Time flew this weekend as The Time Machine soared into first place with $22.5 million, well beyond the $15 million launch Hollywood handicappers anticipated.
We Were Soldiers retreated to second place with a still potent $14.4 million. All About the Benjamins kicked off strongly in third place with $10.1 million.
Also driving the box office were 40 Days and 40 Nights, down 42 percent to fourth place with $7.1 million, and John Q in fifth place with a still impressive $6 million.
Key films -- those grossing $500,000 or more -- did nearly $98 million, up 43 percent from $68 million last year.
THE TOP TEN
DreamWorks and Warner Bros.' PG-13 rated time travel fantasy drama The Time Machine landed atop the chart with a fantastic ESTIMATED $22.5 million at 2,944 theaters ($7,643 per theater).
Time's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend. The film is being released domestically by DreamWorks and internationally by Warner Bros., which co-financed its production.
Directed by Simon Wells, it stars Guy Pearce.
"There were only a handful of movies released in the first half of March that ever grossed more than $20 million, so we're pretty happy about this," DreamWorks distribution head Jim Tharp said Sunday morning.
"The tracking going into the weekend had indicated maybe a $15 million opening. So this is well above expectations based on tracking."
Focusing on the film's audience composition, Tharp noted, "I think we got the sci-fi fans along with young males. An indicator of that is that in locations where school was out for spring break, there were extremely strong grosses coming out of those theaters. As spring break rolls throughout the country, the movie should hold pretty well and do well mid-week."
Time is the latest film to perform strongly at the box office despite an unfriendly reception by the critics. "I think on any wide release, the reviews can either help a little or hurt a little, but it's not something that's drastic at all," Tharp said. "With limited release movies when you play upscale markets, then obviously they mean a lot. But on a wide release, reviews can help a little or hurt a little, but that's all."
Paramount and Icon Productions' R rated Vietnam war drama We Were Soldiers slipped one peg to second place in its second week, but held very well with a still powerful ESTIMATED $14.4 million (-29%) at 3,143 theaters (theater count unchanged; ($4,598 per theater). Its cume is approximately $40.8 million.
Written and directed by Randall Wallace, it stars Mel Gibson.
"We're very happy with the hold on Soldiers," Paramount Distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning. "We took a bigger drop on Friday. It was off 37 percent on Friday, but Saturday was only off 24 percent. I'm estimating today off 26 percent, but it could be a little better than that or a little more.
"It's really strong. We know it's playing to an older audience and they just don't come out that strongly on Friday. We know the audience last week was a little older. 73 percent of the audience was over 25."
Noting that Time Machine is playing to a much younger audience than Soldiers, Lewellen said, "They work very well together."
Asked where Soldiers is heading, Lewellen noted, "If the picture holds at this level again this coming weekend, it could get into the $90-100 million range. That would be a multiple of five times the opening weekend ($20.2 million), which is really strong playability, which we do have on this picture."
New Line's R rated urban appeal buddy comedy All About the Benjamins opened in second place to a muscular ESTIMATED $10.13 million at 1,505 theaters ($6,728 per theater).
Directed by Kevin Bray, it stars Ice Cube and Mike Epps.
"Benjamins is right where we figured it would be," New Line Distribution president David Tuckerman said Sunday morning. "We're very pleased. We've had a long association with Ice Cube and he's delivered for us once again. His last picture for us was Next Friday and he's got The Friday After Next at Thanksgiving for us."
Miramax and Universal's R rated romantic comedy 40 Days and 40 Nights fell sharply in its second week, down two slots to fourth place with a less appealing ESTIMATED $7.1 million (-42%) at 2,399 theaters (+174 theaters; $2,959 per theater). Its cume is approximately $22.9 million.
Directed by Michael Lehmann, it stars Josh Hartnett, Shannyn Sossamon and Maggie Gyllenhaal.
New Line's PG-13 rated man-against-the-system drama John Q dropped two rungs to fifth place in its fourth week, still alive and well with an ESTIMATED $6.0 million (-30%) at 2,382 theaters (-74 theaters; $2,519 per theater). Its cume is approximately $59.1 million, heading for $70 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Nick Cassavetes, it stars Denzel Washington, Robert Duvall, James Woods, Anne Heche, Kimberly Elise and Ray Liotta.
"John Q is holding up very nicely," New Line's David Tuckerman said. "It's hit a nerve with the American public and they're enjoying the hell out of the movie!"
Buena Vista/Disney's G rated animated Return to Never Land slid two notches to sixth place in its fourth week, still showing good legs with an ESTIMATED $4.7 million (-32%) at 2,498 theaters (-120 theaters; $1,869 per theater). Its cume is approximately $41.7 million.
Universal and Spyglass Entertainment's PG-13 afterlife thriller Dragonfly fell two pegs to seventh place in its third week with a calmer ESTIMATED $4.06 million (-39%) at 2,431 theaters (-76 theaters; $1,670 per theater). Its cume is approximately $24.9 million.
Directed by Tom Shadyac, it stars Kevin Costner.
Universal, DreamWorks and Imagine Entertainment's PG-13 rated drama A Beautiful Mind -- which has eight Oscar nominations including best picture and saw director Ron Howard win the Directors Guild of America's award Saturday night -- held on to eighth place in its 12th week with a still solid ESTIMATED $3.91 million (-16%) at 1,795 theaters (-167 theaters; $2,180 per theater). Its cume is approximately $144.3 million, heading for $150 million-plus, depending on how well it does Oscar night.
Directed by Ron Howard, the Brian Grazer production stars Russell Crowe, Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly.
Universal's PG rated family comedy Big Fat Liar fell two rungs to ninth place in its fifth week with an OK ESTIMATED $3.43 million (-31%) at 2,074 theaters (-158 theaters; $1,655 per theater). Its cume is approximately $43.3 million.
Directed by Shawn Levy, it stars Frankie Muniz, Paul Giamatti and Amanda Bynes.
Liar, which was made for only about $15 million, should be very profitable for Universal.
Rounding out the Top Ten again this week was New Line Cinema's PG-13 rated blockbuster The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, still holding well in its 12th week with an ESTIMATED $2.6 million (-22%) at 1,210 theaters (-93 theaters; $2,149 per theater). Its cume is approximately $291.1 million, heading for $300 million or more in domestic theaters, depending on how it performs Oscar night.
Directed by Peter Jackson, Rings' ensemble cast is led by Elijah Wood and Ian McKellen.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Paramount Classics' PG-13 rated comedy drama Festival in Cannes to an encouraging ESTIMATED $0.04 million at 6 theaters ($6,625 per theater).
Written and directed by Henry Jaglom with additional writing by Victoria Foyt, it stars Anouk Aimee, Greta Scacchi, Maximilian Schell, Ron Silver and Zack Norman.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend Lions Gate Films' R rated drama Monster's Ball, which has two Oscar nominations, went wider in its 11th week with an okay ESTIMATED $1.65 million (-9%) at 696 theaters (+36 theaters; $2,365 per theater). Its cume is approximately $15.4 million.
Directed by Marc Foster, it stars Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry, Heath Ledger and Peter Boyle.
USA Films' R rated whodunit Gosford Park, which has seven Oscar nominations including best picture and won the Writers Guild of America's best original screenplay award Saturday night, added a few more theaters in its 11th week, holding well with an ESTIMATED $1.6 million (-17%) at 918 theaters (+3 theater; $1,725 per theater). Its cume is approximately $33.2 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.
USA Films' R rated romantic comedy Monsoon Wedding added theaters in its third week with a still festive ESTIMATED $0.78 million at 76 theaters (+65 theaters; $10,250 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.2 million.
Directed by Mira Nair, it was produced by Nair and Caroline Baron.
"We opened in 12 new markets and the print average in those markets for 25 or 30 theaters is going to be around $13,000," USA Films distribution president Jack Foley said Sunday morning. "The picture's doing extremely well and we're very happy about it."
Miramax Zoe Films' R rated French comedy Amélie widened in its 19th week with a quiet ESTIMATED $0.63 million (-1%) at 254 theaters (+12 theaters; $2,480 per theater. Its cume is approximately $28.8 million.
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, it stars Audrey Tautou.
Miramax's R rated romantic comedy Italian For Beginners widened in its eighth week to a still hopeful ESTIMATED $0.35 million at 79 theaters (+13 theaters; $4,430 per theater). Its cume is approximately $2.1 million.
Directed by Lone Scherfig, it stars Anders Berthelsen.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $97.82 million, up about 43.31 percent from last year when they totaled $68.26 million.
Key films for this three-day weekend were down about 2.29% from the previous weekend of this year's total of $100.11 million.
Last year, DreamWorks' second week of The Mexican was first with $12.24 million at 2,959 theaters ($4,138 per theater); and New Line's opening week of 15 Minutes was second with $10.52 million at 2,337 theaters ($4,503 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $22.7 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $36.9 million.
Leave it to Pixar to come up with another clever story. We are introduced to a thriving monster metropolis where Monsters Inc. employs an elite group of big bad guys to go into children's closets and gather the city's energy supply--the children's screams. But lately there has been an energy crunch; it seems kids are not getting as scared as they used to. Enter top Kid Scarer Mr. James P. Sullivan a.k.a. Sully (voiced by John Goodman) a big blue fuzzy monster who along with his assistant Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) a green one-eyed wisecracker gets potent screams from the kiddies. Unfortunately the one thing Sully Mike and the others are deathly afraid of is the children themselves. And when one child Boo (voiced by Mary Gibbs) makes her way through the closet door into the monster world things get decidedly complicated for Sully who learns kids aren't so scary after all.
Honestly how could you go wrong with the vocal talents of John Goodman Billy Crystal Steve Buscemi and James Coburn? In Monsters Inc. they absolutely shine. Oscar-winning Coburn brings the head of Monsters Inc. Mr. Henry J. Waternoose a crablike spidery monster vividly to life. Buscemi as the evil Randall Boggs a slimy serpent monster who can camouflage himself to blend with anything plays the perfect foil to Sully a monster with grand plans who rivals the big guy in the quota for kids' screams. Crystal is hysterical as Mike with enough neuroses and wild antics to offset the sweet Sully--without stealing the show. Even the little girl Boo comes across convincingly as a two-and-a-half-year-old especially when she sings in the bathroom. It's Goodman who makes the movie complete--his Sully is one big galoot you can wrap your arms around.
Pixar Animation must constantly search high and low for the cream of the crop in animation and story development; they never settle for second best. The studio has the Midas touch when it comes to computer-animated films--its three features so far Toy Story Toy Story 2 (still one of the best sequels ever made) and A Bug's Life have grossed nearly a billion dollars worldwide. Yes Dreamworks may have given Disney a run for its money with its spectacular summer blockbuster Shrek but Pixar isn't going to roll over that easily. Monsters Inc. is a wonderfully inventive film especially in its creation of such otherworldly settings as the factory and its assembly line of closet doors. The movie combines all the right elements--there's a good guy a funny sidekick a slimebag a climactic chase scene and an adorable reason for things to end happily.
Bobby Garfield (David Morse) returns to his small hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood friend and remembers the fateful summer in 1960 when his whole world changed. The story flashes back to when 11-year-old Bobby (Anton Yelchin) and his best friends Carol (Mika Boorem) and Sully-John (Will Rothhaar) capture the pure joy of youthfulness. When a mysterious stranger named Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins) moves upstairs and starts to pay attention to Bobby the boy suddenly realizes what's truly missing from his life--the love of a parent. Bobby's mother Liz (Hope Davis) is embittered by the death of Bobby's father and shows little compassion for her son's growing needs. Ted fills a void with the boy opening his eyes to the world around him and helps Bobby come to terms with his real feelings for Carol--and his mother. But Ted also has some deep dark secrets of his own and Bobby tries hard to stop danger from reaching the old man.
The performances make the film especially in the genuine camaraderie of the kids. Yelchin Boorem and Rothhaar never deliver a false move with an easiness that makes us believe we are simply watching three 11-year-old children grow up together. Yelchin in particular is able to get right to the heart of this young boy who misses his father and clings to the only adult who will listen. And his scenes with Boorem simply break your heart. (Davis) does an admirable job playing a part none too sympathetic. She manages to show a woman whose been beaten down but who does truly love her son in her own way. Morse too is one of those character actors you can plug in any movie and get a performance worth noting. In Hearts you want to see more of him. Of course the film shines brightest when Hopkins is on the screen. It may not be an Oscar-caliber performance but the actor is unparalleled in bringing a character to life--showing the subtleties of an old man looking for some peace in his life.
If you are expecting the Stephen King novel you may be disappointed. Screenwriter William Goldman and director Scott Hicks (Shine) deftly extracted the King formula of telling a story through a child's eye and explaining how the relationships formed as a child shaped the adult later. Hicks did an amazing job with his young actors especially Yelchin and Boorem. But where the novel continued into a supernatural theme explaining Brautigan's fear of being captured by "low men in yellow coats" (a reference to King's The Dark Tower series) the movie downplayed the mystical elements instead giving real explanations for Brautigan's man-on-the-run. That was the one problem with Hearts--we needed more danger. Introducing men from another dimension may not have been the way to go but had there been more tension the film would have resonated more especially when Bobby risked his own safety to save Ted.
Besides the elbow-rubbing and power mongering, let's not forget that the Sundance Film Festival is also about the films.
With that in mind, the annual indie film fest announced today its partial list of films for the 2001 powwow.
The lineup for three categories -- dramas, documentaries and the American Spectrum -- have thus far been announced, and other areas such as premiere, international films and short films will be announced Wednesday.
Films at the festival only compete in the dramatic and documentary categories. Top films coming out of Sundance in previous years include Ed Burns' "The Brothers McMullen" and last year's "Girlfight" from director Karyn Kusama.
The Sundance Film Festival takes place Jan. 18-28 in Park City, Utah.
In the meantime, here's the complete list of Sundance films in competition and in the American Spectrum.
"30 Years to Life," directed by Vanessa Middleton "American Astronaut," directed by Cory McAbee "The Believer," directed by Henry Bean "The Business of Strangers," directed by Patrick Stettner "The Deep End," directed by Scott McGehee & David Siegel "Donnie Darko," directed by Richard Kelly "Green Dragon," directed by Timothy Linh Bui "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," directed by John Cameron Mitchell "In the Bedroom," directed by Todd Field "L.I.E.," directed by Michael Cuesta "Lift," directed by DeMane Davis & Khari Streeter "MacArthur Park," directed by Billy Wirth "Memento," directed by Christopher Nolan "Scotland, PA," directed by Billy Morrissette "The Sleepy Time Gal," directed by Christopher Munch "Some Body," directed by Henry Barrial
"Chain Camera," directed by Kirby Dick "Children Underground," directed by Edet Belzberg "Dogtown and the Z-Boys," directed by Stacy Peralta "The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic," directed by George Butler "Go Tigers!" directed by Kenneth A. Carlson "Home Movie," directed by Chris Smith "Lalee's Kin: The Legacy of Cotton," directed by Susan Froemke, Deborah Dickson with "Albert Maysles Marcus Garvey: Look for Me in the Whirlwind," directed by Stanley Nelson "The Natural History of the Chicken," directed by Mark Lewis "Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey," directed by William Greaves "Scout's Honor," directed by Tom Shepard "Scratch," directed by Doug Pray "Southern Comfort," directed by Kate Davis "Startup.com," directed by Chris Hegedus & Jehane Noujaim "Trembling Before G-D," directed by Sandi Simcha Dubowski "An Unfinished Symphony," directed by Bestor Cram & Mike Majoro
"Acts of Worship," directed by Rosemary Rodriguez "After Image," directed by Robert Manganelli "Dancing in September," directed by Reggie Rock Bythewood "Diary of a City Priest," directed by Eugene Martin "The Doe Boy," directed by Randy Redroad "Haiku Tunnel," directed by Jacob Kornbluth & Josh Kornbluth "Invisible Revolution," directed by Beverly Peterson "Jump Tomorrow," directed by Joel Hopkins "Manic," directed by Jordan Melamed "Margarita Happy Hour," directed by Ilya Chaiken "Miss Wonton," directed by Meng Ong "Raw Deal: A Question of Consent," directed by Billy Corben "Roof to Roof," directed by Ara Corbett "Women in Film," directed by Bruce Wagner "Tape," directed by Richard Linklater "Wet Hot American Summer," directed by David Wain.
Let's hear it for the old guy who in this movie comes off sexier than his buff young accomplice (Dermot Mulroney). OK the old guy happens to be the gracefully aging icon Paul Newman -- as a feisty heistmeister who dodges a long prison sentence and then teams up with his equally conniving rest-home nurse (Linda Fiorentino) on a bank job gone wrong. "Where the Money Is" is breezy suspenseful and as much a love story as anything else -- if you call mentoring a new life in crime a kind of love. The mission-improbable caper is no more or less entertaining than a "Rockford Files" rerun but the film's swerving joyride takes its real thrills from the great escape that Fiorentino's Bonnie Parker makes from a dead-end life in the married lane.
Newman still hasn't lost it and as Henry Manning he doesn't miss any nuances in the edgy balance between streetwise wariness and amiable rapport with his sultry new colleague. The steam-powered Fiorentino has forged her career by making danger look casual and this is her most alluring work since "The Last Seduction" added another zero to her salary. Her chemistry with Newman a flirty twist on the idea of honor among thieves is really what makes this movie worth seeing. Mulroney is serviceable as the dim but lovable hubby a supporting role that's more foil than fully etched character.
We can all thank director Marek Kanievska for deciding not to have the May-December duo end up in the sack and leaving them simply professional cohorts. The director's admirable sense of comic timing works all the better by not letting the laughs get in the way of his leads' exploration of their characters -- although there's no denying the limits of this frothy genre. Perhaps Kanievska's greatest feat here is allowing Newman to retain his dignity in close-up.
It worked for Rob Schneider. Why not Dana Carvey?
The popular "Saturday Night Live" alum, largely out of the public eye since his heart surgery in 1997, will get a helping hand in reviving his career from A-lister (and fellow ex-"SNL" guy) Adam Sandler. Today's Daily Variety says Sandler will produce a Disney comedy that will both star and be co-written by Carvey.
The comedian, best known for yukking it up as shy Garth to Mike Myers' metal-head Wayne in the "Wayne's World" sketches and big-screen movies, is in talks with the studio, Sandler and producing partner Jack Giarraputo. They're the team responsible for Schneider's surprise holiday hit "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo."
Mum's the word on the plot for Carvey's starring vehicle. But he'll get some notice as a supporting player in Sandler's upcoming comedy "Little Nicky." And if "Deuce's" $64 million domestic gross is any indication, the former Church Lady might be taking up a healthy collection.
Carvey underwent an angioplasty procedure in October 1997, at age 42. It was the capper on a down period for the comic, who flamed out professionally in 1996 with the ill-fated run of his ABC primetime vehicle "The Dana Carvey Show."
CAUGHT IN 'TRAFFIC': Harrison Ford and Catherine Zeta-Jones don't mind being stuck in Steven Soderbergh's "Traffic."
Trade-paper reports today say that the two stars have climbed aboard the Fox vehicle, which was once in danger of being junked. It's now parked at the studio's arthouse division, Fox Searchlight.
Ford will play a judge who becomes a U.S. drug czar. The film's based on the British miniseries "Traffik." Things get complicated when the judge's daughter becomes a serious crack cocaine and heroin addict.
The film is Ford's first foray into arthouse filmmaking. According to Variety, the actor will take a major pay cut from his usual $20 million fee. Shooting is set to begin April 2.
GIRLS IN THE 'HOUSE': Actresses Diane Lane and Leelee Sobieski will square off as mother-daughter rivals in "The Glass House." Variety says that the Columbia-based drama starts shooting this spring with television's Daniel Sackheim at the helm.
The 17-year-old Sobieski, last seen strutting in "Eyes Wide Shut," will star as a teen-ager taken in by a Malibu, Calif., couple after her parents die in a car accident.
'MONKEY' BUSINESS FOR NBC: "Dharma & Greg" star Thomas Gibson will be paid $1.5 million to monkey around in NBC's latest Hallmark Entertainment miniseries. The four-hour project, called "The Monkey King," co-stars Bai Ling. Russell Wong is in negotiations to play the title role.
The story, by "M Butterfly" playwright David Henry Hwang, is about a young American businessman and an academic who journey to China to do battle with mythical monsters.