Geniuses all of types--but mainly of the depressed, disillusioned or schizophrenic variety--dominated theaters nationwide this weekend during the otherwise happy holidays.
A Beautiful Mind, featuring Russell Crowe as Nobel Prize-winning John Forbes Nash Jr., tallied up a whopping $19.9 million through Wednesday, Jan. 2, at a maximum of 525 theaters since Dec. 21. That puts to shame seasonal underachievers The Majestic and Joe Somebody, which both debuted in wide release on the same day as A Beautiful Mind.
Father doesn't necessarily know best in The Royal Tenenbaums, a quirky comedy starring Gene Hackman as the patriarch of a gifted but truly dysfunctional family. Directed by Wes Anderson, The Royal Tenenbaums has amassed $11.5 million from Dec. 21 through Wednesday at a maximum of 291 theaters. Anderson's previous offering, the equally eccentric Rushmore, made a lowly $17 million in 1999 despite terrific critical acclaim.
The heartrending but inspirational A Beautiful Mind should brace itself for a bigger bow than The Royal Tenenbaums when it expands Friday to 1,800-plus theaters. The Ron Howard-directed drama quickly emerged as a strong Oscar contender, thanks in part to great reviews and a handful of Golden Globe nominations. Crowe could pull a Tom Hanks and earn himself an Oscar for the second consecutive year, following last year's win for Gladiator. He gives a quiet and sincere performance as the socially inept mathematician whose promising career fizzled in the 1950s as a result of his schizophrenia.
Howard's no stranger to causing a stir at the box office. The former sitcom star now ranks as of one Hollywood's highly sought-after directors following the smashes Splash, Apollo 13, Parenthood and Ransom. His last film, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, hauled off $260 million during the 2000 holiday season.
After earning $7.7 million last weekend, A Beautiful Mind looks set to corral between $15 million and $20 million in its first weekend in wide release. A possible slew of Oscar nominations will help A Beautiful Mind to become Howard's fourth $100 million hit in five tries, and his fifth in total.
The Royal Tenenbaums has critical momentum on its side, plus the promise of dominating the Oscar nominations in the acting categories. Anderson cast Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller and Luke Wilson as Hackman's messed-up kids.
Anjelica Huston, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray and Danny Glover costar, providing The Royal Tenenbaums with an insurance policy against some (wrongful) accusations that it, like its protagonists, is flawed and often too peculiar for its own good.
The Royal Tenenbaums should enjoy a hefty bump from last weekend's $4.9 million take as its expands to 751 theaters. If all goes well, The Royal Tenenbaums could surpass the totals for two recent Owen Wilson offerings, both costarring his Tenenbaums colleagues. The war yarn Behind Enemy Lines, with Hackman, has $51 million through Tuesday. Zoolander, the Stiller-directed fashion satire, has $45.1 million through Tuesday.
The first new wide release of 2002 is, ironically, a sci-fi thriller originally scheduled for summer 2000. Based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, Impostor represents another oft-delayed film that Miramax genre label Dimension will unceremoniously dump without much warning. Texas Rangers, Dimension's last such release, was mowed down without so much as a fighting chance when it debuted late November in 402 theaters to a gutless $319,000.
Strangely, the studio once displayed enormous faith in Impostor. An impressed Dimension threw money at director Gary Fleder in 1999 to expand what was then a part of The Light Years Trilogy into a stand-alone, feature-length film. Once slated for an Aug. 11, 2000, release, Impostor moved back and forth on Dimension's schedule, from fall 2000 to spring 2001, then fall 2001, spring 2002 and, to what seemed like a firm date, Dec. 25, 2001. Dimension then belatedly settled on Jan. 4, allowing Miramax to shift Kate & Leopold from Dec. 21 to Christmas Day. Fleder, in the meantime, directed Don't Say a Word while the film was kept out of theaters and trimmed to secure a PG-13 rating.
Dick's adaptations have enjoyed mixed success. Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, floundered upon its 1982 release but has since become a cult classic praised for its unique vision of a future urban skyscape. Under Paul Verhoeven's guidance, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale became Total Recall, the Arnold Schwarzenegger trip to Mars that grossed $119.3 million in 1990.
Given its odd history and quiet release, Impostor looks set to vanish without causing much of a stir. Impostor, however, will no doubt serve as an appetizer for Philip K. Dick fans eagerly awaiting this summer's Minority Report, marking Tom Cruise's first collaboration with Steven Spielberg.
Peter Jackson's magnificent adaptation of the first book in the J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy continues to live up to expectation. After just 15 days in theaters, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring has tracked down a precious $179.3 million. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone made $201.9 million during the same period, but it was playing at 300 more theaters. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring should fend off a serious challenge this weekend from A Beautiful Mind to retain the box office pole position and soar past the all-important $200 million mark.
Speaking of the boy wizard, Harry Potter celebrated 2002 by almost doubling its Christmas weekend take of $7 million to $11.9 million. With $293.2 million through Wednesday, Harry Potter not only reigns as the year's top box office attraction, but, on Thursday, likely supplanted The Sixth Sense as the 10th top-grossing film released domestically. Thanksgiving's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets now faces the daunting task of becoming one of the most popular sequels ever made.
Put George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Julia Roberts in a film directed by Steven Soderbergh and its success is almost guaranteed. Ocean's Eleven keeps hitting the jackpot at the box office weekend after weekend. The jazzy remake of the Rat Pack crime caper beat out a slew of newcomers to reclaim the No. 2 spot last weekend, stealing off with $139.2 million through Wednesday. That ranks as a personal best for both Pitt and Soderbergh, whose Erin Brockovich and Traffic earned, respectively, $125.5 million and $124.1 million. If all continues to roll in Clooney's favor, Ocean's Eleven could beat The Perfect Storm's $182.6 million to become his highest grosser.
Tom Cruise can't expect Vanilla Sky to do the same for him. Cameron Crowe's much-maligned remake of Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) dropped a mere 5 percent last weekend, from $12 million to $11.5 million, and now has a good but far from great $72.8 million through Wednesday. That's less than what Mission: Impossible 2 made in its first five days in May 2000. Still, Vanilla Sky managed to surpass Cruise's other recent critically mauled drama, Eyes Wide Shut, which ended up with $55.6 million. With competition from A Beautiful Mind, however, Vanilla Sky should fall hard and fast long before it can reach $100 million.
Don't expect a reversal of fortunes for The Majestic and Joe Somebody, both of which should disappear from theaters when Oscar hopefuls Black Hawk Down, The Shipping News and I Am Sam storm theaters later this month.
The Majestic, featuring Jim Carrey in fine dramatic form, held steady in its second weekend, but that's not saying much when it debuted with $4.9 million. With only $18.9 million through Tuesday, The Majestic will likely represent a post-Ace Ventura: Pet Detective career low for Carrey. His last flop, Man on the Moon, wrestled a mere $34.5 million from audiences in 1999.
Ali came out with both fists flying, earning a record $10.2 million for a Christmas Day release. Fatigue set in last weekend, as Michael Mann's biography of the ex-Cassius Clay punched up a lower-than-expected $14.7 million and has $41.4 million through Wednesday. Audiences seem to prefer A Beautiful Mind, which made more money Wednesday in limited release than Ali at 2,446 theaters.
Meg Ryan has not enjoy a hit since re-teaming with Tom Hanks for a third time in You've Got Mail. After disappointing results with the tearjerker Hanging Up and the political thriller Proof of Life, Ryan returns to the realm of romantic comedies with Kate & Leopold. The time-bending yarn, co-starring Hugh Jackman as a 19th-century blueblood transported to 21st-century New York, opened Christmas Day with a lukewarm $2.5 million but made a respectable $9.7 million last weekend. Its total through Wednesday is $23.4 million, guaranteeing Ryan her biggest hit since You've Got Mail. Not that the dull and cliché-ridden Kate & Leopold will come close to matching the $115.8 million that You've Got Mail made in 1998.
Two animated adventures should continue to keep kids amused this weekend. Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius soared to $51.5 million on Wednesday, making it the third consecutive hit spin-off of a popular Nickelodeon TV show. The smart Jimmy Neutron should landed safety between The Rugrats Movie's $100.4 million and Rugrats In Paris's $76.5 million.
Disney/Pixar's Monsters, Inc. experience a major power surge last weekend, jumping 61 percent last weekend from $3.8 million to $6.1 million. Its total is $240 million through Wednesday, bringing its well within reach of Toy Story 2, which, at $245.8 million, stands as the most successful of the four Disney/Pixar collaborations.
Shrek lost its box office crown in late December when Harry Potter surpassed its $267.6 million gross. Chances are the green but not-so mean ogre could find himself unexpectedly caught in the shadow of two energy producing monsters and a lost little girl.