“Museum” comedy set to rule Christmas box office
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – Hollywood is hanging out a number of stockings as Christmas weekend arrives. Among the new movies, broad appeal is the name of the game. Three of the five wide releases this frame carry a PG rating as studios look to lure nice audiences rather than naughty ones.
The Ben Stiller comedy “Night at the Museum,” which has been generating positive buzz for some time, is likely to dominate the weekend. Insiders put the four-day haul for the Twentieth Century Fox effects extravaganza in the $35 million-$40 million range.
Two sports-themed movies — MGM’s “Rocky Balboa,” which bowed Wednesday, and Warner Bros. Pictures’ “We Are Marshall,” based on the 1970 Marshall Universaity football team tragedy — also are looking to claim their share of the till. “Rocky” already won its first round, grossing an estimated $6.2 million Wednesday to claim the title of top-grossing film for the day.
Universal Pictures’ Robert De Niro-directed spy movie “The Good Shepherd” is courting the adult audience.
With Christmas Eve falling on Sunday, that night will be a quiet one at the box office, making weekend totals difficult to predict. On Christmas Day, there are two other developments that will further complicate holiday weekend estimates.
On that day, MGM will target disaffected teens and holiday scrooges as it opens “Black Christmas,” a horror flick from the Weinstein Co. Meanwhile, Paramount Pictures will expand “Dreamgirls,” which it co-produced with DreamWorks, to 852 theaters. The Bill Condon-directed musical performed strongly in special “roadshow” engagements that launched in Los Angeles and New York last weekend.
Still, it is shaping up to be a big weekend at the “Museum.” The Shawn Levy-directed film features a slew of young and veteran comedians. The film stars Stiller as a hapless night watchman at the Museum of Natural History who must combat the creatures that come alive at night. Ricky Gervais, Robin Williams, Steve Coogan also are cast, along with Owen Wilson in an uncredited cameo. Mickey Rooney and Dick Van Dyke co-star as two old-time watchmen.
“Rocky” is on track to generate close to $30 million for its six-day opening run. The $24 million film expands Friday to 3,017 theaters from 2,752. Although observers initially viewed it as a joke considering Sylvester Stallone’s career downturn and the diminishing returns of its predecessors — “Rocky” has turned into a comeback story in its own right.
Generating primarily positive reviews (it has earned a 75% positive rating on RottenTomatoes.com), the film was also written and directed by Stallone, whose character comes out of retirement for one last go-round. Burt Young plays his manager Paulie for the sixth time, and Milo Ventimiglia (NBC’s “Heroes”) co-stars as Rocky Jr.
Warners will bow the inspirational sports film “Marshall” from director McG (“Charlie’s Angels”). The movie centers on the aftermath of the 1970 plane crash that killed the entire Marshall University football team and its coach. Matthew McConaughey stars as the Huntington, W.Va., team’s new coach who tries, along with the school’s dean ( David Strathairn) and the surviving players, to keep the program going. Matthew Fox (ABC’s “Lost”) co-stars as his assistant coach.
Universal unveils De Niro’s “Shepherd” in 2,218 theaters. Centering on the early history of the CIA, “Shepherd” stars Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Alec Baldwin and De Niro. The film could be handicapped by its nearly three-hour running time, but the stellar cast could help it break through. Industry watchers expect the film to gross in the $10 million-$12 million range.
On Christmas Day, MGM will play against type with “Black Christmas,” a remake of the 1974 horror picture, updated by writer-director Glen Morgan (“Willard”). “Christmas” revolves around a group of sorority sisters who are harassed by menacing phone calls and are killed one by one during their Christmas break. The film has religious groups protesting its Christmas Day release date, which, as most protests do, should add to the movie’s profile as provocative counterprogramming.
A slew of limited releases also bow this weekend. Perhaps the highest-profile film is Warners’ “Letters From Iwo Jima,” the companion piece to Clint Eastwood’s “Flags of Our Fathers,” which disappointed at the box office two months ago. Depicting the same World War II battle shown in “Fathers,” “Letters,” also directed by Eastwood, tells the Japanese side of the story.
Receiving early accolades from various critics groups, “Iwo Jima” stars Ken Watanabe as the American-educated general who leads the Japanese resistance in the famous battle. It opened Wednesday on five screens in Los Angeles and New York.
Warner Independent Pictures also launched its limited bow of “The Painted Veil” on four screens Wednesday in Los Angeles and New York. A long-gestating adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham’s novel, the film stars Edward Norton and Naomi Watts as an unhappy married couple who resurrect their relationship while living in China during a cholera epidemic.
Sony Pictures Classics is unveiling “Curse of the Golden Flower” in Los Angeles and San Francisco Friday, a day after the Chinese-language film from acclaimed director Zhang Yimou opened in New York.
Universal opens Alfonso Cuaron’s R-rated “Children of Men” on Christmas Day in 16 theaters. The well-reviewed film stars Clive Owen, Julianne Moore and Michael Caine in a dystopian British future where women are unable to reproduce.
Miramax Films opened “Venus” on Thursday in Los Angeles and New York. The R-rated take on a May-December romance, directed by Roger Michell, stars Peter O’Toole in an Oscar-worthy role as an older man whose daily routine is altered when the grand niece (Jodie Whittaker) of his best friend comes to visit.
“Museum” comedy set to rule Christmas box office