Comedy is king.
In what is obviously a strong indication that moviegoers want to laugh more than anything, the new heavenly comedy Bruce Almighty, starring Jim Carrey, ruled at the box office over the four-day Memorial Day weekend with a smashing $86.4 million*, stealing the crown from reigning champion The Matrix Reloaded. The sci-fi sequel came in second with a meager $45.6 million, down 60 percent from its strong opening last weekend.
Bruce Almighty's three-day total of $70.8 million makes it the best non-sequel comedy opening of all time, as well as the best Jim Carrey opener ever, toppling his personal best Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which opened in November 2000 at $55 million.
Universal Pictures distribution president Nikki Rocco told Reuters she had expected the film to open in the $50 million to $60 million range. "I think it's a very moral film," she said.
While Carrey was obviously the key attraction, co-star Jennifer Aniston's presence and the romantic elements possibly accounted for the larger-than-usual female turnout. Women accounted for 53 percent of the audience, according to exit polling data, Reuters reports. Carrey's movies usually do best with young males.
But the record-breaking doesn't stop there. Bruce Almighty also becomes the second best Memorial Day opener ever, although the record still belongs to The Lost World: Jurassic Park, which opened in 1997 and took in $90.1 million over four days. And to add a little icing on the cake, it looks like this may turn out to be the best Memorial Day weekend in box office history with an estimated grand total of $155.8 million, beating out last year's record holder of $152.4 million.
Despite this weekend's big holiday grosses, this year has largely seen sub-par box office numbers, although comedies are showing a lot of muscle. In addition to Bruce Almighty, Bringing Down the House opened in early March and stayed on top for several weeks for a cume of $129 million, while Anger Management opened April 15 with $42 million and is still on the top 10 list with a cume of $131 million. In fact, of this weekend's 10 best, six are comedies.
This could be good news for the upcoming comedies including Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd (June 13) and Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde (July 2).
THE TOP TEN
Universal Pictures' PG-13 Bruce Almighty debuted on top with an ESTIMATED four-day take of $86.4 million at 3,483 theaters. The film's $24,806 per theater average was the highest of any film playing this weekend.
The film follows a down-on-his-luck TV news reporter who blames God for all his problems--so God challenges him to take on the job and see if he can do it any better.
Directed by Tom Shadyac, it stars Carrey, Jennifer Aniston and Morgan Freeman.
Warner Bros.' R rated sci-fi sequel The Matrix Reloaded came in second with an ESTIMATED $45.6 million at 3,603 theaters ($12,666 per theater). Its cume is approximately $209.5 million.
In the trilogy's second installment, Neo, Trinity and Morpheus continue their battle against the Machines both in and out of the Matrix as mankind has just 72 hours before the destruction of the human city of Zion.
Directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski, it stars Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss and Hugo Weaving.
Sony Pictures' PG-rated Daddy Day Care dropped to No. 3 in its third week with an ESTIMATED $18 million (-26%) at 3,472 theaters (+64 theaters, $5, 184 per theater). Its cume is approximately $73.1 million.
Directed by Steve Carr, it stars Eddie Murphy, Jeff Garlin, Steve Zahn, Regina King and Anjelica Huston.
20th Century Fox's comic book sequel X2: X-Men United moved down a spot to fourth place in its fourth week of release with an ESTIMATED $13 million (-40%) at 3,067 theaters (-423 theaters, $4,258 per theater average). Its cume is approximately $192 million, heading towards the $200 million mark.
Directed by Bryan Singer, it stars Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos.
Another comedy made its debut at No. 5 this weekend. Warner Bros.' PG-13 The In-Laws took in an ESTIMATED $9.1 million in 2,652 theaters with a $3,443 per theater average.
In this remake, two prospective fathers-in-law meet for the first time on the eve of their children's nuptials, and the wedding cake literally hits the fan.
Directed by Andrew Fleming, it stars Michael Douglas, Albert Brooks, Candice Bergen, Ryan Reynolds and Lindsay Sloane.
In sixth place was 20th Century Fox's PG-13 romantic comedy Down With Love, which took in an ESTIMATED $4.1 million (-41%) in 2,118 theaters (-5 theater; $2,427 per theater). Its cume is approximately $14.6 million.
Directed by Peyton Reed, it stars Renee Zellweger, Ewan McGregor and David Hyde Pierce.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Buena Vista's PG rated The Lizzie McGuire Movie fell a notch to No. 7 in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $4 million (-33%) at 2,118 theaters (-540 theaters, $1,889 per theater). Its cume is approximately $37.3 million.
Directed by Jim Fall, it stars Hilary Duff, Adam Lamberg and Yani Gellman.
Buena Vista's PG rated 'tween comedy Holes held onto eighth place in its sixth week with an ESTIMATED $3 million (-27%) at 1,762 theaters (-470 theaters, $1,703 per theater). Its cume is approximately $60 million.
Directed by Andrew Davis, it stars Rick Fox, Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight, Tim Blake Nelson and Shia LeBeouf.
Sony Pictures' R-rated psychological thriller Identity dropped three places to ninth in its fifth week with an ESTIMATED $2.6 million (-46%) at 1,590 theaters (-606, $1,635 per theater). Its cume is approximately $49.1 million.
Directed by James Mangold, it stars John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, Rebecca DeMornay and Alfred Molina.
Sony Pictures' PG-13 rated comedy Anger Management also fell three rungs to come in 10th place in its seventh week with an ESTIMATED $2.4 million (-51%) at 1,809 theaters (-667 theaters, $1,327 per theater). Its cume is approximately $131.8 million.
Directed by Peter Segal, it stars Adam Sandler, Jack Nicholson, Marisa Tomei and John Turturro.
The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $155.8 million, just barely up a percent from last week when they totaled $154.6 million.
The Top 12 were up two percent from last year when they totaled $152.4 million.
Last year, Fox's PG rated Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones stayed at the top of the box office Memorial Day weekend in its second week in release with $60 million at 3,161 theaters ($18,983 per theater); Sony's PG-13 rated Spider-Man also stayed put at No. 2 in its fourth week with with $35.8 million at 3,876 theaters ($9,240 per theater); and Warner Bros' Insomnia debuted in the third spot with $26 million at 2,610 theaters ($9,988 per theater).
You would think that after last summer's insane brouhaha that was "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace", the masses would breathe a sigh of relief.
But the commotion is brewing for the second prequel (yet to be titled), which won't be released until summer 2002. Although it isn't inspiring 'round-the-block lines just yet, it is scheduled to begin filming at Fox Studios Australia this June, so this brings us to the most talked-about casting decision of the year: Who will play the grown-up Anakin Skywalker?
We'll know soon enough. Casting for "Episode II" is going on right this second, according to Jeanne Cole, spokeswoman for Lucasfilm. Casting director Robin Gurland has been seeing "hundreds of actors" for the past month, but no decision has been made yet.
A casting memo that circulated around the Internet -- and was confirmed to be true, according to USA Today -- described to talent agents that candidates should look around 19, since the film takes place 10 years after "Episode I." They should be "self-determined, extremely intelligent and forthright" and "should resemble Jake Lloyd [who played "Episode I's" Anakin]." "Episode II," which is still being written by George Lucas, will focus on the love story between Anakin and Queen Amidala, played by Natalie Portman. As the story goes, Anakin and Amidala eventually marry and spawn Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. By "Episode III," Anakin turns to the Dark Side and becomes the ominously wheezing Darth Vader.
Now before die-hards eager to romance Portman onscreen run out and get their headshots, we're sorry to say that only professional actors with an agent are being considered. This narrows the field to actors who remotely look the part, everyone from Christian Bale to Jude Law to those sons from "Home Improvement."
Now, distinguishing "Star Wars" fact from fiction is harder than distinguishing any phrase out of Jar Jar Binks' Gungan tongue. But we're gonna try our best and give you the rundown of the most talked-about names connected to the Anakin role -- the famous ones, because they're the most amusing -- and what they've reportedly said about it. (For the record, Lucasfilm says the reports of the casting of these actors are "all rumors.")
Name:Leonardo DiCaprio Age: 25 Who?: Star of the upcoming "The Beach" and, uh, that Big Sinking Boat movie. Status: He confirms that he once spoke to Lucas about the role, but not recently, according to the Calgary (Alberta) Sun. "I don't know where I stand for that project," DiCaprio has said. He told IGN Movies that he thought the first prequel "was interesting. I think there's more that can be done, though" and said he was waiting to see the script. Likelihood:: Leo's celebrity power contradicts Lucas' tradition of casting no-names in main roles. Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford were unknowns at the time of the first "Star Wars." But DiCaprio can look younger if he wants to, he bears passing resemblance to Lloyd, and he's proven he can play dark-hero roles.
Name: Jonathan Jackson Age: 17 Who?: Brooding Lucky Spencer on the soap opera "General Hospital" and Michelle Pfeiffer's brooding son in "Deep End of the Ocean." Status: According to the United Kingdom's Empire magazine, Jackson recently let slip on the set of his latest film that he's supposed to meet Lucas in Los Angeles to discuss the role. Initially, he dismissed casting reports as rumors, but because he accidentally said "I haven't even met George Lucas ... yet," according to the magazine, Jackson finally admitted his plans. "Well, yeah, of course I'll take it if I'm offered. Who wouldn't?" he reportedly said. Likelihood: He's not a big name, he's the right age, and he has the face that can emote innocence and danger at the same time. He's won three Daytime Emmys for "General Hospital," so he has acting chops. Newsweek has reportedly said he's the one to beat. We're saying his chances are pretty good.
Name: Jesse Spencer Age: 20 Who?: Recently left popular Aussie soap opera "Neighbours." Status: Rumors ran that Spencer was already on the list as Anakin, and that it was all timed to his departure from the show and his move to a house in Sydney which is apparently only five minutes from Fox Studios Australia. But Spencer's Internet publicist (yeah, the guy has an Internet publicist), Luke Connell, reportedly says it's all false and that he won't be in "Episode II." Likelihood: He's the right age and is virtually unknown in the United States. We had to look him up to see what he looked like, and the Aussie actor looks like a cross between Ryan Phillippe and Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys. We can't tell from his smiling photos whether he can play dark or not.
THE (RUMORED) LONGSHOTS
Names: James Van Der Beek and Joshua Jackson Age: 22/21 Who?: Hunky stars of the WB's "Dawson's Creek." Van Der Beek, who plays the idealistic, earnest Dawson Leary, starred in "Varsity Blues," while Jackson, the wisecracking Pacey, appears in the upcoming "Skulls." Status: Names were thrown out very, very early in the "Episode II" rumor mill, but no one has named them as remote possibilities of late. Said Van Der Beek in a chat with ET Online: "I can neither confirm nor deny that report. Best way of saying that." Jackson was more forthright in Big Hit Magazine: "I could see how it would be OK for me to play Darth Vader. I would be OK with that. I think there would be many capital offenses that I would be willing to commit for that. But as far as being approached by Mr. George Lucas, it hasn't happened yet. But the door is always open. If he is listening or watching from anywhere nearby ... please?" Likelihood: They're around the right age, but wouldn't working for Lucas contradict Dawson's idolization of Steven Spielberg?
Names: Jonathan Brandis and Ryan Phillippe Age: 23/25 Who?: Blond star of former TV show "SeaQuest DSV" and blond star of "Cruel Intentions," respectively. Status: Both were early mentions. Brandis reportedly told a college paper a while back that he read for the role, but that's unlikely since casting just started. Likelihood: Very slim. Brandis looks nothing like Jake Lloyd, and Phillippe -- well, his baby face is so fragile-looking we're afraid a disapproving look from Yoda alone might kill him.
Names: Matt Damon and Ben Affleck Age: 29/27 Who?: Best friends and hunky stars of "Good Will Hunting"; Damon's in "The Talented Mr. Ripley" while Affleck's in the upcoming "Boiler Room." Status: "No one's called me about that," Affleck told Hollywood.com at the Sundance Film Festival. But if they did, the young Darth Vader wouldn't be his first role of choice. "I think [I'd like to play] Chewie -- you know what I mean? He's a nice anonymous thing." Likelihood: Very, very unlikely -- they're too famous, too old, and we don't want to risk those Boston-bred voice inflections showing up: "I am a Jedi! I'll never turn to the Dahk Sah-ide!"
Names: Russell Crowe, Rick Schroder and Sean Patrick Flanery Age: 35/29/34 Who?: Likely Oscar nominee for "The Insider," former "Silver Spoons" child star-turned "NYPD Blue" tough detective and former "Young Indiana Jones Chronicles" star, respectively. Status: Again, names thrown out by wishful thinkers only. Likelihood: Are you kidding us?