HOLLYWOOD, June 26, 2000 – Is America's love affair with Jim Carrey over and done with? Do the two parties just need a little space? Is everything comfy and cozy on the laugh track? Or, does Carrey need to stay out of R-rated movies, and avoid playing deranged characters, if he wants to continue his slapstick reign?
Me, Myself & Irene" opened last weekend at No. 1, pulling in $24.2 million. Nobody's saying that's a poor showing, but it's not in the same box-office league as some of Carrey's biggest hits.
Case in point: "Batman Forever" raked in $52.7 million during its opening weekend in 1995, "Ace Ventura 2: When Nature Calls" posted $37.8 mil (also in 1995), and even Carrey's first real dramatic movie, "The Truman Show," posted $31.5 mil in its first weekend two years ago.
Carrey's biggest success as a solo star came in "Liar, Liar," which opened with a $31.4 million take in 1997, and eventually grossed $181.4 mil.
Granted, the numbers for "Irene" aren't anywhere near as disappointing as those for Carrey's turn as Andy Kaufman in "Man on the Moon" ($7.5 mil opening weekend, $34.6 mil total), but they're reminiscent of "The Cable Guy" (1996), which opened with $19.8 mil and eventually raked in a modest (by Jim Carrey standards, anyway) $60.2 million.
"Based on the way the market is, it's a good opening," Tom Sherak, 20th Domestic Film Group chairman and senior executive vice president of Fox Filmed Entertainment, told Hollywood.com's Martin Grove last weekend. "Everybody's happy (at Fox)."
So, "Irene" is Carrey's fifth-biggest opening weekend at the box office. But what does it all mean?
"The film's R-rating may have cut into potential sales," says Gitesh Pandya, producer of Boxofficeguru.com. "Carrey comedies traditionally do well with young teens." Pandya notes that R-rated comedies usually don't open big: Prior to "Irene," the largest largest openings for R-rated comedies in recent years have been $20.4 mil for the Eddie Murphy/ Martin Lawrence flick "Life," and $18.7 mil for "American Pie."
On the other hand, "Me, Myself & Irene" posted the biggest opening ever for a Farrelly Brothers comedy. Previously, their biggest debut was with 1994's "Dumb and Dumber" at $16.3 million. So, their gross-out style of humor (there was the semen joke in "There's Something About Mary," and "Irene" features a poop joke) is apparently on the upswing.
And Brandon Gray, editor of Boxofficemojo.com, notes that "Irene" is only slightly underperforming; Carrey's average opening weekend, when you factor in the bomb that was "Man on the Moon," is $25.8 mil.
"(Carrey) is one of the few, true box office draws around, and this is exactly the kind of picture that even made him the most bankable star at one point," says Gray.
In case you haven't heard, another big budget, big boat flick is about to set sail in Hollywood.
Nope, it's not a sequel to "Titanic." But given its eye-popping $135 million upfront budget, it'd better be like one at the box office.
The film in question is Disney's grandiose World War II opus "Pearl Harbor," and the big boat in particular is the battleship Tennessee (which was once the film's working title) -- the Pearl Harbor-docked vessel where the bulk of the film's eponymous Japanese bombing attack sequence takes place.
Reuniting "Armageddon" producer-director team Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay and written by "Braveheart" scribe Randall Wallace, the flick follows the tenuous love triangle involving two buddy pilots and a nurse stationed at Pearl Harbor during and after the attack.
Despite the emphasis on the romantic component, the flick, being still a Michael Bay product, is said to be heavy in special effects, pyrotechnics, visceral spectacles and all the necessary bells and whistles that would lend the film a sense of historical verisimilitude and import.
So far, what's spectacular about the film is not the scope of its ambition but the controversy surrounding the flick's proposed starting budget, which was initially set at a whopping $145 million and which would have made "Pearl Harbor" the priciest film to date (the previous record was held by Bay's last venture "Armageddon," at $140 million).
With such an inflated price tag, the flick was fast acquiring a high-risk rep that didn't exactly jive well against Disney's recent financial plunders. The survivability of the WWII film was the topic of many Hollywood debates in the wake of power shuffling high up on the Disney food chain -- the result of which saw the exit of studio chief Joe Roth (an avid espouser of the project since its inception). A cautious Eisner, only days after Roth's resignation, told both Daily Variety and The Wall Street Journal that the film was not being approved.
The film's mercurial fate took a definitive upswing after budget meetings between Eisner and Bruckheimer, which cut the cost from the initial $145 million to $135 million. Variety reported just last Thursday that Disney has given the project a definitive go-ahead and plans to put up the war flick's entire $135 million budget.
Meanwhile, Bruckheimer has already begun doing what a producer of a pic heading into production does. In his case, successfully enlisting the government's defense expertise on the project and coming up with a list of possible candidates to fill the three main roles.
The roster of hopefuls, said The Hollywood Reporter, includes Wes Bentley ("American Beauty"), Ed Burns ("Saving Private Ryan"), James Caviezel ("The Thin Red Line", Charlize Theron ("The Cider House Rules") and television teen drama "Felicity" stars Keri Russell and Scott Speedman. Acting heavyweight Gene Hackman is reportedly the top selection for the part of the incumbent Franklin D. Roosevelt. (The predominance of up-and-comers is reportedly due to a slashed cast budget to compensate for the mammoth cost of the film's special effects.)
With a definite seal of approval from Disney, "Pearl Harbor" is well on its way to becoming one of the most anticipated films slated for 2001. But the $135 million question remains: Would audiences respond to a seemingly cliche love story with non-established Hollywood faces, however splashy the special effects-laden backdrop might be?
"With a film like this -- which basically belongs to the genre of big-budget disaster film -- the model the studio's going by is to sell the concept rather than the star. With an established director and producer, Bay and Bruckheimer are providing the real star power for the film," said Gitesh Pandya, editor of the box-office analysis Web site Box Office Guru (http://www.boxofficeguru.com).
"Take for example, "Twister," with Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt. They were known but were not big names but the film still went on to make a lot of money. Another one is 'Independence Day.' Bill Pullman, Will Smith were not big level stars, but the concept worked and the film skyrocketed. And let's not forget 'Titanic.' When the film opened, everyone thought it would fail. And look what happened."
And what happened was that Leonardo DiCaprio became a worldwide phenomenon.
Taking Bay and Bruckheimer's track record into account ("Armageddon" grossed more than $550 million worldwide), "Pearl Harbor" may not only be successful, but it could also provide one of those star-making turns for whose who end up in the title roles.
"I don't think you can ever underestimate Bay and Bruckheimer's ability to deliver a hit. Having big stars is just one piece of the pie. Knowing the type of marketing expertise behind the film and the people involved who's going to put it together, I think this film has as good a shot as any to be a hit," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box-office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations.
"'Titanic' was a big-budget film with relative unknown stars, and it went on to become the bigger domestic and worldwide grosser of all time. Leonardo DiCaprio was recognizable, but he certainly became an A-list star after 'Titanic's' release."
Disney likes it. The government likes it. The film-analyst community likes it. But what about the people whom the film's portraying? We asked a Pearl Harbor vet for his opinion.
"I think it's wonderful," said Charles Myles, a Pearl Harbor vet and secretary of the Orange County chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivor Association. "There're many facets to the events that took place at Pearl Harbor. And to understand them, you have to lay the groundwork before the attack. I think the film will do well in keeping the memory of Pearl Harbor alive."
With that said, audiences can judge for themselves using the following handy Pearl Harbor facts (from both the cinematic version and the real thing).
Unknown, but the total U.S. expenditure for World War II was approximately $3.3 trillion dollars. "Pearl Harbor" film: So far, $130 million (down from the $145 million original figure) in initial budget, plus the $2 mil screenwriter Randall Wallace reportedly got for the script.
PERSONNEL/CASUALTIES/DAMAGES Military and naval forces suffered 3,435 deaths. Eight battleships, three light cruisers, three destroyers and four miscellaneous vessels were severely damaged or destroyed. The film: So far, a cast of four known roles (two pilots, one nurse and one president). Two battleships, the USS Tennessee and the USS Oklahoma, were said to be featured in the bombing scenes.
TIME AND PLACE
The attack took place in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941. According to reports, the film spans some 20 years. The first act of the film takes place in Tennessee, where the boyhood friends meet. The second act focuses on the attack on Pearl Harbor. The third, and final, act will incorporate the April 18, 1942, "Doolittle Raid" over Tokyo.
The attack lasted approximately 2 hours -- bombing began at around 8:30 a.m. and ended shortly after 10:00 a.m. According to FlixBurg USA (http://members.xoom.com/FlixBurg/flixburg040.htm), an early draft of the script is locked at 142 pages. Using the standard formula of one page per minute, the film would be approximately 142 minutes long, or 2 hours, 22 minutes.
OTHER NOTABLE PEARL HARBOR FLICKS
"Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo" (1944) with Robert Mitchum and Spencer Tracy, and 1970's "Tora! Tora! Tora! "Pearl Harbor" is slated to begin filming in April and is aiming for a Memorial Day 2001 release date. Possible locations include Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Los Angeles; Baja, Texas; and England.
Does Eddie Murphy still has what it takes? Will a choo-choo win the box-office race? Or will they both be dragged down by "What Lies Beneath"? Well, the answer to those questions will come when "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps" opens Friday.
That said, here's an overview of the flicks opening this weekend:
"Nutty Professor II: The Klumps"
NUTTY PROFESSOR II: THE KLUMPS (See the trailer) The Skinny: Eddie Murphy reprises his many roles in this sequel to the 1996 comedy (which, in itself, was sort of a remake of an old Jerry Lewis flick). The Upside: "It’s funny, it’s good. It’s four years later, and the story is fresh and different. It focuses on the Klump family instead, which had sort of a minor role in the first film. And they are able to put all five or six different Eddie Murphy characters in the same space seamlessly," boxofficeguru.com’s editor Gitesh Pandya tells us. "‘Nutty Professor II’ is going to devour all the dollars this weekend. I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘Nutty Professor II’ opens in the mid $40 million range." The Downside: Janet Jackson, what have you done for me lately?
"Thomas and the Magic Railroad"
THOMAS AND THE MAGIC RAILROAD (See the trailer) The Skinny: A computer-animated flick following a girl, as she and her train journey to her grandfather turns into something trippy. The Upside: "It’s a kid flick. There’s always room for kid films in the summer," says Pandya. The Downside: "But it’s not a property that’s well known, like a Disney character or Pokemon. It is going to be tough for it to find an audience. So it will be a minor player this weekend."
Besides these flicks, also expect "What Lies Beneath," "X-Men," "Scary Movie," and "The Perfect Storm" to hang around the battlefield.
Jim Carrey is back. Not the serious, Oscar-coveting, dramatic Jim Carrey of "The Truman Show" or "Man on the Moon," but the funny-faced goofball guy -- and theater owners can rejoice.
"Me, Myself & Irene," the first full-blown Carrey comedy since 1997's mega-successful "Liar, Liar," debuts this weekend without much competition for the No.1 box office spot.
Here's a scouting report of the B.O. race ahead:
"Me, Myself & Irene" ME, MYSELF & IRENE (See the trailer) The skinny: Jim Carrey plays a guy with split personalities -- one a nice guy, one a weirdo -- who are both in love with the same woman (Carrey's real-life squeeze, Renee Zellweger) The upside: Gitesh Pandya, editor of Boxofficeguru.com, tells us: "This film has a lot of commercial factors going for it. It's Jim Carrey doing physical comedy, and that's the comedy people like him the best in. It's got the directors from 'Dumb and Dumber' and 'There's Something About Mary,' and they’ve become stars themselves. Their name means gross-out comedy, pushing the envelope. The marketing has been tremendous on this film, and most of the other films out there are action. The only other major comedy is 'Big Momma's House,' which is already in its fourth weekend, so people are ready for a new comedy." The downside: It's rated R. Says Pandya: "That may cut into its business. A big percentage of Jim Carrey's fan base is young boys, and a certain percentage of that fan base will not be able to see it, unless they go with a parent or an adult."
"Chicken Run" CHICKEN RUN (See the trailer) The skinny: It's "The Great Escape" with chickens subbing for Steve McQueen et. al. and factory farming subbing for the gas chambers of a concentration camp. The upside: It's different, and it's good. Says Pandya: "The quality is definitely there. I think it will have a moderate to good opening and then have strong legs. It’s a different type of animation, so many of the fans will probably give it good word of mouth. I think this is a movie that will make its money over the long term. The competition among family films is less than what it was a couple weeks back, and kids are getting out of school right now." The downside: Do American kids get British humor? Can they even decipher a British accent? Says Pandya: "Obviously some of it will go over kids' heads, so the parents may appreciate some of the humor more than the kids. But it is about chickens, it is animated. Kids understand that."
Elsewhere, "Gone in 60 Seconds," "M:I-2", "Shaft," "Titan A.E.," "Boys and Girls" and a few other films will compete for the remaining spots in the Top 10.
HOLLYWOOD, May 25, 2000 – No matter what the movie, Tom Cruise almost always plays the best. The best race car driver, the best pool player, the best sports agent, the best philandering doctor.
Now, he may be the best in real life, too. Box-office watchers say "M:I-2" stands a good chance of making this Memorial Day weekend the best ever at the box office.
"The overall box office this Memorial Day weekend could be the biggest in history," Gitesh Pandya, editor of Boxofficeguru.com, tells Hollywood.com. "Between 'M:I-2' and 'Dinosaur,' the top two movies alone, people might end up spending over $100 million just to see those two movies. That's how strong the marketplace is right now."
Summer may still be a few weeks away for the weatherman, but Memorial Day weekend is when it starts at the box office. Kids are getting out of school. Ticket prices are higher than ever. And some of the most highly anticipated movies of the year are out right now. Ka-ching.
Here's a quick rundown of this weekend's major new releases:
"M:I-2" M:I-2 The Skinny: Tom Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt, the head of the "Mission Impossible" team, but this time he acts more like James Bond as he tries to stop terrorists from unleashing a deadly bilogical weapon. The Upside: Pandya says it could easily make $60 or $70 million over the four-day (Friday through Monday) weekend, and it may even make upward of $90 million during its six-day (Wednesday through Monday) opening frame. "It's got a great star, it's got a great director, it's got great music, and it just looks cool," he says. The Downside: What's with Tom Cruise's hair?
"Shanghai Noon" SHANGHAI NOON The Skinny: Jackie Chan does a western, so you know what to expect: Lots of fast-paced fights and incredible stunts, with some gunfights and saloon brawls thrown in for good measure. The Upside: How can you not like Jackie Chan? He's always the good guy, and he always smiles (and kicks ass) in the face of adversity. Owen Wilson's funny, too. The Downside: Remember "Blazing Saddles?"
Elsewhere this weekend, other recent Top 10 contenders will vie for holiday moviegoers' money, including "Gladiator," "Road Trip," "U-571" and "Frequency," all of which are holding steady. Also, several new films open in limited release including "Better Living Through Circuitry," a documentary about Rave music, with a guest appearance by Natalie Portman.
HOLLYWOOD, June 21, 2000 - Ever seen Final Destination or Frequency? If you haven't, chances are someone within your rock-throwing range has. See, people -- a lot of them, we might add -- have been buying tickets to these films week after week after week, making them the year's modest, if not surprise, hits.
Which bring us to this perplexing question: In a box-office world dominated by "M-I:2" blockbusters, how do you account for throwaway flicks (see opening paragraph) that somehow manage to hang around long enough to rake in the dough, while higher-profile flicks like Jackie Chan's "Shanghai Noon" fizzle (relatively speaking) despite high expectations.
Just to get an idea of what we mean, consider this: It was just last weekend that the two-month-old "Frequency," which bowed in the No. 3 spot on its opening weekend (not a super- strong showing), finally fell out of the Top 10. (Its gross to date: $41.7 million -- phenomonal for a film headlined by "Couldn't Even Get 'Innerspace' to Make Money" Dennis Quaid .)
But the leader of the pack is still the teen horror flick "Final Destination," which has been selling a lot of popcorn for 15 weeks, grossing about $52 million so far (and that's not counting international box office and/or merchandising revenue).
Not bad for a couple of films that everyone thought was going to fall quietly by the wayside.
"There're a number of reasons why [films like those perform well]," says Gitesh Pandya, editor of the online box-office tracker, boxofficeguru.com. "The films are quality films to begin with. And the biggest reason is, of course, a good word of mouth -- the most important and cost-effective tool the studios can use. And 'Final Destination' and 'Frequency' are two good examples of movies with legs."
"Basically, these films came out, people liked [them] and told their friends about [them]. And New Line [the two films' distributor] did a good job and handled the films very well. They offered sneak previews, which is what you do when you have film that you think people would like, but doesn't have the necessary bells and whistles -- like stars, or big explosions -- to promote it. Having sneak previews is good way to get the film going, and they have them two weeks before their release."
But how to account for the so-so showing of "Shanghai Noon," which satisfies the above conditions: (1) it's a good film (the critics liked it, at least); and (2) Jackie Chan is a likeable, name star. How come it's only made "Frequency"-like money ($48 mil through Sunday)?
Says Pandya: "One of the biggest thing about 'Shanghai Noon,' regardless of quality, is that it opened at a very competitive time [opposite 'M-I:2']. It's an action film -- it doesn't matter that it's got jokes in it or that it's set in the Old West -- when people see Jackie Chan, they still think action film. And if you're going to pay eight bucks to see an action film, you're going to spend it on 'M-1:2' or even 'Gladiator.'"
Pandya predicts the movie will end up with $60 mil at the domestic box office -- "which is pretty good for a Jackie Chan film."
But not as good as "Final Destination."