Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
Even without having read Mark Helprin's novel Winter's Tale, I have the unshakable feeling that Akiva Goldsman's film adaptation does not do the story justice. Speckled throughout the moreover colorless movie are hints of an intriguing idea — a fantasy epic about an angel-demon bureaucracy coexisting with the human race throughout the span of 20th century New York City, operating within the parameters of a didactic miracle-granting system — an idea that doesn't come close to its full potential. In 118 minutes, we barely scratch the surface of the world in which an apparently immortal Colin Farrell finds himself. We see him cavort with Russell Crowe, a malicious gang-leader with netherworld origins, seek guidance from a mystical Pegasus, and carry out his destiny as the savior to a mysterious red-haired girl. But we never truly understand why any of this is happening. Not that it gets particularly confusing; on a plot level, it's all quite simple. But that's the problem — it shouldn't be.
The central conceit of the film is that everyone is put on this Earth with a divine "mission" to uphold. Farrell's gives us the narrative of Winter's Tale, introducing the various rules and officers of the supernatural regime along the way. Abandoned as a baby and brought up under the criminal regime of a Manhattanite from Hell (Crowe), Farrell ascends from orphan to petty thief to horse whispering renegade to whimsical lover of a dying Jessica Brown Findlay to ageless messiah... all without much clarity on the nature of the story (or stories) he's occupying, save for two ham-fisted scenes of exposition — one with Graham Greene (not the dead author) and one with Jennifer Connelly, who shows up halfway through the movie for some reason.
Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
The world that Farrell is woven into has so many bright spots: we're on board for miracle quests, a magic-laden New York City, flying horses, and one of the biggest stars in Hollywood giving a cameo as the epitome of evil. Everything we see is fun, but it all flutters away as quickly as it arrives. We don't want quick bites of the way angels and demons do business with one another on the streets of Manhattan, we want the whole meal. A more thorough exploration of Helprin's world wouldn't just be doubly as interesting as the thin alternative we're offered in Goldsman's adaptation, it'd also fill in all the comprehensive gaps in Farrell's emotional throughline
We don't really understand so much of what happens to Farrell. Even when we're offered tangible explanations, we have no reason to understand why the Winter's Tale world works in such a way that Farrell might survive a 300-foot fall, develop amnesia, or sustain youth for a full century. What's more, we don't understand why Farrell's tale as a cog in this mystical machine is any more important than anyone else's. Or, if it's not, and we're simply asked to watch him carry out his quest as a glimpse into the vast, enigmatic system that Winter's Tale is ostensibly founded upon, we ... we don't understand enough of that world itself.
Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
We're never invited close enough to any of the movie's attractive features for them to matter. So even when the movie does offer entertaining bits — in its fantastical elements, its detail of New Yorks old and new, or Farrell's admittedly charming romance with Findlay — we're not engaged enough to really connect with any of them.
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Still, the flying horse is pretty cool.
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Dimension Films' "Scream 3" made the weekend's biggest waves at the box office, holding on to first place despite 20th Century Fox's strong launch for Leonardo DiCaprio's "The Beach."
"Scream 3" took a hefty second weekend drop but still sliced off an estimated $16.40 million (-53%) at 3,467 theaters (theater count unchanged, $4,730 per theater). Its total is approximately $57.1 million.
In December 1997, "Scream 2's" second weekend gross of $13.9 million was down 58%. It went on to gross about $101.3 million in domestic theaters.
"It's actually a better drop than expected considering where we opened," Miramax Senior Vice President, Marketing, David Kaminow said Sunday morning. "Looking at 'Scream 2,' after 10 days, we were at $55 million. On 'Scream 3' after 10 days, we're at $57 million. So we're on a good track and feel good about that."
Directed by Wes Craven, "Scream 3" was produced by Cathy Konrad, Kevin Williamson and Marianne Maddalena. It reunites Craven with David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox Arquette and Liev Schreiber. Also starring are Patrick Dempsey, Scott Foley, Matt Keeslar, Jenny McCarthy, Emily Mortimer, Parker Posey, Deon Richmond, Kelly Rutherford and Patrick Warburton.
Twentieth Century Fox's launch of its R-rated adventure drama "The Beach" washed ashore in second place with a high tide estimated $15 million at 2,546 theaters ($5,891 per theater).
Its per-theater average was the highest for any film in wide release last weekend.
Directed by Danny Boyle, "The Beach" stars DiCaprio and Virginie Ledoyen.
"It's good," Tom Sherak, 20th Domestic Film Group chairman and senior executive vice president of Fox Filmed Entertainment, said Sunday morning. "The audience was about 57% female and 43% male. Fifty-five percent of the audience was 18-25.
Everybody seems to be thrilled about it. No question, they came to see (DiCaprio) -- the biggest reason to go to the movie (according to exit polls). And young girls liked it the best.
"Everybody's happy (about it at Fox). Some people have asked me (about) it's not being No. 1. Well, when a movie does $34 million in its first week, (a film opening the next week) is not going to be No. 1. No. 1 is a wonderful thing, but it's not the wherewithal for a movie. There have been so many movies that haven't been No. 1 that have gone on to do a lot of business. Hopefully, this will be one of them."
Paramount and Nickelodeon Movies' PG-rated comedy "Snow Day" opened in third place to a blizzard of ticket sales with an estimated $14.80 million at 2,664 theaters ($5,556 per theater).
"Snow Day" is directed by Chris Koch and stars Chevy Chase.
"I think it's phenomenal," Paramount Distribution President Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning. "It's way beyond where we thought it could get. I thought, maybe, $12 million would be our top simply because 'Tigger' was in the marketplace at the same time. And, really, nothing had ever done this kind (of business) -- you're talking $23-25 million between the two pictures."
There were differences between the two family films' audiences. "Snow," Lewellen said, was "a little bit older. Their picture, based on the research, really stopped at about 6 years old, and we could get to, like, 12- and 13-year-olds. Obviously, their being in the market affected us because they took some of the younger kids who were going to our film. But for the two pictures to do this level of business is just phenomenal."
Lewellen added that the marketplace expanded with two new family films opening: "I think, maybe, the two pictures had a synergy getting the people out. The younger people like to go see both movies.
Fourth place went to Disney's kickoff of its G-rated animated "The Tigger Movie" with a bouncy estimated $9.21 million at 2,723 theaters ($3,382 per theater). The film is the animated adventures of the familiar "Winnie the Pooh" character.
"I'm so happy," Buena Vista Distribution President Chuck Viane said Sunday morning. "Based on everything that we felt, this is really at the upper end of the opening weekend projection. Next Monday is a holiday, and what historically happens is that whatever you do in the three days of this weekend you come right back and do in the four days of next weekend. When the end of the year rolls around, this movie will probably rank up there with some of the most profitable. Everything was done the right way, and it is going to be extremely profitable.
"What a wonderful weekend for general audience movies. 'Snow Day' did wonderfully. We did wonderfully. And, yet, if you look inside the numbers, we don't compete with each other. We're younger and a tad more female. We're 56% female. I'm sure if you looked inside 'Snow Day's' numbers, they'd be a little heavier male than female. We're really complementary to the marketplace."
Rounding out the Top Five was Universal's R-rated Oscar contender "The Hurricane," down three slots in its seventh week but still holding well with an estimated $3.61 million (-27%) at 2,078 theaters (-70 theaters, $1,735 per theater). Its total is approximately $42.4 million.
Directed by Norman Jewison, it stars recent Golden Globe winner Denzel Washington as wrongly imprisoned boxing champion Rubin "Hurricane" Carter.
Warner Bros. and Castle Rock Entertainment's R-rated death row drama "The Green Mile" held on to sixth place in its 10th week with a still OK estimated $3.04 million (-24%) at 2,012 theaters (-323 theaters, $1,513 per theater). Its total is approximately $124.4 million, heading for $140 million in domestic theaters.
Written and directed by Frank Darabont, it stars Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan.
New Line's R-rated urban-appeal hit comedy sequel "Next Friday" dropped three slots to seventh place in its fifth week with a still respectable estimated $2.82 million (-34%) at 1,364 theaters (-56 theaters, $2,071 per theater). Its total is approximately $49.4 million.
Directed by Steve Carr, it was written by, stars and was produced by Ice Cube.
Columbia's PG-rated family comedy "Stuart Little" finished eighth, down five pegs in its ninth week in the face of competition from two new family-appeal films with a less exciting estimated $2.70 million (-43%) at 2,351 theaters (-351 theaters, $1,148 per theater). Its total is approximately $132 million, heading for $140 million or more in domestic theaters.
Directed by Rob Minkoff, it stars Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie and Jonathan Lipnicki.
"It's been having its own way for many weeks," Sony Pictures Releasing President Jeff Blake said Sunday morning. "There's no question, both (new family) pictures gave us a hit. But we think we'll hang on, certainly past the $140 million mark and, I think, we'll get to the mid-$140 millions. We're still in 2,351 runs and although we'll lose some, there's a lot of interest in continuing to play this picture, especially over the holiday weekend coming up."
Looking ahead to the Oscar nominations Tuesday morning, Blake said, "It will be interesting to see what impact the Academy Award nominations have. Certainly, only the No. 5 and 6 pictures this week out of the Top Ten are interested in that result plus the re-release of 'American Beauty.' It certainly seems like the top four plus (the two films opening next weekend) 'Hanging Up' and 'The Whole Nine Yards' are all going to be pretty hard to get by.
"It does not look like the rewards are going to be immediate (for films with Oscar nominations) because it does look like kids and, hopefully, the women for us on 'Hanging Up' will rule things (next weekend). As I say, I think it's not necessarily going to be the Academy weekend next weekend. It looks like a lot of very entertaining (new or very recent) pi tures will probably be on top."
Blake said that "Hanging Up" will open at about 2,500 theaters. Directed by Diane Keaton, the PG-13-rated comedy stars Meg Ryan, Diane Keaton, Lisa Kudrow and Walter Matthau.
DreamWorks' PG-rated sci-fi fantasy comedy "Galaxy Quest" was ninth, down two notches in its eighth week with a less exciting estimated $2.20 million (-34%) at 1,589 theaters (-350 theaters, $1,385 per theater). Its total is approximately $65.8 million, heading for about $70 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Dean Parisot, it stars Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Destination Films' R-rated psychological thriller "Eye Of the Beholder," down five rungs in its third week with a quiet estimated $2.11 million (-49%) at 1,583 theaters (-168, $1,331 per theater). Its total is approximately $15.1 million.
Directed by Stephan Elliott, it stars Ewan McGregor and Ashley Judd. Destination reportedly picked up the independently made film for domestic release for about $4 million.
Last weekend saw the arrival of no other noteworthy openings.
Last weekend saw Warner Bros. hold national sneak previews Saturday night of Morgan Creek and Franchise Pictures' R-rated comedy "The Whole Nine Yards."
Directed by Jonathan Lynn, it stars Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry. It was written by Mitchell Kapner, produced by David Willis and Allan Kaufman and executive produced by Elie Samaha and Andrew Stevens.
"We had over 800 sneaks and polled more than half (of them)," Warner Bros. distribution executive Jeff Goldstein said Sunday morning. "Of the theaters we polled, the reaction (was) 98% between good and excellent. On the capacity side, 95% were between 75% and 100% capacity. Those two pieces of information tell the whole story -- we had really good sneaks."
"Yards" opens Friday at more than 2,800 theaters.
On the expansion front, last weekend saw Buena Vista/Touchstone expand its R-rated Oscar contender thriller "The Sixth Sense" in its 28th week to be in the marketplace when Academy nominations are announced Tuesday morning. "Sense" placed 18th with a quiet estimated $1.04 million at 831 theaters (+611 theaters, $1,254 per theater). Its total is approximately $279.5 million.
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, it stars Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment.
USA Films R-rated drama "Topsy-Turvy" went wider in its eighth week, placing 20th with a quiet estimated $0.72 million at 223 theaters (+93 theaters, $3,240 per theater). Its total is approximately $3.2 million.
Written and directed by Mike Leigh, it stars Jim Broadbent and Allan Corduner.
Fox Searchlight Pictures' R-rated drama "Titus" went a bit wider in its eighth week, placing 32nd with an OK estimated $0.11 million at 19 theaters (+2 theaters, $5,815 per theater). Its total is approximately $1 million.
Directed by Julie Taymor, it stars Anthony Hopkins, Jessica Lange and Allan Cumming.
USA Films' reissue of the PG-rated suspense/cop drama "Rear Window" widened slightly in its fourth week, placing 33rd with an OK estimated $0.10 million at 17 theaters (+2 theaters, $5,790 per theater). Its total is approximately $0.4 million.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, it stars Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly. Robert Harris and James Katz restored the 1954 film classic.
Fine Line Features' G-rated Oscar contender for Best Foreign Language Film, "The Cup," widened in its third week, placing 34th with an OK estimated $0.064 million at 12 theaters (+8 theaters, $5,330 per theater). Its total is approximately $0.2 million.
Directed by Khyentse Norbu, it is the story of attempts to hook up a satellite dish at a Tibetan monastery so its soccer fan monks can watch the 1998 World Cup matches.
Warner Bros. R-rated comedy "The Big Tease" expanded in its third week, placing 36th place with a quiet estimated $0.030 million at 10 theaters (+6 theaters, $2,855 per theater). Its total is approximately $0.1 million.
Directed by Kevin Allen, it stars Craig Ferguson and Frances Fisher.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 for the weekend - took in approximately $84.17 million. Comparisons cannot be made to last year when the comparable weekend was the four-day Presidents Day holiday weekend.
This year, the four-day Presidents Day weekend is one week later (Feb. 18-21). This weekend's key film gross was down about 1.19% compared with the previous weekend when key films grossed $85.18 million.
Last year, Warner Bros.' opening week of "Message In A Bottle" was first with $18.85 million for four days at 2,538 theaters ($7,428 per theater) and Paramount's second week of "Payback" was second with $17.72 million at 2,751 theaters ($6,441 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $36.6 million for four days. This year, the top two films grossed an estimated $31.4 million for three days.
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 ("Scream 3," "Down To You" and "The Cider House Rules") grossing an estimated $19.5 million or 23.2% of the market.
Paramount was second with three films ("Snow Day," "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and "Angela's Ashes") grossing an estimated $17.66 million or 21% of the market.
Twentieth Century Fox was third with one film ("The Beach") grossing an estimated $15 million or 17.8% of the market.
Buena Vista (Touchstone and Disney) was fourth with three films ("The Tigger Movie," "Toy Story 2" and "Fantasia 2000") grossing an estimated $12 million or 14.3% of the market.
Sony Pictures Entertainment (Columbia, TriStar) was fifth with three films ("Stuart Little," "Girl, Interrupted" and "The End Of the Affair") grossing an estimated $4.75 million or 5.6% of the market.
Warner Bros. was sixth with two films ("The Green Mile" and "Any Given Sunday") grossing an estimated $3.76 million or 4.5% of the market.
(11) "Fantasia 2000"/BV/Disney: Theaters: 54 (0) (all IMAX in U.S.) Gross: $1.80 million (-6%) Average per theater: $33,333 Total: $27.4 million (worldwide)
(12) "The Talented Mr. Ripley"/Paramount/Miramax: Theaters: 1,266 (-563) Gross: $1.76 million (-29%) Average per theater: $1,390 Total: $78 million
(13) "The Cider House Rules"/Miramax: Theaters: 802 (-32) Gross: $1.60 million (-17%) Average per theater: $1,995 Total: $22.7 million
(14) "Down to You"/Miramax: Theaters: 1,719 (-284) Gross: $1.50 million (-45%) Average per theater: $872 Total: $18.5 million
(15) Girl, Interrupted/Columbia: Theaters: 1,380 (-483) Gross: $1.35 million (-47%) Average per theater: $978 Total: $27 million
(16) "Angela's Ashes"/Paramount: Theaters: 614 (0) Gross: $1.10 million (-28%) (tie) Average per theater: $1,792 Total: $10.2 million
(16) "Toy Story 2"/BV/Disney: Theaters: 1,249 (-339) Gross: $1.10 million (-53%) (tie) Average per theater: $816 Total: $238.6 million
(18) "The Sixth Sense"/BV/Touchstone: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(19) "Magnolia"/New Line: Theaters: 497 (-332) Gross: $0.85 million (-34%) Average per theater: $1,710 Total: $20.5 million
(20) "Topsy-Turvy"/USA Films: (see EXPANSIONS above)
21) "Any Given Sunday"/Warner Bros.: Theaters: 1,031 (-526) Gross: $0.72 million (-30%) Average per theater: $695 Total: $74.8 million
(22) "The End of the Affair"/Columbia: Theaters: 585 (-96) Gross: $0.70 million (-34%) Average per theater: $1,197 Total: $9.5 million
(23) "The World Is Not Enough"/MGM: Theaters: 768 (-74) Gross: $0.45 m illion (-30%) Average per theater: $590 Total: $125.8 million
(24) "Snow Falling on Cedars"/Universal: Theaters: 504 (-296) Gross: $0.40 million (-45%) Average per theater: $800 Total: $13.5 million
(25) "Gun Shy"/BV/Hollywood: Theaters: 296 (0) Gross: $0.37 million (-47%) Average per theater: $1,256 Total: $1.3 million
(26) "Being John Malkovich"/USA Films: Theaters: 173 (-34) Gross: $0.25 million (-21%) Average per theater: $1,440 Total: $21.6 million
(27) "Isn't She Great"/Universal: Theaters: 369 (-381) Gross: $0.20 million (-69%) Average per theater: $545 Total: $2.9 million
(28) "End of Days"/Universal: Theaters: 276 (-67) Gross: $0.17 million (-19%) Average per theater: $620 Total: $66.4 million
(29) "The Bone Collector"/Universal: Theaters: 294 (-35) Gross: $0.17 million (-20%) Average per theater: $580 Total: $66.0 million
(30) "Simpatico"/Fine Line: Theaters: 222 (-34) Gross: $0.16 million (-65%) Average per theater: $718 Total: $0.9 million
(31) "Man on the Moon"/Universal: Theaters: 322 (-161) Gross: $0.15 million (-42%) Average per theater: $450 Total: $34.4 million
(32) "Titus"/Fox Searchlight: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(33) "Rear Window"/USA: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(34) "The Cup"/Fine Line: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(35) "My Dog Skip"/Warner Bros. Theaters: 29 (-1) Gross: $0.060 million (-47%) Average per theater: $2,075 Total: $0.5 million
(36) "The Big Tease"/Warner Bros. (see EXPANSIONS above)