So, who'd want to take credit for "Small Soldiers," the live-action/animated big-screen mess from 1998? The guy who says the idea was originally his.
Thursday in Los Angeles, filmmaker Gregory Grant filed a federal copyright suit against one Steven Spielberg, claiming the mogul's Amblin Entertainment ripped off his award-winning short about toy soldiers ("Ode to G.I. Joe") to make its own non-award-winning feature film about, yes, toy soldiers.
DreamWorks and Universal Pictures, which distributed "Small Soliders," also were named in the action.
Spielberg's camp says it hasn't seen the lawsuit yet, hence the obligatory: No comment.
"Gone in 60 Seconds" ruled the box office speedway this weekend.
The PG-13-rated action thriller from Buena Vista/Touchstone and Jerry Bruckheimer Films kicked off with a high octane ESTIMATED $25.5 million at 3,006 theaters ($8,484 per theater).
Insiders had anticipated a fast-paced launch for "Gone," with some speculating its 27% overall first-choice tracking score might even translate into $30 million or more in ticket sales.
"Gone's" per-theater average was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
A Buena Vista spokesperson said it was the biggest non-holiday opening ever for a film from producer Jerry Bruckheimer and the biggest opening ever from star Nicolas Cage. The Bruckheimer productions that opened bigger than "Gone" were the holiday weekend releases "Armageddon" ($36.1 million over July Fourth weekend 1998) and "Beverly Hills Cop II" ($33.0 million over Memorial Day weekend 1987).
Bruckheimer's biggest previous non-holiday openings were "The Rock" ($25.1 million, averaging $10,481 at 2,392 theaters for June 7-9, 1996) and "Con Air" ($24.1 million, averaging $8,545 at 2,824 theaters for June 6-8, 1997). Cage starred in both "The Rock" and "Con Air."
"We've gone to the well here three times on this week in June, and each one of them has been as consistent as hell, so we're really happy," Buena Vista Distribution president Chuck Viane said Sunday morning. "I understand it's Nic Cage's biggest picture ever - which used to be 'The Rock,' so that's nice. We're thrilled to be Number One. Any time you can do that, you've got to be happy as hell. The market was almost $90 million for the top ten movies, and I think that's really terrific."
Asked if speculation that "Gone" might have cracked $30 million had been realistic, Viane replied, "Look, I think, in the reality of everything, I don't know what 'realistic' is. There are times when I wonder about our business, when somebody's Number One, and they do $25 million and somebody's disappointed. Then the next time somebody does $35-40 million and they're disappointed.
I believe the day of the tracking and all that (speculation) makes for wild expectations that sometimes have no basis in reality. Obviously, this movie is really well liked, if it becomes Nic's biggest picture. And, at the same time, if somebody wants to paint that as disappointing, I don't know how to stop them.
"I think what might have happened is, we all have a tendency to inflate someone else's expectations. And the way you do it is you give out a number, and when they don't hit it, it looks disappointing. I would think, based on what we have been lucky enough to do on this week - whether it was 'Con Air' or 'The Rock' - if you got to the mid-$20 millions, you had to be happy. If it was over that, you were going to be ecstatic. And if you didn't get into the $20 millions, you would have felt you made a mistake. I think people stayed away from (opening anything against) the picture because they thought it was very big. In the definition of this week, this is very big."
A competing distribution executive pointed out Sunday morning, "It's still a good opening and I'm sure they're happy with it. $25 million openings are good openings. We sort of get jaded during the summer because they come one after the other. But, still, these are nice openings."
With "Gone" off to such a good start, Viane added, "I'll take being number one at this kind of number any day of the week, because this is the summertime and everybody's now available seven days a week. Seventy percent of the kids are out of school as of Monday, and I think that bodes really well for what we have. We have a PG-13 and we have all of those reasons for kids now to go to the movies. Unlike us adults, they seem to go seven days a week."
Did the basketball playoff games have a negative impact on "Gone's" opening numbers? "Obviously, when there's something as important as the basketball games or last night's final in hockey, you're going to lose some of the audience," Viane said. "But those are the kind of competitive things we face every year, and there's just nothing anybody can do about that.
"Would I like to see the Lakers sweep in, say, four? Yes, I would. Trust me when I say that the guys who have pictures opening next weekend feel that way even more strongly than I do, because then it gives them a free weekend to open. Whether it's that (kind of sports competition) or some unbelievable circumstance that happens worldwide, those are the features we all compete against every day. That's not an excuse. I don't need to make an excuse for a Number One movie in the mid-$20 millions."
Asked where "Gone" is heading, Viane pointed out, "It's too early. As you know, this will become an extremely competitive summer from this point on. We were very lucky we had this window of opportunity open to us. That's up to the public. I'm going to be very interested in seeing how the weekdays play out, because then you'll know if you've hit your core group and how strong you've hit them."
Viane noted that "The Rock" wound up grossing $134 million and "Con Air" did $101.1 million. "So even though you can open in the same range, you really never know what your playability is until after the tenth or twelfth day, and then you start to get a sense of it," he said. "I'm sure that when 'Gladiator' opened, nobody anticipated that this movie would play into, what, the $170 millions. It's just got great legs. So now we all will sit here and play it out (as to where 'Gone' will go)."
Although movie critics had few kind words to say about "Gone," BV's marketing campaign clearly got it open to big time ticket sales. How closely word-of-mouth among moviegoers mirrors the critics' unfavorable opinions will determine where it winds up.
Directed by Dominic Sena and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Mike Stenson, "Gone" stars Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie.
As expected, "Gone's" arrival resulted in a box office slow down for Paramount's blockbuster "Mission: Impossible 2."
"M:I-2" fell one peg to second place in its third week with a still high-powered ESTIMATED $17.1 million (-37%) at 3,669 theaters (+16 theaters; $4,661 per theater). The PG-13-rated action adventure sequel's cume is approximately $157.9 million, heading for $200-220 million in domestic theaters. The first "Mission" did $181 million domestically.
The original "Mission" dropped 32% to $14.7 million at 3,012 theaters ($4,868 per theater) in its third weekend (June 7-9, 1996). Its cume was $130.8 million. The sequel's cume is running about 21% ahead of the original. In its second week the sequel had a 22% lead over the original.
Directed by John Woo, "M:I-2" was produced by Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner through their Cruise/Wagner production company, which also produced the 1996 blockbuster "Mission: Impossible." Besides Cruise, the sequel stars Dougray Scott, Thandie Newton, Richard Roxburgh, John Polson, Brendan Gleeson, Rade Sherbedgia and Ving Rhames.
"It's pretty much on track," Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning. "It's amazing how closely it's played to what the first one did. The percentages of drop are almost identical. Of course, the marketplace is almost identical with competing product. If it holds up throughout the lifetime of the picture, it's projected to be between $200-220 million. We're at $158 million roughly right now, so it definitely gets to $200 million."
20th Century Fox's PG-13 comedy "Big Momma's House" dropped one rung to third place in its second week with a still rotund ESTIMATED $16.8 million (-34%) at 2,853 theaters (+51 theaters; $5,889 per theater). Its cume is approximately $52.0 million, on its way to $90 millio or more.
Directed by Raja Gosnell, it stars Martin Lawrence and Nia Long.
Buena Vista/Disney's PG-rated computer animated feature "Dinosaur" fell one notch to fourth place in its fourth weekend with a less lively ESTIMATED $8.8 million (-27%) at 3,275 theaters (-44 theaters; $2,689 per theater). Its cume is approximately $110.4 million, heading for about $150 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Ralph Zondag and Eric Leighton, "Dinosaur" features such voices as D.B. Sweeney, Ossie Davis, Joan Plowright, Della Reese and Alfre Woodard.
DreamWorks' R-rated action adventure "Gladiator" held on to fifth place in its seventh week, still showing great legs with an ESTIMATED $7.1 million (-15%) at 2,706 theaters (-350 theaters; $2,636 per theater). Its cume is approximately $150.2 million, heading for $175 million or more in domestic theaters.
"Gladiator" is half owned by Universal, which is releasing it internationally.
Directed by Ridley Scott, it stars Russell Crowe.
Buena Vista/Touchstone and Spyglass Entertainment's PG-13-rated action comedy "Shanghai Noon" skidded two pegs to sixth place in its third weekend with a calm ESTIMATED $5.8 million (-35%) at 2,751 theaters (+6 theaters; $2,110 per theater). Its cume is approximately $41.5 million, heading for $50 million or more in domestic theaters.
Directed by Tom Dey, it stars Jackie Chan, Owen C. Wilson and Lucy Liu.
DreamWorks' R-rated youth appeal comedy "Road Trip" dropped one post to seventh place in its fourth week with a quiet ESTIMATED $4.7 million (-30%) at 2,586 theaters (-68 theaters; $1,812 per theater). Its cume is approximately $53.9 million.
Directed by Todd Philips, it stars Breckin Meyer and Sean William Scott.
New Line's "Frequency" slid one slot to eighth place in its seventh week with an okay ESTIMATED $1.48 million (-27%) at 1,219 theaters (-386 theaters; $1,210 per theater). Its cume is approximately $40.1 million, heading for about $45 million in domestic theatres.
Directed by Gregory Hoblit, it stars Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel.
DreamWorks' Woody Allen PG-rated comedy "Small Time Crooks" dropped one rung to ninth place in its fourth week with a quiet ESTIMATED $1.3 million (-20%) at 886 theaters (+12 theaters; $1,511 per theater). Its cume is approximately $13.2 million.
Written and directed by Woody Allen, it stars Allen, Tony Darrow, Hugh Grant, George Grizzard, Jon Lovitz, Elaine May, Michael Rapaport, Elaine Stritch and Tracey Ullman.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Universal's PG-13 World War II submarine drama "U-571," down one notch in its eighth week with a slow ESTIMATED $1.13 million (-27%) at 1,172 theaters (-430 theaters; $960 per theater). Its cume is approximately $73.0 million, heading for about $75 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Jonathan Mostow, "U-571" stars Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel and Jon Bon Jovi.
Paramount Classics' R-rated drama about a Hungarian Jewish family's rise and fall, "Sunshine," opened in 16th place to a hopeful ESTIMATED $0.093 million at 7 theaters ($13,226 per theater).
Directed by Istvan Szabo, it stars Ralph Fiennes and Rosemary Harris.
Miramax's PG-rated romantic musical comedy "Love's Labour's Lost" kicked off its platform release in New York and Los Angeles, placing 17th with a lovely ESTIMATED $0.027 million at 2 theaters ($13,500 per theater).
"I think it's a great start," Miramax senior vice president, marketing David Kaminow said Sunday. "In New York, it's better than L.A. New York's going to be about $18,500 and L.A. about $8,500. The Times wasn't a terrific review either in New York or L.A., so we had that to overcome a little bit."
Directed by Kenneth Branagh, it stars Branagh, Alicia Silverstone, Alessandro Nivola and Natascha McElhone.
This weekend saw no national sneak previews.
There was no activity this weekend on the expansion front.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 for the weekend -- took in approximately $91.64 million, down about 19.50% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $113.85 million.
This weekend's key film gross was down about 5.89% from this year's previous weekend when key films grossed $97.38 million.
Last year, New Line's opening week of "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" was first with $54.92 million at 3,312 theaters ($16,581 per theater); and 20th Century Fox's fourth week of "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace - Episode One" was second with $25.63 million at 3,024 theaters ($8,476 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $80.5 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $42.6 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 three films ("Gone in 60 Seconds," "Dinosaur" and "Shanghai Noon"), grossing an ESTIMATED $40.1 million or 43.8% of the market.
20th Century Fox was second with two films ("Big Momma's House" and "Where the Heart Is"), grossing an ESTIMATED $17.53 million or 19.1% of the market.
Paramount was third with one film ("Mission: Impossible 2"), grossing an ESTIMATED $17.1 million or 18.7% of the market.
DreamWorks was fourth with three films("Gladiator," "Road Trip" and "Small Time Crooks"), grossing an ESTIMATED $13.1 million or 14.3% of the market.
Universal was fifth with two films ("U-571" and "Erin Brockovich"), grossing an ESTIMATED $1.64 million or 1.8% of the market.
New Line was sixth with one film ("Frequency"), grossing an ESTIMATED $1.48 million or 1.6% of the market.
(11)Where the Heart Is/Fox: Theaters: 848 (-222) Gross: $0.73 million (-24%) Average per theater: $855 Cume: $31.3 million
(12)Center Stage/Columbia: Theaters: 920 (-442) Gross: $0.70 million (-33%) Average per theater: $765 Cume: $15.7 million
(13)Erin Brockovich/Universal: Theaters: 643 (-94) Gross: $0.51 million (-16%) Average per theater: $800 Cume: $123.2 million
(14)The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas/Universal: Theaters: 873 (-232) Gross: $0.47 million (-36%) Average per theater: $535 Cume: $31.9 million
(15)Up at the Villa/USA Films: Theaters: 112 (0) Gross: $0.16 million (-15%) Average per theater: $1,395 Cume: $2.0 million
(16)SUNSHINE/Paramount Classics: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(17)LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST/Miramax: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)