Well, folks, it isn’t often we here at moviegasm get to herald the arrival of a new star, but today is just such a day. The monster opening of Disney’s Enchanted is certainly attributable to mostly positive reviews, a family-friendly story and relatively competition-free long Thanksgiving weekend, but agents, producers, and studio heads will all be giving most of the credit for the $50 million opening to star Amy Adams.You may not have heard of Amy Adams, but rest assured, you will. The 33 year old actress first attracted notice, after plenty of TV work, for her Oscar-nominated turn in the indie film Junebug. I heard many people rave about Adams’ performance, but I managed to miss it because, frankly, independent comedy/dramas about dysfunctional families just aren’t my thing. In any event, that got her some critical notice, but Junebug‘s paltry $2 million earnings didn’t put her in the commercial foreground. It did get her a stint on “The Office”, and was followed by a decent supporting role in the monster hit Taladega Nights.
When I talk about balance in a career, like Tom Cruise mastered with M:I 2 and Magnolia, or Spielberg with Jurrasic Park and Schindler’s List, this is why I preach it as a career philosophy in this fickle industry. The combo of critical support and commercial visibility landed her the lead in Enchanted, and now she’s off and running. The question now is, will Adams be the next Naomi Watts or the next Julie Styles?
On a brief side note, I always find it fascinating the way a person’s life can just change overnight in this industry. Surely, it’s the biggest part of the allure that brings star-struck wannabe’s (including yours truly) from all over the world to the sprawling metropolis that is Los Angeles. But what’s funny to me is that no one, especially in the world of big budget features, wants to get ahead of the curve. I moved to L.A. the summer that The Fast and the Furious launched Vin Diesel, however briefly, into superstardom. I had been pitching him for projects since seeing Pitch Black, but went completely unheeded. But post-Furious, his pricetag went from $1 million to $10 million. Why wouldn’t you want to get on board early, the way the Farrely’s did with Jim Carrey, who was already attached to Dumb and Dumber when Ace Ventura was released? People who wouldn’t take a phone call from Amy Adam’s agent five days ago are scrambling to get her attached to this and that romantic comedy, and she will be a rich woman when the smoke clears.
Also having a good showing was This Christmas, an African-American themed Christmas comedy about a dysfunctional family reuniting for the holidays. Christmas brought in $27 million over the five day period from just 1,858 theatres for a $14.5k average that was actually higher than Enchanted‘s $13.4k average. I don’t have much of a sense if this film is any good or not, but it’s one of those movies that provides a great boost for a lost of unappreciated character actors. For instance, remember when I was praising Tyler Perry for hiring The Wire‘s Idris Elba for Daddy’s Little Girls? Well, guess who pops up in this one. And right alongside him is Delroy Lindo, maybe one of the most underappreciated actors of all time (virtually every review I’ve ever read that mentions him refers to him as “the ever-dependable Delroy Lindo”). He was robbed of an Oscar nomination for his brilliant, conflicted work in The Cider House Rules by Michael Cane. Mekhi Phifer is someone I’ve been behind since his terrific, searing performance in Tim Blake Nelson’s O, and it’s nice see him and Regina King, who is still trying to capitalize on her outstanding work in Ray, get a boost from this film’s strong box office. Nobody’s scrambling to get their agents on the phone like they are for Ms. Adams, but it bumps up their asking price a bit and probably improves the quality of the roles they’re being offered, too. Hats off to writer/director Preston A. Whitmore II for his eyes for casting.
Beowulf still isn’t raking it in hand over fist, and when I tell you that it dropped 15% from last week, remember that I’m going off the five day numbers and just about everything else in the top ten went up for the same period. Beowulf took in $23 million and raised its total to $56 million, but that’s still miles from recouping the $150 million budget. Overseas, it’s already brought in a healthy $48 million, and like I said last week, will be profitable for Paramount, but I’m still not seeing it as the explosive arrival of a new technology. Hitman opened a bit better than I expected with $21 million from 2,458 theatres for an $8.5k average. Personally, I think Timothy Olyphant (who I generally like, especially in Go and The Girl Next Door) looks pretty ridiculous in a part that was obviously made for Vin Diesel the way Professor Xavier in the X-Men movies was for Patrick Stewart. Maybe Diesel’s asking price was too high, or maybe no one wanted to take a chance on him (in spite of coming off his best performance ever in Find Me Guilty), but for whatever reason, Fox execs decided to shave Olyphant bald and try and sell him as an action star. I, for one, wasn’t buying, but apparently some other people were. Kudos to Fox marketing folks for putting together an unusual trailer for the flick, though, and especially the music.
Bee Movie extended its profitable run by jumping 14% to $15.9 million and raising it’s domestic total to $112 million. Foreign cumes are modest at this point, but even with the $150 million price tag, Jerry Seinfeld can expect to see fine residual checks, although nothing compared to his Seinfeld syndication fees, which earn him close to $100 million a year. Yikes. Movies are big business, but even the numbers we bat around here at moviegasm often don’t compare to the money networks fork out for hit shows. Fred Clause had an even bigger uptick thanks to the holiday, climbing 27% to $15 million and raising its total to a now-respectable $53 million. Clause won’t exactly be a holiday classic, but also won’t really hurt Vaughn and Paul Giamatti.
Feel-good indie flick August Rush opened decently in seventh place with $13 million from 2,310 theatres for a $5.7k average. Not bad for small movie with almost no stars. Another small movie with almost no stars, The Mist, opened right behind it with $13 million from 2,423 screens for a $5.3k average. Reviews for Frank Darabont’s third Stephen King adaptation are mixed, and I was personally hoping for a little more business, but I also keep pointing out that counter-programming rarely works. Had the film challenged Saw IV on Halloween, my guess is it would have done much better. Still, it isn’t facing much competition in the coming weeks, so if it word of mouth is decent it could find its way to a decent total.
American Gangster was pretty much flat in terms of percentage, but brought in $12 million and raised its total to $115 million, still ahead of Bee Movie, which pleases me for some reason. In tenth place was No Country for Old Men with $11 million from just 860 screens for an impressive $12k average and $16 million total after three weeks in release. For anyone interested in distribution or marketing, NCFOM is a picture-perfect platform release, letting reviews and word of mouth spread and then adding theatres slowly. Is this really being done a Weinstein-less Miramax? The Brothers’ could learn a thing or two from them.
Speaking of the Weinstein’s, I’m sure everyone over there was nervous about opening Todd Haynes surreal Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There, and apparently they were right. It earned a modest $1 million from 130 theatres over the weekend for a $5.8k average. There were some wonderfully enthusiastic reviews (A.O. Scott’s was my favorite), and Cate Blanchette seems like a lock for a supporting actress nod, but the Weinstein Company is in dire of need box office dollars more than prestige pics these days. I’m also intrigued by the strong opening of Starting Out in the Evening, a small drama staring Frank Langella that brought in $85k from seven theatres for a decent $12k average. What’s interesting is that Langella, a fine character actor whose hay day seemed to have passed, is experiencing something of a resurgence. First he got some good notices and even a small Oscar push for his role as Bill Paley in George Clooney’s Good Night and Good Luck. Now reviews of his performance in this film are suggesting he could be a dark horse for a best actor nod. On top of that, next on his plate is one of the title roles in Ron Howard’s adaptation of the stage play Frost/Nixon, in which he played Richard Nixon on stage and was said to be brilliant. Much as I love to see success come to the young, struggling actors, it is even more heartening to see a great character actor have a resurgence in the twilight of his career (kind of like Christopher Lee landing roles in all three Lord of the Rings and Star Wars films).
And, perhaps most exciting, after Frost/Nixon, Langella is set for a role in Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales follow up, The Box. I can hardly wait.
And that about wraps it up for this week. Check back next week when the potentially awful Hayden Christensen/Jessica Alba thriller Awake somehow has a wide release all to itself (and probably still manages to tank), while Oscar hopefuls The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and The Savages open limited.
See you then.