Helmers in a daze

Crowe, Scott titles lost in the 'Fog'

Two major directors couldn’t get past a remake and a clay rabbit this weekend, as the latest pics from Cameron Crowe and Tony Scott failed to ignite.

Instead, Revolution and Sony’s “The Fog,” a remake of 1980 frightener “John Carpenter’s The Fog,” unexpectedly snatched the frame’s box office crown, claiming $12 million from 2,972 theaters.

Meanwhile, Paramount reported “Elizabethtown,” Crowe’s first film since 2001’s “Vanilla Sky,” ended the weekend with $11 million from 2,517 theaters, which placed it at No. 3 behind “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit’s” second weekend figure of $11.7 million. The tight spread between the studio estimates between the top three pics — just $1.2 million separate them — means that the final order of finish may change when final numbers are tallied on Monday.

On the limited front, “Capote” and “Good Night, and Good Luck” continued to do brisk business as the Oscar season has kicked off in earnest for arthouse releases.

DreamWorks’ claymation pic was down a modest 27%. Meanwhile, New Line’s “Domino,” Tony Scott’s follow-up to last year’s hit “Man on Fire,” didn’t attract much of an aud, as it bowed in sixth place with $4.7 million from 2,223 venues.

New pics did the fall season no favors, as the weekend’s total of $88 million, as estimated by Nielsen EDI, is 9.2% behind the same frame last year. That brings this fall’s lead over last year down to 3.1%, with grosses since Labor Day totaling $705.8 million. Year-to-date total box office now stands at $6.733 billion, which is 6.5% lower than this point in 2004.

Rounding out the rest of the top five pics, Disney’s durable plane thriller “Flightplan” held on to the No. 4 spot with $6.5 million, which is down 40% in its fourth frame. Cume on the Jodie Foster title has now reached $70.8 million.

At No. 5 was 20th Century Fox’s “In Her Shoes,” which drew $6.1 million in its sophomore session, down 39% from its opening. Also in its second outing, Universal and Morgan Creek’s “Two for the Money” took in $4.6 million over the weekend, putting it at No. 7.

Pic dropped 47% and lifted its cume to $16.5 million.

At No. 9, “Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride,” $3.5 million in its fourth weekend, helped push Warner Bros.’ 2005 box office total past $1 billion. It’s the fifth year Warners has reached that threshold, the most times of any studio.

Lion Gate’s “Waiting …” managed to just stay in the top 10 in its soph sesh, with $2.9 million over the frame. Pic, which took a heavy 52% hit, now has a cume of $11.6 million.

While tracking indicated “Elizabethtown,” the latest pic from helmer Cameron Crowe, would have the advantage going into frame, “The Fog” rang up slightly more sales on Friday than “Elizabethtown.”

“Fog” saw Saturday shows improve considerably on Friday’s grosses, unlike most horror pics, which receive a bigger share of their weekend total from Friday shows.

Date movie

Sony distrib prexy Rory Bruer said date traffic on Saturday helped seal the pic’s win. ” ‘The Fog’ is not only a fun horror film, but because it did get both males and females, it ended up playing like a date film and got a 23% bump on Saturday.”

Exit surveys showed the PG-13 pic was balanced between men and women, with females showing a slight edge of 53% in the polls. Overall, aud skewed young as well, with 61% under the age of 25.

Produced on an $18 million budget, “Fog” looks likely to be a winner for Revolution. “Hopefully, it plays well through Halloween,” Bruer said.

One factor in “Elizabethtown’s” weak start was its tough time in exciting male moviegoers, as studio exit surveys showed it drew a crowd that was three-quarters female.

Same poll showed aud was relatively evenly split between people over and under 25 years old.

Par distrib chief Wayne Lewellen said of the opening, “The overall market is off considerably from last year, but this is within the window of where we were looking for.”

He added, “Any time you have a film like this, your game plan is to stay around for a while.”

In the specialty arena, Warner Independent Pictures’ “Good Night, and Good Luck” continued a strong limited run, racking up $1.37 million in its second weekend on 68 screens, giving George Clooney’s Edward R. Murrow pic a strong $20,147 average per screen. So far, cume is $1.98 million.

Warner Independent’s distrib chief, Steven Friedlander, said the label will expand the pic to more than 200 screens next Friday.

$100 million baby

Over the weekend, the specialty division recorded its first $100 million in grosses, crossing the mark 15 months after releasing its first pic, “Before Sunset,” in July 2004.

Of all the independent or specialty labels, only Newmarket managed to reach the mark quicker.

Much of Warner Independent’s total is credited to “March of the Penguins,” which has reached $75.9 million.

Sony Pictures Classics’ “Capote,” starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, also did well in its third frame, grossing $387,428 off 30 screens, for an average of $12,914. Cume on the pic is now $1.45 million.

Samuel Goldwyn and Sony Pictures’ “The Squid and the Whale” brought in $300,054 in its second frame. Playing 27 screens, pic averaged $11,113 per. Cume on helmer Noah Baumbach’s pic is now at $521,348.

Among the new pics this week, Thinkfilm’s “Where the Truth Lies,” from helmer Atom Egoyan, did not register much aud enthusiasm for the unrated pic, taking in $36,105 off nine screens, an average of $4,012. Including Canadian grosses, pic has a cume of $480,250.

Regency and Fox’s “Little Manhattan,” playing two Gotham screens for a third week, scored $22,374 over the span, for an average of $11,187. Cume is at $118,264.

Destination and Samuel Goldwyn’s “Mirrormask,” playing a third frame, scored $90,000 on 30 screens for an average of $3,000 per engagement. Cume is at $417,787.

The new regime at Miramax has watched inherited title “Proof” gross $962,000 from 494 screens in its fifth frame, bringing cume to $5.86 million. Perf gives it a screen average of $1,947.

Also in its fifth frame, Fox Searchlight’s “Separate Lies” took in $116,693 off of 62 screens, for an average of $1,882 and bringing cume to $465,484.

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