“Inception” from Warner Bros. proves that smart and summer can actually go together as it tops the chart for the second straight weekend.
With another $42.7 million this weekend, Christopher Nolan can be called “Mr. July” since he pretty much owns the month of July every two years. In 2008, “The Dark Knight” was the July box-office champ and it can be expected that in 2012 when the next “Batman” installment hits theatres, that it will be the film to beat as well. Unquestionably challenging, visually stunning and just plain old brainy fun, “Inception” performed well all week long and crossed the $100 million mark last Wednesday in just seven days of release (the fastest for any non-sequel 2-D movie this year). The film is now up to $142.9 million in domestic box office. A minimal 32% drop based on great word-of-mouth was responsible for this strong second weekend showing and the film should continue to do well in the coming weeks. IMAX again is an integral part of the film’s success with $4.9 million plus or an impressive 12% of the second weekend gross and down just 31% vs. opening weekend.
Coming in second in a very tight race was Sony’s Angelina Jolie action vehicle “Salt” which pulled in a solid $36.0 million and proved that a woman can be as much of a box office draw as a man as the lead in an action movie. As she proved with 2008’s “Wanted,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and the “Tomb Raider” series, Jolie certainly has the “street cred” with audiences to pull this off and make it look good at the same time. “Salt’s” relatively short running time (99 mins), fast-pace and summer-style action combined with a terrific marketing campaign made this one a late-July winner.
At number three is Universal’s family animated favorite “Despicable Me” which has now crossed the $160 million mark in just 17 days of release. With $23.7 million for the weekend, a 28% drop and another strong set of mid-week grosses, the film is being embraced by the family crowd and the date crowd alike and the results have been spectacular. Look for this one to remain a staple of the top five and the top ten for many weeks to come.
In the fourth spot is Disney’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” with $9.7 million in its second weekend of release and a domestic total of $42.6 million. The film has benefitted from its PG-rating since it is the newest of a string of such rated live action adventures following as it has in the wake of Sony’s “The Karate Kid” and Paramount’s “The Last Airbender.”
Residing in the top five for the sixth straight week with another $8.9 million is the incredible Disney/Pixar 2010 box office favorite "Toy Story 3.” Adding to a really bad week for Mel Gibson, “Toy Story 3” on Friday passed “The Passion of the Christ” to now become the 14th highest grossing film of all-time and by the end of the weekend leap-frogged over both “Spider-Man 2” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” to become now the 12th highest grossing film of all-time with $379.4 million! Notable as well that it is the highest grossing film of the year and the summer thus far. Congratulations to both Disney and Pixar on this amazing and well-deserved achievement.
Debuting just outside of the top five is Fox’s G-rated family film “Ramona and Beezus,” based on the best-selling books by Beverly Cleary. Delivering $7.8 million, the film should eventually wind up profitable with its modest budget and strong eventual home video potential. As one of only two wide release G-rated films in the marketplace (along with “Toy Story 3”), the film will hopefully continue to find favor with audiences looking for a true family experience at the movie theatre.
A month of “up” weekends vs. last year has improved the summer box office outlook considerably and takes the YTD revenue advantage up to 4.5% over last year and the Summer-to-date advantage on revenue up to 3%. Attendance, while still lagging behind last summer has had a boost over the past few weeks and as a result is only at a 3.4% deficit vs. a 4.3% downturn through last weekend. This weekend look for “Cats and Dogs: Revenge of Kitty Galore” in 3D (PG) from Warner Bros., “Charlie St. Cloud” starring Zac Efron from Universal and from Paramount, “Dinner For Schmucks” starring Steve Carell and Paul Rudd.
1950s British science fiction comic hero Dan Dare is coming to America, whether you've heard of him or not. Warner Bros. just acquired the feature rights to 'Dare,' described as "the British equivalent of Buck Rogers," and Sam Worthington (Clash of the Titans, Avatar) is attached to star.
The "Dan Dare" character was created by Frank Hampson more than half a century ago, appearing first as a comic in 1950 and later getting a radio show and TV series "Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future." Worthington will play the intrepid star pilot and Colonel in the Interplanet Space Fleet, who engages with various forms of extraterrestrial life in his adventures.
This seems like an odd choice to me, but that's coming from a Yankee who's never heard of Dan Dare. Perhaps there are some DD apologists out there who would be willing to set me straight? As it stands, I don't see why Warner Bros. couldn't develop a similar movie for Worthington without the Dan Dare licensing. I don't think many people stateside have heard of him anyway, so there won't be any 'nostalgia factor' to play on. Then again, Hollywood is increasingly seeing its profits (even on domestic flops like Prince of Persia) coming from overseas, so I'll hold off on any final judgment for now.
The rights for the property were obtained from Dan Dare Inc. by Colin Frewin, who will exec produce along with Dan Lin. Basil Iwgnyk (Clash of the Titans) will produce.
UPDATE - Let the word-of-mouth begin. With $3 million in midnight screenings Christopher Nolan’s highly-anticipated “Inception” gets off to a start that is certainly no challenge to any of the midnight records, but hopefully will motivate moviegoers to begin the social network chatter that will either make or break the film. With its incredible visual style, plot convolutions and filmmaking pedigree, “Inception” is the stuff from which advanced film school courses are made. Weekend projections put the mind-blowing film in the $50 plus million range.
It's finally here! One of the most anticipated movies of the summer, if not the year as Warner Bros.' "Inception" prepares to mind-bend movie-goers with its smart, intricate storyline, solid performances and awe-inspiring visuals and special effects. Arguably one of the most accomplished film directors of all-time, Christopher Nolan brings this truly original production to the big screen (and of course his beloved IMAX canvas) after a ten year gestation period during which the super-brainy director developed the story and was likely waiting for special effects technology to catch up with his cinematic vision. Nolan holds the distinction of having directed the film with the biggest opening weekend box office of all-time with "The Dark Knight" which opened almost exactly two years ago to the day with a whopping $158.4 million.
This could potentially give star Leonardo DiCaprio the best debut weekend of his career ahead of this year's first quarter hit "Shutter Island" which gave the star a career high weekend opening of $41.1 million. Ellen Page gives a subtle and smart performance and Joseph Gordon Levitt gets the MVP award for a truly gritty and career re-defining role that has the actor giving a very physical and uncommonly (for him) tough performance. British born Tom Hardy is also a revelation as Eames, a street-wise operative. Of course, DiCaprio gives an amazing performance under the tutelage of yet another brilliant director. Not to be missed, "Inception" is the sort of summer blockbuster that does not insist that you leave your brain at the door; quite the contrary as it actually requires that you put your thinking cap on and go along for a very challenging but very fun and satisfying ride. Notable that Warner Bros. has a maintained a tradition of terrific box office performances on this mid-July date with "Harry Potter 6" last year and the aforementioned "The Dark Knight" in 2008.
As a cool alternative for families who have been giving major support of late to PG-rated action adventures such as "The Karate Kid" and "The Last Airbender," Disney brings Nicolas Cage and Jay Baruchel ("Tropic Thunder," "She's Out of My League) together in this action film that has Cage sporting magical powers in his role as a master sorcerer and teams him with regular guy Dave (played by Baruchel) as they try to outwit the evil Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina who played the evil Doc Ock in "Spider-Man 2." Pulling a very famous title from the vaults, Disney hopes to continue their winning streak with families in the wake of the massive success of "Toy Story 3" and take their G-rated devotees and bring them back for some live action PG-rated family adventure.
Another strong weekend in store after last weekend's 35% increase over the comparable weekend a year ago and the much bigger-than-expected debut and chart topping mid-week grosses of Universal's "Despicable Me" which has earned nearly $80 million in just six days of release. Summit's "Twilight Saga: Eclipse," Disney's "Toy Story 3" and Sony's "Grown Ups" are also displaying continued strength and should put us again in the revenue sweet spot along with this weekend's newcomers. With about seven weekends remaining in the season, the last third of the summer now holds the key to the ultimate fate of the box office after a somewhat rocky May into mid-June period and subsequent show of strength by "The Karate Kid," "Eclipse," "Toy Story 3," "The Last Airbdender" and "Despicable Me."
Animation particularly when it comes out of the Disney/Pixar stable is one of those areas of filmmaking that regularly inspires the phrase "They don't make them like they used to." In the case of Toy Story 3 however it's more accurate to say "They have never made them like this." It's certainly not unheard of for an animated film to be good for a Pixar film to be great or for the third film in a trilogy to be outstanding (though that's the rarest of the three) but in the case of Lee Unkrich's film the sheer degree at which it exceeds at all three is not just rare it's unprecedented.
Eleven years have elapsed since Woody (Tom Hanks) Buzz (Tim Allen) and all of Andy's favorite playthings had their last adventure -- rather 11 years have elapsed since Andy stopped playing with his toys. Buoyed by Woody's never-failing devotion the gang is all optimistic that Andy will elect to bring them with him to his first year of college but as that fateful empty-nest day approaches it becomes clearer and clearer that the only toy that will be making the trek to school is Woody. The rest are all by a series of unfortunate events consigned to live out their remaining days at Sunnyside daycare. Things are actually looking up for the neglected entertainers until they realize just how careless the ankle-biters are when it comes to playing with toys.
Unfortunately there is no escape in sight for the lovable personalities Pixar has been refining for over a decade. Lotso Huggin' Bear (Ned Beatty) runs a tight ship at Sunnyside; the new toys are just going to have to be sacrificed to the aggressive toddlers so the old veterans can have a relaxing time with their more mature counterparts. Eventually Woody catches wind of what kind of life his old pals are being forced to live and Toy Story 3 quite brilliantly becomes a riff on classic prison escape movies as Woody seeks to breach Lotso's security measures and bring his bunch back to Andy where they belong. And while this on-the-run chunk of the film is some of the most thrilling material Pixar has ever delivered it's also some of the most touching.
Unlike most sequels not a moment of Toy Story 3 feels artificial. There's no sense that Pixar decided to make a third film because it knew that the box office would gladly support another entry; no sense that this is a cash grab (unlike a certain green ogre's most recent trip to the big screen). All of those typical sequel pitfalls are carefully avoided by a swelling sense of finality. Toy Story 3 isn't just another adventure with these characters -- there is in fact no doubt that this is their final adventure their final hoorah together. Director Lee Unkrich and screenwriter Michael Arndt meticulously lead the audience along with bated breath the entire time culminating in a life-or-death scenario for the toys that is more heartfelt and genuine than most live-action films can ever muster.
It's astonishing how the creative team at Pixar can make you forget that what you're watching is all a bunch of digital wizardry. Maybe it's the 3D this time around maybe it's that this is the studio's most accomplished technical feat to date (there are single shots at a landfill that pack in richer detail than the entirety of the pioneering first film) that makes Toy Story 3 such an immersive experience. Or maybe it's simply because Pixar treats its property which is ostensibly for children with the utmost sincerity. The result is an overwhelming success the rare kind of film that were it a human being would be your best friend.
One could reasonably make the case that Toy Story 3 is the single best animated film ever made. I wouldn't outright agree with such grandiose claims but it's certainly not a baseless proposition that you'd be laughed at for bringing up. However with part three now tucked under Pixar's belt one could present an even better case that Toy Story is the best film trilogy ever made -- a claim I am far more comfortable signing on the dotted line for.
Cult TV Hit 'Firefly', Still Flying
This may sound contradictory, but for the longest time I was a fan of the universe of Firefly without ever fully understanding the fandom for the TV show. I can still recall the advertisements for the premiere of the show and thinking it looked like something that was perfect for me, but I was just never home when it was on and wasn't nearly concerned enough to set up the VCR to record the show in those dark days before DVRs worked like magic. So I, like a lot of people, took to the space adventures of Mal Reynolds and the crew of the Serenity on DVD. I really dug everything about the genre-warping show, yet I didn't fall obsessively in love with it right away.
I suppose it was because the series was dead at the time and there didn't appear to be any prospect of resurrection (this was before Serenity had been announced), so I didn't let myself get excited about something I knew was at a dead end. But then Serenity began its long trip to the big screen and the early screenings of the film seemed to bring all of the Browncoats -- the name fans of the shows latched onto to describe their own loyalty to its cause -- out of the woodwork. Suddenly it became very cool to be a Firefly superfan and geek conversations all over the Internet were flooded with talk about how Fox's cancellation of Firefly was the most egregious slap in the face to sci-fi fans the network had ever issued. And while I wouldn't broaden that thought and call it the worst sci-fi cancellation in the history of television (as many have), I was certainly sad to see its life on both the big and small screens be so brief.
Now, thanks to Titan Books' recent publication of the ultimate compendium to fans, Firefly: Still Flying, I am once again reminded of why I did eventually fall head-over-heels for Fire.
The book is a remarkably comprehensive encyclopedia of insights into how the show was made both creatively and physically, but as much as I enjoy reading about all the shenanigans that went on behind the scenes, my favorite component of the 159-page tribute isn't a deep insight from show creator Joss Whedon or a wonderful anecdote from star Nathan Fillion, it's a piece of brand-new Firefly fiction written by Jane Espenson called "What Holds Us Down." It's only a few pages long, but that's all Espenson, who wrote the "Shindig" episode of the series, needs to tap into the core of why people love this show like few others.
If you're a fan, I could recommend grabbing a copy of Firefly: Still Flying just to read her story alone, but in case it will be a while before you can do that, Espenson's short is about Kaylee and Wash's attempts to survive a besieged and crippled ship. What follows are minor spoilers, so if you'd rather not know how this roughly six-page story ends, skip the rest of this paragraph and the one that follows. Most of the action revolves around Kaylee instead of Wash, but the heart of the story is all about Wash and why he's not only likable but integral to keeping all of Mal's crew together (it's particularly bittersweet when you keep in mind the events of Serenity). In an attempt to keep talking in order to stave off falling asleep and most likely dying, Wash explains to Kaylee that he is a carrier for an infectious hero disease. He's not actually a victim of it himself -- he's far too cowardly for that -- but everyone around him seems to be a hero when needed.
Kaylee laughs it off as Wash's distracting chatter meant to keep himself alive, but once the ordeal is over and the pair is back aboard the Firefly, everyone's favorite space mechanic has time to reflect on what really happened aboard that ship: Wash's infectious calmness had enabled her to stay collected enough to save both of their lives. She then explains to Simon that she finally understands why Zoe loves Wash: "He's a man what makes heroes."
And though I think that's a wonderfully sweet line that sums up Wash as a character, the reason it made me love the show is because I reckon Espenson could just as easily have been writing about Joss Whedon. The man has something in him that just brings the best out of everyone around him. It's not just the people involved with the show, though I do think Firefly/Serenity will be the high-tide watermark for most of their careers for a while; this infection has spread to the fans. Whedon can't keep his universe alive all by himself, but he can inspire the fans to want to keep it alive in art, fan fiction, and support of spin-off comics and books that take the characters into new adventures.
I think we can all agree that Firefly doesn't really have the most compelling story around, but it does have a most compelling "hero maker" at its core to make up for it. There may have been a time when Whedon was indeed keeping fans alive by delivering new episodes, but that era has long since ended. Now it's all about keeping the "hero maker" alive, of letting his foundation galvanize us fans to action when he can no longer do the show for us. He's placed the fate of Mal, Kaylee, Wash, Zoe, Jayne, Simon, River, Inara, and Book in the hands of fans; fortunately for us, there are enough of them around to not only make their own great contributions in honor of the show but to prove to publishers like Titan Books that there are still stories to tell and still people who will pay to hear them.
The actress insists she's "not much" of a risk-taker since she welcomed daughter Valentina in September 2007, with her husband, French fashion executive Francois-Henri Pinault.
And she's given up many dangerous thrill-seeking adventures - including a once-in-a-lifetime chance to orbit the planet with the Virgin boss' spaceliner, due to launch next year (11).
She tells U.S. magazine InStyle, "I love scuba diving and used to dive where the sharks were, and now? No more sharks. Everything became about the baby. You are in second position, or third... My dream was to go into space. I reserved my place with the Virgin (Galactic) expedition. And then I got pregnant. And now I'm a mother. So I'm not going to go."
At a special screening this morning, I had the privilege to see Warner Bros. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and I was blown away like a Quidditch player on a supercharged broomstick. Not only that, halfway through, I’m thinking the unthinkable: “Ten academy awards nominations are available this year ... hmm, I wonder ...."
Hey, the Lord of the Rings movies were nominated three years running, and I rank this right up there with those incredible films. Now I know people are going to give me crap about this, but please hold your judgment until you see the film yourself and then come back and point your stubby little Hobbit fingers at me if you don’t agree.
Lest you think this movie was preaching to the converted or that I am some sort of huge Potter aficionado, I will be honest and say that heretofore, I was not a huge fan of the franchise; certainly I understood the popularity of the books and the films, but they just were not my cup of tea.
Well, stand back because now the Potter-loving beast in me has been unleashed after having witnessed a film that was not only exquisite in its production values, but was also charming, funny, scary, enchanting, moving (stop me, the adjectives could go on and on) and dare I say, sexy. Brilliantly directed by David Yates (he directed 2007’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a tour-de-force that combines style and substance, special effects and heart and most importantly great performances from all of the actors young and not-so-young.
Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter himself, has evolved into a really fine young actor who gives the film its emotional core. However, if Radcliffe is the heart, Michael Gambon is the film’s soul as Albus Dumbledore; Gambon gives a powerfully subtle performance as the de-facto father figure to young Mr. Potter. Of course, the always great Alan Rickman gives another menacingly creepy and memorable turn as the evil and duplicitous Severus Snape. The cinematography, music, set design and costumes are all amazing, and the film has a truly rich look to it reminiscent of the best of the old-school Hollywood epics.
There are two more Potter films (both directed by Yates) with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows – Part 1 set for 2010 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows – Part 2 set for 2011.
I, for one, cannot wait to see what wicked adventures this way come for Mr. Harry Potter.
MORE: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Stills
Nearly 30 years after an infectious plague ravaged Scotland and forced the closing of the nation’s borders the plague recurs in London--prompting the government to send a crack team of commandos into Scotland to locate and retrieve the cure if indeed there is one. Of course it’s not as simple as all that. The hordes of crazed and in some cases cannibalistic survivors of the plague are more than willing to give a (very) warm welcome to these interlopers led by the foxy and fierce Eden Sinclair (Rhona Mitra). Meanwhile back in Merrye Olde England the virus is continuing to spread but some of the powers-that-be don’t seem altogether concerned about that being more preoccupied with protecting their image sullied as it already is. In short it’s every man and woman for himself and herself--survival of the fittest 21st-century style. It’s also derivative and not necessarily in a negative way of such sci-fi classics as John Carpenter’s Escape from New York and George Miller’s Mad Max trilogy--replete with appropriate nods and in-jokes from Marshall who clearly has a great respect and affection for those who came before. Sigourney Weaver may not lose any sleep but Milla Jovovich might. As the one-eyed two-fisted ferociously fit action heroine Eden Sinclair Mitra stakes her claim to become the next cult heroine and there’s plenty of room left here to accommodate Eden’s potential future adventures. It’s always nice having Bob Hoskins around even if only for an extended cameo appearance as Eden’s down-to-earth boss Bill Nelson. Hoskins has played some heavies in his time but here he’s one of the good guys. Alexander Siddig no stranger to science-fiction given his Star Trek: Deep Space Nine stint plays the (rightly) worried Prime Minister and the ever-scowling David O'Hara plays his ruthless aide-de-camp amusingly and ironically named Canaris (World War II buffs will get the reference) who really is the power behind the throne. Adrian Lester Nora-Jane Noone Darren Morfitt and reliable Sean Pertwee play members of Eden’s assault team--shades of James Cameron’s Aliens--although few of them are in one piece by the end credits. Such are the perils of being an actor in this sort of film. Another “old-school” favorite Malcolm McDowell provides expository narration (a lot of it) and his own brand of tasty British ham (sliced just right) to his role of the scientist Kane who has forsaken science--and society--for a more medieval motif in a world gone wild. Like Hoskins McDowell hasn’t much time onscreen but there’s something pleasing about having him here. This is a film that favors style over substance but there are opportunities for the actors to strut their stuff in spirited fashion. As bruised bloodied or beheaded as the actors get they all seem to be having fun.
Without question Neil Marshall is one of the fast-rising talents in the fantasy genre--a genre he has clearly studied well. He brings a keen insight and manages to “borrow” elements and inspiration from other films in a way that doesn’t insult those films doesn’t diminish his own work and--more importantly--doesn’t insult the audience some of whom will surely recognize those inspirations and nods (Doomsday is filled with them). This is however one of the more cold-blooded efforts of Marshall’s young career. It’s about an inhumane future and the film is suffused with that emotional resonance--or lack thereof. The humor such as it is is blunt and bloody and the irony no less smoothly rendered. Nevertheless this promises slam-bang action and it certainly delivers. In an era where so many horror and science-fiction films are cut to achieve a PG-13 rating often to the detriment of the end result Doomsday is bloody proud to go for that R rating!
The Bushes gathered together Hollywood celebrities and musicians Monday at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts for a musical tribute honoring the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. At the second Concert for America (the first took place 13 days after the attacks), opera tenor Placido Domingo joined Latin pop star Enrique Iglesias and country singer Alan Jackson in a musical performance, while actors Angela Bassett and James Earl Jones gave dramatic readings. The show will air on NBC Wednesday.
Let's hope this the last time we have to write about this, now that it's official: The Russian Space Agency sent a letter to NASA Monday stating 'N Sync member Lance Bass will not be visiting their international space station anytime soon. Last week, the agency kicked Bass off the flight crew for his failure to raise the $20 million fee in time, but Bass' sponsors hoped to continue the negotiations. Not anymore. "The letter speaks for itself," NASA spokeswoman Debra Rahn told the Associated Press. "They've officially withdrawn Mr. Bass from the flight."
After establishing a nonprofit summer camp to help girls develop self-esteem in California, supermodel Tyra Banks plans on opening one in South Florida. Called T-Zone, the weeklong, all-expenses-paid camp for girls ages 13 to 15 helps the teenagers deal with body image, self-doubt and pressures from boys. Banks wants to open camps all over the country. "I want to take it national as soon as possible," Banks told Sun-Sentinel. "But I want quality control. I want it to be like McDonald's or Coca-Cola. It's the same everywhere."
Actor Brad Renfro has dropped out of the film Freddy vs. Jason, the ultimate horror showdown between to two infamous killers--Nightmare on Elm Street's Freddy Krueger and Friday the 13th's Jason Voorhees. Renfro will be replaced by Jason Ritter (Swimfan), son of actor John Ritter.
Director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld (Kissing Jessica Stein) will direct Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde. The sequel to the 2001 summer sleeper hit Legally Blonde continues the adventures of Harvard Law School grad Elle Woods as she heads to Washington to take on the politicians.
Get ready for more Mr. French and Mrs. Beasley. The WB has remade the sappy '60s show Family Affair, where cute twins Jody and Buffy Davis, along with their teenage sister Sissy, descend upon their Uncle Bill (Gary Cole), a devout bachelor and his stuffy butler, Mr. French (Tim Curry). The one-hour series pilot airs Thursday at 8 p.m. What's next? The Courtship of Eddie's Father?
A tour bus for Eminem's Anger Management Tour caught fire Sunday on a highway in Michigan, when friction from a flat tire ignited the vehicle. AP reports only the bus driver was on board the bus, which was reserved for Eminem's managers, when the fire started and was not injured. Eminem finished his tour Sunday night at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich.
Canadian folk singer Gordon Lightfoot, known for his '70s hits such as "If You Could Read My Mind" and "Sundown," was recovering in the intensive care unit Monday in Toronto after suffering from internal bleeding in his abdomen. He is stable but doctors told Reuters his condition is serious and will have to be closely monitored over the next few days.
XXX still marked the top spot at the box office with $23 million.
Signs held strongly in second place with $19.5 million.
Blue Crush made a nice splash in third place, opening to $15.2 million.
Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams was a quiet fourth with $11.6 million. Austin Powers in Goldmember was still laughing in fifth place with $8.7 million. A major expansion in its 18th week of release sent My Big Fat Greek Wedding into sixth place with a big fat $5.8 million.
The weekend's other wide opening, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, was orbiting in box office outer space with a cold as ice $2.2 million in tenth place.
With no new blockbusters driving ticket sales, key films -- those grossing $500,000 or more -- were down about 3 percent from last year with $106.8 million versus $110.4 million. It was the fifth consecutive weekend in which the marketplace was down compared to last year.
THE TOP TEN
Revolution Studios and Columbia's PG-13 rated action adventure thriller XXX showed strong legs, holding on to first place in its second week with a solid ESTIMATED $23.0 million (-48%) at 3,388 theaters (+14 theaters; $6,789 per theater). Its cume is approximately $84.9 million.
XXX's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
Directed by Rob Cohen and produced by Neal H. Moritz, it stars Vin Diesel, Asia Argento and Marton Csokas.
"Down only 48 percent is one of the best holds of the summer," Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning.
"It's a tick better (hold) than even Signs last week (which had dropped 51 percent), which obviously is a good holding picture going forward. It looks like we are, too. And it's a tick better than what Fast and the Furious' drop was, as well (last summer with a 50 percent fall in its second weekend)."
Asked where XXX is heading, Blake replied, "Fast and the Furious is as good a guidebook as any and, as I say, we're tracking better. At the end of 10 days, they had in $77.8 million and had had a second weekend of $20 million, down 50 percent, so we're definitely tracking better just about every day so far. They ended up with a very nice total of $144.5 million. I'd have to say we're setting our sights slightly higher than that. To be honest, as we look ahead there's a lot less to stop us."
Looking ahead, Blake said, "I think, clearly, XXX and Signs are the two pictures emerging out of the summer that are really going to get sampled as the summer winds down and fall begins. We are number one for the second week in a row, joining Spider-Man, Star Wars, Sum of All Fears and Men in Black II, very nice company, as the only pictures to be number one two weeks in a row this summer. And we've got a real shot to be number one three weeks in a row, which nobody has done. Nobody made it three weeks in a row. Spider-Man had (competition from the opening of) Star Wars in week three. And Star Wars had Sum of All Fears.
"I don't share the thought that the opening was anything but terrific, but I think it does make the point that if you can't get open to a big level even though it's a little harder to produce the box car numbers in late summer the advantage is that you can hold for a while if you're a picture that plays. And this picture certainly plays."
Buena Vista/Touchstone's PG-13 rated supernatural thriller Signs held very well in second place in its third week with a steady ESTIMATED $19.5 million (-34%) at 3,344 theaters (+34 theaters; $5,843 per theater). Its cume is approximately $150.7 million.
Directed by M Night Shyamalan, it stars Mel Gibson.
Universal and Imagine Entertainment's PG-13 rated romantic surfer girl comedy Blue Crush opened third to a sexy ESTIMATED $15.18 million at 3,002 theaters ($5,055 per theater).
Directed by John Stockwell and produced by Brian Grazer and Karen Kehela, it stars Kate Bosworth, Michelle Rodriguez, Matthew Davis, Sanoe Lake and Mika Boorem.
"The Blue Crush results are a solid opening for what is a fun film that delivers to its target audience," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning.
Focusing on what went in to achieving the solid launch, Rocco noted, "We're very proud of what everybody (at the studio) has done. Certainly, marketing created an incredible hype for young females and distribution did a tremendous job in dating the film. I think the producers of the film delivered something that was very different and unique.
"We have a picture that has a subject matter (bikini babes at the beach and summer romance) that is 40 years old. To take it and reinvent this old genre for today's audience is quite an accomplishment. And I'm very pleased with the results."
Miramax/Dimension Films' PG rated family comedy sequel Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams slipped one peg to fourth place in its second week with a low energy ESTIMATED $11.6 million (-31%) at 3,307 theaters (theater count unchanged; $3,508 per theater). Its cume is approximately $45.7 million.
Directed by Robert Rodriguez, it stars Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino.
New Line's PG-13 rated comedy sequel Austin Powers in Goldmember fell one notch to fifth place in its fourth week with a less frenetic ESTIMATED $8.7 million (-33%) at 3,113 theaters (-395 theaters; $2,795 per theater). Its cume is approximately $183.9 million.
Directed by Jay Roach, it stars Mike Myers, Beyonce Knowles and Michael Caine.
Gold Circle Films and HBO's PG rated romantic comedy sleeper hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding continued to expand in its 18th week via IFC Films, rising two slots to sixth place with an outstanding ESTIMATED $5.8 million at 1,060 theaters (+337 theaters; $5,472 per theater). Its cume is approximately $52.8 million, heading for $60 million or more in domestic theaters.
Directed by Joel Zwick, it stars Nia Vardalos and John Corbett.
Warner Bros.' R rated thriller Blood Work dropped two posts to seventh place in its second week with a less thrilling ESTIMATED $4.8 million (-33%) at 2,525 theaters
(theater count unchanged; $1,901 per theater). Its cume is approximately $15.3 million.
Produced and directed by Clint Eastwood, it stars Eastwood.
DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox's R rated adult appeal drama Road to Perdition slipped one peg to eighth place in its sixth week, holding very well with an ESTIMATED $3.8 million (-9%) at 1,914 theaters (-297 theaters; $1,999 per theater). Its cume is approximately $90.3 million.
Directed by Sam Mendes, it stars Tom Hanks, Paul Newman and Jude Law.
Revolution Studios and Columbia's low budget PG rated family comedy Master of Disguise dropped three levels to ninth place in its third week with a calm ESTIMATED $3.3 million (-35%) at 2,137 theaters (-431 theaters; $1,544 per theater). Its cume is approximately $30.4 million.
Directed by Perry Andelin Blake, it stars Dana Carvey.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Castle Rock Entertainment's opening via Warner Bros. of its (in association with Village Roadshow Pictures and NPV Entertainment) PG-13 rated sci-fi action comedy The Adventures of Pluto Nash to a soft ESTIMATED $2.15 million at 2,320 theaters ($927 per theater).
Directed by Ron Underwood, it stars Eddie Murphy and was produced by Martin Bregman, Michael Bregman and Louis A. Stroller.
Pluto, a very expensive special effects picture, was originally developed at Universal, which put it in turnaround years ago. With Pluto, having bounced around Warners' release schedule for some time, insiders were not anticipating a good opening.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Focus Features' romantic drama Possession to a very encouraging ESTIMATED $1.61 million at 270 theaters ($5,975 per theater).
Directed by Neil LaBute, it stars Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart.
"We had a good weekend," Focus Features distribution president Jack Foley said Sunday morning. "It competed nicely in the marketplace. It ranked up among the more competitive films in a lot of the multiplexes -- in the top three and four and five ranks.
That's not bad considering XXX and Signs are still pounding in there. In commercial houses we were very, very well attended. And in the upscale and art houses around the country we were ranking in the number one and two positions.
"So we're really happy with this opening. It puts us in a position to think that we can persist very nicely through the upcoming weeks and months and serve a demo out there that really isn't being served aggressively at this stage of the game outside of what Greek Wedding is doing. A lot of those people have seen Greek Wedding, so we can easily fill that slot for an alternative kind of programming picture."
Looking ahead, Foley explained, "Next week we're going to expand the top 17 markets a bit that we're in right now. Then on Labor Day we'll go wide with the picture. I'm very, very happy that the country embraced the film."
Paramount Classics' PG rated German romantic comedy Mostly Martha opened to a hopeful ESTIMATED $41,000 at 2 theaters ($20,445 per theater).
Written and directed by Sandra Nettelbeck, it stars Martina Gedeck.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend Fox Searchlight Pictures' R rated comedy The Good Girl went wider in its second week with a still impressive ESTIMATED $0.83 million at 60 theaters (+56 theaters; $13,800 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.1 million.
Directed by Miguel Arteta, it stars Jennifer Aniston, Jake Gyllenhaal and John C. Reilly.
"We had a very, very good expansion," Fox Searchlight distribution president Stephen Gilula said Sunday morning.
"We added 56 theaters in an additional 18 cities (for a total of) 20 cities across the country. It's terrific. The regional cities have supported the film extremely well.
"The four holdover theaters held extremely well even though we added quite a few theaters in Manhattan and L.A. We picked up very good momentum. The regional reviews were very, very strong around the country. So we're quite optimistic about the next wave of our expansion."
This Friday, Gilula said, "We'll open up in 29 more cities and expand further into 50 cities. So we should be on Friday, Aug. 23 in approximately 175 theaters. The following week, which is Labor Day weekend, we'll expand nationally to 500 or more theaters."
Miramax's PG-13 romantic comedy Tadpole expanded in its fifth week to a slow ESTIMATED $0.31 million at 151 theaters (+59 theaters; $2,019 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.5 million.
Directed by Gary Winick, it stars Sigourney Weaver, John Ritter, Bebe Neuwirth and Aaron Stanford.
Focus Features' R rated The Kid Stays in the Picture, the "unbelievable true tale of Robert Evans," continued to widen in its fourth week, holding well with an ESTIMATED $0.18 million at 56 theaters (+11 theaters; $3,257 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.8 million.
Produced and directed by Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein and produced by Graydon Carter, Kid is based on the book by Robert Evans.
"It's very steady and very solid in the previously expanded markets," Focus Features' Jack Foley said. "It didn't experience much of a drop in them, particularly in New York and L.A., where it's really got a great foothold."
United Artists' R rated comedy 24 Hour Party People, released through MGM, expanded in its second week to a still happy ESTIMATED $0.16 million at 18 theaters (+16 theaters; $8,674 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.2 million.
Directed by Michael Winterbottom, it stars Steve Coogan.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $106.84 million, down 3.19 percent from last year when they totaled $110.37 million.
Key films were down about 21.71 percent from the previous weekend of this year when they grossed $136.44 million.
Last year, Universal's second week of American Pie 2 was first with $21.1 million at 3,072 theaters ($6,870 per theater); and New Line's third week of Rush Hour 2 was second with $19.02 million at 3,080 theaters ($6,177 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $40.1 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $42.5 million.
A four-part special commemorating the 20th anniversary of man's first moon landing. Includes NBC television and radio coverage, Russian news clips, historical newsreel footage and interviews with those who made space history.