Hollywood saw sizzling summer-like business in mid-January as moviegoers applauded a wide range of new films.
Ticket sales were up sharply over last year as Black Hawk Down continued to soar like an eagle atop the chart with $18.2 million and the next five films all enjoyed double digit grosses.
The box office was driven by Hollywood having something in theaters this weekend to appeal to virtually all moviegoers. There was a lively kick off for A Walk To Remember (teenage girls and Christian youth groups), a better than prophesized launch for The Mothman Prophecies (supernatural thriller fans, especially males) and a dashing debut for The Count of Monte Cristo (male and female action adventure fans). Moreover, Snow Dogs (families) continued to run hard and fast and A Beautiful Mind (adults and awards driven audiences) had a truly beautiful hold.
Key films--those grossing $500,000 or more--took in nearly $131 million, up almost 42 percent from last year's total of $92.1 million. The weekend's strength came despite major competition on Sunday from two televised football playoff games.
THE TOP TEN
Revolution Studios and Jerry Bruckheimer Films' R rated drama Black Hawk Down held on to first place in its fifth week of release via Columbia Pictures with a still commanding ESTIMATED $18.2 million (-36%) at 3,101 theaters (theater count unchanged; $5,869 per theater). Its cume is approximately $60.1 million, heading for at least $120 million and quite possibly more than that if it does with Oscar nominations Feb. 12.
Directed by Ridley Scott, it stars Josh Hartnett.
"Clearly, it's heading to a very exciting place," Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning. "We've had several goals on the picture. One was to get it noticed in limited release and get the word of mouth started. And that went well. Then it was to open it wide on a holiday weekend and it certainly passed that test with flying colors, having a record Martin Luther King weekend last weekend. And the next goal was a good solid hold and I think down 36 percent off a holiday weekend and still number one certainly accomplishes that goal.
"I think as we look ahead we feel very good about the weeks to come. It's a quality picture that I think there's great word of mouth on. Probably our next goal and hope will be that perhaps we'll continue to get the kind of recognition the picture has been getting. Much like we got the Directors Guild nomination this week for Ridley Scott, we certainly would like to have the film recognized in that regard (with Oscar nominations). I think its commercial run is well in place and if we continue to get the kind of critical response we're getting and the awards consideration we're getting, it's going to be very hard to put a number on (where it's going) at this point. Much like what happened to Traffic last year and to other films and seemingly is happening, to their credit, to Beautiful Mind, it kind of takes on a life of its own. And certainly, I guess, our next goal is to have the combination of commercial success and artistic recognition that would allow us (with) both to kind of have a multiplier effect on what the (domestic theatrical) number might be."
Buena Vista/Disney's PG rated family comedy Snow Dogs, which was second last week, tied for second place in its third week with a high energy ESTIMATED $13.6 million (-24%) at 2,331 theaters (+138 theaters; $5,580 per theater). Its cume is approximately $39.3 million.
Directed by Brian Levant, it stars Cuba Gooding Jr. and James Coburn.
"I would say that this has been one hell of a weekend for our business," Buena Vista Distribution president Chuck Viane said Sunday morning. "I mean, it's spectacular. I guess we've just offered so much choice this weekend that everybody had a picture to go see.
"And, obviously, the extremely strong holdovers for Snow Dogs and Black Hawk Down were both extremely good. It just all adds up to a wonderful, wonderful weekend. There are six movies that are over $11 million and that's pretty spectacular for the last week of January. All of this is just really good news."
Looking at the strong hold for Snow, Viane observed, "Being off only 23.6 percent for the weekend is a remarkable hold. And, obviously, being at $39 million-plus already is just great. The picture is playing by word of mouth. When a picture can hold up this strong with five new films coming in its face, then I would suggest that it's going to be around for a long time."
Asked where Snow is heading in domestic theatrical release, Viane replied, "Well, I know it's in the $70 millions now, but how high I don't know."
Warner Bros. and Pandora's PG rated youth appeal drama A Walk To Remember opened in a virtual tie for second place with a brisk ESTIMATED $13.57 million at 2,411 theaters ($5,626 per theater).
Directed by Adam Shankman, it stars Shane West and Mandy Moore.
Industry estimates Sunday had Walk somewhat lower in the $12-13 million range, but Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said he anticipates stronger than usual Sunday business because of extensive promotion Warner Bros. has done within the Christian community and with Christian media to bring the film to their attention.
"The reason, I would assume, that (others have it estimated lower) is that they probably (have projected) Sunday at around $3 million, which would bring it down to $12.5 million," Fellman said.
"The picture performed very well on Friday and was up 10 percent on Saturday, which is following a pattern that most teen movies would follow--which would mean your Sunday number would probably be close to $3.4 million or maybe $3.5 million."
Pointing out that the film "is very Christian-based," Fellman explained that, "the effort has been made through the Christian community (to promote the film). They have claimed to us that people are going to go to church today and they're all going to talk about (the film). This is the sermon of the day. And they're all going to take their families to see A Walk To Remember today. Where I have told them that the pattern seems to be one that would indicate not that strong a Sunday (for a teen appeal film), they're very optimistic that their Sunday is going to be very good. So I'm going to support them (with a stronger estimate) until proven otherwise."
Asked why overall business is so good this weekend, Fellman replied, "I think you create a momentum when people go to the movies and enjoy the movies. We had the biggest year at the box office (in 2001) that we've ever had. And we had this huge Christmas. People went and they enjoyed and they saw trailers (for upcoming releases) and they're going.
"the economy is suffering a little right now and when the economy suffers the entertainment industry and our movie business always picks up. There are a lot of movies out there. There's good diversity in who they reach. I think all the demographics were covered this weekend--young males, older females, Academy Awards, action. Everything was out there.
"And we'll see today. We'll see if the Christian groups support us (with Walk). And we'll see what happens to Monte Cristo and Lord of the Rings and Kung Pow with these two big (football playoff) games on today. We've got a female (appeal movie up against) football, so it doesn't matter to us."
Sony's Screen Gems division launched Lakeshore Entertainment's PG-13 supernatural thriller The Mothman Prophecies exceeded industry expectations to arrive in fourth place with a fantastic ESTIMATED $11.8 million at 2,331 theaters ($5,063 per theater).
Mothman was reportedly produced for about $42 million by Lakeshore. Screen Gems is said to have acquired domestic rights in the area of $15 million, which should make it very profitable for Sony given the level of business to which it opened.
Directed by Mark Pellington, it stars Richard Gere and Laura Linney.
"It was a little sleeper for Screen Gems that Screen Gems did their usual great publicity job on," Sony's Jeff Blake said Sunday morning. "It certainly is a picture that had a great cast and a major star in Richard Gere, but really was an interesting picture. (It's) certainly not a straight horror picture. It's a picture about creepy supernatural occurrences that really kind of caught a little more of the public's imagination than a lot of people predicted.
"I think this is a good solid opening for us and the word of mouth on this picture is going to be good. I think it's a real creepy thriller much in the way that pictures like The Others were that kind of creep on the market and really get a nice word of mouth going. We feel real good that it got off the start it got off to and that it will hang in there. It's a very crowded market, so as usual I give a lot of credit to the Screen Gems team for breaking through. The Others opened to $14 million and word of mouth got them to $100 million. We certainly hope the same pattern happens for us."
Universal, DreamWorks and Imagine Entertainment's PG-13 rated drama A Beautiful Mind fell one peg in its sixth week to fifth place, showing sensational post-Golden Globes legs with an ESTIMATED $11.67 million (-1%) at 2,237 theaters (+12 theaters; $5,215 per theater). Its cume is approximately $93.0 million, heading for $150 million or more in domestic theaters depending on how it performs in terms of Oscar nominations Feb. 12.
Directed by Ron Howard, the Brian Grazer production stars Russell Crowe, Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly.
"We're very happy with A Beautiful Mind," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning. "the story of the weekend is the 1 percent off. That's the best hold (of the weekend). No one's seen a hold like this in a long time. Saturday's business was up 14 percent from last week."
Asked if Mind's four Golden Globe wins, including best picture/drama, were a key reason for its strong hold, Rocco replied, "Absolutely. (It's) the Golden Globes, the visibility we've gotten from the Golden Globes and the word of mouth on the film. We were up (after the Globes) like 6 percent, 8 percent and 9 percent on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Business was up from the previous week."
Focusing on the benefit films get from exposure and wins on the Globes and the Oscars, Rocco noted, "they're globally televised. You get a lot of publicity and good will (because) they're such broadly televised shows."
Buena Vista/Touchstone and Spyglass Entertainment's PG-13 rated adventure The Count of Monte Cristo arrived in sixth place to a promising ESTIMATED $11.5 million at 2,237 theaters ($5,729 per theater).
Directed by Kevin Reynolds, it stars Jim Caviezel, Guy Pearce and Richard Harris.
"The Count is doing very well," Buena Vista Distribution president Chuck Viane said Sunday morning. "I just (saw) the CinemaScores and in all six (demographic) quadrants we were A-plus and with our own college network (of exit polls) we scored an excellent, which is great. We're so, so pleased with that. The numbers are wonderful and we'll expand the run. We'll add another couple hundred (theaters) this week. Because the picture's so strong, we're going to chase its success."
New Line Cinema's PG-13 rated drama I Am Sam went wide in its fifth week, placing seventh with a terrific ESTIMATED $8.33 million at 1,268 theaters (+1,287 theaters; $6,565 per theater). Its cume is approximately $8.5 million.
Sam's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
Directed by Jessie Nelson, it stars Sean Penn and Michelle Pfeiffer.
"I think Sam's expansion's terrific," New Line distribution president David Tuckerman said Sunday morning. "We're really thrilled. $6,665 for per screen average is great."
In the case of Sam, the film is not being driven by critics honors and other awards. "It's another one of those movies that the public really likes," Tuckerman said. "Despite the fact that we got mixed reviews, the public really likes it. It's like Life As a House, once the public gets to see it they really like the film."
New Line Cinema's PG-13 rated epic The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring fell five slots to eighth place in its sixth week with a slower ESTIMATED $8.03 million (-36%) at 2,703 theaters (-563 theaters; $2,969 per theater). Its cume is approximately $258.7 million, heading for $300 million or more in domestic theaters.
Directed by Peter Jackson, Rings' ensemble cast is led by Elijah Wood and Ian McKellen.
20th Century Fox's PG-13 rated parody of martial arts films Kung Pow: Enter the Fist entered the marketplace in ninth place with a dull ESTIMATED $7.27 million at 2,476 theaters ($2,936 per theater).
Steve Oedekerk, who wrote and directed, also stars in the film.
"We're pretty pleased with that number actually," Fox distribution president Bruce Snyder said Sunday morning. "The cost is low and we'll be in profit by the end of the week."
Rounding out the Top Ten was Paramount and MTV Films' opening of the PG-13 rated youth appeal comedy Orange County, down five notches in its third week with a quiet ESTIMATED $4.6 million (-48%) at 2,317 theaters (theater count unchanged; $1,985 per theater). Its cume is approximately $34.2 million, heading for $45-50 million. Directed by Jake Kasdan, it stars Colin Hanks and Jack Black.
This weekend also saw the arrival of TriStar's PG-13 rated Japanese animated feature Metropolisto a lively ESTIMATED $0.1 million at 9 theaters ($11,072 per theater).
"It was really well reviewed (and got) four stars from Roger Ebert," Sony's Jeff Blake said Sunday morning. "Almost unanimously (it got) three and a half to four stars. It's really a very interesting Japanese animated film that Columbia TriStar Home Video acquired and will be going out with. It's having a special pre-release under the TriStar label. (Averaging) $11,072 for a picture that we're just giving a really specialized release to is a pretty good start."
Fine Line's R rated drama Storytelling arrived to an encouraging ESTIMATED $0.082 million at 4 theaters ($20,410 per theater).
Written and directed by Todd Solondz, it stars Selma Blair and Robert Wisdom.
Miramax's R rated drama Pinero opened to an okay ESTIMATED $0.05 million at 14 theaters ($4,000 per theater).
Written and directed by Leon Ichaso, it stars Benjamin Bratt.
Miramax's R rated drama The Son's Room opened at one theater in Los Angeles to a slow ESTIMATED $4,500.
Directed by Nanni Moretti, it stars Moretti and Laura Morante.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend USA Films' R rated whodunit Gosford Park, a likely Oscar contender, continued to widen in its fifth week with a still merry ESTIMATED $2.93 million at 756 theaters (+98 theaters; $3,875 per theater). Its cume is approximately $16.1 million.
Directed by Robert Altman and starring an extensive ensemble cast, it was written by Julian Fellowes and produced by Altman, Bob Balaban and David Levy.
"the remarkable thing is the effect the Golden Globes has had on the film," USA Films distribution president Jack Foley said Sunday morning. "You could see it last week where the grosses actually ascended just about daily from Monday after the Globes--and this is just after the best director (award). That was really exciting.
"We were concerned about this weekend, particularly playing against a holiday weekend last weekend. It seems that the impact carried into the weekend from the Golden Globes. To be down 14 percent is amazing, particularly in this weekend where the competition is so tough with four new movies in the marketplace and a couple which are directly competitive to this film."
Foley pointed out that, "the jump from Friday to Saturday was an increase of 70 percent where in the last few weeks the Friday to Saturday increase has been about 50 percent to 56 percent, in that range. It's doing really well. It's just hanging (in there) beautifully. It seems to be settling in very comfortably with its core (audience) and at very high numbers. From theater to theater the grosses are terrific."
Universal's R rated fantasy thriller Brotherhood of the Wolf expanded in its second week to a promising ESTIMATED $1.57 million at 290 theaters (+183 theaters; $1,573 per theater). Its cume is approximately $4.2 million.
Directed by Christopher Gans, it stars Samuel Le Bihan.
Lions Gate Films' R rated drama Monster's Ball added theaters in its fourth week with a hopeful ESTIMATED $0.2 million at 11 theaters (+3 theater; $17,750 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.1 million.
Directed by Marc Foster, it stars Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry, Heath Ledger and Peter Boyle.
Miramax's R rated romantic comedy Italian for Beginners to an encouraging ESTIMATED $0.055 million at 3 theaters ($14,058 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.14 million.
Directed by Lone Scherfig, it stars Anders Berthelsen.
Universal's international division reported that
Spy Game opened in Australia last Thursday to $0.93 million on 190 screens. Ocean's Eleven placed first Down Under with Spy neck and neck with Lord of the Rings for the number two spot. Universal has limited international rights on Spy, which it has also released in Belgium and Switzerland. Universal's Spy's international total is $2.1M.
In the U.K., Long Time Dead grossed $0.44 million on 217 screens for Friday and Saturday in its second weekend. Dead ranked sixth on the British chart and had a nine day cume of $1.7 million.
American Pie 2 finished third for the weekend in Mexico, behind the openings of Vivir Mata and The One with a two day gross of $0.27 million on 235 screens. Its cume is $4 million, which is 220 percent ahead of the original American Pie. The sequel will pass the original's final gross of $4.4 million later this week.
In Argentina, Pie 2 was fourth in its third week with a 3-day gross of $55,000 on 60 screens, down only 18 percent. It followed the openings of Vanilla Sky and Amélie and week nine for Harry Potter. Pie 2's 17-day cume in Argentina is $0.5 million.
In Brazil this weekend, Pie 2 grossed $41,000 on 95 screens, bringing its 37 day cume to $3 million.
Pie 2's overall international cume to date is a sexy $135.4 million.
Key films--those grossing more than $500,000--took in approximately $130.75 million, up about 41.96 percent from last year when they totaled $92.1 million.
This weekend's key film gross for three days cannot be compared to the previous weekend of this year, which was a four day holiday weekend.
Last year, Sony's opening week of The Wedding Planner was first with $13.51 million at 2,785 theaters ($4,851 per theater); and Paramount's third week of Save the Last Dance was second with $9.78 million at 2,561 theaters ($3,818 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $23.3 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $31.8 million.
George Clooney impersonating Sinatra in Vegas?
According to Daily Variety, the ex-"ER" do-gooder has inked a deal to star in the remake of "Ocean's Eleven," the 1960 Las Vegas heist flick that starred Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack brethren (Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop).
The original film pitted the Rats as war buddies who scammed to knock-off Vegas Strip casinos at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Day. During production, Sinatra et al entertained the locals with a notorious string of late-night shows at the now-dearly-departed Sands.
While Clooney comes to the remake sans his own Rat Pack, he'll be joined on the project by at least one old crony. Steven Soderbergh, who directed Clooney in the stylish 1998 bank-robber flick "Out of Sight," has been tapped to helm the all-new "Ocean's Eleven," Variety says. (No word if he'll play Deano to Clooney's Sinatra.)
As of now, Clooney is the only actor associated with the flick. He's set to play Danny Ocean, the heist ringleader played by Sinatra the first time out.
According to Warner Bros., it might take a while for the studio to find the right actors to fill the other roles. Why? Again, Clooney ain't Sinatra -- he doesn't have a stable of Joey Bishop types at his beck and call.
Unless ... the old "ER" gang perhaps?
NEW MODEL FORD: Must have been the box-office egg laid by "Random Hearts."
Harrison Ford has officially ended his aversion to the Hollywood wheeling-and-dealing types. Variety reports today that the venerable leading man and longtime manager Pat McQueeney are looking for a talent agency to represent the actor.
Ford has been sans agent since he severed ties with the Gersh Agency 15 years ago. So why the sudden change of heart? Well, there was "Random Hearts," the big-budget romance co-starring Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas that fizzled at the box office last fall. But the story is the actor also wants tighter control over materials.
So what happens when Ford lets Hollywood knows he's back in the agent game? Hollywood comes a'courtin'. The actor and his manager reportedly already have had meetings with players from Endeavor, United Talent Agency and Creative Artists Agency.
Ford will be seen shortly in the Robert Zemeckis thriller "What Lies Beneath" and is currently in talks to reprise his role as Jack Ryan (for the third time) in the adaptation of Tom Clancy's "The Sum of All Fears."
LATE-BREAKING SOUPY SALES NEWS: It's official: Everyone has gone indie -- even Soupy Sales.
The erstwhile kids show host has been cast in the independent-minded romantic comedy "J.T. Foster's a Little bit of Lipstick," the Hollywood Reporter says.
Sales will play the director of the theater where the film's leading lady works. The project is scheduled to begin shooting next month in Connecticut.