DreamWorks' "Gladiator" should be victorious again on the box office battlefield this weekend.
With "Gladiator" still commanding a 30% first-choice tracking score among opening and released movies, there's little doubt the R-rated action adventure will keep a tight grip on the top spot.
If "Gladiator" slips 36% from its $34.8 million opening, its second weekend tribute will still be a handsome sum of about $22 million.
DreamWorks is distributing "Gladiator" domestically, while Universal is releasing it internationally. The two studios co-financed the film, which reportedly cost $103 million to make, and are 50-50 partners, sharing equally in its success.
Directed by Ridley Scott, it stars Russell Crowe.
Warner Bros. and Franchise Pictures' PG-13 rated sci-fi action adventure "Battlefield Earth," opening at 3,307 theaters, should win the battle for second place. With its 19% overall first-choice tracking score, it's likely to gross about $10 million.
"It's a 22% first choice for males under 25 and a 29% first choice for males over 25," explains one studio executive. "Its awareness is 80% and the definite interest is 42% for males."
Directed by Roger Christian, it stars John Travolta, Barry Pepper and Forest Whitaker.
Universal's PG-13-rated comedy "Screwed," opening at 1,760 theaters, is a 12% first choice in the tracking. It is likely to be third with $7-8 million.
"It certainly did pop on the tracking," says an insider. "It's a 20% first choice for males. The awareness for males is 81% and the definite interest is 48% for males."
Written and directed by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, it stars Norm MacDonald, David Chappelle and Danny DeVito.
Universal's "U-571" should float downstream two slots to fourth place in its fourth week. If the PG-13-rated World War II submarine drama falls 40%, it will gross about $5 million.
Directed by Jonathan Mostow, "U-571" stars Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel and Jon Bon Jovi.
New Line's PG-13-rated time thriller "Frequency" should tumble one peg to fifth place in its third week. If it slides 35%, it will do about $4 million.
Directed by Gregory Hoblit, it stars Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel.
Columbia's PG-13-rated youth appeal dance film "Center Stage," opening at 1,506 theaters, isn't likely to kick off in the Top Five given its modest 7% first-choice tracking.
"It's not showing on the tracking much at all," notes one studio executive.
Directed by Nicholas Hytner, it stars Amanda Schull, Zoe Saldana, Susan May Pratt, Peter Gallagher, Donna Murphy and Ethan Stiefel.
20th Century Fox's PG-13-rated drama "Where the Heart Is," a $9 million domestic pick up for Fox, was fifth with $5.1 million last week. Its third week should see it depart the Top Five.
Directed and produced by Matt Williams, it stars Natalie Portman, Ashley Judd, Stockard Channing and Joan Cusack.
Columbia's "I Dreamed Of Africa," which opened in ninth place last week to just $2.4 million, will be struggling to stay in the Top Ten in its second week.
"Africa," made on a mid-range budget of about $34 million, is directed by Hugh Hudson and stars Kim Basinger.
Filling out lower rungs: "Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas" and "Love & Basketball."
On the limited release front: Miramax Films opens its R-rated contemporary version of "Hamlet" in New York and Los Angeles.
Directed by Michael Almereyda, it stars Ethan Hawke, Kyle MacLachlan, Sam Shepard, Diane Venora, Bill Murray, Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles.
Although this weekend won't set any records, insiders are happy because they anticipate a strong summer season spread around among most of the major studios. That's exactly the sort of summer theater owners enjoy most since it keeps their multiplexes filled with moviegoers, who are certain to buy their share of popcorn, candy and soda.
This summer should see business spread around among many mid-sized hits rather than concentrated, as it was last summer, in two mega-hits -- Fox and Lucasfilm's "Star Wars: Episode One - The Phantom Menace" and New Line's "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me." Together, the two sequels did about $626 million in ticket sales through Labor Day weekend.
This summer there already are very high hopes for Paramount's "Mission: Impossible 2," which will own Memorial Day weekend. Although "M: I-2" doesn't arrive until May 24, it's already an enviable 23% first choice in the tracking. The original "Mission: Impossible" opened May 22, 1996, and grossed $180.9 million domestically, $284 million internationally -- for a worldwide total of $464.9 million.
Memorial Day weekend hits don't always wind up as the summer's biggest grossing films. The original "Mission," for example, was out-grossed by "Twister," which opened nearly two weeks earlier on May 10, 1996, and went on to gross $241.7 million domestically, $254 million internationally -- for a worldwide cume of $495.7 million.
Hollywood has found over the years that movies opening in mid-June or for July Fourth weekend often are the ones that rewrite the record books.
For instance, "Jurassic Park" opened June 11, 1993, and did $357 million domestically. "Independence Day" opened July 3, 1996, and did $306.2 million domestically. "The Lion King" arrived June 15, 1994, and did $312.8 million domestically. "Forrest Gump" opened July 6, 1994, and did $329.7 million domestically. "Men In Black" opened July 2, 1997, and did $250.1 million domestically. "Ghost" appeared July 13, 1990, and did $217.6 million domestically.
Looking beyond "M: I-2," at least eight other summer releases are already shaping up as potentially big box office contenders. Those generating the best buzz at this early point - listed in order of their release dates - include:
* Buena Vista/Disney's computer-animated family film "Dinosaur," which reportedly cost $150 million-plus to make (May 19).
* 20th Century Fox's R-rated comedy "Me, Myself & Irene," directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly ("There's Something About Mary") and starring Jim Carrey and Renee Zellweger (June 23).
* Columbia's action-adventure "The Patriot," set during the Revolutionary War, directed by Roland Emmerich ("Independence Day") and starring Mel Gibson (June 28), which reportedly cost about $100 million to make.
* Warner Bros.' Action-adventure "The Perfect Storm," directed by Wolfgang Petersen ("Air Force One") and starring George Clooney, which reportedly cost about $120 million to make (June 30).
* 20th Century Fox's live-action fantasy-adventure "X-Men," based on the best-selling comic book series, directed by Bryan Singer ("The Usual Suspects") and starring Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Bruce Davison, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Ray Park and Anna Paquin (July 14).
* DreamWorks' fantasy thriller "What Lies Beneath," directed by Robert Zemeckis ("Forrest Gump") and starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer (July 21).
* Universal and Imagine Entertainment's comedy sequel "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps," directed by Peter Seagal ("Tommy Boy") and starring Eddie Murphy, Janet Jackson, Larry Miller and John Ales (July 28).
* 20th Century Fox's comedy remake "Bedazzled," directed by Harold Ramis ("Groundhog Day") and starring Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley, a potential summer sleeper (Aug. 11).
Maybe it's Godzilla's revenge. "Godzilla" Word comes this week that there likely (and somewhat surprisingly) will be a sequel to Sony's disappointing big-budget 1998 "Godzilla". But, even more surprising, the guys who made the first overhyped film (remember those "Size does matter" billboards?) won't have anything to do with the second overhyped film.
Although Sony Pictures Entertainment and director Roland Emmerich's Centropolis Entertainment couldn't (or wouldn't) immediately confirm it, an insider tells Hollywood.com that the two sides parted ways on "Godzilla 2" in March, and Sony (which holds the U.S. rights to the Japanese-born Godzilla character) now hopes to hire a new production team within a few months.
And that's probably a good thing, since Emmerich and his producer/co-writer Dean Devlin seemingly remade "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms" instead of a Godzilla movie. Their monster was too skinny, and it was more interested in laying eggs than laying waste to New York. Still, since there's no accounting for taste, the thing made about $375 million worldwide.
"Godzilla 2," by the way, shouldn't be confused with "Godzilla 2000," a low-budget Japanese film to be released in U.S. theaters this summer.
Centropolis had begun work on "Godzilla 2," commissioning a story treatment by screenwriter Tab Murphy ("Tarzan"), which reportedly climaxed with a big battle between Godzilla and a giant insectoid foe in downtown Sydney, Australia. But, after making "The Patriot" with Mel Gibson, the duo is reportedly more interested in making action dramas than sci-fi spectacles.
If and when Sony makes "Godzilla 2," it's likely that the monster will still look like a giant iguana, although it could be bulked up slightly.
"The American Godzilla is a $40 million computer program that was developed for the first film, and that's a significant part of the budget for the sequel," says the insider. "They're not going to throw that out and start over again."
Most interesting of all: Some Sony officials reportedly want the American Godzilla to fight the Japanese Godzilla in "Godzilla 2."
Ian McKellen LORD OF THE DOWNLOADS: New Line Cinema's "Lord of the Rings" preview (viewable at www.lordoftherings.net) was downloaded nearly 1.7 million times during its first 24 hours online, surpassing a record set by the trailer for "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" . The preview makes "Rings" (the first in a trilogy to be released in 2001, 2002 and 2003) look like it's worth the hype, but frankly we're more interested in the Hobbits. A few months ago, there were reports that the extras playing these diminutive beings were suffering long shooting schedules and arduous makeup applications, but no new gripes have been reported of late.
"The Hobbits' body doubles are real little-people from India, very short people whom are exactly the right size for certain shots when they need to have a smaller person," say our friends at Theonering.net, a Web site devoted to the films.
"On the flip side," the Web site reports, "all the non-Hobbit actors have large body doubles [the Ian McKellen double is reportedly 7-feet tall]," who are used to help make the "real" Hobbit actors (Elijah Wood, Sean Astin and Ian Holm among them) look small. Something called "CGI shrinking" is also being used minimally.
The production, now in its sixth month, is currently based in Heritage National Park on the North Island of New Zealand, and director Peter Jackson is keeping the crew sane by filming for three weeks at a time, followed by a two-week vacation.
TOM HANKS AS ROBBY THE ROBOT? Did you know that director Frank Darabont was once a writer on the remake of "The Blob" and "The Fly II"? Then maybe it's not so weird that the guy who made "The Green Mile" and "The Shawshank Redemption" wants to do a remake of "Forbidden Planet." He's in negotiations to make the film at New Line.
Wizard watchers, the moment has arrived. The big-screen "Lord of the Rings" is slated to make its debut here at ShoWest.
Whoops. Did we fail to mention that we meant the trailer, not the film?
"Lord of the Rings" Well, in case you didn't already know, ShoWest is no Sundance. The most buzz-worthy screenings are about three minutes long -- snippets, teasers, coming attractions.
In addition to the much-awaited "Lord of the Rings" footage (being unveiled at the New Line luncheon Tuesday), the coming days will feature previews of Sony's Mel Gibson epic "The Patriot" and clips from the ultimate summer chick flick "Charlie's Angels."
Fox's also pulling out its arsenal of (would-be) summer hits. Films to be sneak peeked include Jim Carrey's new comedy "Me, Myself and Irene" and the comic-book-come-to-life "X-Men."
The first installment of the planned "Lord of the Rings" trilogy (aka, "The Fellowship of the Ring" installment) stars Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett and Liv Tyler.
In other ShoWest happenings:
WHO DAT? With 10,000 ShoWest participants (8,000 of whom look exactly the same), it's not easy trying to figure out who's who in the sea of convention conformity. And around these parts, it's not the face that people recognize but the color of your convention badge. Here's the color-coded stratification of ShoWest:
-- RED: Press -- BLACK: Delegates and ambassadors -- YELLOW: Trade exhibitors -- BEIGE: Guests
Your typical ShoWest day, then, works like this: The pack-oriented black-badged people talk to their black-badged colleagues; the yellow-badged mucky-mucks stick to the trade shows; and the folks with red badges -- those loners in spirit -- scatter about, walking around aimlessly looking for something to do or somebody (preferably somebody with a black or yellow badge) to talk to.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN VARIETY, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER AND LOCAL- TOUR BOOKLETS: None. Besides being free of charge at the ShoWest venues, the Hollywood trade papers are also among the most picked-up (and discarded) items strewn about Vegas this week.
MAKING CONVERSATION: Ever been invited to a huge party where no one knows anyone else? Simply put, that's exactly what today's Columbia-TriStar International Reception felt like.
"Mission: Impossible 2" No helpful studio reps. No introductory comments. The reception was just one huge ballroom filled with food, booze and lots of space for theater owners and delegates to make small talk.
And so we did.
When discussing what they think the next big, bad American film will be, representatives from Taiwan, Japan, Iceland and Mexico all unanimously agreed on "Mission: Impossible 2" with the gritty-looking Tom Cruise, leaving global box-office champ "Titanic's" Leonardo DiCaprio in seeming obscurity.
TYPICAL VEGAS REACTION TO THE PHRASE, "SHOWEST": "ShoWhat?!" Followed by blank stare.
TODAY'S STAR SIGHTINGS: Er ... none.
TUESDAY'S EXPECTED STAR SIGHTINGS:Sandra Bullock, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, Matt Damon, Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore (You know, Charlie's Angels).
OOPS: "Well, it's OK, I guess. But it seems sort of blurry though," exclaimed one baffled enthusiast at the Digital Cinema Demonstration after watching a demo of four digitally projected film clips. Well, so much for that supposed better picture quality of digital projection.
END OF AN ERA? The buzz around here is that the days of the 25-screen multiplexes might be coming to an end. Today's Hollywood Reporter reported that the oversaturation of new multiplexes and increasingly competitive field (galvanized by new technologies and the Internet) might start putting the squeeze on film exhibitors.
GRIPE: As one ticked-off convention participant put it (in regard to the free e-mail kiosks set up throughout the ShoWest areas): "There should be a freakin' sign keeping people from hogging the e-mail booths. I mean, there're people here waiting." Word!
FILMS WE ACTUALLY SAW IN FULL: "Passion of Mind" (Paramount Classics) -- In what must be a desperate effort to capitalize on the phenomenon of "The Sixth Sense" by way of "The Double Life of Veronique," the schlock "Passion of Mind" has managed to make travesty of both films. In it, Demi Moore does double duty by playing a woman with a split personality -- one an expatriated, widowed New York Times reviewer living bucolically with her daughters in France; and the other, a cutthroat literary agent grinding down the successful single woman life in New York City. Her dilemma starts off as a philosophical one, but after much dime-store psychoanalysis, maudlin romance and cheap symbolism, the whole thing devolves into meaningless sentimentality.
"Where the Money Is" (USA) -- Paul Newman is an aged convict passing as a stroke victim in an elderly hospice, laying in wait for a chance to break free. Linda Fiorentino is a bored hospice nurse paralyzed by the inertia of small-town life with her complacent husband (Dermot Mulroney). Before you know it, the two, along with Fiorentino's reluctant hubby, are planning to pull off a heist. There's a remarkable chemistry between Newman and Fiorentino right from the get-go. So tight is their fit that no one bothers with common sense stuff such as to, you know, why she'd want to be a felony all of a sudden. But even if the story doesn't make sense, there's still a vicarious fun in watching these truants get away with it all. Oh, and one more thing: Paul Newman rules.