Bobby Garfield (David Morse) returns to his small hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood friend and remembers the fateful summer in 1960 when his whole world changed. The story flashes back to when 11-year-old Bobby (Anton Yelchin) and his best friends Carol (Mika Boorem) and Sully-John (Will Rothhaar) capture the pure joy of youthfulness. When a mysterious stranger named Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins) moves upstairs and starts to pay attention to Bobby the boy suddenly realizes what's truly missing from his life--the love of a parent. Bobby's mother Liz (Hope Davis) is embittered by the death of Bobby's father and shows little compassion for her son's growing needs. Ted fills a void with the boy opening his eyes to the world around him and helps Bobby come to terms with his real feelings for Carol--and his mother. But Ted also has some deep dark secrets of his own and Bobby tries hard to stop danger from reaching the old man.
The performances make the film especially in the genuine camaraderie of the kids. Yelchin Boorem and Rothhaar never deliver a false move with an easiness that makes us believe we are simply watching three 11-year-old children grow up together. Yelchin in particular is able to get right to the heart of this young boy who misses his father and clings to the only adult who will listen. And his scenes with Boorem simply break your heart. (Davis) does an admirable job playing a part none too sympathetic. She manages to show a woman whose been beaten down but who does truly love her son in her own way. Morse too is one of those character actors you can plug in any movie and get a performance worth noting. In Hearts you want to see more of him. Of course the film shines brightest when Hopkins is on the screen. It may not be an Oscar-caliber performance but the actor is unparalleled in bringing a character to life--showing the subtleties of an old man looking for some peace in his life.
If you are expecting the Stephen King novel you may be disappointed. Screenwriter William Goldman and director Scott Hicks (Shine) deftly extracted the King formula of telling a story through a child's eye and explaining how the relationships formed as a child shaped the adult later. Hicks did an amazing job with his young actors especially Yelchin and Boorem. But where the novel continued into a supernatural theme explaining Brautigan's fear of being captured by "low men in yellow coats" (a reference to King's The Dark Tower series) the movie downplayed the mystical elements instead giving real explanations for Brautigan's man-on-the-run. That was the one problem with Hearts--we needed more danger. Introducing men from another dimension may not have been the way to go but had there been more tension the film would have resonated more especially when Bobby risked his own safety to save Ted.
After surviving a devastating car accident following her first college party freshman Cassie (Melissa Sagemiller) falls into a coma and steps into a nightmare of otherworldly visitations. Haunted by a grim reaper of a far different kind her only hope is to cling to chance encounters with her lost love Sean (Casey Affleck) and the aid of a mysterious young priest named Father Jude (Luke Wilson). Cassie's malicious friends Matt (Wes Bentley) Annabel (Eliza Dushku) and the morose Raven (Angela Featherstone) seem intent on drawing her to the dark side but the spirit of her soul mate Sean guides her back to the world of the living.
Sagemiller (Get Over It) may be a fine actress but this film--her second full-length feature--isn't the one to prove it. Not that Sagemiller does a poor job but like most dull and stale horror movies the female lead isn't asked to do much other than look frightened and scream--a lot. Affleck (Good Will Hunting) Bentley (American Beauty) and Dushku (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) are among the more talented actors of their generation but are completely wasted especially Affleck in his one-dimensional role. Wilson as Father Jude is the only character with an interesting part but unfortunately the good Father's development is stunted and incomplete leaving Wilson little to work with.
Steve Carpenter's first turn as a director leaves much to be desired. Of course Carpenter wrote the formulaic script so why shouldn't he be the one to helm it? One major flaw (and there are plenty to choose from) is that nearly half the movie is shot tight on the characters giving the audience a very myopic view. Even if that was intentional it certainly did nothing to heighten the tension (what little of it there was) in the movie. The flick's tagline "The World of the Dead and the World of the Living... are About to Collide" conveys the message of an epic struggle between the forces of evil and the forces of good--a struggle that never materializes. And the film's final message that love conquers all is the boring hackneyed truism that breaks the cliché camel's back.
Warner Bros. "The Whole Nine Yards" easily held on to first place despite tracking studies that had projected Dimension Films' opening of "Reindeer Games" would be the weekend's big winner.
"Reindeer Games " Although the tracking data had pointed to an opening of $10 million to $12 million for "Reindeer," no film managed to crack double digits last weekend. "Reindeer" wound up an embarrassed No. 3 for the weekend with a red face and nose. The weekend's only other wide opening, Paramount's "Wonder Boys," lived up to tracking expectations, finishing out of the Top Five, in seventh place, with a grim estimated $5.85 million.
The best-performing film of the bunch continued to be "Yards," Morgan Creek and Franchise Pictures' R-rated comedy. "Yards" continued laughing atop the chart in its second weekend with an estimated $9.61 million (-30%) at 2,910 theaters (theater count unchanged, $3,301 per theater). Its total is approximately $28.5 million.
(All of today's estimates are for the three-day weekend. Percentage comparisons are against the Friday through Sunday portion of the previous four-day Presidents Day weekend.)
Directed by Jonathan Lynn, "Yards" stars Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry.
"Well, there's no contest this weekend," Warner Bros. Distribution President Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "It's probably one of the best-holding films of all time after Presidents Weekend. I've been tracking these dates, and usually they drop 37-43%. But we have a movie on which the word of mouth is just terrific."
"The Whole Nine Yards" Fellman applauds director Lynn and Franchise Pictures' head Elie Samaha, who executive produced the film with Andrew Stevens, for delivering a movie that audiences are clearly enjoying.
"The screenings we had -- from our sneak previews all the way through opening weekend -- continued to get stronger (in terms of exit poll scores)," Fellman said. "We seem to be getting younger (moviegoers), so the movie's moving into a broader audience, which is wonderful."
Where is it heading? "You're talking north of $50 million," said Fellman. "Each week now depends on how well we hold. After this week is over, we'll end up with $31-32 million. If we take a 35% drop next week, that will still give us another $8 million and bring us to $40 million. Whether it's $50 million or $60 million (remains to be seen), but it's north of $50 million."
Focusing on Franchise Pictures, Fellman said, "Coming out with your first movie at No. 1, and the second week having it No. 1 again, (is a fabulous way to start out)."
Paramount and Nickelodeon Movies' PG-rated comedy "Snow Day" rose one peg to second place in its third weekend with a still-hot estimated $8.50 million (-26%) at 2,709 theaters (+7 theaters, $3,138 per theater). Its total is approximately $43.3 million.
Directed by Chris Koch, it stars Chevy Chase.
"I think it will make $60 million-plus," Paramount Distribution President Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning. "I did a high-low projection earlier in the week, and we had it at $50 million on the low side and $63 million on the high side. Certainly, this is a better hold than we expected. I think it'll be in the low $60 millions."
Why is it performing so well?
"You can't really say, 'There's nothing else out there for the kids,' because there is 'The Tigger Movie,'" said Lewellen. "But I think that's so much younger (in its appeal). Certainly, ('Snow') is satisfying the (family) audience it's intended for.
"I think Chevy Chase brought more to the table here than they realized. Parents are going because they think there may be something there for them, too (with Chase starring). He's funny and he's been funny in the past, so they think, 'Well, I'll go to that one (with my kids because I'll probably enjoy it myself).'"
"Snow's" production cost reportedly was only about $15 million, which should make it nicely profitable.
Dimension Films' launch of its R-rated thriller "Reindeer Games" finished third, looking far less lively than industry tracking studies had suggested it would. Hollywood insiders had said "Reindeer" was the only film likely to do double-digit business this weekend.
"Reindeer" wound up with a calm estimated $8 million at 2,204 theaters ($3,629 per theater).
Directed by John Frankenheimer, it stars Ben Affleck, Gary Sinise, and Charlize Theron.
"Kind of a downbeat weekend," was how one competing distribution executive summed things up Sunday morning. "Right now, 'The Whole Nine Yards' is overperforming the tracking, clearly, and there's no question 'Reindeer Games' underperformed."
Distributors make a point of saying about tracking, as one did in our projection report for the weekend, "If you're looking for science, there isn't any. That's why nobody can make (accurate) predictions." While tracking data is often reliable, there are times when moviegoers simply do something different from what they said they were going to do.
Columbia's PG-13-rated comedy "Hanging Up" saw moviegoers start to disconnect with it in its second weekend, sliding two rungs to fourth place with a less talkative estimated $7.50 million (-45%) at 2,618 theaters (theater count unchanged, $2,865 per theater). Its total is approximately $26.1 million.
Directed by Diane Keaton, it stars Meg Ryan, Keaton, Lisa Kudrow, and Walter Matthau.
"I think it'll pretty predictably make in the mid-$40s to $50 million range and end up making us a profit," said Sony Pictures Releasing President Jeff Blake Sunday morning.
USA Films' R-rated sci-fi thriller "Pitch Black" dropped one orbit to fifth place in its second weekend with an OK estimated $7.05 million (-39%) at 1,930 theaters (+98 theaters, $3,654 per theater). Its total is approximately $22.8 million.
Directed by David Twohy, it stars Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, and Keith David.
Disney's G-rated "The Tigger Movie" took a one-peg skid to sixth place in its third weekend, still holding well with an estimated $6.30 million (-21%) at 2,818 theaters (+63 theaters, $2,236 per theater). Its total is approximately $30.6 million.
The film is the animated adventures of the eponymous "Winnie the Pooh" character and his cast of animal friends.
Paramount's R-rated comedy drama "Wonder Boys" lived up to its mediocre tracking scores, opening in seventh place to a less than wonderful estimated $5.85 million at 1,253 theatres ($4,669 per theater).
However, its per-theater average was the highest for any film playing in wide release over the weekend.
Directed by Curtis Hanson, "Boys" stars Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, Frances McDormand, Katie Holmes, Rip Torn and Robert Downey Jr.
"A lot of critics have mentioned that his (Douglas') performance is very good and, in fact, I think it is," said Paramount's Lewellen on Sunday morning. "We opened (Wednesday) in New York, L.A. and Chicago. Obviously, with a film like this, you have to depend on good reviews. We got that, for the most part, with the exception of The New York Times. Virtually everywhere else in the country, (we got) good to rave reviews.
"This is one of those (films) that can hang around a while if word of mouth is good on the picture."
With that in mind, Lewellen said, Paramount is committed to going wider with "Wonder Boys" next weekend.
"We're bringing in another 250 runs next week in smaller markets," he said. "Hopefully, it will give an opportunity for the reviews and good word of mouth to get out there and into the smaller markets."
"Boys" five-day total is $5.9 million.
Dimension Films' R-rated thriller "Scream 3" continued slipping in its fourth weekend, down two pegs to eighth place with a less scary estimated $5 million at 3,099 theaters (-269 theaters, $1,613 per theater). Its total is approximately $78.1 million.
Directed by Wes Craven, "Scream 3" stars David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox Arquette, and Parker Posey.
DreamWorks' R-rated drama "American Beauty," a major Oscar contender with eight nominations, including Best Picture, held on to ninth place in its 24th week with a still promising estimated $4.73 million (-15%) at 1,323 theatres (+36 theaters, $3,578 per theater). Its total is approximately $87.7 million.
Directed by Sam Mendes, it stars Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening.
"It's down 15%, (which is) fantastic," DreamWorks distribution head Jim Tharp said Sunday morning.
What effect has the film's awards success had?
"Well, it's had to be extremely positive," said Tharp. "Probably, the Golden Globes awards as well as the (Oscar) nominations contributed to that (Academy run) opening last week, which was $5.6 million for the three days. I think right now the movie's playing like it did when it was first-run.
"It continues to hold very, very well. It's a combination of people that have never seen the movie and, then, people seeing it again."
Rounding out the Top 10 was Miramax's PG-13-rated drama "The Cider House Rules," also a top contender for Oscars with seven nominations, including Best Picture. "Cider" expanded in its 12th week, pulling in an OK estimated $4.10 million at 1,346 theaters (+489 theaters, $3,046 per theater). Its total is approximately $32 million.
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, it stars Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, Delroy Lindo, Erykah Badu, Paul Rudd and Michael Caine.
Last weekend saw the arrival of Fox Searchlight Pictures' PG-13-rated dramatic comedy "The Closer You Get," placing 30th with a quiet estimated $0.045 million at 10 theaters ($4,500 per theater).
Directed by Aileen Ritchie, it stars Ian Hart, Sean McGinley, Niamh Cusack and Ruth McCabe.
Last weekend saw Columbia hold 800 sneak previews of its comedy "What Planet Are You From?".
Directed by Mike Nichols, it stars Garry Shandling, Annette Bening, Greg Kinnear, Ben Kingsley, Linda Fiorentino and John Goodman.
"They were generally well-attended, particularly in big cities," Sony Pictures' Blake said Sunday morning. "They were less well-attended in the smaller cities in the South and the Midwest. Overall, the reaction was very good. Clearly, it's a picture I think people are going to find out about and tell their friends. It opens Friday (March 3) in about 2,200 runs."
On the expansion front, last weekend saw Buena Vista/Touchstone expand its R-rated drama "The Insider," a top contender for Oscars with seven nominations, including Best Picture, in its 17th week, placing 21st with a dull estimated $0.49 million at 651 theaters (+519 theaters, $753 per theater). Its total is approximately $27.5 million.
Directed by Michael Mann, it stars Russell Crowe, Al Pacino and Christopher Plummer.
USA Films' reissue of the PG-rated suspense drama "Rear Window" widened in its sixth week, placing 26th with an OK estimated $0.13 million at 22 theaters (+4 theaters, $5,955 per theater). Its total is approximately $0.9 million.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, it stars James Stewart and Grace Kelly. Robert Harris and James Katz restored the 1954 film classic.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 for the weekend - took in approximately $83.21 million, up about 13.50% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $73.31 million.
This weekend's key film gross cannot be compared with this year's previous weekend, the four-day Presidents Day holiday weekend.
Last year, Sony's opening week of "8MM" was first with $14.25 million at 2,370 theaters ($6,014 per theater) and Paramount's fourth week of "Payback" was second with $6.79 million at 2,852 theaters ($2,380 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $21.1 million. This year, the top two films grossed an estimated $18.1 million.
STUDIO MARKET SHARES
Based on business by key films, last weekend's top six distributors were the following: Miramax (Miramax, Dimension) was first with three films ("Reindeer Games," "Scream 3" and "The Cider House Rules") grossing an estimated $17.10 million or 20.6% of the market.
Paramount was second with two films ("Snow Day" and "Wonder Boys") grossing an estimated $14.35 million or 17.2% of the market.
Warner Bros. was third with two films ("The Green Mile" and "The Whole Nine Yards") grossing an estimated $11.64 million or 14% of the market.
Buena Vista (Touchstone and Disney) was fourth with four films ("The Tigger Movie," "Toy Story 2," "The Sixth Sense" and "Fantasia 2000") grossing an estimated $10 million or 12% of the market.
Sony Pictures Entertainment (Columbia, TriStar) was fifth with two films ("Hanging Up" and "Stuart Little") grossing an estimated $8.55 million or 10.3% of the market.
USA Films was sixth with one film ("Pitch Black") grossing an estimated $7.05 million or 8.5% of the market.
(11) "The Beach"/Fox Theaters: 2,517 (-70) Gross: $3.50 million (-51%) Average per theater: $1,391 Total: $33.9 million
(12) "Boiler Room"/New Line Theaters: 1,335 (0) Gross: $3.10 million (-46%) Average per theater: $2,322 Total: $11.1 million
(13) "The Green Mile"/Castle Rock/Warner Bros. Theaters: 1,746 (-356) Gross: $2.03 million (-29%) Average per theater: $1,167 Total: $131.2 million
(14) "The Sixth Sense"/BV/Touchstone Theaters: 992 (+98) Gross: $1.60 million (-19%) (tie) Average per theater: $1,568 Total: $284 million
(14) "Fantasia 2000"/BV/Disney Theaters: 54 (0) (all IMAX) Gross: $1.60 million (worldwide) (-32%) (tie) Average per theater: $29,153 Total: $34.5 million (worldwide)
(16) "The Hurricane"/Universal Theaters: 1,346 (-365) Gross: $1.31 million (-45%) Average per theater: $970 Total: $48.2 million
(17) "Next Friday"/New Line Theaters: 1,038 (-171) Gross: $1.13 million (-38%) Average per theater: $1,084 Total: $54.1 million
(18) "Stuart Little"/Columbia Theaters: 1,300 (-414) Gross: $1.05 million (-33%) Average per theater: $808 Total: $136.2 million
(19) "Galaxy Quest"/DreamWorks Theaters: 817 (-369) Gross: $0.75 million (-39%) Average per theater: $920 Total: $69.0 million
(20) "Toy Story 2"/BV/Disney Theaters: 581 (-183) Gross: $0.50 million (-48%) Average per theater: $863 Total: $240.6 million
(21) "The Insider"/BV/Touchstone (see EXPANSIONS above)
(22) "The Talented Mr. Ripley"/Paramount/Miramax Theaters: 626 (-519) Gross: $0.37 million (-56%) Average per theater: $694 Total: $80 million
(23) "Angela's Ashes"/Paramount Theaters: 584 (-30) Gross: $0.36 million (-42%) Average per theater: $616 Total: $11.9 million
(24) "Being John Malkovich"/USA Films Theaters: 134 (-31) Gross: $0.13 million (-34%) Average per theater: $995 Total: $22 million
(25) "Snow Falling on Cedars"/Universal Theaters: 299 (+11) Gross: $0.13 million (-17%) Average per theater: $440 Total: $14.1 million
(26) "Rear Window"/USA (see EXPANSIONS above)
(27) "End of Days"/Universal Theaters: 197 (-43) Gross: $0.10 million (-36%) Average per theater: $460 Total: $66.7 million (28) "The Bone Collector"/Universal: Theaters: 217
(-28) Gross: $0.10 million (-36%) Average per theater: $415 Total: $66.4 million
(29) "My Dog Skip"/Warner Bros. Theaters: 21 (-4) Gross: $0.056 million (-15%) Average per theater: $2,660 Total: $0.7 million
(30) "The Closer You Get"/Fox Searchlight: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)