The word on the street is that the 2002 summer box office business may cause the annual U.S. box office take to reach a record $9 billion. Talk isn't necessarily cheap in this case.
Movies such as Spider-Man and Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones have so far bolstered the box office figures 7 percent more than last year's take-in.
And the summer isn't even over yet.
Signaling the second half of the summer movie season, Men in Black II opens July 3, with other biggies following, including the new Vin Diesel actioner XXX, Mike Myers' Austin Powers in Goldmember, M. Night Shyamalan's Signs and the kiddie sequels Stuart Little 2 and Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams.
Reuters reports some insiders are betting the total take-in for the year will reach beyond $10 billion with the releases of the newest Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings installments later in the year. This would clearly beat the 2001 record of $8.35 billion in total box office earnings.
"Well, I'm not ready to go that far yet," Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracker Exhibitor Relations Inc., told Reuters. "But I know we're looking at $9 billion, easy."
The reasons for the hike in movie attendance, which is up 23 percent from this time last year, could be attributed to movies being a fairly cheap source of entertainment in this country's recession as well as offering air-conditioned surroundings as a way to beat the summer heat.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly indicated that industry insiders were predicting the summer box office would reach $9 billion. The $9 billion figure actually refers to predictions for the annual box office grosses, not the summer grosses. Summer grosses are expected to reach approximately $4 billion.
Pouring $270 million into a trilogy made back-to-back shooting seemed like a risk when director Peter Jackson first embarked on his quest to film The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Filming began two years ago. On Wednesday, the wait for one of the year's most anticipated blockbusters-to-be came to an end as the first of the three films stormed into 3,359 theaters and 5,700 screens.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring earned $18.2 million in its first day, no doubt driven by a huge turnout by hardcore fans of the book. This is an early indication that New Line's costly investment in the adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic saga of sword and sorcery should pay off handsomely. The film did not break the opening day record of $28.5 million, which is held by Star Wars: Episode 1-The Phantom Menace, but enjoyed the third best Wednesday opening behind The Phantom Menace and Jurassic Park III ($19 million).
With the malls crammed with last-minute present seekers, the weekend before Christmas is not known for its record-setting box office. Hence The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring won't pose a serious challenge to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone recent record-breaking opening of $90 million.
Also, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring faces fierce competition from four new wide releases and a rush of Oscar contenders now hitting a handful of theaters. But The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring should still enjoy the largest December opening in history, an honor that currently belongs to Ocean's Eleven at $38.1 million.
Rolf Wittweg, New Line's worldwide president of marketing and distribution, predicts $60 million in five days. That seems an obtainable goal. And, at the end of the day, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring should surpass Rush Hour 2's $226.1 million total to become New Line's biggest grossing film.
Excellent reviews, and its Golden Globe nominations, also should allow The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring to dominate the box office through the remainder of the Christmas holidays and well into January. This is not a film that will make most of its money in two or three weekends-as did Harry Potter--but one that could enjoy a long and healthy life a la Titanic.
This means a mad scramble to claim the runner-up position.
The Majestic, with Jim Carrey as a 1950s blacklisted screenwriter suffering from a loss of memory, looks likely to trump Joe Somebody, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and How High.
The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont finally flees the unfriendly confines of prison for a small California town, whose residents mistake Carrey for a World War II hero believed to be killed in combat. Overly nostalgic, and definitely too long at around 2-1/2 hours, The Majestic should still strike a nerve given that it deals with a community grieving for its loved ones lost during wartime.
The Majestic finds Carrey in a subdued mood, and certainly looking for that elusive Oscar nomination. The onetime pet detective's had mixed success when tackling serious roles. The Truman Show earned $125.6 million in 1998, proof that audiences will flock to see Carrey even when he's not talking out of his posterior. His acclaimed turn as late comic Andy Kaufman, in Man on the Moon, was greeted with apathy and earned a humorless $34.5 million. The Majestic parallels The Truman Show in that both feature malleable protagonists shaped by the community their circumstances and environment. To this end, The Majestic should enjoy a Truman-like welcome.
Joe Somebody finds Tim Allen in a fighting mood as he takes on bullying co-worker Patrick Warburton. The family comedy marks Allen's third film directed by Home Improvement buddy John Pasquin, but tough competition and little buzz should make it their least successful.
Allen and Pasquin won over Christmas audiences in 1994 with The Santa Clause, which generated $144.8 million. Not bad considering that marked Allen's film debut. The two also work on Jungle 2 Jungle, a tedious remake of the French comedy Little Indian, Big City that somehow grossed $59.9 million in 1997. Joe Somebody should open closer to Galaxy Quest's mediocre $8.1 million opening than Jungle 2 Jungle's $12.8 million. However, good reviews for Galaxy Quest resulted in the Star Trek-inspired spoof setting a course for $71.1 million. Joe Somebody certainly isn't likely to generate that much interest, and should end up making a little more than Allen's holiday 1997 turkey, For Richer or Poorer, which made a poor $31.6 million.
Nickelodeon scored two big hits with movies based on its popular Rugrats series. Now it is the turn of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius to blast into theaters. The animated adventure arrives at a time when leading rivals Harry Potter and Monsters, Inc. are showing signs of fatigue. That bodes somewhat well for Jimmy Neutron's chances at success, but whether his adventure attracts as many parents as he saves in the films from aliens remains to be seen. Either way, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius will struggle to match the $27.3 million and $22.7 million openings posted by, respectively, The Rugrats Movie and Rugrats in Paris.
Friday meets National Lampoon's Animal House in How High, with Redman and Method Man toking their way into Harvard University. The rappers display an easy charm in this uneven but occasionally funny throwback to the hazy days of Cheech & Chong.
Pairing Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg in The Wash didn't bring out too many fans of the influential rap superstars. That said, How High debuts in 1,266 theaters--almost twice as many as The Wash--and should attract plenty of stoners looking for a good time.
The arrival of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring won't stop Harry Potter from becoming the year's top grossing film within the next week. The apprentice wizard already has conjured up $255.9 million through Wednesday, and should give director Chris Columbus and distributor Warner Bros. a wonderful holiday gift on Christmas Day by surpassing Shrek's $267.6 million gross.
Monsters, Inc. continues to hold up admirably after seven weeks in theaters. Thank the Disney/Pixar adventure's newly attached faux outtakes for attracting repeat business. Monsters, Inc. now has $220 million through Wednesday.
Withering reviews and lousy word of mouth will see Vanilla Sky fall fast and hard this weekend. Director Cameron Crowe's muddled remake of Abre los ojos (Open Your Eyes) opened last weekend with $25 million--good, but far from great for star Tom Cruise-and continued to do brisk business through Wednesday. With $31.3 million already in the bank, Vanilla Sky looks set to follow a similar path as Cruise's 1999 disappointment Eyes Wide Shut. That psychological thriller, marking Stanley Kubrick's final directorial effort, opened with $21.7 million but ended up with a sleepy $55.6 million. Vanilla Sky will likely end up making more than Eyes Wide Shut, but fall far short of the $153.9 million that Jerry Maguire, the first collaboration between Cruise and Crowe, made in 1996. Indeed, Vanilla Sky dropped from first place from third place Wednesday, making way for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and Ocean's Eleven.
Director Steven Soderbergh continues his winning streak as Ocean's Eleven remains hot, hot, hot. The cool remake of the dreary Rat Pack heist yarn almost stole Vanilla Sky's thunder by earning $22 million in its second weekend. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon et al have stolen off with $78.5 million through Wednesday.
Spoofing Scream seems more profitable than poking fun at Save the Last Dance. Not Another Teen Movie, which ridicules high school dramas old and new, opened with a mild $12.6 million and has $15.3 million through Wednesday. Scary Movie managed to make $42.3 million in its opening weekend. Not Another Teen Movie is running even with Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, which opened in 1999 with $12.2 million and solicited a total $65.5 million. Dude, Where's My Car? opened the same time last year with $13.8 million but stalled at $46.7 million. Neither, though, faced direct competition during their respective Christmas runs. Not Another Teen Movie now must stare down How High this weekend.
The Christmas rush will doubtless see Shallow Hal ($67.3 million), Spy Game ($58.5 million) and Black Knight ($30.1 million) tumble out of the Top 10 this weekend. Black Knight remains a disappointment, especially as it marks Martin Lawrence's second consecutive flop following What's the Worst that Could Happen?. The fast fade expereinced by Pitt's Spy Game could have been avoided had it not knocked heads with his Ocean's Eleven and the similarly themed Behind Enemy Lines ($39.7 million).
If this weekend appears busy, wait until Christmas Day. The highly anticipated Ali, with Will Smith as the boxer formerly known as Cassius Clay, will take on surprised contender Kate & Leopold. Miramax moved the Meg Ryan-Hugh Jackman romantic comedy from Friday after assessing The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring's true potential.
Oscar hopefuls opening in limited release or beginning to expand include: A Beautiful Mind, with Russell Crowe portraying real-life mathematics genius John Nash; The Shipping News, Lasse Hallstrom's adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel; The Royal Tenenbaums, which earned an astounding $276,981 at only five theaters last weekend; and In the Bedroom, which continues to receive award after award from various critics group.
With the tremendous success of their film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Warner Bros. may reach $1 billion this year in total box office grosses, making it the second time the studio has reached that mark in three years. Potter has grossed approximately $176 million in two weeks and along with the other three top Warner grosses this year--Cats & Dogs ($93.4 million), Steven Spielberg's A.I. Artificial Intelligence ($78.6 million) and Training Day ($75 million)--helped drive the studio's 2001 total domestic take to $960 million. If the trend continues to the end of the year, especially with the release of The Majestic with Jim Carrey and Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven, Warner Bros. may beat the single-year distributor record of $1.26 billion set by Sony in 1997.
Author John Knowles, best known for his 1959 novel A Separate Peace, died Thursday in a convalescent home in a Fort Lauderdale suburb. He was 75. The novel, a moving story about adolescence, is considered an American literary classic. Sisters Dorothy Maxwell, Marjorie Johnson and a brother, James Knowles, survive Knowles.
Spanish actor Antonio Banderas will receive the first Anthony Quinn Achievement Award at the 10th Annual Latin American Film Festival. The event will take place next April in Providence, Rhode Island, the final resting place of Quinn, who died in June at the age of 86.
Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian, an exiled Chinese writer, playwright and painter, received an honorary literature doctorate at the Chinese University of Hong Kong Thursday, with no acknowledgment from the local officials. Gao, whose works are banned in China, left the country in 1987 and renounced his membership to the Communist Party after the Tiananmen Square conflict in 1989.
Anglophile Madonna and husband Guy Ritchie have booked the same Scottish estate, Skibo Castle, where they were married for their first wedding anniversary, London's tabloid The Sun reports. They invited close friends to relive the moment with them and have taken every room in the enchanted castle to ensure their privacy.
Book guru Oprah Winfrey has chosen the award-winning novel A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry for this month's coveted Oprah Book Club logo. This new choice comes after her controversial pick of Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections in September, which Franzen pooh-poohed. Still, her endorsement virtually guarantees hundreds of thousands in sales for any book she chooses.
Regis Philbin, the mainstay host of the once popular Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, may bow out of his primetime responsibilities to join the new syndicated version of the game slated for launch in the fall. Philbin predicted the game show, which has taken some hard hits in the ratings of late, would be pulled out of primetime and "then [ABC] will bring it back with a comedian...They want it to become a comedy show."
The entertainment industry is bracing themselves for the release of the Federal Trade Commission's report card next week on the industry's efforts to curb the marketing of violence to children. It's expected the film industry will pull in some top marks, while the music industry may once again get slammed.
Actress Pia Zadora has filed for divorce from her second husband, writer-director Jonathan Kaufer, citing irreconcilable differences. Zadora, 46, is seeking full custody of the couple's 4-year-old son.
Even seasoned superheroes need a leader.
And it looks as if Bryan Singer is once again the man for the job. The director, whose last flick "X-Men" made a killing over the summer, might return to the helm for the second installment of the mutant-superheroes franchise, The Hollywood Reporter says.
The film's ensemble cast, which includes Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, James Marsden, Famke Janssen and Anna Paquin, have all signed on to do the sequel, which, as of now, still has yet to be scripted.
According to the report, Singer's commitment will likely depend on whether he can squeeze the project into his busy schedule. The helmer has already been tapped to do "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" with Mike Myers as his next project.
MOUSEHUNT: Is Stuart Little honing in on the territory of the other famous talking mouse? Daily Variety says that Rob Minkoff, who helmed the surprisingly lucrative "Stuart Little" last year, will get paid in the mid seven figures to direct the film's sequel, imaginatively titled "Stuart Little II."
A WILDE AFFAIR: You're in luck if witty repartee is your thing. Variety reports that Brits Rupert Everett and Judi Dench have agreed to star in the film adaptation of Oscar Wilde's classic "The Importance of Being Earnest." Everett will play Algernon, one of the two male leads, and Dench will play the supporting character Lady Bracknell.
HARRY THE HIT MAN: Harry Connick Jr. is getting ready to sing a different tune. The musician and sometimes actor is in talks to star opposite Sarah Jessica Parker in the dark comedy "Life Without Dick." Connick will play a hit man who's hired by a woman (Parker) to kill her boyfriend (Johnny Knoxville). The casting news comes a day after MTV's "Jackass," Knoxville, hopped on board the project.
'LONE STAR' RISING: "Dawson's Creek" dude Joshua Jackson will star in the comedy "Lone Star State of Mind," the Reporter says. While we don't know much about the plotline, we do know that Jackson is going to travel between Texas and North Carolina to accommodate filming for both the film and his WB series.
American viewers agree: There's nothing like watching democracy unfold on the tube.
And we are not talking about weekly episodes of "The West Wing."
A preliminary Nielsen report shows that more than 66 million viewers tuned in to Tuesday's night coverage of the presidential race between the four major networks, three cable outlets and PBS.
The 66 million figure marks a 73 percent jump in viewership from the 1996 election.
According to the estimates, NBC came out on top Tuesday night with about 19 million viewers, followed by ABC with 16 million and CBS at 14 million.
Actual numbers will be released later today.
VANITY MIRROR: The Associated Press says that "Today" show host Katie Couric, "Survivor" survivor Richard Hatch and "Harry Potter" novelist J.K. Rowling are among the honorees featured in Vanity Fair's 2000 Hall of Fame issue in December.
BYE, BYE, BYE: Daily Variety reports that Spike Feresten, one of the executive producers of "The Michael Richards Show," has quit the series after only two shows. Feresten, along with the show's other three executive producers, previously collaborated on the hit show "Seinfeld." His vacancy is not expected to be replaced.
BASEBALL, ANYONE? So much for the Subway series between the Mets and the Yankees. The Fox network has apparently lost more than $70 million due to poor ratings during its post season coverage of Major League Baseball. The victory ring eventually went to the Yankees in just five games.
HE'S BACK: Foul-mouthed 1980s relic Andrew "Dice" Clay has landed the lead in a new weekly comedy called "Colosseum." The comedian will play a Chicago street hustler and fight promoter being hurled back in time to ancient Rome. Uh-huh.
HOLLYWOOD, May 16, 2000 - Demi Moore knows a bad film when she sees one - apparently such is the gift of someone who's arguably been in many of them. But who'd have thought that the actress would go as far as skipping out on her own upcoming flick? An upcoming flick that marks Moore's first screen appearance in three long years? Doesn't she need publicity for being something these days other than the estranged Mrs. Bruce Willis.
Guess not. On May 26, Paramount Classics is scheduled to quietly open the parallel-lives drama "Passion of Mind", starring Matthew Beisner, Demi Moore and Demi Moore. (She plays not one, but two, parts in the flick.)
Word is that, for yet identified reasons, the finished film somehow managed to offend Moore's sensibilities so much so that she flat out refused to do any kind of promotion or publicity for the film. No perfunctory media junkets, no polite press conferences, no obligatory interviews, and not even a sound bite. And, indeed, when the "Passion of Mind" junket was held in Los Angeles last week, Moore was not there.
Moore's publicist denied reports of the actress', um, lack of enthusiasm for the film and told Hollywood.com that the star's M.I.A. status on the promotional campaign was due to the fact that Moore has been "busy."
Given that Moore's dire need for a comeback hit after a litany of sobering duds like "G.I. Jane" (1997), "Striptease" (1996), and "The Scarlet Letter" (1995), the actress must be pretty busy to miss doing promo time for her first film vehicle since "Deconstructing Harry," released in late 1997.
But with her rep's blanket denial, our earnest inquiries -- (1) What is it about the flick that she doesn't like?; (2) Why the heck did she decide to do the film in the first place?; and, (3) Come on, is it really worse than "G.I. Jane"? -- sadly were left unanswered.