On the surface Stay seems to be a straightforward psychological drama about a psychiatrist Sam Foster (Ewan McGregor) who is trying to keep a mysterious patient Henry (Ryan Gosling) from killing himself. But the deeper we get into it the decidedly weirder it gets. And not necessarily in a good way. Sam and Henry seemed to be inexplicably connected. While his girlfriend and former patient Lila (Naomi Watts) looks haplessly on Sam’s lightly held grip on the rational world begins to melt away. He can no longer figure out what is true and what is happening only in his head--all climaxing in a titular confrontation between life and death. Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling would have loved this one. Although he was surprisingly good as the romantic lead in The Notebook the usually somber Gosling is best known for playing quiet psychotics in such films as The United States of Leland and Murder By Numbers. In Stay he’s back to his old tricks as the suicidal Henry. Pale with mournful eyes and a perpetual cigarette in his mouth Henry is certainly a tortured soul looking for some relief. On the flip side Watts brightens the otherwise dismal surroundings as Lila but there’s also a tinge of sadness about her. The only weak link is McGregor. He can’t quite pull off playing the dedicated psychiatrist slowly losing his mind--but the Scottish actor sure has mastered the American accent (ditto for the Australian Watts). Director Marc Forster (Monsters Ball Finding Neverland) seems a bit out of his league with this jumbled-up hard-to-understand psychological fare. Granted the visuals are arresting. Forster strives to create a world which at first seems real but then little by little turns into a wildly shifting dreamscape in which scenes blend into one another seamlessly. The real problem here is the script by David Benioff (25th Hour). It tries to say “Look how clever!” by throwing you for loop after loop--except the loops don’t make much sense. You eventually stop saying “What the hell?” and start to get a pretty good idea how Stay is going to end up. And when the final twist is handed down it’s surprisingly not all that disappointing.
Ocean's Eleven made the weekend's biggest box office waves, breaking into first place with a record setting $39.3 million.
Ocean's full-speed ahead launch ended Harry Potter's three week reign, but put Warner Bros. in the enviable position of having nailed down the top two spots on the chart.
Despite Ocean's strength, ticket sales for key films -- those grossing at least $500,000 -- were only about $83 million, down marginally from this time last year despite blockbuster business for Ocean's and Harry. That decline in the marketplace was driven by sizable drops for Behind Enemy Lines, down 54 percent in its second week, and Spy Game, off 58 percent in its third week.
Between Ocean's and Harry, Warners grossed about $54 million, giving it a staggering market share of about 65 percent.
THE TOP TEN
Warner Bros. PG-13 rated casino heist dramatic comedy Ocean's Eleven opened in first place to a winning ESTIMATED $39.26 million at 3,075 theaters ($12,766 per theater).
Ocean's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, Ocean's extensive cast includes George Clooney, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts.
"We're thrilled," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "It's the largest three day Christmas box office (gross) in motion picture history. It's the largest opening of any Christmas movie. The previous record was $33.6 million for What Women Want, which opened Dec. 15 last year.
"From a record setting point of view, it's also the largest Friday in December in history, which belonged to Scream at $12.7 million. We did $13.25 million Friday. The previous record for Saturday was What Women Want at $13.5 million. We did $15.5 million. And the biggest Sunday in the history of December was Titanic with $9.3 million and we're projecting $10.5 million."
Ocean's also set records for its many of its stars and its director. "It's the largest opening for Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Steven Soderbergh," Fellman pointed out. "George (Clooney) was in two of our movies that opened up over the Fourth of July weekend--Batman & Robin, which did $42 million (in 1997) and The Perfect Storm, which did $41 million (in 2000)."
Moviegoers responded very well to Ocean's, Fellman added: "The good news is this film's opening exit polls scored extremely well in all (demographic) quadrants -- led by females under 25. But the composite of the audience was just slightly more female than male. The top two boxes (excellent and very good) were 85 percent, which is huge. The definite recommend was 65 percent and the norms are 50-55 percent. Young females had a 74 percent definite recommend."
Looking ahead, Fellman observed, "This is absolutely going to have a great run. We had a terrific weekend."
Warner Bros.' mega-blockbuster Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone slid one slot to second place in its fourth week with a still enviable ESTIMATED $14.81 million (-37%) at 3,672 theaters (theater count unchanged; $4,032 per theater). Its cume is approximately $239.7 million, heading for the high $300 millions in domestic theaters.
Directed by Chris Columbus, Harry stars Daniel Radcliffe in its title role.
"It's nice that it's starting to stabilize itself at the moment," Warners' Fellman said. "That's a pretty good drop off of 37 percent (with other Top Ten films falling in the 40-60 percent range). The box office will continue to build as the holidays approach. I looked at Toy Story 2, which opened (via Buena Vista) on the same weekend we did a year ago. After this weekend, it had $140 million in. We have $240 million in. From this weekend on, they grossed another $105 million. Who knows where we're going? But we're going to go certainly at least in that direction. We've been out there for 24 days and we've averaged $10 million a day. Not a bad way to go!"
Reflecting on the outstanding year that Warners has enjoyed, Fellman noted, "This is the eighth film of the year that we've opened number one and it's the eleventh week that we've had a number one movie. This weekend our combined product in the marketplace represented 40 percent of all screens in North America. If you take the box office of $54 million for the top two pictures out of the Top Ten, which I have at (approximately) $82 million, you can see the domination that we had in the marketplace this weekend."
Even before Ocean's sailed into theaters, Warners ranked as the year's top distributor in terms of market share. "We passed the $1 billion barrier last week," Fellman said, "which is the second time in our company's history that we've done that. After this weekend, we will surpass our company's record of $1.06 billion and we will have an opportunity shortly to challenge the all-time box office record by a single company, which was Sony with $1.26 billion in 1997."
20th Century Fox and Davis Entertainment's PG-13 rated war drama Behind Enemy Lines got shot down in its second week, falling one peg to third place with a much slower ESTIMATED $8.11 million (-54%) at 2,884 theaters (+74 theaters; $2,852 per theater). Its cume is approximately $31.2 million.
Directed by John Moore, it stars Owen Wilson and Gene Hackman.
Buena Vista/Disney and Pixar Animation Studios' G rated computer animated feature Monsters, Inc. showed good legs in its sixth week, holding on to fourth place with a still colorful ESTIMATED $6.67 million (-27%) at 2,884 theaters (-506 theaters; $2,314 per theater). Its cume is approximately $212.5 million, heading for at least $245-250 million in domestic theaters.
To beat DreamWorks' animated blockbuster Shrek, Monsters will have to crack $268 million at this point.
Directed by Pete Docter, it was co-directed by Lee Unkrich and David Silverman and written by Andrew Stanton and Daniel Gerson.
Universal and Beacon Pictures' R rated espionage thriller Spy Game slipped two rungs to fifth place in its third week with a quieter ESTIMATED $4.58 million (-58%) at 2,770 theaters (theater count unchanged; $1,655 per theater. Its cume is approximately $54.1 million.
Directed by Tony Scott and produced by Douglas Wick and Marc Abraham, it stars Robert Redford and Brad Pitt.
20th Century Fox's PG-13 rated urban appeal comedy Black Knight dropped one peg to sixth place in its third week with a calm ESTIMATED $3.25 million (-41%) at 2,233 theaters (-301 theaters; $1,455 per theater). Its cume is approximately $27.2 million, heading for the mid-$30 millions in domestic theaters.
Directed by Gil Junger, it stars Martin Lawrence.
20th Century Fox's PG-13 rated romantic comedy Shallow Hal fell one rung to seventh place in its fifth week with a dull ESTIMATED $2.55 million (-44%) at 2,218 theaters (-210 theaters; $1,150 per theater). Its cume is approximately $64.8 million, heading for $70 million-plus in domestic theaters.
Directed by Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly, it stars Gwyneth Paltrow and Jack Black.
Buena Vista/Touchstone and Spyglass Entertainment's PG-13 snowboarding adventure Out Cold fell one notch to eighth place with a cold-as-ice ESTIMATED $1.4 million (-48%) at 1.651 theaters (-360 theaters; $860 per theater). Its cume is approximately $12.3 million.
Directed by The Malloys, it stars Jason London, Willie Garson and Lee Majors.
Miramax Zoe Films' R rated French comedy Amélie held on to ninth place in its sixth week, holding well with a jolly ESTIMATED $1.1 million (-19%) at 221 theaters (+3 theaters; $4,975 per theater. Its cume is approximately $11.4 million.
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, it stars Audrey Tautou.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Paramount's PG-13 rated thriller Domestic Disturbance, down two slots in its sixth week with a calm ESTIMATED $0.95 million (-50%) at 1,471 theaters (-379 theaters; $646 per theater). Its cume is approximately $43.8 million, heading for $45 million.
Directed by Harold Becker, it stars John Travolta.
This weekend also saw the platform release of IFC Films' R rated drama The Business Of Strangers to an encouraging ESTIMATED $0.077 million at 8 theaters ($9,654 per theater).
Written and directed by Patrick Stettner, it stars Stockard Channing and Julia Stiles.
Miramax's PG rated Iranian drama Baran opened an Oscar qualifying run with an okay ESTIMATED $0.019 million at 2 theaters ($9,500 per theater).
Written and directed by Majid Majidi, the film about "an Afghan woman who defied the odds" won the best picture award at the Montreal Film Festival and the National Board of Review's Freedom of Expression Award.
United Artists' R rated Bosnian war drama No Man's Land, an MGM release, opened to a promising ESTIMATED $0.023 million at 2 theaters in New York ($11,500 per theater).
Written and directed by Danis Tanovic, it won the best screenplay award in Cannes last May and was a hit at the Telluride and Toronto film festivals. Land is Bosnia's first official Oscar entry.
Land opens Friday (Dec. 14) in Los Angeles, moves into the remaining eight top domestic markets Dec. 21 and will go broader after that.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend saw New Line Cinema go wider in its seventh week with its R rated drama Life As A House with an unexciting ESTIMATED $0.63 million (-43%) at 1,068 theaters (+118 theaters; $585 per theater). Its cume is approximately $14.8 million.
Directed by Irwin Winkler, it stars Kevin Kline and Kristin Scott Thomas.
USA Films' R rated black and white drama The Man Who Wasn't There went wider in its sixth week with a quiet ESTIMATED $0.39 million at 259 theaters (+12 theaters; $1,490 per theater). Its cume is approximately $6.0 million.
Directed by Joel Coen and written by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, it stars Billy Bob Thornton and Frances McDormand.
Paramount Classics' R rated romantic comedy Sidewalks of New York widened in its third week to a poor ESTIMATED $0.3 million at 224 theaters (+17 theaters; $1,340 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.9 million.
Written and directed by Edward Burns, it stars Edward Burns, Rosario Dawson, Dennis Farina and Heather Graham.
Artisan Entertainment's R rated dark comedy Novocaine expanded in its fourth week to a weak ESTIMATED $0.12 million at 164 theaters (+19 theaters; $750 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.5 million.
Directed by David Atkins, it stars Steve Martin, Helena Bonham Carter and Laura Dern.
Alcon Entertainment's R rated period piece drama The Affair of the Necklace, released through Warner Bros., widened in its second week with an uneventful ESTIMATED $0.095 million at 40 theaters (+22 theaters; $2,375 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.3 million.
Directed by Charles Shyer, it stars Hilary Swank.
Miramax's R rated drama In the Bedroom added a theater in its third week with a still attractive ESTIMATED $0.080 million (-19%) at 6 theaters (+1 theater; $13,300 per theater).Its cume is approximately $0.37 million.
Directed by Todd Field, it stars Sissy Spacek, Tom Wilkinson, Nick Stahl and Marisa Tomei.
In the Bedroom expands on Christmas Day to the top 20 markets.
Universal's international division reported that American Pie 2 "had outstanding openings in Australia and Spain this weekend."
In Australia, Pie 2 grossed $2.2 million on 216 screens. It's opening day was the tenth biggest opening day in Australian history and UIP's fourth biggest ever opening day. Universal said that last Thursday and Friday Pie 2 was the market's number one film, ahead of week two of Harry Potter. Saturday saw Harry take over the top spot, but only running about 12 percent ahead of Pie 2, which is now well positioned to enjoy a very successful run Down Under.
In Spain, Pie 2 also got off to a strong start, opening last Wednesday to capitalize on Thursday being a holiday there. Its cume after four days is a strong $2.3 million on 255 playdates, putting it 103 percent ahead of Jurassic Park III and 21 percent ahead of The Mummy Returns.
Universal said that Pie 2's international cume to date is $112 million with nine countries still to open, including Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.
Key films--those grossing more than $500,000--took in approximately $83.3 million, down a marginal 0.25 per cent from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $83.5 million.
This weekend's key film gross was down about 2.45 percent from $85.4 million for the previous weekend of this year.
Last year, Universal's fourth week of Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas was first with $18.65 million at 3,182 theaters ($5,860 per theater); and Sony's first week of Vertical Limit was second with $15.51 million at 2,307 theaters ($6,722 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $34.1 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $54.1 million.