Roland Sharp (Tommy Lee Jones) a dedicated Texas Ranger tracks down a key informant with the help of an ex-con turned preacher Percy Stevens (Cedric the Entertainer). But when the informant is unexpectedly murdered the hardheaded Sharp is assigned to protect the only witnesses to the crime--a quintet of University of Texas cheerleaders (Christina Milian Paula Garces Monica Keena Kelli Garner and Vanessa Ferlito). Roland has to go undercover moving in with the five uncontrollable co-eds while they await a trial date. Soon the contentious Sharp clashes with the bubbly outgoing cheerleaders getting in the way of their love lives and social agendas. But while Sharp gets on the girls' nerves he has even more difficulties getting close to his own teenage daughter Emma (Shannon Marie Woodward). Still through his experiences he learns a few lessons about how to gain her trust and love and finding something else he didn't expect--love.
Jones just can't quite pull off the hokey story. The actor continues to exhibit his same hard-nosed surly attitude that seems to follow him from film to film. But this time he is surrounded by elements that just don't complement his unsociability. While he is comical in some parts the words "cute" and "heartwarming" don't really apply to him especially when the vivacious and spirited girls are hovering around him trying very hard to make it work. Cedric the Entertainer (Barbershop) is hilarious and entertaining as always but with a movie this trite he can't be expected to save the whole film now can he?
When there are five credited writers on a film you know you're in trouble. Along with being over-the-top feel-good family mush Man of the House also doesn't add up. You're often left scratching your head over the plot and just when it starts to make sense it quickly loses you again. While movies often asks you to suspend your disbelief House almost goes unbearably too far. To top it off director Stephen Herek (Life or Something Like It) makes only a mediocre attempt at helming the proceedings. It's as if he too understands what kind of muck House truly is.
There was lots of Olympic Gold but very little box office gold this weekend.
Insiders had anticipated low grosses and a close race for first place, and that's exactly what they got. With ticket sales down over 33 percent from this time last year, it took only $5.7 million for Universal's "The Watcher" to nail down the top spot.
Key films in the marketplace - those grossing $500,000 or more for the weekend - did approximately $47.58 million. Distribution sources said Sunday morning they believed that was the lowest total since the weekend of Sept. 11-13, 1998, when key films took in $48.85 million.
Was it the Olympics that killed the movie business this weekend? Key distribution executives share some thoughts about that in today's report (see OLYMPICS IMPACT below).
The weekend's biggest success story was DreamWorks' opening of its R-rated dramatic comedy "Almost Famous," placing eighth at 131 theaters with an estimated $2.3 million and averaging $17,550 per theater. (Complete details below in today's Top Ten report.)
Universal's R-rated psychological thriller "The Watcher" held on to first place by its fingernails in its second week with a modest estimated $5.72 million (-37 percent) at 2,745 theaters (+3 theaters; $2,085 per theater). Its cume is approximately $17.3 million, heading for $25-30 million in domestic theaters.
Universal reportedly picked "Watcher" up from Interlight for only $5 million, so the studio is clearly turning a profit on its investment.
Directed by Joe Charbanic, "Watcher" stars James Spader, Marisa Tomei and Keanu Reeves.
"As depressed as the marketplace is, I'm very happy that Universal has 25 percent of the market share with three films ('The Watcher,' 'Bring It On' and 'Nutty Professor II: The Klumps')," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said. "And 'Nurse Betty,' which is ours (acquired as part of Universal's PolyGram takeover) makes it four films - three in the top five - and a 33 percent market share."
Rocco added that Universal is very bullish on its Oct. 6 opening at 2,000-plus theaters of the PG-13-rated comedy "Meet the Parents." Universal will sneak "Parents" this Saturday (Sept. 23) at 185 theaters in the top 10-14 markets.
Directed by Jay Roach, it stars Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller.
Warner Bros. and Castle Rock Entertainment's R-rated action comedy "Bait," which insiders had expected to capture first place, finished second with an unexciting estimated $5.5 million at 2,352 theaters ($2,338 per theater).
Directed by Antoine Fuqua, "Bait" stars Jamie Foxx.
Universal and Beacon Pictures' PG-13-rated comedy "Bring It On" held on to third place in its fourth week with a still cheery estimated $5.09 million (-25 percent) at 2,427 theaters (+11 theaters; $2,095 per theater). Its cume is approximately $50.9 million, heading for $60 million in domestic theaters.
Having an investment of only about $10 million in "Bring," Universal is already in profit on the picture.
Directed by Peyton Reed, "Bring" stars Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dusku, Jesse Bradford and Gabrielle Union.
USA Films' R-rated dark comedy "Nurse Betty" slid two pegs to fourth place in its second week with a still healthy estimated $4.71 million (-32 percent) at 1,469 theaters (+10 theaters; $3,208 per theater). Its cume is approximately $13.6 million, heading for $21-25 million in domestic theaters.
"Betty's" per-theater average was the highest for any film playing in over 1,000 theaters last weekend.
"Betty" actually is owned by Universal, which acquired it as part of its takeover of PolyGram and then brought in USA to handle its domestic release.
"I feel really good about how the picture played out there," USA Films distribution president Jack Foley said Sunday morning. "I was looking at a lot of the theaters we're in throughout the country. By and large, we are in markets that 'Almost Famous' hasn't opened in. We are generally number one in the complex. So it held in there really nicely. Where 'Almost Famous' has opened, in a lot of cases we're number two in those complexes.
"It held in well. It looks like it's got decent legs. In some cases - like, for instance, in Farmingdale on Long Island and in Redwood City (near San Francisco) - our number was competitive to 'Almost Famous' in New York and in San Francisco against us was at least two to three times bigger than our gross. I think the picture's showing that it's got durability overall. The smaller markets were the really pleasant surprises because their drops from last weekend were rather minimal. They were around 20 percent. So it showed a good word of mouth."
Looking ahead, Foley noted, "I think next weekend is going to be a very critical weekend due to the broadening of 'Almost Famous.' We'll see what effects it has on the film. But at this stage of the game we're looking at a $21-22 million range, no sweat, and, probably, $25 million is going to be where it gets to (in domestic theaters)."
Directed by Neil La Bute, "Betty" stars Morgan Freeman, Renee Zellweger, Chris Rock and Greg Kinnear.
DreamWorks PG-13-rated supernatural thriller "What Lies Beneath" rose one peg to fifth place in its ninth week, holding well with an estimated $2.6 million (-7 percent) at 2,007 theaters (-159 theaters; $1,290 per theater). Its cume is approximately $145.7 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.
Warner Bros. PG-13 sci-fi action adventure "Space Cowboys" fell one rung to sixth place in its seventh week with an okay estimated $2.53 million (-24 percent) at 2,461 theaters (-146 theaters; $1,028 per theater). Its cume is approximately $82.2 million, heading for $90-100 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Clint Eastwood, "Space" stars Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, James Garner and Donald Sutherland.
Besides being very pleased with how well "Space" has been performing, Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning he was especially happy about the encouraging start that the studio's release of its documentary "Into the Arms of Strangers" had gotten off to with about $29,000 at five theaters.
The PG-rated documentary was written and directed by Mark Jonathan Harris and produced by Deborah Oppenheimer. It is the story of the Kintertransport rescue operation prior to the start of World War II, in which some 10,000 children's lives were saved as the result of being taken in by Britain after the rise of Hitler.
Noting that the film was "extremely well reviewed," Fellman explained, "On Friday we had five theaters with a gross of $6,128, which is $1,226 a theater - nothing to shake about. Last night (Saturday), we did $15,442 in the same five theaters. We averaged $3,088, which is an increase of 152 percent, which is really terrific. If you look at any limited (release) film in the marketplace, you'll see they went up 40-45 percent, some of them a little less. So this is a huge number.
"What happened to this movie on Saturday is that word of mouth (was getting around and people) started to read about it. It's a very small movie with no television (advertising). We opened up at one theater in each market in New York, L.A., Boston, Washington and Toronto. We plan on going about two weeks in these markets, and then around the 13th of October, we're going to move into an additional 10 markets and expand (in the initial markets)."
New Line's R-rated fantasy suspense thriller "The Cell" fell three rungs to seventh place in its fifth week with a less sexy estimated $2.45 million (-33 percent) a 2,250 theaters (-226 theaters; $1,089 per theater). Its cume is approximately $55.0 million.
Directed by Tarsem, "Cell" stars Jennifer Lopez, Vince Vaughn and Vincent D'Onofrio.
DreamWorks' "Almost Famous" opened in eighth place to a very encouraging estimated $2.3 million at 131 theaters ($17,550 per theater). Its cume, including five days in New York and Los Angeles, is approximately $2.4 million.
Taking a page from its very successful distribution plan this time last year for "American Beauty," DreamWorks launched "Almost" in New York and Los Angeles last Wednesday (Sept. 13) and put it in limited release this weekend. It will expand in the coming weeks.
"It's really a great start," DreamWorks distribution head Jim Tharp said Sunday morning. "Not much else is grossing right now. $17,550 (per theater) is a pretty fantastic number - to the point that we're going to expand (faster than originally planned). We had a plan of expanding on Sept. 22 and Sept. 29. We may speed up the number of runs for the 22nd. The plan is still going to be in place to expand both weeks, but we actually may go into more theaters on the 22nd based on this information.
"The jump from Friday to Saturday was 46 percent. That first week you usually don't have those kind of jumps. Obviously, word of mouth is kind of instantaneous these days. The movie is playing a little older and the older audience shows up on Saturday."
Reflecting on the film's start, Tharp said, "It's off and running. I think the word will continue to be good on the movie as we spread it out to additional runs. We planned on 500 additional theaters (this weekend), and we'll probably go a little wider than that."
Exhibitors are eager to get the film, Tharp added: "There's not much grossing in September, so from the exhibition side they would really like for us to go much faster. But we really do want this positive word to spread on the movie before we go into the market (much wider)."
"Famous" is being released internationally by Sony's Columbia Pictures, which co-financed the production and will share equally with DreamWorks in its success. Columbia will kick off "Famous" in November at the London Film Festival, Sony Pictures Releasing president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning.
"We really don't start (opening abroad) until January," Blake said.
Written and directed by Cameron Crowe ("Jerry Maguire"), "Almost" stars Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson, Jason Lee, Patrick Fugit, Anna Paquin, Fairuza Balk, Noah Taylor and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Buena Vista/Hollywood Pictures' R-rated dramatic comedy "Duets" opened in a tie for ninth place to an out-of-tune estimated $2.0 million at 581 theaters ($3,442 per theater).
Directed by Bruce Paltrow, "Duets" stars Gwyneth Paltrow and Paul Giamatti.
Also tied for ninth place was Dimension Films' R-rated blockbuster comedy horror film spoof "Scary Movie," which expanded in its 10th week with an calm estimated $2.0 million at 1,997 theaters (+1,624 theaters; $1,001 per theater). Its cume is approximately $151.7 million.
Directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans, it stars Carmen Electra and Shannon Elizabeth.
OLYMPICS IMPACT Although it's easy to speculate that the weekend's dismal box office performance overall was the result of competition from the start of the Olympics, distribution executives said Sunday morning that that wasn't necessarily the case.
"As I look at the grosses," DreamWorks' Jim Tharp said, "from the previous Friday, there's not much drop here. I don't see the impact of the Olympics. Part of it is, there's not a lot of compelling product in the marketplace.
"If you have fresh product in the marketplace, you've got an opportunity to gross. That was our thinking (in launching Almost Famous' now) - since most of the studios did stay away from September. We just thought it was an opportunity. That's why we're going to expand more on the 22nd and the 29th."
Sony Pictures Releasing's Jeff Blake pointed out, "This is the lowest number one gross since Sept. 13, 1996, when 'Maximum Risk' did $5.6 million."
What accounts for the blah box office? "Always pictures first and Olympics second," Blake replied. "Next weekend should be better with 'Urban Legends: Final Cut' (opening from Columbia at about 2,500 theaters) and an expansion of 'Almost Famous,' which is the only good news on the sheet today.
"Usually, young people are available (to see movies) during the Olympics. But obviously they didn't choose to come out for 'Bait.' About the only optimistic note you could (say regarding) the Olympics, is certainly the drops weren't terribly dramatic even on mediocre holdover product. A lot of the pictures that were hits like 'Space Cowboys' and 'What Lies Beneath' had very small drops this week. That to me says (the sluggish business) is more pictures than Olympics. It's not like a Super Bowl where even if you're a hit you drop 50 percent."
"This is the lowest-grossing weekend of the new Millennium," Universal's Nikki Rocco pointed out. "It's the lack of high-profile product in the marketplace. People were in the movies. Look at the average on 'Almost Famous.' If you had a high-profile film, you would have gotten it open this weekend."
OTHER OPENINGS This weekend also saw the arrival of Lions Gate Films' R-rated drama "Urbania," placing 29th with an okay estimated $0.077 million at 10 theaters ($7,700 per theater).
Lions Gate co-president Tom Ortenberg said Sunday morning that the film had opened in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco and would expand next weekend to theaters in Boston, Chicago, Seattle and San Diego.
Directed by Jon Shear, "Urbania" stars Dan Futterman and Matt Keeslar.
Warner Bros.' PG-rated documentary "Into the Arms of Strangers" opened in 30th place to an impressive estimated $0.029 million at 5 theaters ($5,784 per theater). (For details see Dan Fellman's comments included in today's Top Ten coverage.)
Written and directed by Mark Jonathan Harris, "Strangers" was produced by Deborah Oppenheimer.
Shooting Gallery's unrated French drama "Human Resources" opened in 31st place to a soft estimated $0.024 million at 16 theaters ($1,500 per theater).
Written and directed by Laurent Cantet, it stars Jalil Lespert.
MGM's limited release dark comedy " Crime and Punishment in Suburbia" opened in New York and L.A., placing 32nd with a calm estimated $0.010 million at 5 theaters ($2,000 per theater).
Directed by Rob Schmidt, "Suburbia" starsMonica Keena, Vincent Kartheiser and Ellen Barkin.
Columbia's dark comedy "Circus" kicked off in 33rd place to an unhappy estimated $0.009 million at 8 theaters ($1,085 per theater).
Directed by Rob Walker, it stars John Hannah and Famke Janssen.
SNEAK PREVIEWS DreamWorks held 418 sneak previews Saturday night of its R-rated dramatic comedy "Almost Famous," showing it in about 90 of the Top 100 markets where it isn't already playing in limited release. "Famous," which Sony's Columbia Pictures co-financed and is releasing abroad, held well attended successful sneaks in the Top Ten markets one week earlier.
DreamWorks' distribution head Jim Tharp said Sunday morning that he did not have any details available yet as to how the film had played.
"It had gone very well (in its Top Ten market sneaks last Saturday) with 88 percent in the Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good) and I don't see this one being any different," he said.
Written and directed by Cameron Crowe ("Jerry Maguire"), "Almost" stars Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson, Jason Lee, Patrick Fugit, Anna Paquin, Fairuza Balk, Noah Taylor and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
EXPANSIONS Columbia's R-rated drama "Anatomy" placed 24th with an anemic estimated $0.21 million at 734 theaters (+726 theaters; $285 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.2 million.
Written and directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky, it stars Franka Potente and Benno Furmann.
WEEKEND COMPARISONS Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 for the weekend -- took in approximately $47.58 million, down about 33.54 percent from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $71.59 million.
This weekend's key film gross was down about 12.05 percent from this year's previous weekend when key films grossed 54.10 million.
Last year, Sony's opening week of "Blue Streak" was first with $19.21 million at 2,735 theaters ($7,023 per theater); and Universal's opening week of "For Love of the Game" was second with $13.04 million at 2,829 theaters ($4,610 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $32.2 million. This year, the top two films grossed an estimated $11.2 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 $12.04 million or 25.3 percent of the market.
Warner Bros. was second with five films ("Bait," "Space Cowboys," "The Art Of War," "The Perfect Storm" and "The Replacements"), grossing an estimated $11.66 million or 24.5 percent of the market.
DreamWorks was third with two films ("What Lies Beneath"), grossing an estimated $4.9 million or 10.3 percent of the market.
USA Films was fourth with one film ("Nurse Betty"), grossing an estimated $4.71 million or 9.9 percent of the market.
New Line Cinema (New Line and Fine Line Features) was fifth with two films ("The Cell" and "Saving Grace"), grossing an estimated $3.28 million or 6.9 percent of the market.
Miramax (Miramax and Dimension) was sixth with two films ("Scary Movie" and "Highlander: Endgame"), grossing an estimated $3.14 million or 6.6 percent of the market.
ADDITIONAL ESTIMATES (11)The Art of War/Warner Bros./Franchise Pictures: Theaters: 1,705 (-665) Gross: $1.65 million (-34 percent) Average per theater: $965 Cume: $27.5 million
(12)The Original Kings of Comedy/Paramount: Theaters: 1,040 (+43) Gross: $1.62 million (-31 percent) Average per theater: $1,560 Cume: $34.1 million
(13)The Replacements/Warner Bros.: Theaters: 1,713 (-345) Gross: $1.43 million (-19 percent) Average per theater: $835 Cume: $41.1 million
(14)Nutty Professor II: The Klumps/Universal: Theaters: 1,405 (-288) Gross: $1.23 million (-25 percent) Average per theater: $875 Cume: $118.6 million
(15)The Way of the Gun/Artisan Ent.: Theaters: 1,565 (+50) Gross: $1.16 million (-46 percent) Average per theater: $740 Cume: $4.2 million
(16)Highlander: Endgame/Dimension Films: Theaters: 1,546 (+1) Gross: $1.14 million (-41 percent) Average per theater: $735 Cume: $10.8 million
(17)Coyote Ugly/BV/Touchstone: Theaters: 1,104 (-308) Gross: $1.02 million (-22 percent) Average per theater: $925 Cume: $56.7 million
(18)Autumn in New York/MGM: Theaters: 1,572 (-229) Gross: $0.95 million (-33 percent) Average per theater: $605 Cume: $35.5 million
(19)Saving Grace/Fine Line: Theaters: 875 (0) Gross: $0.83 million (-31 percent) Average per theater: $950 Cume: $9.3 million
(20)The Crew/Buena Vista: Theaters: 1,188 (-299) Gross: $0.7 million (-40 percent) Average per theater: $585 Cume: $11.9 million
(21)The Perfect Storm/Warner Bros.: Theaters: 665 (-40) Gross: $0.56 million (-12 percent) Average per theater: $840 Cume: $179.4 million
(22)X-Men/Fox: Theaters: 581 (-84) Gross: $0.5 million (-13 percent) Average per theater: $865 Cume: $154.7 million
(23)Gladiator/DreamWorks: Theaters: 737 (+154) Gross: $0.49 million (+2 percent) Average per theater: $670 Cume: $185.0 million
(24)Anatomy/Columbia: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(25)Backstage/Miramax: Theaters: 297 (-25) Gross: $0.2 million (-60 percent) Average per theater: $675 Cume: $1.0 million
(26)Turn It Up/New Line: Theaters: 631 (-30) Gross: $0.18 million (-68 percent) Average per theater: $290 Cume: $1.1 million
(27)Croupier/Shooting Gallery: Theaters: 121 (-13) Gross: $0.14 million (-23 percent) Average per theater: $1,157 Cume: $5.7 million
(28)Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle/Universal: Theaters: 209 (-70) Gross: $0.080 million (-31 percent) Average per theater: $385 Cume: $25.9 million
(29)URBANIA/Lions Gate: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(30)INTO THE ARMS OF STRANGERS/Warner Bros: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(31)HUMAN RESOURCES/Shooting Gallery: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(32)CRIME AND PUNISHMENT IN SUBURBIA/MGM/United Artists: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(33)CIRCUS/Columbia: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)