Sorry for delays… circumstances out of my control.
SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM: Here are the Top 10 North American grosses for Friday, Saturday, weekend and cume:
1. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (Fox) NEW [3,565 Runs]
Friday $7M, Saturday $7.6M, Weekend $19M
Is it possible to make a sequel 23 years later? Only if it’s an iconic original about a still relevant subject featuring a fascinating anti-hero made by a controversial director with a fine cast. The Hustler sequel Color Of Money had a 25 year span and did fine. And for weeks tracking had been strong for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. I’ve been obsessed with this from development through casting into production because the 1987 movie was so seminal. After all, that den of thieves is as responsible for our current financial crisis as are the politicians. The question is whether filmgoers are ready to relive pain that hasn’t ended or rewind history skewed by the crazy Oliver Stone. That’s his best-ever opening not adjusted for inflation or theater counts or higher ticket prices, after his 2006 World Trade Center ($18.7M) and his 2004 Alexander ($13.6M).
Hollywood had expected more, and Fox hoped for $22M after lowering expectations for this PG-13 adult-themed economics lesson. (Many newspapers even assigned their business reporters to review it.) I hear the studio’s actual cost on the pic was $65M including a $5M tax rebate, reshoots, and additional editing post-Cannes Film Festival in May. But after a disastrous summer, Fox is relieved. After all, with Michael Douglas braving cancer, nobody was sure how much promo he could do. And with Oliver Stone putting his foot in his mouth (the part-Jewish filmmaker made several apologies after that July newspaper interview where he complained about Jewish influence in U.S. media and foreign policy and Holocaust remembrance), nobody was sure how much promo he should do.
I can’t help wondering how the movie would have differed with Javier Bardem, the first choice for the stock-shorting hedge fund villain played by Josh Brolin. The financial press says the character bears resemblance to JP Morgan head Jamie Dimon. Brolin’s firm is modeled on Goldman Sachs. Frank Langella’s persona according to the NYT is former Bear Stearns CEO Jimmy Cayne but others say it’s the firm’s ex-chairman Alan “Ace” Greenberg. Michael Douglas’ Gordon Gekko was partly Ivan Boesky and partly Michael Milken in the original, but now is a post-prison Nostradamus predicting doom and gloom. The real economist credited with forseeing the economic debacle is Nouriel Roubini who gets a cameo in the sequel. Charlie Sheen was supposed to be young insider trader Denise Levine. His successor Shia LaBeouf is playing Shia as always; when is this kid going to show range? Meanwhile, a long list of Wall Street types offered their help to make sure first Stephen Schiff’s and then 21 and Things We Lost In The Fire screenwriter Allan Loeb’s sequel was accurate, just as the previous generation had done for the great scripter Stanley Weiser and his film school pal Oliver both credited as writers of the original. I’m told theaters around the real Wall Street sold out Friday matinees. But Stone never got the satisfaction of seeing Wall Street 2 released “just when the market’s most volatile,” as he hoped it would be this week. That’s because Fox pushed off the April 23rd release date. Had that not happened, Douglas wouldn’t have been diagnosed yet, Stone wouldn’t have been mouthy about Jews yet, and the stock market wouldn’t have been ticking upward in turnaround yet. The later release does make the sequel more awards-friendly, especially for Michael Douglas in the Best Supporting category. I’m reminded that then Fox chief Barry Diller hated Wall Street and thought his big Oscar film that year was Broadcast News, which arrived with 7 nominations but left empty handed. Whereas Douglas won Best Actor.
2. Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls (Warner Bros) NEW [3,575 Runs]
Friday $4.5M, Saturday $6.9M, Weekend $16.3M
Warner Bros counter-programmed with 3D flying owl warriors and marketed it like a PG-13 Narnia flick. Wanna know why tracking has been lagging for this $100M budget-buster? The title Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole was convoluted, author Kathryn Lasky’s book series isn’t widely known, the voice cast was predominantly Aussie, and Zach Snyder who directed the very violent Watchmen was making his family fare debut. (Yikes, cover those kids’ eyes!) The TV ads never even mention the connection to Animal Logic, the animation studio behind the hit Happy Feet. Sometimes I think studios try to repel audiences. Of its 3,575 theaters, 2,479 were 3D locations, of which 193 are IMAX.