Packed with too much goodness and determined to push its platform of paranormal events A Rumor of Angels is an overwrought drama about friendship grief and the spiritual rebirth of a boy and his eccentric recluse neighbor. Twelve-year-old James Neubauer his father Nathan and his stepmother Mary are spending their summer vacation in the small seaside town where the boy's mother died years earlier in a car accident near a local bridge. Because James has been traumatized by her death he has problems connecting with his often absent father and new mother. When James wanders onto the property of eccentric elderly neighbor Maddy Bennett who lives in a decrepit shingled house overlooking the ocean she scares the boy by firing a rifle in his direction. After a showdown with the Neubauers Maddy succeeds in hiring James to rebuild and paint her fence. An unlikely friendship ensues when James becomes a kind of surrogate son to Maddy who lost her own son in the Vietnam War and the stern but caring Maddy becomes mother surrogate the boy so desperately needs. Maddy also beset by grief teaches James about the power of remembrance and imagination and the possibility of angels and communicating with those long gone. James also learns about the importance of family love friendship and spiritual awakening.
Vanessa Redgrave is terrific as usual as the eccentric recluse Maddy giving yet another powerful performance that dazzles delights and soars beyond the limitations of the character as written. Trevor Morgan is fine if not memorable as James. Catherine McCormack as the stepmother Ron Livingston as a slacker uncle and veteran actor George Coe as Maddy's oldest friend also turn in serviceable performances. Only Ray Liotta so memorable in edgier meatier roles like those in Something Wild and Goodfellas or the more recent Hannibal and Blow is out of his element as a frustrated often absent dad. In fact most of the actors are chewed up by the gorgeous evocative Nova Scotia locales that brilliantly stand in for the Maine village.
Director Peter O'Fallon's biggest obstacle in A Rumor of Angels appears to be his own screenplay which he co-wrote and adapted from the very old inspirational novel Thy Son Liveth. Most filmgoers won't get beyond the film's pile-up of hokum about communication with the dead. Also the horror and mystery elements that A Rumor of Angels plants early on dissipate into a cinematic sermon about familiar family values and faith. The messages may be poignant but the drama sending them isn't. O'Fallon relies instead on lovely cinematography scenes suggestive of paranormal reality (those lights those angels) and a soundtrack rich in classical music--all at the expense of delivering a credible story with flesh and blood characters who actually sound like they just might be real New Englanders. His direction is style over substance scenery over psychological truths.
Super Bowl weekend saw a third first Down on the box office gridiron as Black Hawk Down topped the chart again with $11.5 million.
Despite Hollywood's annual run in with Super Bowl Sunday, ticket sales were basically flat with this weekend last year, which did not include the Super Bowl. Key films -- those grossing $500,000 or more -- did nearly $97 million, up a marginal 0.07 percent from last year's $96.9 million. Business was up about 5.3 percent from last year's Super Bowl weekend, which fell a week earlier (Jan. 26-28) and saw key films total $92.1 million.
Neither of this weekend's wide openings, Slackers and Birthday Girl, had anything to celebrate, but a team of holdovers held the box office line. Snow Dogs, A Walk To Remember, The Count Of Monte Cristo and A Beautiful Mind all scored well enough to wear Top Five uniforms.
THE TOP TEN
Revolution Studios and Jerry Bruckheimer Films' R rated drama Black Hawk Down scored a third first place victory in its sixth week of release via Columbia Pictures with a still muscular ESTIMATED $11.5 million (-32%) at 3,143 theaters (+42 theaters; $3,659 per theater). Its cume is approximately $75.5 million.
Directed by Ridley Scott, it stars Josh Hartnett.
"Number one three weeks in a row and now getting within striking distance of the $100 million mark," Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning.
"Everything continues to go quite well. A very respectable hold even accounting for an anticipated hit on Sunday by the Super Bowl. We're just looking to continued good openings around the world and looking forward to a continued good performance and, perhaps, some good news on Feb. 12 (in terms of Oscar nominations)."
Where is it heading? "I think a lot depends on whether we get in the Oscar nominations (list of) contenders," Blake replied. "If it just kept going as it's going you'd certainly anticipate something in the neighborhood of $115-125 million, but (it will help) if it continues to take on a little added life beyond the normal moviegoing issues.
"President Bush has now seen it at Camp David and Secretary of Defense (Donald) Rumsfeld has seen it and really complimented it. As I understand it, it was requested and is being sent to the troops in Afghanistan. So aside from the movie news, it's also (making mainstream news reports). Whenever that happens, it becomes a little hard to predict (where a film will get to). Maybe in strictly movie terms you'd say to yourself, $115-125 million. But it seems like a lot of other things are going on -- both in the normal movie range and, perhaps, outside of it."
Asked about the Super Bowl's effect on the box office, Blake explained, "We're predicting a 65 percent drop on Sunday. And that would be the high side of (what would be) normal. We're acknowledging that we certainly have a lot of male adults watching this movie who will be watching the Super Bowl. I think the normal range of drop for the Super Bowl is, at best, 50 percent off and we're anticipating a drop in the mid-60 percents.
"Given previous weeks, we'd be anticipating a drop 30 points better than that. So off a close to $6 million Saturday -- we were at $5.9 million, off only 26 percent on Saturday -- we're saying we're losing, perhaps, $1.7 million if it would have been a 35 percent drop on Sunday rather than a 65 percent drop. It could have been over $13 million (for the weekend)."
Buena Vista/Disney's PG rated family comedy Snow Dogs, held on to second place in its fourth week with a snappy ESTIMATED $9.9 million (-24%) at 2,454 theaters (+14 theaters; $4,021 per theater). Its cume is approximately $50.8 million, heading for $75 million or more.
Directed by Brian Levant, it stars Cuba Gooding Jr. and James Coburn.
Buena Vista/Touchstone and Spyglass Entertainment's PG-13 rated adventure The Count Of Monte Cristo rose two notches to third place in its second week with a still vigorous ESTIMATED $9.0 million (-21%) at 2,211 theaters (+204 theaters; $4,049 per theater). Its cume is approximately $23.6 million.
Directed by Kevin Reynolds, it stars Jim Caviezel, Guy Pearce and Richard Harris.
Warner Bros. and Pandora's PG rated youth appeal drama A Walk To Remember fell one rung to fourth place in its second week with a slower ESTIMATED $8.79 million (-28%) at 2,420 theaters (+9 theaters; $3,632 per theater). Its cume is approximately $23.3 million.
Directed by Adam Shankman, it stars Shane West and Mandy Moore.
Universal, DreamWorks and Imagine Entertainment's PG-13 rated Oscar contender drama A Beautiful Mind fell one rung in its seventh week to fifth place, still showing strength after winning four prime Golden Globes with an ESTIMATED $8.51 million (-26%) at 2,250 theaters (+13 theaters; $3,780 per theater). Its cume is approximately $104.6 million.
Directed by Ron Howard, the Brian Grazer production stars Russell Crowe, Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly.
"I think everything gets hurt from the Super Bowl," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning. "Particularly this year because of Sept. 11, I suspect that the half-time show will be very patriotic. The Super Bowl is one of the sports that adults tend to watch. It's not just men. It's men and women.
"It becomes an event. People like to get together. Whether women are watching or not, they're there. And the guys are watching. It's just an excuse to have a little bit of a party. And with the game at 6 o'clock on the East Coast, it's certainly going to affect how the (overall) business performs for the weekend. We've taken that into consideration in our estimates."
Even with the Super Bowl's impact, Mind is showing great box office legs. "The hold is tremendous," Rocco said. "We cracked $100 million this weekend and we're very excited. It's obvious that with the incredible vision of Brian Grazer and the talent of Ron Howard it's (going to) have a long life."
Sony's Screen Gems division launched Lakeshore Entertainment's PG-13 supernatural thriller The Mothman Prophecies held on to sixth place in its second week with a slower ESTIMATED $7.5 million (-33%) at 2,331 theaters
(theater count unchanged; $3,218 per theater). Its cume is approximately $21.4 million.
Mothman was reportedly made for $42 million by Lakeshore and picked up by Screen Gems for domestic release for about $15 million.
Directed by Mark Pellington, it stars Richard Gere and Laura Linney.
"There was good news for all of the releases (from) last week where basically nothing cracked the market this week so the market had a chance to digest movies that I think they were interested in seeing, including Mothman," Sony's Jeff Blake said Sunday morning. "It certainly looks like Mothmanwill get to where we thought it would -- mid-$30 millions to $40 million, which makes it very profitable for us."
New Line Cinema's PG-13 rated epic The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring rose one slot to seventh place in its seventh week with a still solid ESTIMATED $6.58 million (-16%) at 2,309 theaters (-394 theaters; $2,848 per theater). Its cume is approximately $267.1 million.
Directed by Peter Jackson, Rings' ensemble cast is led by Elijah Wood and Ian McKellen.
Asked where Rings is heading, New Line distribution president David Tuckerman said Sunday morning, "We really need (Oscar) nominations and a (best picture) win. With the nominations and a win, I think we get over $300 million. Without it, I don't think we make it."
New Line Cinema's PG-13 rated drama I Am Sam, which was seventh last week, was technically eighth but virtually tied for seventh place in its sixth week with an okay ESTIMATED $6.54 million (-21%) at 1,303 theaters (+36 theaters; $5,017 per theater). Its cume is approximately $17.5 million.
Sam's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend. Directed by Jessie Nelson, it stars Sean Penn and Michelle Pfeiffer.
"That seems to be going nicely," New Line's Tuckerman said. "We're probably going to expand this week by maybe 100 screens and look for some good theaters that we didn't get on the first go-round. There's a lot of (Oscar) buzz on (Sean Penn) now.
"This is another one of those pictures that we have this year where every other review wasn't good, but the public seems to like the film. (With) Life As a House, the public overwhelmingly really loved it, (but) just didn't go. This one seems to be playing better, but it's the same thing. Once they see it, they love the movie."
As for the Super Bowl's impact, Tuckerman observed, "I think Lord will take a hit. I think Sam may do better because it skews female over 25. We're hoping we'll have really good matinees today and all those people who don't want to sit and watch the Super Bowl tonight -- (a group that) will obviously skew female -- will go to our movie."
20th Century Fox's PG-13 rated parody of martial arts films Kung Pow: Enter the Fist held on to ninth place in its second week with a weak ESTIMATED $3.76 million (-46%) at 2,475 theaters (-3 theaters; $1,617 per theater). Its cume is approximately $12.0 million.
Written and directed by Steve Oedekerk, it stars Steve Oedekerk.
Sony's Screen Gems label's opening of its R rated youth comedy Slackers tied for tenth place with a dull ESTIMATED $3.0 million at 1,893 theaters ($1,585 per theater).
Directed by Dewey Nicks, it stars Devon Sawa.
"We have U.S. rights only," Sony's Jeff Blake explained Sunday morning, noting that the $3 million estimate does include ticket sales in Canada. "Alliance has it in Canada and will be reporting (the film's Canadian grosses). Tomorrow we'll be releasing separate figures.
"That was a $4 million acquisition (for Screen Gems). It was produced by Destination Films (and) was one of the pictures caught up with Destination's bankruptcy. We acquired this one at very low cost, so we won't get hurt. But, obviously, it's not the performance we would have liked."
Paramount and MTV Films' opening of the PG-13 rated youth appeal comedy Orange County, which was tenth last week, tied for tenth place in its fourth week with a quiet ESTIMATED $3.0 million (-32%) at 2,295 theaters (-92 theaters; $1,348 per theater). Its cume is approximately $37.9 million.
Directed by Jake Kasdan, it stars Colin Hanks and Jack Black.
Addressing the Super Bowl's effect on the marketplace, Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning, "It obviously impacts the male -- and young male, primarily -- audience.
"If you look at the way these pictures held up on Friday and Saturday this weekend, that's more a result of the fact that there wasn't any major competition that came in. You can say (the Super Bowl) hurt in one respect in the overall business. However, the product that's in the marketplace actually may benefit Friday and Saturday (from the lack of strong new competition) because everybody stays away from the dates."
This weekend also saw the arrival of Miramax's R rated thriller Birthday Girl with an unhappy ESTIMATED $2.5 million at 1,000 theaters ($2,500 per theater).
Directed by Jez Butterworth, it stars Nicole Kidman and Ben Chaplin.
CineTel Films' PG-13 rated drama A Rumor of Angels, released through MGM, arrived to a soft ESTIMATED $0.019 million at 7 theaters ($2,676 per theater).
Directed by Peter O'Fallon, it stars Vanessa Redgrave, Ray Liotta and Catherine McCormack.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend USA Films' R rated whodunit Gosford Park, a likely Oscar contender, continued to widen in its sixth week, still doing terrific business with an ESTIMATED $2.34 million (-15%) at 800 theaters (+44 theaters; $2,960 per theater). Its cume is approximately $19.3 million.
Directed by Robert Altman and starring an extensive ensemble cast, it was written by Julian Fellowes and produced by Altman, Bob Balaban and David Levy.
Universal's R rated fantasy thriller Brotherhood of the Wolf expanded in its third week to a still promising ESTIMATED $1.8 million (+12%) at 393 theaters (+101 theaters; $4,590 per theater). Its cume is approximately $6.7 million.
Directed by Christopher Gans, it stars Samuel Le Bihan.
Miramax's R rated Oscar contender drama In the Bedroom widened in its 11th week with a still hopeful ESTIMATED $1.9 million (-2%) at 549 theaters (+64 theaters; $3,461 per theater. Its cume is approximately $17.1 million.
Directed by Todd Field, it stars Sissy Spacek, Tom Wilkinson, Nick Stahl and Marisa Tomei.
Lions Gate Films' R rated drama Monster's Ball added theaters in its fifth week with a still promising ESTIMATED $0.33 million at 29 theaters (+12 theaters; $11,400 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.5 million.
Directed by Marc Foster, it stars Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry, Heath Ledger and Peter Boyle.
Miramax's R rated romantic comedy Italian For Beginners widened in its second week to an encouraging ESTIMATED $0.15 million at 14 theaters (+10 theaters; $10,714 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.3 million.
Directed by Lone Scherfig, it stars Anders Berthelsen.
Universal's R rated drama Mulholland Drive expanded in its 17th week with a calm ESTIMATED $0.098 million at 72 theaters (+14 theaters; $1,355 per theater). Its cume is approximately $6.6 million.
Written and directed by David Lynch, it stars Justin Theroux and Naomi Watts.
TriStar's PG-13 rated Japanese animated feature Metropolis added theaters in its second week with a colorful ESTIMATED $0.08 million (-6%) at 12 theaters (+3 theaters; $6,667 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.2 million.
"It's down only 6 percent," Sony's Jeff Blake said Sunday morning. "There's interest in that picture and we'll keep rolling it out across the country."
Miramax's R rated drama The Son's Room widened in its second week with an okay ESTIMATED $0.42 million at 5 theaters (+4 theaters; $8,400 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.048 million.
Directed by Nanni Moretti, it stars Nanni Moretti and Laura Morante.
Universal's international division reported that Spy Game in its second weekend in Australia grossed $0.53 million on 194 screens, placing fourth after Behind Enemy Lines, Ocean's Eleven and The Lord of the Rings. Its 11 day cume Down Under is $2.1 million.
Universal, which has limited international rights on Spy Game, has also released it in Belgium and
Switzerland. Universal's international cume to date for the picture is $3.5 million. After 11 weeks of international release the film's overall international total is $53 million.
In the U.K., the British horror film Long Time Dead in its third week grossed $0.5 million on 176 screens. Its cume after 16 days is $2.4 million.
American Pie 2 ranked fourth in Mexico, where after 23 days its cume is now $4.5 million. The sequel passed the original American Pie's total gross in Mexico of $4.4 million this weekend.
In Argentina, Pie 2 was fifth in its fourth week with a weekend gross of $40,000 on 47 screens. Its 25 day cume is $0.55 million.
Pie 2 continued to show strength in Brazil where it is in its seventh week with a cume of $3.1 million. Its international cume now totals $137 million.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $96.96 million, up a marginal 0.07 percent from last year when they totaled $96.89 million.
Key films were down approximately 23.76 percent from the previous weekend of this year when they grossed $127.13 million.
Last year, Sony's second week of The Wedding Planner was first with $10.61 million at 2,785 theaters ($3,808 per theater); and Warner Bros.' opening week of Valentine was second with $10.02 million at 2,310 theaters ($4,340 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $20.6 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $21.4 million.