Denzel Washington scored a box office touchdown, finally giving Hollywood some ticket sales to "Remember."
Buena Vista/Disney's PG-rated football drama "Remember the Titans," from producer Jerry Bruckheimer, kicked off in first place with a muscular ESTIMATED $21.2 million at 1,865 theaters ($11,383 per theater).
"Titans" had the highest per-theater average for any film playing in wide release last weekend.
"Titans" marks the first $20 million-plus since the arrival of Columbia's "Hollow Man" last Aug. 4. It ranks as Denzel Washington's biggest opening, out-performing the $18.6 million that "Crimson Tide" kicked off with in May 1995.
Despite the strong performance by "Titans," key films in the marketplace continued to under-perform compared to a year earlier. Overall, the marketplace was down over 27% from last year.
Asked what accounted for "Titans'" strong launch, Buena Vista Distribution president Chuck Viane said Sunday morning, "I think (it was) the blend of the Disney label, Jerry Bruckheimer, and Denzel Washington. The filmmakers really delivered a product that the public loves. Our exit polls are absolutely terrific."
Viane said he was still waiting to get exit poll numbers from National Research Group, but pointed to Disney's in-house exit research done by college students in various markets. "They ranked it a 92%," he said. "They had 74% excellent and 23% very good, which is just a remarkably high number. The audience just absolutely (loved it).
"The make up last night (Saturday) was 55% male and 45% female. 49% of the groups in there last night were couples. 27% were families. To me this is the outstanding numbers - 24% were teens. Normally teens are just Friday, but they were out there again last night."
Viane applauded the studio's marketing team for its campaign on "Titans." "You've got to admit, the marketing department really made this one happen," he said. "They did a fabulous job. It was easy for me (in distribution). There was nothing out there. Everybody was dying to play our movie. We were only going to go to 2,400 (theaters) next Friday. I think that's going to be closer to 2,500 or 2,600, because we're not going to turn people down who ask this time. It's playing so well across the board. There's not a soft spot in the country. And in Canada, which is not an ethnic market and doesn't do American football, we still had a screen average there of $3,800-and-something."
Directed by Boaz Yakin and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Chad Oman, "Titans" stars Denzel Washington.
Warner Bros.' reissue of its R-rated 1973 horror classic "The Exorcist" expanded in its second week, holding on to second place with a still-powerful ESTIMATED $7.43 million (-9%) at 1,150 theaters (+486 theaters; $6,457 per theater). Its cume is approximately $17.9 million. Directed by William Friedkin, "Exorcist" stars Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair and Max von Sydow.
"It was terrific," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning about the film's expansion. "We're going to have another expansion. We're going to go with a big television campaign Friday, Oct. 13. We're going to push this baby. We're going to do, maybe, $40 million (in domestic theaters).
"What's important is that it's the back-end that's going to be the most lucrative for Warners. Because of this, we're going to do a new video and a new DVD release. This reopens the opportunities for television sales worldwide. This is, let's say, a movie that did $40 million, and we're starting all over again with it. It's going to have an international release. It'll be the whole thing. It looks like it's a $100 million movie (in theatrical release worldwide).
"The DVD sales alone on this version will be enormous. Even though there's been other videos, this is going to be a collector's item for people. DVD is going to be gigantic. The pay-per-view (will be big). This starts it all over again. Every ancillary that we have will be reinstated into the marketplace."
In addition to the success of "Exorcist," Fellman was delighted with Warners' platform opening of its PG-13-rated comedy "Best in Show"(see OTHER OPENINGS below for details) at 13 theaters (2 in New York, 2 in L.A., 1 in Toronto and 8 in San Francisco).
"It did $31,000 per theater," Fellman said. "This movie is going to be a smash. It's Christopher Guest. They loved his 'Waiting For Guffman.' They loved (him in Rob Reiner's) 'This Is Spinal Tap.' His audience has been building and building from video and just hit. This is going to be a huge movie.
"We're meeting tomorrow morning, and we're going to start expanding on Friday. We'll probably get up to somewhere around 40 to 60 theaters."
DreamWorks' R-rated dramatic comedy "Almost Famous" continued to expand in its third week, holding on to third place with a solid ESTIMATED $5.6 million (-20%) at 1,635 theaters (+442 theaters; $3,402 per theater. Its cume is approximately $17.8 million, heading for about $60 million in domestic theaters.
Written and directed by Cameron Crowe ("Jerry Maguire"), "Almost" stars Billy Crudup,Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson, Jason Lee, Patrick Fugit, Anna Paquin, Fairuza Balk, Noah Taylor and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
"Famous" is being released internationally by Sony's Columbia Pictures, which co-financed the production and will share equally with DreamWorks in its success.
Columbia's R-rated horror sequel "Urban Legends: Final Cut" from Phoenix Pictures fell three pegs to fourth place in its second week with a less lively ESTIMATED $4.7 million (-45%) at 2,539 theaters (theater count unchanged; $1,851 per theater). Its cume is approximately $15.0 million.
Directed by John Ottman, "Urban" stars Jennifer Morrison.
Universal and Beacon Pictures' PG-13-rated comedy "Bring It On" fell one notch to fifth place in its sixth week with a less energetic ESTIMATED $2.91 million (-32%) at 2,466 theaters (+9 theaters; $1,180 per theater). Its cume is approximately $59.6 million.
Having an investment of only about $10 million in "Bring," Universal is already in profit on the picture.
Directed by Peyton Reed, "Bring" stars Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dusku,Jesse Bradford and Gabrielle Union.
Universal's R-rated psychological thriller "The Watcher" fell one rung to sixth place in its fourth week with a quieter ESTIMATED $2.25 million (-39%) at 2,636 theaters (-141 theaters; $855 per theater). Its cume is approximately $26.0 million.
Universal reportedly picked "Watcher" up from Interlight for only $5 million, so the studio is clearly turning a profit on its investment.
Directed by Joe Charbanic, "Watcher" stars James Spader, Marisa Tomei and Keanu Reeves.
USA Films' R-rated dark comedy "Nurse Betty" held on to seventh place in its fourth week with a calmer ESTIMATED $2.07 million (-36%) at 1,489 theaters (-2 theaters; $1,387 per theater). Its cume is approximately $21.0 million, heading for $25 million in domestic theaters.
"Betty" actually is owned by Universal, which acquired it as part of its takeover of PolyGram and then brought in USA to handle its domestic release.
Directed by Neil La Bute, "Betty" stars Morgan Freeman, Renee Zellweger,Chris Rock and Greg Kinnear.
DreamWorks PG-13-rated supernatural thriller "What Lies Beneath" held on to eighth place, still showing decent legs in its 11th week with an ESTIMATED $1.7 million (-21%) at 1,674 theaters (-145 theaters; $1,040 per theater). Its cume is approximately $150.7 million.
"Beneath" is a co-production of DreamWorks, which is releasing it domestically, and 20th Century Fox, which is distributing it internationally.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis, "Beneath" stars Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Warner Bros. and Castle Rock Entertainment's R-rated action comedy "Bait" dropped three pegs to ninth place in its third week with a dull ESTIMATED $1.68 million (-50%) at 2,010 theaters (-342 theaters; $836 per theater). Its cume is approximately $13.2 million.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua, "Bait" stars Jamie Foxx.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Warner Bros. PG-13 sci-fi action adventure "Space Cowboys," down one orbit in its ninth week with an okay ESTIMATED $1.435 million (-33%) at 2,006 theaters (-164 theaters; $715 per theater). Its cume is approximately $87.0 million, heading for $90 million-plus in domestic theaters.
Directed by Clint Eastwood, "Space" stars Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner and Donald Sutherland.
The weekend's other wide opening, Destination Films' PG-13-rated comedy drama "Beautiful," was virtually tied for 10th place with a not-so-pretty ESTIMATED $1.429 million at 646 theaters ($2,212 per theater).
Directed by Sally Field, it stars Minnie Driver and Joey Lauren Adams.
OTHER OPENINGS This weekend also saw the arrival of Warner Bros.' PG-13-rated comedy "Best in Show" in 22nd place, barking loudly with an ESTIMATED $0.403 million at 13 theatres ($31,000 per theater). Its cume after 5 days is approximately $0.5 million. Directed by Christopher Guest, it stars Jennifer Coolidge, Christopher Guest and John Michael Higgins.
Sony's Screen Gems' R-rated drama "Girlfight" arrived in 25th place with a punchy ESTIMATED $0.21 million at 28 theaters ($7,500 per theater).
"A good start for 'Girlfight,'" Sony Pictures Releasing president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning. "We go to 200-plus runs next Friday, mainly big city multiplexes."
Directed by Karyn Kusama, "Girlfight" stars Michelle Rodriguez.
SNEAK PREVIEWS There were no sneak previews this weekend.
EXPANSIONS There were no significant expansions outside the Top Ten this weekend.
WEEKEND COMPARISONS Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 for the weekend -- took in approximately $57.90 million, down about 27.59% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $79.97 million. This weekend's key film gross was up about 3.29% from this year's previous weekend when key films grossed $56.06 million.
Last year, Paramount's second week of "Double Jeopardy" was first with $17.02 million at 2,884 theaters ($5,901 per theater); and Warner Bros.' opening week of "Three Kings" was second with $15.85 million at 2,942 theaters ($5,387 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $32.8 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $28.6 million.
STUDIO MARKET SHARES Based on business by key films (those grossing $500,000 or more), last weekend's top six distributors were: Buena Vista (Disney and Touchstone) was first with two films ("Remember the Titans" and "Coyote Ugly"), grossing an ESTIMATED $21.73 million or 37.5% of the market.
Warner Bros. was second with four films ("The Exorcist," "Bait," "Space Cowboys," and "The Replacements"), grossing an ESTIMATED $11.18 million or 19.3% of the market.
DreamWorks was third with two films ("Almost Famous" and "What Lies Beneath"), grossing an ESTIMATED $7.3 million or 12.6% of the market.
Universal was fourth with three films ("The Watcher," "Bring It On" and "Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps"), grossing an ESTIMATED $5.8 million or 10.0% of the market.
Sony Pictures Releasing (Columbia and TriStar) was fifth with one film ("Urban Legends: Final Cut"), grossing an ESTIMATED $4.7 million or 8.1% of the market.
USA Films was sixth with one film ("Nurse Betty"), grossing an ESTIMATED $2.1 million or 3.6% of the market.
ADDITIONAL ESTIMATES (11)BEAUTIFUL/Destination: (see TOP 10 above)
(12)Woman On Top/Fox Searchlight: Theaters: 1,086 (+1) Gross: $1.1 million (-45%) Average per theater: $1,019 Cume: $3.8 million
(13)The Cell/New Line: Theaters: 1,423 (-480) Gross: $0.98 million (-39%) Average per theater: $685 Cume: $58.9 million
(14)Scary Movie/Dimension Films: Theaters: 1,253 (-425) Gross: $0.83 million (-36%) Average per theater: $665 Cume: $155.2 million
(15)The Original Kings of Comedy/Paramount: Theaters: 1,049 (-33) Gross: $0.78 million (-29%) Average per theater: $745 Cume: $36.6 million
(16)Nutty Professor II: The Klumps/Universal: Theaters: 1,083 (-127) Gross: $0.64 million (-48%) Average per theater: $590 Cume: $120.8 million
(17)The Replacements/Warner Bros.: Theaters: 1,156 (-209) Gross: $0.63 million (-44%) Average per theater: $550 Cume: $43.4 million
(18)Coyote Ugly/BV/Touchstone: Theaters: 725 (-158) Gross: $0.53 million (-34%) Average per theater: $734 Cume: $58.5 million
(19)Duets/Buena Vista: Theaters: 577 (-6) Gross: $0.46 million (-50%) Average per theater: $802 Cume: $4.3 million
(20)Saving Grace/Fine Line: Theaters: 632 (-74) Gross: $0.45 million (-35%) Average per theater: $715 Cume: $11.5 million
(21)The Art of War/Warner Bros.: Theaters: 720 (-365) Gross: $0.43 million (-48%) Average per theater: $600 Cume: $29.5 million
(22)BEST IN SHOW/Warner Bros.: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(23)Autumn in New York/MGM: Theaters: 827 (-355) Gross: $0.38 million (-45%) Average per theater: $455 Cume: $37.1 million
(24)Gladiator/DreamWorks: Theaters: 407 (-115) Gross: $0.28 million (-32%) Average per theater: $685 Cume: $186.1 million
(25)GIRLFIGHT/Screen Gems: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(26)Dancer in the Dark/Fine Line Theaters: 3 (0) Gross: $0.11 million (+20%) Average per theater: $36,708 Cume: $0.25 million
(27)Under Suspicion/Lions Gate: Theaters: 19 (0) Gross: $0.046 million (-58%) Average per theater: $2,445 Cume: $0.2 million
(28)Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle/Universal: Theaters: 128 (-37) Gross: $0.045 million (-29%) Average per theater: $355 Cume: $26.0 million
(29)Into the Arms of Strangers/Warner Bros: Theaters: 5 (0) Gross: $0.015 million (-46%) Average per theater: $2,984 Cume: $0.1 million
(31)The Fantasticks/MGM/United Artists: Theaters: 6 (0) Gross: $0.008 million (-65%) Average per theater: $1,391 Cume: $0.040 million
Jar Jar Binks bending to the P.C. police? Don't hold your breath. As casting for the second installment of the new "Star Wars" trilogy continues, Lucasfilm is refuting reports that had George Lucas is seeking a more culturally diverse cast in response to accusations of racist stereotyping in "Episode I -- The Phantom Menace".
The original Daily Variety article, published last Wednesday, said the new, politically correct roles would include "a Native American character, said to have a forceful, spiritual nature; an Indian or Hispanic character; and an Asian character, possibly trained in martial arts."
But in a post on the official 'Star Wars' (www.starwars.com) Web site, Lynne Hale, Lucasfilm's director of communications, labels the Variety report "completely false," saying that no character descriptions have been decided on since Lucas is still working on the script.
"The descriptions reported would never be appropriate for a 'Star Wars' film," Hale writes in the message. "'Star Wars' movies have always been populated with a rich cast of characters that make up this fantasy world."
Currently the only role casting directing Robin Gurland is holding auditions for is that of Anakin Skywalker.
Names like Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and James Van Der Beek have been tossed around -- rather jokingly -- as possible candidates for the future Darth Vader, as have lesser-known names like Jonathan Jackson. But despite the "inside" claims that one blondish actor or another has the edge, Lucas' camp is saying it's all baloney.
"Robin [Gurland] has seen 700 tapes and submissions and met with 300 candidates," says Hale on the site. "She does not have a short list yet and is still exploring many possibilities. I know there have been many reports of actors saying that they have met with George Lucas and have done readings for him, or are the number one choice for Anakin. These are false rumors (but fun to read!)."
Recently rumored to be leading the race is 26-year-old Paul Walker, a little old to be romancing Natalie Portman, we think, especially since her Queen Amidala character looked considerably older than Jake Lloyd's Anakin in "Episode I." But Walker's a veteran of teen films "She's All That" and "Varsity Blues," and according to a source close to his family, he interviewed with Lucas and is the No. 1 choice for the part so far.
"Paul has another movie role in the works that might damper scheduling for 'Episode II,' but Lucas assured him that they could work something out," the source said.
Another name added to the pot is Eric Christian Olsen, of Fox's "Get Real". The college-age Olsen reportedly came to Lucas' attention when he guest-starred on NBC's "ER" as a severely burned patient. Olsen confirmed to IGN Movies that he was "stoked" at meeting Lucas at Skywalker Ranch to discuss the part.
"We'll see what's up, man. I'm stoked. Even no matter what, man, I still get to meet [George Lucas]," Olsen gushed to IGN.
Judging from his vernacular, dude, we've got, like, a bad feeling about this.
LEO'S 'PLUM' DEAL: It's the picture Leonardo DiCaprio would rather forget, but "Don's Plum," an underground movie shot in 1996 starring DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, has been bought by Danish director Lars Von Trier's production company. Von Trier's Zentropa has bought the international sales rights to the film, meaning it'll be released everywhere but North America.
'DUETS' LOSES BACKUP: Gwyneth Paltrow's karaoke film "Duets" is being shopped around to other studios after Disney decided to remove it from its release schedule, the Hollywood Reporter says. The film, directed by Gwyneth's father Bruce Paltrow, was in the can and scheduled to open May 5. But Disney is reportedly removing "Duets," which follows characters across the country to a karaoke competition in Nebraska, due to its "violent content." Which leaves us wondering what on earth could be violent about a movie in which people sing off-key tunes to a Muzak-style accompaniment. Death by microphone-cord strangulation? Barroom brawls over another rendition of "Hey Jude"?
It was a 13-year odyssey to bring John Irving's "The Cider House Rules" to the big screen, and as the finished product rolled into theaters Dec. 10, no one could be happier than Irving himself.
"I love it," the 57-year-old novelist said at the film's premiere Dec. 7 at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. "I feel not just extremely well-treated, but the finished film really looks better than I imagined it."
Kudos from the author should be praised enough, but the adaptation, which Irving penned himself, has won acclaim on its own: On Dec. 8, the National Board of Review, one of the early indicators for the Academy Awards, named "The Cider House Rules" the best screenplay of 1999.
The coming-of-age film stars Tobey Maguire as Homer, a young man growing up in an orphanage in Maine in the 1940s. Sheltered and reared as the successor to the orphanage doctor (Michael Caine), he decides instead to strike out on his own after meeting a young couple (Charlize Theron and Paul Rudd).
As he forges a new life as an apple picker and falls in love, Homer finds that his past collides with his present, forcing him to decide where he really belongs. The film is directed by Lasse Hallstrom, who helmed "What's Eating Gilbert Grape."
Maguire, who's worked with directors Ang Lee and Woody Allen, said working with Hallstrom was his main draw.
"He's the reason I really wanted to do the movie," the 24-year-old actor said. "I think it's a great story, and John Irving does such a great job, but I'm such a fan of Lasse's."
One of the most heartwarming features of "The Cider House Rules" is Caine and Maguire's interaction with the orphans. Caine embraced the children's acting inexperience as a blessing.
"They hadn't been taught enough lessons to know how to get it wrong," the actor said. "They were still sincere children, rather than knowing half-trained actors, which is the worst kind of person to work with.
"That's why some children are a pain in the neck, because they know enough to foul it up and not enough to do it right. These children didn't know enough to foul it up, or they knew how to do it right, so they were real kids."
The film also stars Delroy Lindo, Kathy Baker, Jane Alexander, Kieran Culkin, singer Erykah Badu and rapper Heavy D. The rapper said he was bitten by the acting bug upon making an appearance on TV's "A Different World" and plans to balance movies with music.
"My life is great right now," he said. "Sitting around all this talent ... I'm the guy who sits back, watches everybody, sees what they're doing.
"I would ask them a million questions: 'Is this right? Am I feeling this right? Doing this right?' and there were times I didn't have to be on the set, and I would just go and watch. ... It doesn't happen a lot. I thought I was very fortunate."
The awards season has officially kicked off, and "American Beauty" has its first trophy on the mantle.
The dark satire was named Best Film of the year Dec. 8 by the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. Directed by first-timer Sam Mendes and starring Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening, "Beauty" was released in September to widespread acclaim and solid box office.
Anthony Minghella, the Oscar-winning director of "The English Patient," was named Best Director for "The Talented Mr. Ripley," starring Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow, which was reportedly shown to the board in an unfinished print.
Best Actor honors went to Russell Crowe for his portrayal of tobacco industry whistle-blower Dr. Jeffrey Wigand in "The Insider," co-starring Al Pacino, and British actress Janet McTeer was named Best Actress for the mother-daughter film "Tumbleweeds."
After "American Beauty," the rest of the group's top 10 were named in order: "The Talented Mr. Ripley," "Magnolia," "The Insider," "The Straight Story," "Cradle Will Rock," "Boys Don't Cry," "Being John Malkovich," "Tumbleweeds" and "Three Kings."
"Magnolia," directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and opening Dec. 17, won honors for Philip Seymour Hoffman and Julianne Moore. Hoffman was named Best Supporting Actor by the New York-based board for his performance in both "Magnolia" and "The Talented Mr. Ripley." Moore was named Best Supporting Actress for four films: "Magnolia," "A Map of the World," "An Ideal Husband" and "Cookie's Fortune." Anderson's film also won an award for its ensemble, which includes Jason Robards, William H. Macy and Tom Cruise.
"The Insider" director Michael Mann won a Freedom of Expression award, along with Joan Chen for "Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl." Tim Robbins, who wrote and directed "Cradle Will Rock," will receive an award for Special Achievement for Filmmaking in 1999.
"Boys Don't Cry" director Kimberly Peirce was named Best Debut Director, and star Hilary Swank was chosen for the Breakthrough Performance award along with Wes Bentley for "American Beauty."
Best Screenplay honors went to novelist John Irving for adapting his novel "The Cider House Rules," which stars Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron and Michael Caine. Clint Eastwood was the recipient of the group's Career Achievement Award, and director John Frankenheimer received the board's Billy Wilder Award.
Pedro Almodovar's "All About My Mother" was named Best Foreign Film. The rest of the top five was "Run Lola Run," "East-West," "The Emperor and the Assassin" and "Cabaret Balkan."
This year, the Board of Review gave special nod for outstanding independent films. They are "A Map of the World," "A Walk on the Moon," "Election," "Go," "Limbo," "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," "Man of the Century," "Stir of Echoes," "This is My Father" and "Twin Falls Idaho."
The 90-year-old board, which includes film teachers, actors, writers, critics, film production workers and others, will present the awards at its annual dinner Jan. 18 in Gotham's Tavern on the Green in New York.
Awards by film critics' groups, which also includes the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the New York Film Critics Circle, are deemed early indications for the Academy Awards, which take place March 26 in Los Angeles.