“A real movie.” That’s the phrase that one of my industry sources used to describe Eagle Eye (Dreamworks/Paramount), which debuts this Friday at 3,500 or so locations and on more than 4,500 screens. The movie reunites Hollywood’s hottest young star, Shia LaBeouf, with his director from the surprise hit Disturbia, DJ Caruso, and industry tracking is pointing toward a spectacular opening.
It is very hard to bet against LaBeouf, whose last 2 movies, Transformers and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, have grossed a combined $635M domestic and $1.5B worldwide. Prior to those sure-fire blockbusters came Disturbia, a nifty little Hitchcockian genre pic released last spring demonstrating the 22-year-old actor’s real appeal. He’s the classic everyman and, while some compared his performance to Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window, I agree with New York Daily News critic Elizabeth Weitzman, who wrote he is, “More John Cusack than Jimmy Stewart.”
Eagle Eye turns the Disturbia premise on its ear. In this yarn, LaBeouf isn’t “the watcher,” he’s “the watched.” According to tracking data, Under 25’s are buying into the surveillance paranoia suggested in trailers and TV ads. It feels very contemporary. Your BlackBerry can kill you--or at least tell “them” where you are at every moment. Technology is ubiquitous, and there is no escape. In reality, Caruso is really mining the great Alfred Hitchcock again. Think of a modern-day North by Northwest riff with LaBeouf and Michelle Monaghan instead of Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint.
Director Caruso’s first mainstream box office success was Taking Lives, starring Angelina Jolie ($11.4M opening--$32.2M cume), but then he took a step back with the critical and commercial failure Two For the Money ($8.7M opening--$23M cume), starring Matthew McConaughey and Al Pacino. He struck paydirt with Disturbia, which opened with $22.2M then showed real playability to the tune of $80.2M domestic, and now he has LaBeouf in tow again. Eagle Eye will almost certainly be the director’s all-time biggest opening with something in the $28M range.
Females 25 Plus are showing great interest in the Warner Bros. romantic tear-jerker Nights in Rodanthe at over 2,500 locations on Friday. This is the 3rd film together for Oscar nominees Richard Gere and Diane Lane. Their first pairing was 24 years ago in Francis Ford Coppola’s troubled The Cotton Club ($2.9M opening--$25.9M cume). 18 years later, they teamed up with much better results in Adrian Lyne’s Unfaithful, which represented a breakout performance for Lane.
Not only did the actress, married in real life to actor Josh Brolin from the forthcoming W., earn her first Oscar nomination for Unfaithful (who can forget the remarkable sequence on the subway ride after her first dalliance with Olivier Martinez?), she also became the benchmark for graceful aging in Hollywood. Lane remains among the most beautiful actresses in the business and, contrary to Meg Ryan currently starring in The Women, she “appears” to have avoided the “cosmetic enhancement trap.”
Unfaithful scored $14M on opening weekend and generated a nifty $52.7M in its US theatrical run. Countless more have seen it on DVD and cable, and it is fair to say that older women are excited about seeing Lane and Gere together again. Add the fact that Nights in Rodanthe is based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, like the 2004 surprise hit The Notebook, and you have the makings of a good solid box office performance. The $10M-$13M range seems about right for Rodanthe, and I am calling for the high end of that range.
Last week’s winner Lakeview Terrace (Sony) will likely be #3 this weekend, down about 55% to $6.75M, while Spike Lee’s Miracle at St. Anna (Disney) will battle the Coen brothers’ strong-holding Burn After Reading for 4th. St. Anna is the 3rd new wide release this week, but it will open at a decidedly limited 1,100 or so locations. Lee has never been a movie hit-maker, but he had been more “commercially tone deaf” than usual for well over a decade until 2006’s Inside Man ($28.9M opening--$88.5M cume).
Spike has never been “Mr. Warmth,” but he has made some critical press blunders in advance of the release of Miracle at St. Anna. Picking a fight with industry icon Clint Eastwood is not smart. Complaining that he is a victim of “West coast bias” in Oscar voting is a mistake. Hollywood is talking about his new James McBride-penned WWII saga for all the wrong reasons. It remains to be seen just how strong the critical reaction to Miracle at St. Anna will be, but early reviews are on the negative side (33% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes as of Wednesday morning). Tracking is so-so and moviegoers have shown very little interest in war-themed films in the last couple of years, but the picture should be able to deliver $5,000-$5,500 per location for approximately $5.8M.
There are 3 more limited releases of note this week led by actor-turned-director Clark Gregg’s Choke (Fox Searchlight), based on Chuck Palahniuk’s bestselling novel. On about 400 screens, the edgy pic, starring Sam Rockwell and Academy Award winner Anjelica Huston, could grab $4,500-$5,000 per location for an opening weekend approaching $2M.
Meanwhile, The Lucky Ones (Lionsgate), a new movie from director Neil Burger (The Illusionist) opening on 400 or so screens, will play a bit softer than Choke. Iraq War veterans, played by Oscar winner Tim Robbins, Rachel McAdams (The Notebook) and Michael Pena (Crash), on a cross-country road trip dealing with a nation divided by a controversial war is a premise badly in need of excellent reviews to succeed, and the movie is running at only 36% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes as of Wednesday morning. Still, a PTA of $2,000-$2,500 is possible for a weekend gross of something shy of $1M.
Finally, Crane Movie Company is attempting to roll out a new vehicle featuring Sean Faris, the star of Never Back Down. There isn't much traction for the almost-as-generically-titled rugby movie Forever Strong, and it seems that an estimated $350,000 is in the cards.
FINAL PREDICTIONS FOR THE WEEKEND OF SEPTEMBER 26
1. NEW – Eagle Eye (Dreamworks/Paramount) – $28M
2. NEW – Nights in Rodanthe (Warner Bros) - $12.9M
3. Lakeview Terrace (Sony) - $6.75M
4. NEW – Miracle at St. Anna (Disney) - $5.8M
5. Burn After Reading (Focus) - $5.7M
6. Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys (Lionsgate) - $3.8M
7. Righteous Kill (Overture) - $3.7M
8. My Best Friend's Girl (Lionsgate) - $3.5M
9. Igor (MGM) - $3.1M
10. The Women (Picturehouse) - $3M
*NEW - Choke (Fox Searchlight) - $2M
*NEW - The Lucky Ones (Lionsgate) - $900,000
*NEW – Forever Strong (Crane Movie Company) - $350,000
Go to our Box Office section for recent weekend movie analysis.
George Clooney is reportedly dating a young actress and bartender he met while working on the set of Confessions of a Dangerous Mind in Montreal, Canada. According to Canada's National Post, the 40-year-old actor has been meeting Maria Bertrand, 27, at the Globe restaurant, a hot spot for celebs shooting films in the city. However, Bertrand's agent Cha Cha DaVinci insists the stars are just friends who enjoy being with each other. Bertrand, who has a small part in the movie, was on the set of Dangerous Mind Thursday to shoot a sequence with Matt Damon and Brad Pitt. The film is based on the life of game-show host Chuck Barris, who claimed to be a CIA hit man.
Film critics Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper had planned to review movie trailers at the annual ShoWest conference in Las Vegas but hit a wall because studios wouldn't give them any trailers. Ebert and Roeper instead griped about trailers in general, saying they were too loud, too long and give out too much about the plot, Reuters reports. Ebert, who recently underwent surgery, also complained about the state of modern theaters, asking, "Is it possible to sell anything at the concession stand that doesn't kill?"
Audiences will have to wait until next week to watch knee whacker Tonya Harding and presidential scandalmonger Paula Jones duke it out. While the Fox network's Celebrity Boxing was taped Thursday, the event will not be broadcast until next Wednesday, the Associated Press reports. Also set to face off in the ring are Danny Bonaduce versus Barry Williams, and Vanilla Ice against Todd Bridges.
William Baldwin, Paul Sorvino and Valerie Harper plan to build a movie studio in Trenton, N.J.'s abandoned factories. The three met with state lawmakers Thursday in a bid to gain support for the project, which they say would generate $100 million in taxable revenues and bring hundreds of jobs for construction workers, hairdressers, tailors and dry cleaners.
Glenn Close, Matthew Modine and Stephen Fry are the latest additions to the cast of James Ivory's Le Divorce. According to Variety, the film is a comedy about two American sisters confronted with the decadence of French bourgeois society. The film, which begins shooting Monday in Paris, also stars Naomi Watts, Kate Hudson, Stockard Channing and James Waterston.
Former NYPD Blue star David Caruso is leaving what he calls the "cynical, hard-core energy" of Los Angeles for Miami Beach, AP reports. Caruso, who owns a $1 million South Beach condo with his wife, will co-own a clothing and home furnishings store.
The Screen Actors Guild rerun election is heading into its final week, with mud slinging at an all-time high. Melissa Gilbert won the election in January, but a SAG election committee ordered a rerun election when rival Valerie Harper alleged balloting irregularities. Ballots mailed out last month are due back March 8.
Mariah Carey may have found something useful to do with the $28 million pay-off she received from Virgin Records recently. According to Miami's Power 96 radio station, the currently un-signed singer wants to have a semi-independent subsidiary label of her own. A spokesperson for Carey said she is meeting with a number of labels and looking into a variety of possibilities.
Rumors are circulating that Green Day will induct the Ramones in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 18 at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. Launch.com interviewed Johnny Ramone, who said he would love to be ushered in by Green Day frontman Billy Joe, but nothing has been officially confirmed. Singer Jewel, who may or may not perform, will also be inducting Brenda Lee.
Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz have unwrapped their plans to co-star in "The Mummy 2," set to begin shooting this spring for a May 2001 release. The dynamic duo will reprise their roles as rugged hero Rick O'Connell and love interest Evelyn Carnahan.
Both actors had been expected to return to action after Universal received a commitment from "Mummy" writer-director Stephen Sommers six months ago. Also returning to the fold is co-star John Hannah. Daily Variety reports that it's his first $1 million deal.
Fraser's expected to receive somewhere in the $12.5 million range, up from the $5 million he collected for the first installment. The actor's most recent payday was $10 million for 20th Century Fox's update of "Bedazzled." The new story will follow the entombed terror as it resurfaces in London. The script reportedly includes a 9-year-old son for Fraser and Weisz's characters who shares his father's knack for adventure. The studio says possible locations for the shoot include Egypt, Morocco and London.
MORSE GETS 'LIFE': "The Green Mile's" David Morse is ready to be taken hostage in the Taylor Hackford-directed "Proof of Life." Morse will co-star with Meg Ryan, Russell Crowe and David Caruso. It's the third Castle Rock Entertainment film for the actor, after "The Green Mile" and "Extreme Measures." The story involves a hostage negotiator (Crowe) who falls for the wife (Ryan) of the person (Morse) he's hired to save.
'LOVE RETURNS' FOR BARRYMORE: Drew Barrymore's latest romance is an adaptation of Robert Nathan's 1958 book "So Love Returns." Variety notes that the "Ever After" star has signed on to direct and headline the supernatural love story after obtaining the rights from the author's estate.
The story involves a writer who can't get over the death of his wife. He isolates himself from the world and his two kids. But then he meets a magical woman (Barrymore in the flesh) who appears out of the sea to help him recover.
Barrymore will produce the feature with Middle Fork Productions, after passing on studios that wanted to turn her character into a mermaid. Budget for the indie project is $5 million.
STONE'S BROADWAY INSTINCT: Sharon Stone might be ripe for Broadway. The "Casino" star is considering a role in David Mamet's "Boston Marriage," with Variety reporting that she's already met with "The Iceman Cometh" stage director Howard Davies about the project. The sexy star could be just the right enticement. The play's involves two lesbians at the turn of the century.
TARANTINO THE ACTOR: "Pulp Fiction" director Quentin Tarantino will flex his thespian chops once again (after flopping in the Broadway play "Wait Until Dark") in a cameo for the Adam Sandler flick "Little Nicky." Sandler stars as the son of Satan in the pic, while Tarantino plays a blind preacher whom "senses" Sandler's presence.