In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
The Tourist is about as difficult to get through as spotting the vowels in the name of its director. Florian Henckel von Donnersmark was last seen receiving a Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2007 for The Lives of Others which was about a couple living in East Berlin who were being monitored by the police of the German Democratic Republic. Its positive reception made way for the assumption that Donnersmark would continue to populate the USA with films of seemingly otherworldly and underrepresented themes. But his current project is saddening in its superficiality and total implausibility.
The film’s only real upside is its stars: two of our most prized Americans. Johnny Depp plays Frank Tupelo a math teacher from Wisconsin who travels to Europe after his wife leaves him presumably because of his weakness and simplicity. While en route to Venice he meets Elise Clifton-Ward (Angelina Jolie) who situates herself in his company after she receives a letter from her criminal lover Alexander Pearce (who stole some billions from a very wealthy Russian and the British government) with instructions to find someone on a train who looks like him and make the police believe that he is the real Alexander Pearce to throw the authorities and the Russians off his track. Elise picks Frank and after they are photographed kissing each other on the balcony of Elise’s hotel everyone begins to believe Frank is the real Pearce and so begins the chase.
While Donnersmark could not have picked two better looking people to film roaming around Venice his lack of faith in the audience is obvious. Every aspect of the characters is hammed up again and again as if Donnersmark felt burdened with the task of making us see his vision. Doubtful that we’re capable of getting to where he wants us he has crafted a movie completely devoid of subtlety. Elise’s strength and superiority over Frank are portrayed by close-ups and repeated instances of men burping up their lungs upon seeing her (as if her beauty is in any way subjective?). And in case we forgot that Frank is the victim in this story -- even though he’s been tricked chased and shot at - Donnersmark still felt the need to pin him with a lame electronic cigarette to puff on. Frank and Elise somehow manage to lack mystery even though we get very few factual details about each of them.
Nothing extraordinary comes to us in the way of the film’s structural elements either. There is very little of the action that The Tourist’s marketing led us to believe and the dialog is often painful. The plot itself is almost shockingly unbelievable especially when we’re asked to believe that Elise falls in love with Frank after a combination of kissing him once and her disclosed habit of swooning over men she only spent an hour with (yes that was on her CV).
The Tourist is rather empty and cosmetic. It’s worth seeing if you’re a superfan of Jolie or Depp but don’t expect to walk out of the theater with anything more than the stub you came in with.
Top Story: Prosecutor Suggests Michael Jackson May Flee U.S.
The prosecutor in Michael Jackson's child molestation case opposes reducing the pop star's $3 million bail out of concern he might flee the country, The Associated Press reports. Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon's office said Jackson's wealth requires at least the current bail, arguing the singer might choose to live out his life as "a wealthy absconder" rather than face a life term in a California prison. According to the motion filed by Deputy District Attorney Gerald McC. Franklin, there is concern Jackson might flee to a country that doesn't have an extradition agreement with the United States. "Mr. Jackson is known and adored--'adored' is not too strong a word--in many of the countries of Europe, the Near East and Africa," the motion said. "The defendant here is 'Michael Jackson, international celebrity,' a man whose lifestyle to date would not have prepared him to adapt readily to a prison environment and routine, and whose physical stature will present its own problems for him in making the necessary adjustments." In addition to child molestation, a grand jury indicted Jackson with a conspiracy count that alleged child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion.
Posh Stands By Her Man
Former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham says in Marie Claire's July issue that she has faith in her husband, English soccer star David Beckham. "I know my David's never cheated on me," she said in the interview in response to allegations Beckham had affairs with his former personal assistant and a model. The Beckhams recently announced that Victoria--still known as Posh Spice to many fans of the 1990s girl band--and their two children would move to Spain to be with David, who left Manchester United to play for Real Madrid last year. She also denied rumors she stayed with David to make money from the 'Beckham brand.' "I couldn't live a lie and it would be unfair on our children," she said. "We are working on things together, but it is absolutely not a business arrangement."
Sean Combs Didn't Expect Tony Nod for Raisin
Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, who is currently starring in the Broadway revival of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, told Reuters in a recent telephone interview he isn't bothered being the only star in the production not to get a Tony Award nomination. "I didn't expect to get nominated. That was not my motivation. I'm very realistic as a person about life and how you have to pay your dues and about the level I'm at as an actor. I have my time for awards," Combs said, adding: "There's nothing that can compare to people laughing about you for something and then every night, standing room only." Initial ticket sales for A Raisin in the Sun broke the 1,078-seat Royale Theatre record and routinely sells out.
Combs Goes From B'way To Politics
In other "P. Diddy" news, Combs told the New York Post Sunday he hopes to question President Bush and likely Democratic nominee John Kerry on his new MTV show, tentatively titled Project Change. The 34-year-old hip-hop impresario told the paper he plans to scout the streets of Harlem, Brooklyn and Detroit for "real people" to ask the questions. "The people who usually ask the candidates questions are screened, and I'm going to use real people off the streets to get their questions out there," Combs told The Post. "I'm going to make Kerry and Bush squirm." His goal is to encourage a record number of young people and minorities to vote.
Helen Hunt Has Baby Girl
Mad About You star Helen Hunt gave birth to a daughter on May 13 in Beverly Hills, Calif., Reuters reports. The baby, named MaKena lei Gordon Carnahan, is the first child for Hunt and director Matthew Carnahan. The couple began dating in 2001. The 40-year-old actress and her baby are "doing very well," her publicist said Friday.
Kirk, Anne Douglas Renew Wedding Vows
Anne and Kirk Douglas renewed their wedding vows for the second time in 50 years Sunday before 300 guests in a traditional Jewish ceremony at the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, Calif., the AP reports. Guests included former First Lady Nancy Reagan, Merv Griffin, Dan Aykroyd, Lauren Bacall, Tony Curtis, Vidal Sassoon and Anjelica Huston. Family members included the Douglas' son Peter and Kirk Douglas' son, producer Joel Douglas, from his first marriage. Actors Eric and Michael Douglas were unable to attend. A publicist for Kirk Douglas said Michael Douglas was with his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, who is currently filming in Europe.
24 Whittles Cast for Upcoming Season
The Counter Terrorism Unit on Fox's drama 24 is getting its pink slip. Sources tell Reuters the actors who play Jack Bauer's (Kiefer Sutherland) CTU colleagues have been informed that their options as series regulars will not be picked up for the upcoming fall season. That includes Reiko Aylesworth and James Badge Dale, who play CTU members Michelle Dessler and Chase Edmunds. The two could return could return next season for guest appearances, along with Carlos Bernard, Zachary Quinto and Daniel Dae Kim, who played CTU members on a recurring basis. Elisha Cuthbert, who plays Jack's daughter and CTU analyst Kimberly Bauer, is expected to return next season.
Death Row Must Pay for Man's Injuries
Death Row Records was ordered to pay more than $162,000 to a man who said label owner Marion "Suge" Knight and his bodyguards attacked him at a recording studio in 2001, the AP reports. A Superior Court jury ruled that although Knight, who was not in the studio during the altercation, was not personally liable for the fight, Death Row Records was responsible for the actions of his security guards. Dwayne H. Baudy said he went to Con Am Studios in November of 2001 to meet an independent rap producer when he and a friend got into a confrontation with Death Row's security chief, Reginald Wright Jr. Wright said Baudy and his friend brandished guns after they were barred
Universal's "Meet the Parents" continued to meet box office success, becoming the year's third film to place first for three consecutive weeks.
The PG-13-rated comedy was still laughing all the way to the bank in its third weekend with an estimated $16.32 million (-23%) at 2,619 theaters (+4 theaters; $6,230 per theater). Its cume is approximately $81.0 million, heading for a domestic theatrical gross of $130 million or more.
"Parents'" international release is through DreamWorks Pictures, which co-financed the film and will share equally in its success.
"Parents" had the highest per-theater average for any film playing in wide release last weekend.
"Being number one for the third week in a row is extraordinary," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning. "It's only been twice this year that that's happened. The last time was with 'Erin Brockovich' (also from Universal) and the time before was in February with 'The Whole Nine Yards' (from Warner Bros.). Two of the three are ours. Of course, we went through the entire summer without anything being number one for three weeks in a row."
"Brockovich" placed first the weekends of Mar. 17-19, Mar. 24-26 and Mar. 31 - April 2. "Yards" was number one the weekends of Feb. 18-21, Feb. 25-27 and Mar. 3-5.
Asked where "Parents" is heading in domestic theaters, Rocco replied, "I'm sure it will go to $130 million, at least."
The film is playing so well, she explained, because it's "a broad appeal comedy."
Directed by Jay Roach (director of both "Austin Powers" hits), "Parents" stars Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller.
Rocco also pointed with pleasure to Universal's critically-acclaimed, R-rated drama "Billy Elliot," the first title from the studio's new Universal Focus banner. "Billy" expanded gracefully in its second week and tied for 17th place with an estimated $0.5 million at 38 theaters (+28 theaters; $13,240 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.8 million.
'Billy Elliot' is coming along nicely," Rocco said. "It's a very slow roll out. The new engagements looked spectacular. We had solid increases in the old engagements, where we didn't expand in the marketplace. So we're very happy and will continue to roll out.
"We did another set of exit polls this weekend. Once again, it was (very strong) with 96% in the Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good) and an 80% definite recommend, which only proves that last weekend's exit polls were very solid. The numbers are strong and they're well above average. People's top reason for coming to see it was the story and the reviews."
20th Century Fox's PG-13-rated comedy "Bedazzled" opened with better-than-anticipated energy to a sparkling estimated $13.72 million at 2,568 theaters ($5,344 per theater).
"We feel great about it," Fox distribution president Bruce Snyder said Sunday morning. "The whole market looks like it's come back pretty strong. 'Meet the Parents' won't go away. Even with another comedy coming in, it's real strong. The marketplace is terrific. We're very pleased."
What audience is it attracting? "It looks like everybody," Snyder replied, "because we've got kids coming Saturday afternoon, also. We're off to a good start."
Directed by Harold Ramis, "Bedazzled" stars Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley.
Warner Bros.' PG-13-rated drama "Pay It Forward" kicked off in fourth place with a very encouraging estimated $10.16 million at 2,130 theaters ($4,768 per theater).
"The exits are sensational," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "We had 91% in the Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good). We had 80% definite recommend, which is huge. So I think this movie is going to leg it out.
"We seemed to be hurt more than any more last night because of the World Series. We're playing to a much older audience (than other films in the Top Five). In New York, 'Titans' was up 23% (from Friday), 'Bedazzled' was up 7%, 'Parents' up 14%. We were up zero."
Asked if "Forward" will go wider this weekend, Fellman replied, "We're not going to spread. We're going to hang in and see how we hold the second week. Hopefully, the Yankees will finish (the Series) off quickly."
Directed by Mimi Leder, "Pay It Forward" stars Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment.
Buena Vista/Disney's PG-rated football drama "Remember the Titans" from producer Jerry Bruckheimer gave up two yards on the box office gridiron in its fourth weekend, still holding well in fourth place with an estimated $10.0 million (-23%) at 2,801 theaters (+75 theaters; $3,545 per theater). Its cume is approximately $77.4 million.
Directed by Boaz Yakin and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Chad Oman, "Titans" stars Denzel Washington.
Dimension Films' R-rated action adventure "The Legend of Drunken Master" opened with less energy than insiders anticipated, placing fifth with an estimated $3.7 million at 1,342 theaters ($2,757 per theater).
Directed by Lau Ka Leung, it stars Jackie Chan.
DreamWorks' R-rated political thriller "The Contender" fell one ballot to sixth place in its second week with an okay estimated $3.6 million (-33%) at 1,571 theaters (+55 theaters; $2,274 per theater). Its cume is approximately $10.6 million.
Written and directed by Rod Lurie, "Contender" stars Gary Oldman, Joan Allen, Jeff Bridges and Christian Slater.
New Line's R-rated horror thriller "Lost Souls" plunged four pegs to seventh place in its second weekend with a calm estimated $3.25 million (-59%) at 1,970 theaters (theater count unchanged; $1,650 per theater). Its cume is approximately $12.9 million.
Directed by Janusz Kaminski, "Souls" stars Winona Ryder and Ben Chaplin.
Warner Bros.' reissue of its R-rated 1973 horror classic "The Exorcist" dropped two notches to eighth place in its fifth week with a less scary $2.9 million (-45%) at 1,708 theaters (+53 theaters; $1,698 per theater). Its cume is approximately $34.8 million, heading for $40 million or more in domestic theaters.
"Halloween's coming up and that should give us a push," Warners' Fellman reminded. "So we'll get into the $40 millions."
Directed by William Friedkin, "Exorcist" stars Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair and Max von Sydow.
Paramount's R-rated urban appeal comedy "The Ladies Man" slid five rungs to ninth place in its second week with an unloved estimated $2.85 million (-47%) at 2,043 theaters (+21 theaters; $1,395 per theater). Its cume is approximately $9.7 million.
Directed by Reginald Hudlin, "Ladies" stars Tim Meadows, Karyn Parsons and Billy Dee Wiliams.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Artisan Entertainment's R-rated romantic comedy "Dr. T and the Women ," down three slots in its second week with an unexciting estimated $2.5 million (-50%) at 1,489 theaters (theater count unchanged; $1,678 per theater). Its cume is approximately $9.1 million.
Directed by Robert Altman, "Dr. T" stars Richard Gere, Helen Hunt, Farrah Fawcett, Laura Dern, Shelley Long, Tara Reid, Kate Hudson and Liv Tyler.
OTHER OPENINGS This weekend also saw the arrival of Keystone Entertainment's PG-rated family film "MVP: Most Valuable Primate," placing 22nd with a slow estimated $0.14 million at 185 theaters ($745 per theater).
Directed by Robert Vince, it stars Kevin Zegers and Jamie Renee Smith.
Miramax's R-rated suspense drama "The Yards" opened in New York, L.A. and Chicago, placing 26th with a short estimated $0.052 million at 8 theaters ($6,500 per theater).
Directed by James Gray, it stars Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Charlize Theron and James Caan.
Miramax's G-rated documentary "Calle 54" opened in New York for a one week Oscar qualifying run, placing 27th with a quiet estimated $8,000 at 1 theater.
Directed by Fernando Trueba, it stars Paquito D'Rivera and Tito Puente.
SNEAK PREVIEWS There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
EXPANSIONS On the expansion front, Warner Bros.' PG-13-rated comedy "Best in Show" went wider in its fourth week, placing 11th with a still-promising estimated $2.16 million (+1%) at 497 theatres (+206 theaters; $4,346 per theater). Its cume is approximately $6.8 million.
Directed by Christopher Guest, "Best" stars Jennifer Coolidge, Christopher Guest and John Michael Higgins.
New Line's R-rated Spike Lee satire "Bamboozled" went wider in its third week, placing 18th with a calm estimated $0.43 million at 244 theaters (+227 theaters; $1,742 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.8 million.
Written and directed by Spike Lee, "Bamboozled" stars Damon Wayans, Savion Glover and Jada Pinkett-Smith.
Universal's R-rated drama "Billy Elliot," the first title from the studio's new Universal Focus banner, added theaters in its second week and tied for 16th place with a very encouraging estimated $0.5 million at 38 theaters (+28 theaters; $13,240 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.8 million.
(Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco's comments about "Billy" are included in today's Top Ten grosses report.)
Directed by Stephen Daldry, "Billy" stars Julie Walters, Gary Lewis, Jamie Bell, Jamie Draven and Adam Cooper.
Fine Line's R-rated drama "Dancer in the Dark" went slightly wider in its fifth week, placing 19th with a dull estimated $0.33 million (-17%) at 126 theaters (+3 theaters; $2,595 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.8 million.
Written and directed by Lars Von Trier, "Dancer" stars Bjork and Catherine Deneuve.
Artisan Entertainment's controversial unrated drama "Requiem For A Dream" expanded in its third week, placing 25th with a still sexy estimated $0.087 million at 5 theaters (+3 theaters; $17,400 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.3 million.
Directed by Darren Arnonofsky, "Requiem" stars Jared Leto and Ellen Burstyn.
"We just opened up our second market, L.A., and the numbers were tremendous," Artisan distribution head Steve Rothenberg said Sunday morning. "We got a great review in the L.A. Times. The (Laemmle) Sunset, alone, is going to do about $26,000, which for L.A. is a pretty darn good (gross).
"On Nov. 3 we go into the top 12 cities. We're in New York and L.A. now. Then we go into San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Philly, D.C., etc."
WEEKEND COMPARISONS Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 for the weekend -- took in approximately $76.48 million, up about 9.68% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $69.73 million.
This weekend's key film gross was down a marginal 0.65% from this year's previous weekend when key films grossed $76.98 million.
Last year, Universal's opening week of "The Best Man" was first with $9.03 million at 1,346 theaters ($6,710 per theater); and Paramount's fifth week of "Double Jeopardy" was second with $7.62 million at 3,002 theaters ($2,539 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $16.6 million. This year, the top two films grossed an estimated $30.0 million.
STUDIO MARKET SHARES Based on business by key films (those grossing $500,000 or more), last weekend's top six distributors were:
Warner Bros. was first with four films ("Get Carter," "The Exorcist," "Pay It Forward" and "Best in Show"), grossing an estimated $16.3 million or 21.3% of the market.
Universal was second with two films ("Meet the Parents" and "Bring It On"), grossing an estimated $14.86 million or 19.4% of the market.
20th Century Fox was third with two films ("Bedazzled" and "Digimon: The Movie"), grossing an estimated $13.7 million or 19.1% of the market.
Buena Vista (Disney and Touchstone) was fourth with one film ("Remember the Titans"), grossing an estimated $10.0 million or 13.1% of the market.
DreamWorks was fifth with two films ("The Contender" and "Almost Famous"), grossing an estimated $4.93 million or 6.4% of the market.
Miramax (Miramax and Dimension) was sixth with one film ("The Legend of Drunken Master"), grossing an estimated $3.7 million or 4.8% of the market.
ADDITIONAL ESTIMATES (11)Best In Show/Warner Bros.: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(12)Almost Famous/DreamWorks: Theaters: 1,707 (-555) Gross: $1.33 million (-39%) Average per theater: $780 Cume: $28.8 million
(13)Get Carter/Warner Bros.: Theaters: 1,925 (-390) Gross: $1.09 million (-63%) Average per theater: $565 Cume: $13.9 million
(14)Bring It On/Universal: Theaters: 1,736 (-436) Gross: $1.04 million (-36%) Average per theater: $600 Cume: $66.2 million
(15)Digimon: The Movie/Fox: Theaters: 1,655 (-170) Gross: $0.87 million (-55%) Average per theater: $525 Cume: $8.5 million
(16)Billy Elliot/Universal Focus: (see EXPANSIONS above) (tie)
(16)Urban Legends: Final Cut/Columbia: Theaters: 1,081 (-1,140) Gross: $0.5 million (-58%) (tie) Average per theater: $465 Cume: $21.0 million
(18)Bamboozled/New Line: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(19)Dancer in the Dark/Fine Line: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(20)Nurse Betty/USA Films: Theaters: 516 (-502) Gross: $0.2 million (-59%) (tie) Average per theater: $390 Cume: $24.1 million
(20)Nutty Professor II: The Klumps/Universal: Theaters: 421 (-104) Gross: $0.20 million (-31%) (tie) Average per theater: $465 Cume: $122.1 million
(22)MVP: MOST VALUABLE PRIMATE/Keystone Ent.: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(23)The Watcher/Universal: Theaters: 351 (-520) Gross: $0.12 million (-70%) Average per theater: $330 Cume: $28.8 million
(24)Girlfight/Screen Gems/Sony: Theaters: 229 (-24) Gross: $0.11 million (-50%) Average per theater: $460 Cume: $1.4 million
(25)Requiem For A Dream/Artisan: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(26)THE YARDS/Miramax: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(27)CALLE 54/Miramax: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)