The new school year's about to begin, but that won't stop teens from hanging 10 with Michelle Rodriguez.
In Blue Crush, Rodriguez and Kate Bosworth star as Oahu hotel maids who live in a beach shack and love to surf. The best of them is Bosworth's character, who receives an invitation to compete in a usually all-male surfing tournament.
Blue Crush crashes into 3,000-plus theaters at the end of a summer that has seen very little in the way of comedies and dramas aimed specifically at teens. That should give Blue Crush a distinct advantage over this weekend's other wide release, Eddie Murphy's The Adventures of Pluto Nash.
Girls should embrace Blue Crush's empowering themes while boys will doubtless go merely to drool over the film's bikini-clad stars. Women excelling in a traditionally male environment worked for the moronic Coyote Ugly, which demonstrated surprising endurance in summer 2000.
With Rodriguez's star on the rise following The Fast and the Furious and Resident Evil, Blue Crush will likely match Coyote Ugly's $17.3 million opening and $60.7 million total. Such an opening would come as welcome news to director John Stockwell, whose coming-of-age romance crazy/beautiful wooed a mere $16.9 million last summer.
Rodriguez could put up a strong fight against her Fast and the Furious co-star Vin Diesel for box office supremacy if too many teens abandon skydiving for surfboarding. Diesel's extreme sports-driven Bondian spy romp xXxexploded with a loud $44.5 million opening--better than any 007 offerings--and has $58.2 million through Wednesday. In comparison, The Fast and the Furious zoomed off with a $40 million opening and clocked up $54 million by its sixth day in release. Sony Pictures' willingness to pay the up-and-coming Diesel $10 million for xXx now looks like a wise investment. Audiences seem to regard Diesel as part of a new generation of action heroes that includes The Rock.
xXx will likely experience the same second-weekend erosion of 50 percent that dragged down The Fast and the Furious. That also would be in line with the second-weekend declines of Austin Powers in Goldmember and Signs. With a second-weekend haul of around $22 million, and a possible 10-day tally of $85 million, Diesel's spy games should come close to matching The Fast and the Furious' $144.5 million total. So, expect to see Diesel tattooed and ready for action in 2004 with his xXx sequel.
Regardless, neither xXx nor Blue Crush will be able to pump up the box office, which has lagged behind last year's corresponding weekends for one month.
The summer's also over, which means the inevitable dumping of oft-delayed studio flicks for the sole purpose of making a quick killing.
Exhibit No. 1: The Adventures of Pluto Nash. Eddie Murphy's sci-fi spoof got pushed back to 2002 from its original April 6, 2001, berth to avoid conflicting with Dr. Dolittle 2. This lunar version of Casablanca pits Murphy's nightclub owner against the moon's mob.
Murphy's revitalized his career in the mid-1990s when he began churning out family-friendly comedies and lending his voice to animated romps. Pluto Nash's certainly doesn't arrive with the same anticipation as Murphy's Nutty Professor or Dr. Dolittle remakes and sequels. Nor does it bode well that Warner Bros. is releasing Pluto Nash during the dog days of summer, one week after Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams, without the benefit of press screenings. A bad sign if ever there was one ...
Still, Murphy should charm enough families to prevent Pluto Nash from becoming a disaster on the scale of 1998's Holy Man ($5.1 million opening, $12 million total). Blasting into 2,320 theaters, Pluto Nash should settle for an opening somewhere between Metro's $11.4 million and Showtime's $15 million. A fast fade awaits, so Pluto Nash will find itself stranded on the moon with about $30 million, or substantially less that the lackluster $37.9 million captured earlier this year by Showtime. Murphy will find greater success in November when he returns with another remake, November's big-screen version of I Spy.
The Cortez siblings of Spy Kids 2 clearly amused many children whose parents thought better of taking them to see xXx. But Spy Kids 2 is going to rank among the long line of this summer's underachieving sequels. Spy Kids 2 midweek opening proved beneficial, as it earned $8.3 million prior to its first weekend haul of $16.7 million, for a total of $25 million. Its strong weekday tallies bring its seven-day total to $32.8 million through Wednesday. Spy Kids, though, managed a superior $26.5 million debut, and ended its first full week with a total $31.2 million. It also reaped a second weekend of $17 million for a $48.2 million.
By matching Spy Kids' 35.6 percent second-weekend decline in business, Spy Kids 2 would only earn $10.8 million, bringing its total to a possible $46 million through Sunday. That wouldn't beat Spy Kids' third weekend take of $12.5 million.
Spy Kids 2 also faces a considerable drop in weekday business as school resumes. Accordingly, Spy Kids 2 is headed toward a $70 million total. That's significantly less than Spy Kids' $112.6 million, but almost enough to justify director Robert Rodriguez's mandate to have Spy Kids 3 in theaters by next summer.
As expected, Pistachio Disguisey and his talent for mimicry proved no match against the Cortez family's flair to save the world from certain disaster. Master of Disguise, Dana Carvey's comeback of sorts, plummeted an appalling 58 percent in its second weekend, from $12.5 million to $5.1 million. The family comedy might have displayed more endurance had it not opened one week before Spy Kids 2. Still, with $26.3 million through Wednesday, Master of Disguise represents Carvey's biggest solo success.
Stuart Little 2 squeaked by with just $2.6 million in its fourth weekend, down 56 percent from $6.1 million. The sequel to the 1999 live-action/animated smash has just $54.5 million through Wednesday, and won't even make half of its predecessor's $140 million total.
Goldmember continues its rapid descent, proving that its second-weekend drop of 57 percent was no fluke. The third Austin Powers farce plunged 58 percent in its third weekend, from $31.1 million to $13 million. Still, Goldmember has $173.6 million through Wednesday vs. $157.7 million that Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me made during the same 20 days in release. Goldmember should muster enough mojo to equal The Spy Who Shagged Me's $206 million total.
Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat also fell by 58 percent in its second weekend, from $7.3 million to $3.1 million. Playing at just 774 theaters, Runteldat isn't shaping up to be a concert hit on the scale of The Original Kings of Comedy ($38.1 million). However, with $14 million through Wednesday, Runteldat will at least make almost double that of Lawrence's last concert film, You So Crazy ($10.1 million).
Mel Gibson should prepare for what could possibly be the biggest hit of his career, as Signs looks certain to comfortably surpass What Women Want's $182.8 million total.
Signs should stabilize in its third weekend after tumbling by 51 percent in its second weekend, from $60.1 million to $29.4 million. Still, that's close to matching Gibson's previous best opening of $34.2 million for 1996's Ransom.
M. Night Shyamalan's chilling tale of a possible alien invasion does not face fresh competition among adults out for a good scare, so a decline of about 45 percent will result in a $16 million third weekend. Signs, with its $128.1 million through Wednesday, has flown past the $94.9 million earned in 2000 by Shyamalan's Unbreakable and now stands as the 12th 2002 new release to make more than $100 million.
The one-two punch of xXx and Signs all but buried Clint Eastwood's Blood Work. The thriller opened with an anemic $7.3 million, which is slightly better than the $5.2 million cobbled together by True Crime. With $9.7 million through Wednesday, Blood Work should exceed True Crime's $16.6 million total, but it will still rank as one of Eastwood's lesser recent efforts.
Road to Perdition continues its slow trek to $100 million. The Tom Hanks gangster thriller has $85.9 million through Wednesday.
America's love affair with the Hanks-backed My Big Fat Greek Wedding continues as the romantic comedy posted a 17th-weekend take of $3.1 million, its best yet. The art house smash, only playing in 723 theaters, has collected $46.5 million through Wednesday.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding, though, might finally have competition in the form of The Good Girl and Possession.
The Good Girl lived up to its name as it made off with a better than good $151,642 at just two theaters over the weekend, for a five-day total of $208,639. The drama, which has secured strong reviews based on Jennifer Aniston's gritty performance as a neglected, married thirtysomething, will expand slowly this month.
Possession, a romantic drama reminiscent of The French Lieutenant's Woman, opens in 200-plus theaters in advance of an Aug. 30 wide release. Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart play present-day scholars who fall in love while investigating the love affair between Victorian-era poets (Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle). Paltrow once again employs her well-honed British accent, while Eckhart receives the rare opportunity to play a romantic lead.
Possession's most intriguing participant is director Neil LaBute, who enjoyed notoriety with the scathing social satires In the Company of Men and Your Friends & Neighbors and then made the switch to black comedy with Nurse Betty. Possession will demonstrate whether LaBute's admirers and detractors choose to embrace his gentler and kinder side.
This summer's spy games take on Olympian proportions this weekend as a muscle-bound extreme sportsman and two pint-sized secret agents separately fight to save the world from the forces of evil.
Together, though, XXX and Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams should drive the masses to movie theaters in extraordinary numbers. If this isn't enough, Clint Eastwood hunts down another serial killer in the crime thriller Blood Work.
XXX, a potential franchise a la James Bond for Sony Pictures, arrives with a big bang courtesy of the long and overwhelming marketing campaign revolving around the tattooed body of superstar-in-the-making Vin Diesel.
The summer's last potential blockbuster, XXX should easily outgun a sequel aimed primarily at children who will return to school later this month. Spy Kids 2 rushes into theaters less than 18 months after its predecessor, but may prove just what children want to see after dismissing Stuart Little 2, The Country Bears, The Powerpuff Girls Movie and Hey Arnold! The Movie.
A few years back, Sony failed in its bid to launch its own James Bond franchise. Hence the blatant 007-ish XXX, the first of what Sony executives anticipate will become a series anchored by a spy with supposedly very little in common with the suave and sophisticated British secret agent. Diesel's Xander Cage is an adrenaline junkie who exploits his passion for extreme sports to tweak the establishment. The prospect of a long prison sentence forces Diesel to become a secret agent under the command of the unbilled Samuel L. Jackson. Diesel's mission: Get the dirt on a group of pierced anarchists operating in Prague, Czech Republic.
The success of this Generation X spy franchise rests on Diesel's very broad shoulders. He reportedly received $10 million for XXX, an indication that Sony executives believe that Diesel was mostly responsible for the runaway smash that was last summer's The Fast and the Furious. He certainly throws himself in the thick of the action, be it tumbling out of airplanes or seducing women in the name of his country. He's aided and abetted by Rob Cohen, who directed The Fast and the Furious. The result is loud, dumb but occasionally fun.
As far as charisma goes, the monosyllabic Diesel comes across as nothing more than a 21st-century Sylvester Stallone. But Diesel will win over men with his devil-may-care attitude and charm women with his considerable sex appeal. Older adults weaned on James Bond might want to see what all the fuss is about while they wait patiently for November's Die Another Day, but they should walk away feeling cheated by XXX's sub-Bondian plot, unworthy villain and unappealing love interest.
The Fast and the Furious roared out of nowhere in June 2001 to score an astounding $40 million opening and a $144.5 million total. That was unexpected given that Diesel's previous two starring efforts were the modest hit Pitch Black ($39.2 million total) and the Wall Street-inspired flop Boiler Room ($16.9 million). Diesel's Knockaround Guys, made in 1999 before he tore up the streets in The Fast and the Furious, has yet to see the light of day.
The acceptance of such serious spy fare as The Sum of All Fears ($117.8 million) and The Bourne Identity ($113.1 million), featuring a new generation of action heroes, bodes extremely well for XXX, which slammed into 3,374 theaters on Friday with an audience-friendly PG-13 rating. XXX should gun down between $45 million and $50 million. The Scorpion King's $36 million opening also showed that audiences wanted to see how well wrestler The Rock could body slam his movie foes. So anything less than an opening better than The Fast and the Furious' $40 million would be a disappointment for XXX.
XXX also has the advantage of being the summer's last big offering. That worked in August 2001 to American Pie 2's advantage. The R-rated sequel opened with $45.1 million and held steady throughout the waning days of summer to tally a $145 million total. XXX, which faces little competition in the coming weeks, will likely enjoy the same fate.
All told, XXX should wind up with $150 million, paving the way for a franchise. It also would help the future of two other unreleased Diesel offerings, the aforementioned Knockaround Guys and an untitled drug thriller formerly known as Diablo. The oft-delayed Knockaround Guys is scheduled for an Oct. 11 release. Diesel's untitled thriller is set for March 7, 2003. Perhaps New Line has seemingly kept both on the shelf in order to make a quick buck or two in the wake of XXX's anticipated success.
The fate of the free world also lies in the hands of two spies certainly not old enough to sit behind the wheel of James Bond's famed Aston Martin.
In Spy Kids 2, the Cortez siblings roam around a monster-infested island in search of a destructive device called the Transmooker. Cortez parents and fellow spies Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino also return.
Bigger isn't always better, as the lackluster returns for Stuart Little 2 demonstrate. Spy Kids 2 must overcome extremely mediocre reviews in order to best its predecessor's $26.5 million opening and $112.6 million total. With children returning to school soon, Dimension Films opened Spy Kids 2 on Wednesday in 3,307 theaters to make the most of what's left of the summer holidays.
Spy Kids 2's $4.6 million Wednesday opening signals a three-day weekend of at least $20 million.
Dimension executives must be confident about Spy Kids 2. They have already ordered director Robert Rodriguez to get Spy Kids 3 into theaters on July 23, 2003. Rodriguez is going to have to pull a Steven Soderbergh, given that he is also working with Banderas on Once Upon a Time in Mexico for a 2003 release.
Banderas needs Spy Kids 2 to make an impact. He followed up Spy Kids with two bombs, Original Sin ($16.5 million) and the barely released The Body ($33,565).
The Cortez siblings will cause some headaches for comeback kid Dana Carvey.
Master of Disguise, which finds Carvey portraying an unlikely hero able to impersonate dozens of people, managed a solid $12.5 million debut last weekend against fellow ex-Saturday Night Live-er Mike Myers' Austin Powers in Goldmember.
That's Carvey's best solo opening, beating Opportunity Knocks' paltry $3.5 million opening in 1990. In fact, Master of Disguise grossed more than the combined openings of Carvey's three 1994 disasters, Clean Slate ($3.1 million), The Road to Wellville ($2.5 million) and Trapped in Paradise ($2.7 million). Carvey obviously made the right decision in persuading another SNL alumnus, Adam Sandler, to executive produce the family-friendly comedy.
This weekend will determine whether Master of Disguise appeals more to parents nostalgic for the days when Carvey ruled SNL or children willing to laugh at some good, clean fun. Spy Kids 2 will likely sap Master of Disguise of its core audience of children, causing a drop of at least 45 percent, or a second-weekend haul of $7 million. Still, with $17.4 million through Wednesday, Master of Disguise already represents Carvey's biggest solo success and should finish with a total close to $40 million.
Young children, though, are being terribly fickle about what they want to see during this second half of the summer.
Stuart Little is no longer the mouse that roared. Stuart Little 2 plunged 42 percent in its third weekend, from $10.6 million to $6.1 million, and has a disappointing $49.6 million through Wednesday. At this rate, Stuart Little 2 will barely make half of its predecessor's $140 million.
Singing bears aren't of much interest, either. The Country Bears collapsed by 41 percent in its second weekend, from $5.3 million to $3.1 million. The Disney theme park attraction spin-off has a tuneless $13.1 million through Wednesday. That's hardly enough to buy a pot or two of honey these days.
Clint Eastwood isn't going quietly into his twilight years. Since 1992's Oscar-winning Unforgiven, Eastwood now more often than not portrays heroic characters coming to terms with old age. Space Cowboys rocketed in 2000 to $90.4 million on the strength of catapulting Eastwood and three fellow grumpy old men into orbit.
In Blood Work, Eastwood is a retired FBI director and the recent recipient of a new heart that came from a murder victim. He's later hired to track down the victim's killer.
Based on a novel by Michael Connelly, and directed by Eastwood, Blood Work isn't likely to distinguish itself from Eastwood's numerous other crime thrillers. That will hurt Blood Work's chances at the box office. In recent years, audiences have embraced Eastwood when he plays atypical roles, such as Space Cowboys' astronaut, The Bridges of Madison County's photographer and Absolute Power's cat burglar.
Blood Work will more likely follow the path of 1999's True Crime, in which Eastwood played a has-been reporter investigating the guilt or innocence of a man on death row. True Crime opened with $5.2 million and amassed just $16.6 million.
Eastwood's one of the few actors of his age who can still sells tickets, so Blood Work could generate a modest $10 million from its 2,525 theaters. That would allow Blood Work to at least double True Crime's lowly total.
Helping Eastwood's cause: Tom Hanks' Road to Perdition is slowing down, having dropped 41 percent in its fourth weekend from $11.1 million to $6.6 million, for a total of $79.3 million through Wednesday.
Still, Eastwood must contend with Signs.
The alien invasion was greeted with a heavenly $60.1 million debut. That's the second-best August opening, behind Rush Hour 2's $67.4 million. It also ranks as the best debut for Mel Gibson, beating Ransom's $34.2 million, and for director M. Night Shyamalan, almost doubling Unbreakable's $30.3 million.
With $82.4 million through Wednesday, Signs has surpassed the $78.1 million total that Gibson's We Were Soldiers captured earlier this year. It should also exceed Unbreakable's $94.9 million total by Friday and cross $100 million by Saturday.
A second weekend haul of between $30 million and $35 million puts Signs on track to make between $185 million and $200 million. Signs would then become Gibson's biggest earner, beating What Women Want's $182.8 million total.
Signs hastened the demise of K-19: The Widowmaker. Harrison Ford's Russian submarine thriller sank a harrowing 61 percent in its third weekend, from $7.2 million to $2.8 million, for a total of $30.7 million through Sunday.
Austin Powers lost some of his mojo in his second weekend, as Goldmember tumbled by 57 percent in its second weekend, which was somewhat steeper than expected after a dazzling $73 million bow. Goldmember's $31.1 million is equal to that of the second weekend of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, which fell only 42.8 percent after a $54.9 million debut.
Not that Mike Myers has to worry that much. With $152.9 million through Wednesday, Goldmember is still well ahead of The Spy Who Shagged Me, which had $128.9 million through its 13th day in release. Even with a 50 percent drop in business, Goldmember will earn $15 million in its third weekend. That puts Goldmember on target to surpass The Spy Who Shagged Me's $206 million total by at least $10 million.
Goldmember's presence continued to haunt Men in Black II, which fell 42 percent in its fifth weekend, from $8.4 million to $4.8 million. With $183.9 million through Wednesday, MIBII is heading for a $200 million total.
Mr. Deeds also lost half its audience in its sixth weekend, falling from $4.2 million to $2.1 million. Adam Sandler's remake of the classic Frank Capra comedy Mr. Deeds Goes to Town has $121.5 million through Tuesday.
Martin Lawrence might have endured two consecutive flops in 2001 with What's the Worst that Could Happen? and Black Knight, but he can still hold urban audiences captive with his standup routine.
The slightly confessional Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat opened at a mere 752 theaters with a strong $7.3 million. With $9.3 million through Wednesday, Runteldat is close to exceeding the $10.1 million generated by Lawrence's first concert film, 1994's You So Crazy.
Runteldat did not enjoy as big an opening as The Original Kings of Comedy, which debuted in 2000 with a surprising $11.6 million at 847 theaters. Spike Lee's concert film ended up with a total $38.1 million. Runteldat doesn't have the legs to make it that far, but it should end up with a total between $20 million and $25 million. That, coupled with the forthcoming National Security and Bad Boys 2, should add some luster to Lawrence's tarnished star.
The art house circuit is home to the year's biggest sleeper, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The romantic comedy added 88 theaters in its 16th week, bringing its total to 657 theaters, and relished a second consecutive weekend take of $3 million. It now has $41.4 million through Wednesday, with $60 million a possible total.
Also, in limited release, Steven Soderbergh's Full Frontal was greeted with apathy. Soderbergh's digitally shot comedy, headlined by Julia Roberts, opened with $739,834 at 208 theaters. Seems no one's too thrilled with the prospect of seeing this unofficial sequel to sex, lies, and videotape.
Seems there are plenty of older women eager to pull a Mrs. Robinson this summer. Bebe Neuwirth seduces Aaron Stanford in Tadpole, which has made $721,705 through Sunday after three weekends. Catherine Keener smooches with Jake Gyllenhaal in Lovely & Amazing, which has made $2.4 million through Sunday after six weekends.
Now it's Jennifer Aniston's turn to fool around with Gyllenhaal. The Good Girl opened Wednesday in limited release after it won raves at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Reviewers have already praised Aniston for her performance as a neglected wife willing to bed a younger man.
Aniston's film career has not been too impressive--Picture Perfect ranks as her best effort at $31.3 million. Driven by excellent reviews, The Good Girl could make the jump from the art house circuit to mainstream theaters. If that's the case, Aniston might find it easier to bid farewell to her Friends next year.