen slightly in its third weekend, placing 22nd with a promising estimated $0.23 million (-33%) at 32 theaters (+2 theaters, $7,031 per theater). Its total is approximately $0.85 million. Directed by Patricia Rozema, it stars Embeth Davidtz, Jonny Lee Miller, Alessandro Nivola, Frances O'Connor and Harold Pinter. USA Films' R-rated Civil War action-drama "Ride With The Devil" added theaters in its second weekend, placing 26th place with a slow estimated $0.053 million at 15 theaters (+4 theaters, $3,554 per theater). Its total is approximately $0.17 million. Directed by Ang Lee, it stars Tobey Maguire, Skeet Ulrich and pop singer Jewel. WEEKEND COMPARISONS Weekend 49's key films, those grossing more than $500,000 for the weekend, took in approximately $75.31 million, up approximately 10.66% from $68.05 million for the comparable weekend last year. Weekend 49's key film gross was down approximately 50.86% from the $153.26 million that key films took in during the Friday-Sunday portion of this year's five-day Weekend 48. Last year, Buena Vista/Disney's second weekend of "A Bug's Life" was first with $17.17 million at 2,701 theaters ($6,358 per theater), and Universal's opening weekend of "Psycho" was second with $10.03 million at 2,477 theaters ($4,050 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $27.2 million. This year, the top two films grossed an estimated $38.9 million. For the first 49 weekends of 1999, ticket sales were approximately $4.665 billion, up about 4.84% from 1998's gross of $4.450 billion. Of this year's 49 weekends, 28 were up (one marginally and one because of a four-day vs. three-day holiday weekend comparison) and 21 were down (three only marginally and one because of a holiday vs. nonholiday comparison) vs. last year. STUDIO MARKET SHARES Based on business by key films, the top six distributors in Weekend 49 were the following: Buena Vista (Touchstone and Disney) was first with three films ("Toy Story 2," "The Insider" and "The Sixth Sense") grossing an estimated $30.67 million or 40.7% of the market. Universal was second with three films ("End Of Days," "The Bone Collector" and "The Best Man") grossing an estimated $13.45 million or 17.9% of the market. MGM was third with two films ("The World Is Not Enough" and "Flawless") grossing an estimated $11.55 million or 15.3% of the market. Paramount was fourth with two films ("Sleepy Hollow" and "Double Jeopardy") grossing an estimated $9.54 million or 12.7% of the market. Twentieth Century Fox was fifth with two films ("Anywhere But Here" and "Star Wars: Episode One -- The Phantom Menace") grossing an estimated $2.48 million or 3.3% of the market. Warner Bros. was sixth with one film ("Pokemon: The First Movie") grossing an estimated $2.21 million or 2.9% of the market. ADDITIONAL ESTIMATES (11) "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace"/Fox: (see OTHER OPENINGS above) (reissue)
(12) "The Sixth Sense"/BV: Theaters: 1,034 (+17) Gross: $0.97 million (-37%) Average per theater: $937 Total: $273.6 million
(13) "Flawless"/MGM Theaters: 478 (0) Gross: $0.95 million (-40%) Average per theater: $1,995 Total: $3.4 million
(14) "American Beauty"/DreamWorks: Theaters: 694 (+109) Gross: $0.78 million (-33%) Average per theater: $1,130 Total: $67.6 million
(15) "The Best Man"/Universal: Theaters: 511 (+5) Gross: $0.59 million (-51%) Average per theater: $1,160 Total: $32.1 million
(16) "The Messenger"/Sony: Theaters: 977 (-995) Gross: $0.55 million (-54%) (tie) Average per theater: $563 Total: $13.7 million
(16) "The Bachelor"/New Line: Theaters: 1,044 (-289) Gross: $0.55 million (-52%) (tie) Average per theater: $527 Total: $20.6 million
(18) "Double Jeopardy"/Paramount: Theaters: 708 (-132) Gross: $0.54 million (-47%) Average per theater: $755 Total: $113.0 million
(19) "The House on Haunted Hill"/Warner Bros.: Theaters: 651 (-390) Gross: $0.37 million (-47%)(tie) Average per theater: $575 Total: $39.2 million
(19) "Music of the Heart"/Miramax: Theaters: 858 (+64) Gross: $0.37 million (-52%)(tie) Average per theater: $435 Total: $14.0 million
(21) "The Omega Code"/Providence: Theaters: 405 (+106) Gross: $0.30 million (-40%) Average per theater: $745 Total: $11.9 million
(22) Mansfield Park/Miramax: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(23) "The End of the Affair"/Columbia: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(24) "Sweet and Lowdown"/Sony Pictures Classics: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(25) "Liberty Heights"/Warner Bros.: Theaters: 6 (0) Gross: $0.068 million (-32%) Average per theatre: $11,333 Total: $0.4 million
(26) "Ride With the Devil"/USA Films: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(27) "Virtual Sexuality"/TriStar: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(28) "Holy Smoke!"/Miramax: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(29) "Tumbleweeds"/Fine Line: Theaters: 5 (0) Gross: $0.017 million (-59%) Average per theater: $3,344 Total: $0.077 million
(30) "Spanish Fly"/Lions Gate Films: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(31) "Agnes Browne"/USA Films: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)