Moviegoers' eyes were on "The Watcher" as Hollywood's fall season got off to an unexciting start.
Box office levels across the board were considerably less than insiders had anticipated going into the weekend. With many studio executives out of town attending the Toronto Film Festival, few insights were offered as to what went wrong. Overall, key films were estimated to have grossed about 22 percent less than this time last year.
With televised coverage of the Olympics expected to provide stiff competition from Sept. 15 through Oct. 1, Hollywood is holding back on opening high-profile films in September. That will almost certainly be reflected in ticket sales for the month.
"With the Olympics and everything else, I think it's going to be a lousy fall," predicted one insider.
"Watcher," an R-rated psychological thriller from Universal, needed only single digit grosses to capture first place. It opened to a calm estimated $9.1 million at 2,742 theaters ($3,320 per theater).
With Universal having reportedly picked "Watcher" up from Interlight for only $5 million, it won't have to do much more business to turn a profit for the studio.
Directed by Joe Charbanic, "Watcher" stars James Spader, Marisa Tomei and Keanu Reeves.
"It is what it is," an insider explained Sunday morning. "It's one of those movies that if you target it, you can do fine -- especially on a weekend like this when there isn't a whole lot of competition."
USA Films' R-rated dark comedy "Nurse Betty" was a solid number two, opening to a healthy estimated $7.27 million at 1,459 theaters ($4,981 per theater).
"Betty's" per-theater average was the highest for any film playing in wide release last weekend.
"The picture performed extremely well," USA Films distribution president Jack Foley said Sunday morning. "In Manhattan, it was through the roof. San Francisco, Seattle and Portland played beautifully, too. An upscale audience for sure. The high-end people came out massively, and we had a lot of good numbers all over the country - even as far as Tulsa and Oklahoma City, and runs in New Orleans were very strong, with $7,000 and $8,000 weekend grosses on the picture."
USA isn't planning to go wider with "Betty" next weekend. "It's the right number," Foley noted.
The studio's exit polls were very positive, he added: "It's playing to males and females over 25 very, very nicely. It was females 51 percent and males 49 percent. The response to the film is quite high. The majority of the people (attending) are over 35, which is exactly what the poling said. The Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good) were about 60 percent. A real good opening."
Looking at how the film played from Friday to Saturday, Foley pointed out that "the overall jump was 50 percent. The jump from Friday to Saturday in the high-end theaters was anywhere from 80 percent to 90 percent and well over that. We should have a good day today (Sunday)."
Directed by Neil La Bute, "Betty" stars Morgan Freeman, Renee Zellweger, Chris Rock and Greg Kinnear.
The encouraging launch for "Betty" was not only good news for USA Films, but also for Universal, which actually owns the film. Insiders said Universal had acquired "Betty" as part of its purchase of PolyGram. Universal is reportedly paying USA a distribution fee to release "Betty" domestically.
Universal and Beacon Pictures' PG-13-rated comedy "Bring It On" fell two pegs to third place in its third week with a less cheerful estimated $6.55 million (-43 percent) at 2,416 theaters (+6 theaters; $2,710 per theater). Its cume is approximately $44.5 million.
With only about $10 million invested in "Bring," Universal is already seeing profits from it.
Directed by Peyton Reed, "Bring" stars Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dusku, Jesse Bradford and Gabrielle Union.
New Line's R-rated fantasy suspense thriller "The Cell" slid two rungs to fourth place in its fourth week with a less lively estimated $3.48 million (-51 percent) at 2,476 theaters (+32 theaters; $1,403 per theater). Its cume is approximately $51.2 million.
Directed by Tarsem, "Cell" stars Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughn and Vincent D'Onofrio.
"I think it should wind up north of $60 million," New Line distribution president David Tuckerman said Sunday morning.
Warner Bros. PG-13 sci-fi action adventure "Space Cowboys" dropped two notches in its sixth week to fifth place with an aging estimated $3.32 million (-51 percent) at 2,607 theaters (-188 theaters; $1,273 per theater). Its cume is approximately $78.8 million, heading for $90-100 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Clint Eastwood, "Space" stars Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner and Donald Sutherland.
"We've got a shot at $100 million," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "I would say it looks right now like $90 million unless we get some kick at the end of the year (from awards nominations). We're not going to go to video (quickly). We're going to hang on and wait and see Top Ten lists and all of that."
DreamWorks PG-13-rated supernatural thriller "What Lies Beneath" held on to sixth place in its eighth week with a slower estimated $2.9 million (-38 percent) at 2,166 theaters (-241 theaters; $1,342 per theater). Its cume is approximately $142.5 million.
"Beneath" is a co-production of DreamWorks, which is releasing it domestically, and 20th Century Fox, which is distributing it internationally.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis, "Beneath" stars Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Paramount's R-rated Spike Lee documentary comedy "The Original Kings of Comedy" held on to seventh place in its fourth week with a less funny estimated $2.5 million (-47 percent) at 997 theaters (+45 theaters; $2,508 per theater). Its cume is approximately $32.0 million.
Directed by Spike Lee, "Kings" stars Steve Harvey.
Warner Bros.' R-rated martial arts drama "The Art of War" from Franchise Pictures fell four trenches to eighth place in its third week with a quieter estimated $2.4 million (-60 percent) at 2,370 theaters (-260 theaters; $1,013 per theater). Its cume is approximately $25.0 million.
Directed by Christian Duguay, "War" stars Wesley Snipes, Anne Archer and Donald Sutherland.
Artisan Entertainment's opening of its R-rated suspense drama "The Way of the Gun" was ninth with a disappointing estimated $2.2 million at 1,515 theaters ($1,452 per theater).
Insiders had expected "Gun" to open to more than twice as much business and make the Top Five.
Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, "Gun" stars Ryan Phillippe, Benicio Del Toro, Juliette Lewis and James Caan.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Dimension Films' R-rated fantasy action adventure sequel "Highlander: Endgame," down five pegs in its second week with a slow estimated $1.8 million (-65 percent) at 1,545 theaters (+2 theaters; $1,165 per theater). Its cume is approximately $9.0 million.
Directed by Douglas Aarniokoski, "Highlander" stars Adrian Paul and Christopher Lambert.
OTHER OPENINGS This weekend also saw New Line's R-rated urban appeal drama "Turn It Up" arrive in a tie for 19th place to a slow estimated $0.6 million at 661 theaters ($908 per theater). Its cume after 5 days is approximately $0.8 million.
Directed by Robert Adetuyi, "Turn" stars Pras and Ja Rule.
Dimension Films' opening of its R-rated urban appeal drama "Backstage" placed 23rd with an unexciting estimated $0.51 million at 322 theaters ($1,583 per theater). Its cume after 5 days is approximately $0.7 million.
Directed by Chris Fiore, it stars Jay-Z, DMX, Method Man and Redman.
Also arriving was MGM's limited release reissue of its 1984 comedy "This Is Spinal Tap," placing 28th with a restrained estimated $54,000 at 10 theaters ($5,400 per theater).
Directed by Rob Reiner, "Spinal" stars Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, Rob Reiner and Fran Drescher.
Columbia's R-rated drama "Anatomy" checked into 29th place with a lifeless estimated $6,000 at 8 theaters ($750 per theater).
Written and directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky, it starsFranka Potente and Benno Furmann.
SNEAK PREVIEWS DreamWorks held 125 sneak previews in the Top Ten markets Saturday night of its R-rated dramatic comedy "Almost Famous."
A DreamWorks spokesperson said the sneaks played to 60 percent capacity. Those on hand -- 50 percent males and 50 percent females and 70 percent over 25 - scored it 88 percent in the Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good).
DreamWorks said it was "very pleased" with how the sneaks went and will hold 600-700 sneaks of "Almost" this Saturday night (Sept. 16) in the remaining Top 100 markets.
Using a distribution pattern similar to what it did very effectively this time last year with "American Beauty," DreamWorks plans to launch "Almost" in New York and Los Angeles on Wed., Sept. 13, and then put it in limited release Sept. 15 at 125-140 theaters. It will expand in the weeks that follow.
"Famous" is being released internationally by Sony's Columbia Pictures, which co-financed the production and will share equally with DreamWorks in its success.
Written and directed by Cameron Crowe ("Jerry Maguire"), "Almost" starsBilly Crudup,Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson, Jason Lee, Patrick Fugit, Anna Paquin, Fairuza Balk, Noah Taylor and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
EXPANSIONS There was no significant activity on the expansion front this weekend.
WEEKEND COMPARISONS Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 for the weekend -- took in approximately $53.96 million, down about 22.46 percent from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $69.59 million.
This normal three-day weekend's key film gross cannot be compared to this year's previous weekend, a four-day holiday weekend.
Last year, MGM's opening week of "Stigmata" was first with $18.31 million at 2,899 theaters ($6,316 per theater); and Buena Vista's sixth week of "The Sixth Sense" was second with $16.51 million at 2,782 theaters ($5,935 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $34.8 million. This year, the top two films grossed an estimated $16.2 million.
STUDIO MARKET SHARES Based on business by key films (those grossing $500,000 or more), last weekend's top six distributors were:
Universal was first with three films ("The Watcher," "Bring It On" and "Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps"), grossing an estimated $17.18 million or 31.8 percent of the market.
Warner Bros. was second with four films ("Space Cowboys," "The Art Of War," "The Perfect Storm" and "The Replacements"), grossing an estimated $8.04 million or 14.9 percent of the market.
USA Films was third with one film ("Nurse Betty"), grossing an estimated $7.27 million or 13.5 percent of the market.
New Line Cinema (New Line and Fine Line Features) was fourth with three films ("The Cell," "Saving Grace" and "Turn It Up"), grossing an estimated $5.13 million or 9.5 percent of the market.
Paramount was fifth with two films ("The Original Kings of Comedy" and "Bless the Child"), grossing an estimated $3.29 million or 6.1 percent of the market.
DreamWorks was sixth with one film("What Lies Beneath"), grossing an estimated $2.9 million or 5.4 percent of the market.
ADDITIONAL ESTIMATES (11)The Replacements/Warner Bros.: Theaters: 2,058 (-427) Gross: $1.72 million (-51 percent) Average per theater: $833 Cume: $39.2 million
(12)Nutty Professor II: The Klumps/Universal: Theaters: 1,694 (-439) Gross: $1.53 million (-50 percent) Average per theater: $900 Cume: $116.9 million
(13)Coyote Ugly/BV/Touchstone: Theaters: 1,412 (-410) Gross: $1.3 million (-46 percent) Average per theater: $921 Cume: $55.3 million
(14)Autumn in New York/MGM: Theaters: 1,801 (-415) Gross: $1.2 million (-45 percent) (tie) Average per theater: $666 Cume: $33.9 million
(14)The Crew/Buena Vista: Theaters: 1,487 (-28) Gross: $1.2 million (-67 percent) (tie) Average per theater: $595 Cume: $10.9 million
(16)Saving Grace/Fine Line: Theaters: 875 (0) Gross: $1.05 million (-55 percent) Average per theater: $1,205 Cume: $9.3 million
(17)Hollow Man/Columbia: Theaters: 1,184 (-765) Gross: $0.8 million (-61 percent) (tie) Average per theater: $676 Cume: $71.4 million
(17)Bless the Child/Paramount: Theaters: 1,165 (-777) Gross: $0.8 million (-59 percent) (tie) Average per theater: $675 Cume: $27.4 million
(19)Whipped/Destination: Theaters: 1,561 (0) Gross: $0.6 million (-72 percent) (tie) Average per theater: $385 Cume: $3.8 million
(19)The Perfect Storm/Warner Bros.: Theaters: 705 (-299) Gross: $0.6 million (-56 percent) (tie) Average per theater: $851 Cume: $178.6 million
(19)TURN IT UP/New Line: (see OTHER OPENINGS above) (tie)
(22)X-Men/Fox: Theaters: 682 (-166) Gross: $0.55 million (-48 percent) Average per theater: $810 Cume: $154.0 million
(23)BACKSTAGE/Dimension: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(24)Gladiator/DreamWorks: Theaters: 583 (+76) Gross: $0.44 million (-14 percent) Average per theater: $760 Cume: $184.2 million
(25)Chicken Run/DreamWorks: Theaters: 621 (-136) Gross: $0.31 (-52 percent) Cume: $104.6 million
(26)Disney's The Kid/Buena Vista/Disney: Theaters: 585 (-196) Gross: $0.29 million (-58 percent) Average per theater: $495 Cume: $67.4 million
(27)Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle/Universal: Theaters: 289 (-17) Gross: $0.10 million (-36 percent) Average per theater: $350 Cume: $25.8 million
(28)THIS IS SPINAL TAP/MGM: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(29)ANATOMY/Columbia: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
The Golden Globe nominations are coming! The Golden Globe nominations are coming!
Thursday at 5:19 a.m. PST, The Hollywood Foreign Press Association will begin announcing the nominations for the 58th Annual Golden Globe Awards, to be held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Jan. 21.
But before the nominations are made official, we at Hollywood.com take a stab at who the odds-on favorites will be for nominations in some of the major categories for motion pictures.
So without further ado, here are our picks as sure bets for nominations:
Best Motion Picture -- Drama
"Almost Famous" "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" "Gladiator" "Erin Brockovich" "Traffic"
These are the likely five, although "Dancer in the Dark" could sneak in there.
Best Motion Picture -- Musical or Comedy
"Billy Elliot" "Chocolat" "Chicken Run" "Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas" "Wonder Boys"
Although it wasn't a commercial hit, don't count out Neil LaBute's "Nurse Betty."
Best Actor in a Motion Picture -- Drama
Russell Crowe -- "Gladiator" Willem Dafoe -- "Shadow of a Vampire" (possible supporting actor category, though) Tom Hanks -- "Cast Away" Geoffrey Rush -- "Quills" Kevin Spacey -- "Pay It Forward"
This is one packed category. Javier Bardem, already a critics' winner, could be in the race for "Before Night Falls." Other possible nominees include Denzel Washington for "Remember the Titans" and Matt Damon for "The Legend of Bagger Vance."
Best Actor in a Motion Picture -- Musical or Comedy
Jamie Bell -- "Billy Elliot" Jim Carrey -- "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" Robert De Niro -- "Meet the Parents" Michael Douglas -- "Wonder Boys" Donal Logue -- "The Tao of Steve"
Best Actress in a Motion Picture -- Drama
Joan Allen -- "The Contender" Bjork -- "Dancer in the Dark" Helen Hunt -- "Pay It Forward" Laura Linney -- "You Can Count on Me" Julia Roberts -- "Erin Brockovich"
Best Actress in a Motion Picture -- Musical or Comedy
Juliette Binoche -- "Chocolat" Brenda Blethyn -- "Saving Grace" Helen Hunt -- "What Women Want" Kirsten Dunst -- "Bring It On" Renee Zellweger -- "Nurse Betty"
Best Actor in a Supporting Role -- Motion Picture
Aaron Eckhart -- "Erin Brockovich" Philip Seymour Hoffman -- "State and Main" Samuel L Jackson -- "Unbreakable" Gary Oldman -- "The Contender" Joaquin Phoenix -- "Quills"
Don't be surprised, though, if Benicio Del Toro picks up a nod for "Traffic." Other possible contenders: Haley Joel Osment in "Pay It Forward" and Phoenix for "Gladiator."
Best Actress in a Supporting Role -- Motion Picture
Ellen Burstyn -- "Requiem for a Dream" Judi Dench -- "Chocolat" Frances McDormand -- "Almost Famous" Julie Walters -- "Billy Elliot" Kate Winslet -- "Quills"
Another packed category. McDormand could be nominated for her work in "Wonder Boys." And don't discount this year's breakout It Girl, Kate Hudson, in "Almost Famous."
Jennifer Lopez was a winner and Elizabeth Hurley a presenter at Friday's VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards, but the real fun didn't start until after the high-fashion show was long over. Lopez, the first-ever Versace Award recipient for best, ahem, embodying the "energy and daring" of late designer Gianni Versace, partied with a bunch of pals at the library bar of New York's swanky Hudson Hotel on Friday night, the New York Daily News reports.
Keith Richards and Paul McCartney played pool with Designer of the Year recipient Stella McCartney, Paul's daughter. Kate Hudson played cutesy couple with Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson. Other partygoers included Moby, Sheryl Crow, Chris Rock, Liv Tyler, Lara Flynn Boyle, Christian Slater and fashion awards co-host Gisele Bundchen minus her main squeeze, Leonardo DiCaprio.
All was fine and dandy until 3 a.m., when Lopez and guests decided to spill out into the night air of the hotel garden. Hotel staff showed up and ushered the wild and crazy guests back into the bar after some hotel patrons (probably tourists) complained.
Meanwhile, supermodel turned actress Elizabeth Hurley turned heads of her own before and after the VH1/Vogue event.
MSNBC gossip columnist Jeannette Walls reports that Hurley arrived at the awards looking suspiciously disheveled with funnyman Denis Leary. Seems Hurley had smeared much of her Estee Lauder body glitter on the very married Leary's suit.
An "Access Hollywood" report Tuesday backed up Hurley's flustered arrival. As model-"Access" anchor Heidi Klum presented Hurley with a joke best dressed award -- a Barbie doll -- Hurley glared and sarcastically responded "thanks so much" before trying to make an exit.
Klum continued and asked Hurley if she was wearing any undergarments under her revealing dress. Hurley gave Klum a look of pure hatred before replying that it was none of her business. Icy!
On Saturday, Hurley was seen cozying up with millionaire Steve Bing at an Elton John concert in New York. Photos of the couple dancing naughtily were printed in London's Sun tabloid Tuesday.
Hurley has also been linked to billionaire Ted Forstmann since her breakup with her beau of 13 years, actor Hugh Grant.
What a weekend.
Can Matthew McConaughey lead an all-star, he-man cast of sub-mariners to victory over the Nazis? For that matter, can he lead them to victory over reigning box-office champs Samuel L Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones?
"U-571," which stars McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel and Jon Bon Jovi, leads the pack of new films entering theaters nationwide this weekend. Based on reviews and good-ol’-fashioned buzz, the undersea action flick appears to stand the best chance of bumping "Rules of Engagement" from the top spot.
Two other major films will get wide releases this weekend: "Love and Basketball," with a stellar cast; and "Gossip" starring Joshua Jackson of "Dawson’s Creek" fame and a cast of post-adolescents. Meanwhile, the directorial debut of Sofia Coppola (daughter of Francis, natch), "The Virgin Suicides" with Kirsten Dunst and James Woods, will open in limited release.
Here’s a rundown of this weekend’s new releases:
"U-571" See the trailer THE LOWDOWN: A group of WWII naval officers, using their zippy submarine, try to steal a stop-secret coding device from a Nazi U-boat and save the world from fascism. THE UPSIDE: Harvey Keitel could take on the Nazis single-handedly. THE DOWNSIDE: Standing next to Keitel, Matthew "skinny guy from ‘Contact’" McConaughey and Jon "Livin’ On a Prayer" Bon Jovi are decidedly lacking in the cojones department.
"LOVE AND BASKETBALL" See the trailer THE LOWDOWN: Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan star as lifelong, platonic hoop-shooting friends of the opposite sex, who eventually give in to mutual attraction. THE UPSIDE: Also features Harry Lennix, who was amazing as the Moor in "Titus." THE DOWNSIDE: If your girlfriend can beat you at a game of one-on-one, you ought to try baseball instead.
"GOSSIP" THE LOWDOWN: James Marsden, Kate Hudson and Lena Heady star in a story about a rumor that’s planted as part of a college class project but soon escalates out of control. THE UPSIDE: The film’s marketing campaign heavily exploits the fact that is in the cast. THE DOWNSIDE: Jackson is a supporting player, which means most of the movie is about Marsden, Hudson and Heady.
"THE VIRGIN SUICIDES" See the trailer THE LOWDOWN: Based on a 1991 novel about a real-life 1970s incident, it’s the story of a suburban family thrown into a state of depression and isolation after one of their five daughters attempts suicide. THE UPSIDE: An extremely cool cast, including Kathleen Turner as the family mom. And as "The Ice Storm" showed a few years ago, disaffected 1970s suburban families make for fine movie subject matter. THE DOWNSIDE: This one debuted at Sundance earlier this year, and the word-of-mouth in Park City was not kind. MAINSTAYS: Look for "Erin Brockovich," "The Road to El Dorado," "Keeping the Faith," "The Skulls" and perhaps even "Return to Me" to remain in the Top 10.
EXITS: Several films are likely to be bumped out of the Top 10 this weekend, including "Final Destination" and "Ready to Rumble."