Glee star Lea Michele made her first TV appearance August 11 since the death of her co-star and real-life boyfriend Cory Monteith in July. Accepting the award for Choice TV Actress, she dedicated the award to Monteith and said to legions of Gleeks that "we're going to get through this together."
“He was very special to me, and also to the world, and we were very lucky to witness his incredible talent, his handsome smile, and his beautiful, beautiful heart,” she continued. “So whether you knew him personally or just as Finn Hudson, Cory reached out, and he became a part of all of our hearts — and that’s where he’ll stay forever, so thank you guys so much.”
Last week, Michele released her first on-set photo from Glee since Monteith's death. The Fox series will return Sept. 26 and feature a tribute to Monteith in the third episode of the season.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
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In a touching new segment of her online web series Ask Amy, funny lady Amy Poehler got serious. The Parks and Recreation star fielded a question from a fan about how to feel engaged with the news and pop culture without being relentlessly bombarded with images. This person said she felt obligated to watch certain videos online just because they had millions of views, even though she found them empty and attention-getting.
Poehler's response was reflective. Especially in the wake of the bombing at the Boston Marathon earlier this week, she suggested that we all carefully monitor our intake of images. There's a difference between being informed and being overwhelmed by graphic photos of bombing victims. How do we stay connected "without exploiting people or harming yourself?" Here's what Poehler had to say in full:
Do you agree that at a time like this we should all just step back and consider "giving our eyes a break"?
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
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Jeez, Justin Timberlake sure isn't f**king around when it comes to his big musical comeback. For his first music video back on the scene, he's enlisting some pretty A-List help. David Fincher — you know, the guy behind The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Social Network, and Fight Club — will be directing the actual-real-not-lyric-version video for "Suit & Tie," The Playlist confirms.
You may remember that Fincher got his start in music videos, and is famously responsible for Madonna's iconic 1990 "Vogue" video. But he hasn't dabbled in the medium since he directed the video for Nine Inch Nails' "Only" in 2005. Despite his eight year hiatus, we expect big things from Fincher in his return to music videos. After all, the following seven videos all prove that no movie director is too big to return to the shorter, more YouTube-friendly form.
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Following his smashing success with 2009's (500) Days of Summer, Marc Webb helmed Green Day's "Last of the American Girls" video in 2010.
After Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) earned him a cult following, John Cameron Mitchell brought his artistic vision to Bright Eyes' touching "First Day of My Life" video in 2006.
In another movie star music video mashup, Bennett Miller teamed up with Scarlett Johansson for her 2008 video for "Falling Down." While Moneyball was still on Miller's horizon, he'd already scored notability with Capote (2005).
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A year before Milk, Gus Van Sant directed the Red Hot Chili Peppers' video for "Desecration Smile" (2007). Of course, Van Sant already had a number of hits (including Good Will Hunting and Finding Forrester) to his name.
Unlike Fincher, Darren Aronofsky didn't try his hand at music video directing until he was established in movies. After Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, and Black Swan, Aronofsky directed the video for Lou Reed and Metallica's "The View" (2011).
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Like Fincher and "Vogue," it's pretty common knowledge at this point that Martin Scorsese directed Michael Jackson's "Bad" in 1987. But despite this being 26 years ago, Scorsese was in no way a newbie director. Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980) and The Color of Money (1986) (among others) were already behind him.
Even while he loaded up on feature film accolades (for movies such as Being John Malkovitch, Adaptation, and Where the Wild Things Are) Spike Jonze never really left his music video roots. Most recently, he took the reins of LCD Soundsystem's "Drunk Girls," Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs," The Beastie Boys' "Don't Play No Game That I Can't Win," and Jay-Z and Kanye West's "Otis" (below).
Follow Abbey Stone on Twitter @abbeystone
[Photo Credit: JFXimages/WENN]
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Ah, the Super Bowl. A time for Baltimore and San Francisco to prove their municipal superiority, for Beyoncé to prove the haters wrong after her lipsyncing fiasco, and for 90 million+ TV viewers to watch football players touching each other's butts while gorging on an endless array of calorie-larded snacks and dips. In short, the perfect time for an apocalypse-themed movie teaser! At least that's what Paramount has been thinking, because they're debuting a new 30 second teaser for Brad Pitt's zombie thriller World War Z (out July 3) during the game, the latest in a long lie of apocalypse-themed Super Bowl commercials. Because really, the only natural follow-up to "Are you ready for some football?" is "We've lost the East Coast!" and "China's gone dark!" Check out the ad:
You could argue that the history of Super Bowl commercials that double as "end of the world" fantasies stretches back to Apple's iconic ad imagining IBM customers as enslaved minions of an Orwellian overlord. I know, I know, you'll say it's more a dystopian commercial than an apocalyptic one. But how is living in a world dominated by IBM not a kind of apocalypse?
2012, the year of the Mayan-predicted catastrophe, is when End of Days scenarios really took hold in Super Bowl commercials, however. One ad for the Chevy Silverado presented an SUV so dependable that it could withstand some kind of humanity-extinguishing robot war and a plague of locusts. You may be living in a burnt-out hellscape, but you can damn well still buy American.
Time Warner Cable also imagined an apocalypse triggered by the, likely frequent, event of Ricky Gervais rejecting a "friend request" on Facebook. Suddenly, he's dodging mortar fire, and Mary-Louise Parker is being menaced by zombies.
With this track record, the new World War Z teaser will fit in perfectly. Now, mind you, you could say that these ads appeal to TV viewers' latent fear of sudden destruction to inspire some kind of "live for the moment" feeling. And in our consumer society, "live for the moment" roughly translates to "buy all you can while there's still time!" But the zeal, even joy, with which these ads imagine our collective doom suggests not a fear of a hypothetical apocalypse as much as a desire for one. A Freudian reading would say this is the "death drive" in action. Because after you've spent hours devouring pork rinds, pigs in blankets, 10-alarm chili, and countless brewskies — not to mention listening to Terry Bradshaw for hours on end — there's really nothing left to do but degenerate into Hieronymous Bosch-like chaos. Or maybe these ads just prove we're a nation of teenage boys and like to see s**t blow up. Either way, the new World War Z ad fits in perfectly.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures]
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Secret caches of gold, coffins ominously dragged across the landscape, cemetery and churchyard shootouts, sliced ears, baroque flashbacks, poor souls buried up to their necks in sand. All of these Grand Guignol augurs can only mean one thing. You've entered Spaghetti Western country! From about 1964 until 1970, with a few later exceptions, some of Italy's most profitable film exports—not to mention daring, creative, and politically charged—were Westerns. Directors like the Three Sergios (Sergio Leone, Sergio Corbucci, and Sergio Sollima) made these low-budget oaters in Almeria, Spain, a perfectly dusty stand-in for the American Southwest and Mexico, and recruited B-movie actors or rising stars from Hollywood to play in them. Many of these films exist in multiple versions, recut to fit the sensibilities and language barriers of the different countries where they would be shown. In fact, you could argue that the Italian Western, with its roots in the American Western, not to mention Japanese samurai films and even the early James Bond flicks, were the first truly international movies. They were geared as much for non-Italian viewing as they were the home audience—though they were certain popular there. Sergio Leone's second Western, For a Few Dollars More, became the highest grossing movie in Italian history upon its release in 1965. Outside of Italy, these films were quickly known as Spaghetti Westerns, though there are some regional variations. In Japan, Italian-produced Westerns are known as Macaroni Westerns. These films certainly broke new ground in the depiction of violence onscreen, but they were also unique for how personal and political they could be, often touching upon leftist or revolutionary currents in Italian society that were easier to express in the Old West than in movies set in the present day.
Quentin Tarantino's latest movie, Django Unchained, is an homage to the Spaghetti Western, and, like its Italian forebears, touches upon sensitive topics of race and class, marrying a personal vision to a political undercurrent worthy of many of the films he admires. In honor of Django Unchained, we at Hollywood.com have put together our own ranked list of the 20 Best Spaghetti Westerns ever made. Click on the following link to check them out. And feel free to suggest other films we left out in the comments below.
The 20 Best Spaghetti Westerns Ever Made
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures]
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Basically, we could have called this two months ago. The X Factor's season 2 finale was about as predictable as any singing competition denouement we've ever seen. That's right, folks. America cast 35 million votes and determined Tate Stevens to be the winner! Now he can buy $5 million worth of ten-gallon hats. Instantly dispelled was the question about whether America was ready for a country-singing X Factor winner. The question of whether we need any X Factor winner, or X Factor period, however, remains.
The three finalists, Stevens, Carly Rose Sonenclar, and girl-group Fifth Harmony (deemed by Simon Cowell Wednesday to be possible successors to One Direction) all pranced down the red carpet singing "All You Need Is Love," in a kind of harmonic free-for-all that, as nearly all "All You Need Is Love" covers do, that completely missed John Lennon and George Martin's intricate sonic layering. If I finally hear a cover of this song that also weaves in a string-heavy sample of "Greensleaves," as in the original, then I'll be happy.
After that, nearly two hours of pure, unadulterated adulteration followed. A night of astounding filler. First, a montage of Simon's nasty barbs set to "Mr. Grinch' as if this were 2002 and we were just discovering Brit-imported reality-show snark. Were quotes like "You're a mouse trying to be an elephant" and "You sang like a dog trying to lay an egg" really worthy of anchoring a supercut of Cowell barbs? Speaking of which, now that I've spent a better part of the fall TV season staring at Simon's square head and chest hair, I think the time is right to ask the following: what the hell has happened to his appearance? His face is so much fuller than it ever used to be; his eyes are getting all squinty and immobile a la Kenny Rogers and Bruce Jenner; and his hair is sculpted into an Arsenio Hall flat-top circa 1990. Someone's got their work cut out for them in the off-season.
Lest you forget, X Factor reminded us all evening that Christmas is upon us. Stevens did his typically solid, if forgettable, thing, with Charles Brown's "Please Come Home for Christmas." But Fifth Harmony. Oh, Fifth Harmony committed sonic heresy by attempting a multi-part cover of Darlene Love's peerless 1963 classic "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)," a song that, for my money, is just a tiny rung below 'White Christmas' for the title of Greatest Christmas Song of the 20th Century. With Fifth Harmony's cover, gone in its entirety was Phil Spector's wall of sound. It's one thing to lose that song's cascading piano chords, but to not even have one decent vocalist (out of five!) tackle that soaring 'They're singing deck the halls/ But it's not like Christmas at all" pre-chorus was tragic. Instead we got one girl with a life-sized tropical-drink umbrella, and another wearing a giant bow on her head like Aretha Franklin. Except this girl is not a gift to us all. Then to top it off, they even did a soft-shoe with candy-cane canes. Luckily, we still have the actual Darlene Love slated to perform "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)" on the Late Show With David Letterman Friday, as she does every year before Christmas, as a palate cleanser. Because if I had to choose between a lump of coal in my stocking and having to hear Fifth Harmony mangle Phil Spector's masterpiece, I'd take the coal.
Next up was a montage of Britney Spears' repertoire of odd facial expressions. It was set to Edvard Grieg's crescendo-ing "Peer Gynt,' as Brit Brit's face became ever more contorted. I suppose we should admire X Factor's subtlety in their musical selection for the Britney montage. I'd have likely picked "Ride of the Valkyries" as accompaniment myself.
Carly Rose Sonenclar then followed that up with a better, albeit similarly anemic, rendition of Mariah Carey's latter-day staple "All I Want for Christmas Is You." But she sang it next to a hearth and Christmas tree that made it seem like she was smack in the middle of Dr. Stahlbaum's house and was about to sing a duet with a nutcracker come to life. I really expected that Christmas tree to suddenly grow. Alas, it did not.
Finally, it was time for some results. Fifth Harmony was deemed to have placed third. Group member Ally tried to insert the word "ya'll" as many times as she could into one sentence. She's folksy!
Time for more filler. Pitbull did his usual Absolut-fueled Miami party-starting thing, including requisite untied bow-tie. Then One Direction came out, performed, and showed the two remaining U.S. X Factor finalists a level of fame and success that they will never achieve. I particularly loved the eight-bit videogame aesthetic of their performance. This has been a great year for arcade side-scrollers what with this, Wreck-It Ralph, and Community's "Digital Estate Planning" episode.
Finally, it was time for the winner to be declared and a runner-up to be chosen to head back into obscurity and despair. Tate and Carly, along with respective mentors L.A. Reid and Spears, marched out to "Requiem for a Tower," just to emphasize all the more what a battle this is. Let they, whose X Factor journey is about to come to an end, salute you, America! Well, Tate obviously won. He was by far the best of the group and deserved it. I was a little freaked out by Mario Lopez' slightly ominous declaration immediately thereafter, "Tate Stevens is about to go start a whole new life, a life he only ever dreamed of." I'm hoping that new life involves a gravelly baritone-off with Trace Adkins and Randy Travis. And hey, Carly Rose Sonenclar has only lived a third of Stevens' 37 years. There are so many other reality shows ahead of her.
And that's a wrap! How will you guys bear to go nine months before X Factor graces your lives once again?
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: FOX]
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To call Fifty Shades of Grey a literary and pop culture sensation would be nothing short of an understatement. E.L. James' erotic trilogy about a young woman's romantic and sexual entanglement with a wealthy, but complicated, business tycoon and their BDSM relationship has become a phenomenon of unexpected, unparalleled proportions.
Just how big a phenomenon? The books — Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed — have been on the New York Times bestseller list for 25 weeks and currently sit in the top three slots, respectively. The trilogy surpassed the 20 million sales mark in the United States in July (the books have sold over 30 million copies worldwide), broke records previously held by fellow popular series like Harry Potter and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and will soon boast a big screen adaptation from the producers of The Social Network. Not bad for something that merely started out as a piece of Twilight fan fiction.
But while James' powerhouse books have left retailers, movie executives, and readers (even those beyond that embarrassingly named "mommy porn" demographic) satisfied, what about the two groups perhaps most directly affected by the wildly popular saga: erotica writers and the BDSM community? After all, the trilogy has led readers to become increasingly aware and interested in both the once-taboo book genre (Fifty Shades copycat Bared to You has quickly climbed the NY Times bestseller list and more will likely follow) and the once-underground world of BDSM. (Everything from Fifty Shades-themed dating services to sex kits have spawned as a result from the books).
"I've been tracking media for the past 17 years for NCSF and there has never been any kind of reaction like this before," says Susan Wright, a spokesperson for the advocacy group National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. "Look at what a brilliant stonewall this is: Twilight fan fiction to open the conversation."
And it's a conversation that needed to be brought to the masses, Wright says. According to a 2008 study conducted by NCSF, 37.5 percent of respondents in the BDSM community had experienced discrimination, harassment, or violence. Fifty Shades' frankness, says Wright, has helped open up audiences to the civility of the fetish and to the accessibility of erotic novels. "The best thing about the book is that it shows the discussion," she says. "Women who have never really thought about [BDSM] can go, 'Wow, that does sound kind of appealing' and realize that these sex games are available to anyone."
Odd to think of a work of fiction as a learning tool, but BDSM advocates tell Hollywood.com that those eager to enter into the community are using Fifty Shades of Grey — which introduces not only certain psychological aspects of BDSM relationships, but also sex devices like Ben-Wah balls and riding crops — as BDSM 101. "This book is a catalyst," Guy Sanders (better known as Sir Guy), board member and media representative for the nation's largest and longest-running BDSM support and education group, The Eulenspiegel Society, says. "Now maybe it will be more open and there won't be as much prejudice against it and we may have an opportunity to make better strides as far as the understanding of the people in these practices. The opportunity for us to educate people."
Especially when audiences could only rely on the entertainment industry's inaccurate portrayals of the fetish prior to the franchise's release. "[Fifty Shades] will put a different face on BDSM," says Sanders, who does, however, praise BDSM-friendly work like 9 1/2 Weeks and Secretary. "When you look at a lot of these crime shows, even the news media, whenever BDSM is depicted, the people in it are dysfunctional, they are sexual deviants or serial killers or something along those lines. With this book and the people that have found interest in it, you'll find that the guy next door might be involved, the principal at your school, the police officer on your beat, your psychologist, your lawyer might all be participants in [BDSM], so it might open up the human side of BDSM that it's not some bizarre, secret, hidden thing."
Of course, while Fifty Shades has undoubtably cast a more positive light on BDSM, it's unfortunate that the piece of literature jumpstarting discussion happens to be so critically reviled, a point of contention amongst erotica authors. While some are thankful that James' overnight, word-of-mouth success has brought more attention (and book sales) to the genre, others — like 76-year-old Desiree Holt, the oldest romance author in the world — some can't seem to get past the fact that it was achieved through an arguably poorly written book by someone who is not a professional writer. (Sample excerpt: "I gape at him. I have my second date with Christian oh-so-mysterious Grey. From coffee to helicopter rides. Wow.")
"I read all of them and while I found the love story touching, I found all the books poorly written and and often incorrect as far as the BDSM is concerned," says Holt, who recently penned an erotic retelling of Northanger Abbey. "The thing is, authors like Joey Hill have done the same story much, much better and with much more intensity. You have to really understand BDSM to write about and it's obvious that E.L. James didn't do her research."
And, when it comes to an erotic novel like Fifty Shades of Grey, inaccuracies could lead to danger. According to Sanders, audiences who learn about the BDSM world through the franchise may be ignorant of certain safety precautions. "People try things because its fashionable and they may now flood into the BDSM community, not necessarily as people who want to learn or people who want to practice, but as voyeurs and tourists," he says. "It could cause people to get involved with practices they don't really understand and not do them safely. It can also allow for misinformation to come about if they don't know where to properly exercise these and as a result have these problems."
WHAT MAKES AN EROTICA WRITER?
It's an interesting conundrum: Anyone can pick up a pen and write a best-selling novel, but should only experts in the field be allowed to broach BDSM? Are fans simply too inexperienced to write fiction? "Writing is a discipline," Holt says. "I guess that's another reason why some authors are a little ticked off about Fifty Shades of Grey, because this came out of nowhere and its fan fiction, which is not a disciplined environment. There are lots of wonderful erotic romance writers out there who make the New York Times bestseller list who have worked very hard at their craft and have not achieved that kind of celebrity."
And some erotica writers feel James is misplaced in the genre. While erotic novelist Teirney Medeiros (Axel's Obsession, Ivory's Addiction) was captivated by the first book ("I stayed up until 4 AM reading that book," she admits), the author is dismayed by the franchise itself and what she calls "a misrepresentation of erotic romance." (And Wright agrees that the books felt more like romance novels than erotic fiction.) "My initial reaction was the language wasn't right," Medeiros says. "It was all flowery and too sweet. It felt off to me. You could almost have the story without the BDSM. It's like [James] wanted something there that was just risqué. This book felt like a sweet romance, but they just forgot to close the bedroom door instead of inviting you in with them."
Still, some authors in the genre are able to put aside Fifty Shades of Grey's literary shortcomings to praise James for helping expand the genre — whether that's erotica or romance. "The Fifty Shades phenomenon is a natural outgrowth of what is almost 35 years of tremendous growth in romance fiction and a tremendous growth in women's fiction," says Amazon best-selling author Cerise DeLand (Rope Me In, At Her Service). "I think that the reason it is doing so well is attributed to a marvelous publicity campaign that got the word out in a big way. And the packaging was subtle, those who bought the book in print format [felt] as though they were able to do so and take it to the doctor's office and read it with impunity, which has always been a huge challenge for women reading romance."
Of course, DeLand still does note about the franchise, "Where the hell was the copywriter with the use of ellipses?" And even though Holt is "glad" for James and how she's raised awareness of BDSM and erotic literature, "I hope it spills over onto the rest of us. But I'd really feel a lot better about it if it was a really excellent book."
[Image credit: Vintage Books]
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The moviemaker took home the prestigious honour for his silent movie The Artist, seeing off competition from Hollywood heavyweights Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris) and Martin Scorsese (Hugo), David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and Alexander Payne (The Descendants).
The trophy launches Hazanavicius into pole position to win an Academy Award in February (12), as the winner of the DGA has gone on to win the Best Director Oscar all but six times since the guild began handing out awards in 1949.
Accepting his prize, Hazanavicius said, "It's maybe the highest recognition I could hope for. Maybe you noticed, but I'm French. I have an accent. I have a name that is very difficult to pronounce. I'm not American and I'm not French, actually - I'm a film-maker...
"I feel like I'm being accepted by you, not as Americans, but as film-makers. This is really very moving and very touching for me."
The guild's choice for Best Director has also been the person behind the Oscars' Best Picture 50 times - in 2011, Tom Hooper went on to land the Best Director and Best Picture honour at the Academy Awards for The King's Speech.
The Artist has been nominated in 10 categories, including Best Director and Best Picture, at the upcoming Academy Awards.
"The Grinch" continued making a mountain of money, easily holding on to first place for a fourth straight weekend.
Universal and Imagine Entertainment's PG-rated blockbuster comedy adventure "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" topped the chart in its fourth week with a still magical estimated $18.46 million (-32%) at 3,186 theaters (+48 theaters; $5,795 per theater). Its cume is approximately $195.5 million, heading for $250 million-plus.
"It's exhilarating to have 'Grinch' the Number One film four weekends in a row; and as we move closer to the actual holiday season, having this film achieve the $200 million mark prior to that is most gratifying for Universal and Imagine Entertainment," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning.
"It will hit $200 million by the end of this week or with Friday's business. I can no longer say 'depending on how strong the film performs.' I can only say, 'depending on how the business is' because 'Grinch' has established itself as the strength of the holiday season. It could happen, depending on the strength of the business, mid-week. It could happen with Thursday's business, but right now it looks like it's going to happen with a portion of Friday's box office."
"Grinch" also stands to set a record as the year's top-grossing film when it passes the $215.3 million cume for Paramount's "Mission: Impossible 2" from last summer. Rocco said she sees this happening about a week later on Dec. 22.
Rocco confirmed that given its continuing strength in the marketplace, "Grinch" could have a domestic theatrical cume of $250 million by year's end.
Directed by Ron Howard and produced by Brian Grazer, "Grinch" stars Jim Carrey.
Rocco was also delighted with the studio's very successful sneak previews Saturday night of its PG-13-rated romantic fantasy "The Family Man" from Beacon Communications.
Asked how the sneaks at 854 theaters went, Rocco replied, "All you need to do is take a look at 'Meet the Parents.' We moved up a rung from ninth position to eighth position. What you don't see is what the head-to-heads were off on 'Meet the Parents' because we had lost playdates. The head-to-heads were off 16% on Friday and 11% on Saturday, which was the best hold of any film in the marketplace.
"Knowing that, we know for a fact that our sneaks were very well attended. Based on the tracking (of the sneaks) that we had, we had on Friday night a 79% capacity overall and on Saturday night an 87% capacity overall. The overall ratings were solidly above average and even better than above average among 17-34 year olds, which is really good. A lot of the press has been (calling) this the quintessential date movie for the holidays, and now this just bears that out."
"Family" opens Dec. 22 at between 2,000 and 2,500 theaters.
Directed by Brett Ratner, "Family" stars Nicolas Cage and Tea Leoni.
Columbia's PG-13-rated action adventure "Vertical Limit" was a high-climbing Number Two, kicking off to a lofty estimated $16.0 million at 2,307 theaters ($6,935 per theater).
"Vertical" had the highest per-theater average for any film playing in wide release last weekend.
"It's a great opening on 'Vertical Limit,'" Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning. "We opened 'Stuart Little' to $15 million last year. Previously, we opened 'A Few Good Men' to $15.5 million in this period. And both of those went on to do $140 million (in domestic theaters). So when weighing just how good an opening this is or any opening these December weekends is, I think everybody should remember that we're very much in a marathon at this time of year as opposed to spring.
"We really have got a lot of appeal to a lot of different audiences and who attended this weekend certainly reflects that. We got a very even mix between men and women and over-and-under-25. I think that will be to our advantage to keep going straight through the holidays."
There are those, of course, who will point to "Grinch" still coming in first. "I'll be the first one to say Mel Gibson will be number one next week (in Paramount's 'What Women Want') and probably Tom Hanks will be number one the week after that (in 20th Century Fox's 'Cast Away'), but at the end of the day, I think anybody who looks at the period as a whole -- and certainly you should since this is the rare time when week three can be as good or better than week one -- as you step out of the holiday period each year you recognize there are five or six real hits.
"'Grinch' is already on the board as one (of those holiday season hits) and I'm sure there are others coming. We're pretty confident we've put a number on the board and have a picture that plays really well, so we're very confident now we'll be one of those five or six."
"Vertical" reportedly cost $78 million, which while expensive is far enough from the stratosphere level of $100 million-plus that some films have to overcome. Also working in favor of making the picture successful for Sony is the fact that there reportedly are no back-end deals with profit participants to drain off the studio's profits.
Sony also saw "Vertical" open well in Japan this weekend. "It opened Saturday and all I can tell you (this morning) is it looks very strong," Blake said. The simultaneous launch in Japan, he added, is in keeping with the studio's "aggressive (international) releasing strategy for event movies."
Directed by Martin Campbell, "Vertical" stars Chris O'Donnell, Bill Paxton, Robin Tunney and Scott Glenn.
Blake also pointed to other good news for Sony this weekend. "On an international note, 'Charlie's Angels' is just about touching $200 million worldwide with continued strong openings in the international market.
"Another nice piece of news for us is 'Snatch,' which has a limited, nine-day Academy run (at one theater in Los Angeles). It opened on Wednesday. The Friday-Saturday-Sunday gross is $27,000 and the five days is $37,000. Really, for a 200 seat theater that's pretty near turn-away business. I think that sets it up great for us when we go with 1,500 runs on Jan. 19. That could be a real sleeper."
The R-rated suspense drama is from Sony's Screen Gems arm.
Lastly, Blake said, "I give a tip of the hat to our sister company Sony Classics Pictures, who really have launched 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' domestically in a pretty amazing way." (For details, see OTHER OPENINGS below).
Castle Rock and Bel-Air Entertainment's R-rated suspense drama "Proof Of Life" arrived via Warner Bros. in third place to a solid estimated $10.41 million at 2,705 theaters ($3,848 per theater).
"Adult movies always struggle this early on (in December)," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "There have only been two movies since 1995 that have been for adults that have done better (at this point in December). One was 'The Green Mile' last year, which opened to $18 million. You have to go back to 1996 to find (another) adult movie -- I'm going to call this more of a middle of the road movie (in terms of its appeal) -- which was 'Jerry Maguire,' which did $17 million. But the Number One movie in '95 was 'Jumanji,' which was for kids, which did $11 million. In '96, it was 'Jerry Maguire.' In '97, it was 'Scream 2,' which did $34 million. In '98, 'Star Trek' with $22 million. In '99, 'Green Mile.' So in terms of adult films, the last five years there haven't been many adult movies (opening to huge numbers)."
"Life," Fellman pointed out, "is the fifth largest Christmas opening Warners has ever had (not just this weekend, but at any time during December). Our Number One movie was 'You've Got Mail,' which opened up the week before Christmas with $18.4 million and last year it was 'Green Mile' with $18 million. Then 'Pelican Brief' at $16.8 million and 'Any Given Sunday' at $13.5 million. And now 'Proof Of Life.' And 'Any Given Sunday,' 'Pelican Brief' and 'You've Got Mail' all opened up like next week (a week later than 'Life').
"I feel that coming into the holiday, no matter what happens we'll have (a cume of) over $20 million, so it's certainly a good lead into Christmas (when the marketplace expands). Based on what happened this weekend versus last year, you see the market expanding 17% or 18%, which just shows you what's going to happen at Christmas. Last year Christmas fell on a Saturday. Now it's on a Monday. The market is definitely going to expand. There's a big share for everybody."
Directed by Taylor Hackford, "Life" stars Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe.
Buena Vista/Touchstone's PG-13-rated supernatural thriller "Unbreakable" slid two pegs to fourth place in its third week with a less exciting estimated $7.5 million (-47%) at 2,682 theaters (-26 theaters; $2,796 per theater). Its cume is approximately $77.4 million, heading for $100 million by year's end.
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, "Unbreakable" stars Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson.
New Line's PG-13-rated sci-fi action adventure "Dungeons and Dragons" finished fifth, opening to a calm estimated $7.0 million at 2,078 theaters ($3,369 per theater).
Produced and directed by Courtney Solomon, it stars Justin Whalin, Marlon Wayans, Thora Birch, Zoe McLellan, Kristen Wilson, Lee Arenberg with Bruce Payne and Jeremy Irons.
Buena Vista/Disney's live-action, G-rated puppies sequel "102 Dalmatians" fell three spots to sixth place in its third week with a less frisky estimated $6.3 million (-24%) at 2,704 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,330 per theater). Its cume is approximately $44.3 million.
Directed by Kevin Lima, "Dalmatians" stars Glenn Close and Gerard Depardieu.
Paramount and Nickelodeon Movies' G-rated animated sequel "Rugrats in Paris: The Movie" dropped three rungs to seventh place in its fourth week with a slower estimated $4.0 million (-38%) at 2,840 theaters (-97 theaters; $1,408 per theater). Its cume is approximately $60.6 million.
Directed by Stig Bergqvist and Paul Demeyer, it was produced by Arlene Klasky and Gabor Csupo.
Universal's PG-13-rated blockbuster comedy "Meet the Parents" rose one peg to eighth place in its tenth week, still looking strong with an estimated $2.97 million (-22%) at 1,941 theaters (-376 theaters; $1,530 per theater). Its cume is approximately $157.1 million, heading for a domestic theatrical gross of $160 million-plus.
"Parents'" international release is through DreamWorks Pictures, which co-financed the film and will share equally in its success.
Directed by Jay Roach (director of both "Austin Powers" hits), "Parents" stars Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller.
Columbia's PG-13 action adventure comedy "Charlie's Angels" skidded four pegs to ninth place in its sixth weekend with a less-engaging estimated $2.7 million (-46%) at 2,204 theaters (-547 theaters; $1,225 per theater). Its cume is approximately $119.3 million, heading for $140 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by McG, "Angels" stars Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Bill Murray.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Miramax's PG-13-rated romantic drama "Bounce," down four notches in its fourth week with a quiet estimated $2.6 million (-41%) at 2,028 theaters (+14 theaters; $1,282 per theater). Its cume is approximately $34.1 million.
Written and directed by Don Roos, "Bounce" stars Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow.
OTHER OPENINGS This weekend also saw the arrival of Sony Pictures Classics' PG-13-rated action adventure "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, placing 15th with a spectacular estimated $0.62 million at 13 theaters ($47,775 per theater).
"Dragon," which has high hopes in terms of Golden Globe and Oscar nominations, was named Best Foreign Film by the National Board of Review, the first critics group to announce its honors for this year.
Directed by Ang Lee, "Dragon" stars Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-Fat.
Sony's Screen Gems launched its R-rated suspense drama "Snatch" for a one week Academy qualifying run, placing 24th with a strong estimated $0.027 million at 1 theater in Los Angeles. "Snatch" opens Jan. 19 at about 1,500 theaters.
Sony's Jeff Blake's comments about "Snatch" and "Crouching Tiger" are included in the Top Ten Films report above.
Written and directed by Guy Ritchie, "Snatch" stars Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Farina, Vinnie Jones, Brad Pitt, Rade Sherbedgia and Jason Statham.
SNEAK PREVIEWS Buena Vista/Disney held well-attended sneak previews Saturday night of its G-rated animated feature "The Emperor's New Groove."
"There were 1,333 sneaks with 82% capacity," a BV spokesperson said Sunday morning. "93% playability in the Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good). It equals 'A Bug's Life' in playability and is two points below 'Toy Story' and 'Toy Story 2.' The demographics are 52% female, 84% families, 7% teens and 9% couples."
"Groove," opening Dec. 15 at 2,000 to 2,500 theaters, is directed by Mark Dindal and produced by Randy Fullmer.
"Groove's" voice talents include David Spade, John Goodman, Eartha Kitt and Patrick Warburton.
Universal held 854 sneak previews Saturday night of its PG-13-rated romantic fantasy "The Family Man."
For details, see Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco's comments in the Top Ten films coverage above.
Miramax held 14 sneaks Saturday night in New York and Los Angeles of its PG-13-rated comedy "Chocolat," a contender for Golden Globe and Oscar nominations.
"There were seven each in New York and L.A.," Miramax senior vice president, marketing David Kaminow said Sunday morning. "We had about 85% capacity including sellouts at Lincoln Square, Kips Bay in Chelsea and up in Greenwich, Connecticut. And we're well into the 80%s on the definite recommend. So we'll keep our fingers crossed there."
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, "Chocolat" stars Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, Alfred Molina, Lena Olin and Johnny Depp.
EXPANSIONS On the expansion front, Miramax's G-rated reissue of The Beatles' classic "A Hard Day's Night" went wider in its second week, placing 21st with an estimated $0.095 million at 12 theaters (+10 theaters; $7,916 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.18 million.
Directed by Richard Lester, "Night" stars The Beatles.
WEEKEND COMPARISONS Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 for the weekend -- took in approximately $83.83 million, up about 16.85% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $71.74 million.
This weekend's key film gross was down marginally by about 0.35% from last weekend when key films took in $84.12 million.
Last year, Buena Vista's fourth week of "Toy Story 2" was first with $18.25 million at 3,257 theaters ($5,603 per theater); and Warner Bros.' opening week of "The Green Mile" was second with $18.02 million at 2,875 theaters ($6,267 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $36.3 million. This year, the top two films grossed an estimated $34.5 million.
STUDIO MARKET SHARES Based on business by key films (those grossing $500,000 or more), last weekend's top six distributors were:
Universal was first with three films ("Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas," "Meet the Parents" and "Billy Elliot"), grossing an estimated $22.32 million or 26.6% of the market.
Sony Pictures Entertainment (Columbia and Screen Gems) was second with four films ("Charlie's Angels," "Vertical Limit," "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "The 6th Day"), grossing an estimated $20.72 million or 24.7% of the market.
Buena Vista (Disney and Touchstone) was third with two films ("Unbreakable" and "102 Dalmatians"), grossing an estimated $13.8 million or 16.5% of the market.
Warner Bros. was fourth with one film ("Proof Of Life"), grossing an estimated $10.41 million or 12.4% of the market.
New Line was fifth with two films ("Dungeons and Dragons" and "Little Nicky"), grossing an estimated $7.85 million or 9.4% of the market.
Paramount was sixth with one film ("Rugrats in Paris: The Movie"), grossing an estimated $4.0 million or 4.8% of the market.
ADDITIONAL ESTIMATES (11)Men of Honor/Fox: Theaters: 2,000 (-188) Gross: $2.13 million (-49%) Average per theater: $1,064 Cume: $44.6 million
(12)The 6th Day/Phoenix/Columbia: Theaters: 1,833 (-683) Gross: $1.4 million (-65%) Average per theater: $764 Cume: $33.0 million
(13)Billy Elliot/Universal Focus: Theaters: 473 (-37) Gross: $0.89 million (-34%) Average per theater: $1,875 Cume: $14.6 million
(14)Little Nicky/New Line: Theaters: 1,374 (-1,096) Gross: $0.85 million (-62%) Average per theater: $619 Cume: $38.1 million
(15)CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON/Sony Pictures Classics: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(16)Remember the Titans/BV: Theaters: 684 (-507) Gross: $0.45 million (-56%) Average per theater: $650 Cume: $112.3 million
(17)Best in Show/Warner Bros.: Theaters: 286 (-64) Gross: $0.35 million (-29%) Average per theater: $1,205 Cume: $16.3 million
(18)The Legend of Bagger Vance/DreamWorks Theaters: 713 (-822) Gross: $0.3 million (-68%) Average per theater: $450 Cume: $30.4 million
(19)You Can Count On Me/Paramount Classics: Theaters: 53 (0) Gross: $0.28 million (-27%) Average per theater: $5,365 Cume: $2.0 million
(20)Quills/Fox Searchlight: Theaters: 9 (0) Gross: $0.16 million (-21%) Average per theater: $18,184 Cume: $0.9 million
(21)A Hard Day's Night/Miramax (see EXPANSIONS above)
(22)Bring It On/Universal: Theaters: 227 (-24) Gross: $0.085 million (-34%) Average per theater: $374 Cume: $68.0 million
(23)Nutty Professor II: The Klumps/Universal: Theaters: 104 (-26) Gross: $0.035 million (-37%) Average per theater: $337 Cume: $123.2 million
(24)SNATCH/Columbia: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)