With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, it may also be time to reflect on what is easily one of the most harrowing movies of the year, Prisoners. The film, which starts out at a Thanksgiving day celebration that turns tragic when two young girls from different families are snatched in broad daylight, was a blacklisted script by Aaron Guzikowski that the writer says was meant more to focus on those who feel the loss rather than the actual act itself. Alcon produced the film which launched at the Telluride and Toronto film festivals and for which director Denis Villeneuve and stars Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Melissa Leo are getting plenty of Oscar buzz. There’s also buzz for the original screenplay by Guzikowski who explores what dark recesses of his mind led to the film’s birth during the Warner Bros panel at Deadline’s THE CONTENDERS event earlier this month.
The Contenders 2013: ‘Prisoners’ Screenwriter Asks “How Did I Become So Warped To Give Birth To This Story?” (Video)
SUNDAY 1 AM, 4TH UPDATE: With the 65th Emmys broadcasting this weekend, Hollywood is only talking television, television, television. Yes, I’ll be interrupting my vacation and live-snarking the small screen awards starting Sunday at 5:00 PM PT. But only because the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences was hoping I wouldn’t. As for the big screen, total moviegoing should be only $75M, or -9% from last year. Both Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal plugged, plugged, plugged Prisoners (playing in 3,260 theaters) to a $7M opening Friday and then up +28% to $9M Saturday for a decent $21.4M domestic weekend. Their pairing didn’t produce the hype that Christian Bale or Leonardo DiCaprio might have as originally planned. But Jackman and Gyllenhaal did their jobs to open this R-rated Alcon Entertainment developed, financed, and produced dark kidnapping thriller distributed by Warner Bros to a $20+M debut like stars should. (Who was the bigger draw? Definitely Hugh… Jake usually can’t open an envelope.) Prisoners is the 2nd biggest three-day opening for Alcon founders Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove behind Blind Side‘s $34.1M.
With a ‘B+’ CinemaScore despite a longish 2 hour, 26 minute running time, pic had a lean budget of $46M and a stellar supporting cast (Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo). During a slow September, this adult drama directed by Denis Villeneuve (Foreign Language Oscar nominee Incendies) and written by Aaron Guzikowski (whose script wound up on Hollywood’s prestigious Black List) could have legs here and overseas. The marketing strategy was “to sell a visceral, taut, beautifully made thriller with powerhouse performances that asks the question, ‘What would you do if this happened to you?’” Warner Bros Pictures’ Worldwide Marketing President Sue Kroll tells me. The film emerged with great buzz from the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals from cinefile and mainstream media. (EW critic Owen Gleiberman ranked it with classic vengeance films Straw Dogs, Death Wish, and Kill Bill.)
This weekend’s new underperformer is Sony Pictures’ Screen Gems 3D teen dance pic Battle Of The Year (released into a middling run of 2,009 theaters) which dropped from #4 to #5. Inspired by director Benson Lee’s award-winning documentary Planet B-Boy, and co-written by Brin Hill (Won’t Back Down), pic stars Josh Holloway (Lost) and Grammy bad boy Chris Brown, it’s obviously a tired genre despite a fresh ‘A-’ CinemaScore from audiences. So Friday’s $1.4M and Saturday’s $2.0M (+45%) for the $4.6M weekend is half what the studio was forecasting for pic’s $20M-range cost. Media campaign was designed around television especially to target young females, clubbers, and urban audiences. Integrations and takeovers included Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance where dancers from the film performed on-air during the show’s finale, and BET’S 106 & Park where the winner of a national dance contest performed during a special BOTY cast show. Online and social media included Tumblr, VEVO, Buzznet, Instagram, Vine and hip hop sites.
No updated numbers yet for the following: The Wizard Of Oz: IMAX 3D, whose pre-sales big online ticketseller Fandango proclaimed were “looking great and powerful” in limited release. The PG upgrade of the 1939 classic released into 318 theaters and made $750K Friday and is targeting $2.8M this weekend. Platforming in 5 theaters this weekend is Universal/Imagine’s Ron Howard’s Formula One critical darling Rush starring Chris Hemsworth, for $66K Friday and a $223K weekend. Pic opens wider on September 27th when I’ll post a full report and see if car racing pics are cursed at the box office. Fox Searchlight’s James Gandolfini-Julia Louis-Dreyfus comedy written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, Enough Said, opened Wednesday in 4 runs. With $62K Friday and a $210 weekend, one of the final movies from The Sopranos star has a cume of $263K.
Here’s the partial Top Ten list based on weekend estimates:
Hyperbole at film festivals is to be expected, BUT even with direct competition from Brad Pitt and the Coen brothers, the reaction to the first public screening Friday night anywhere of director Denis Villenueve’s thrilling and penetrating drama Prisoners at the 40th Telluride Film Festival was completely unexpected and significant. This was a “surprise” screening (although I predicted it) and filled the 650-seat Herzog Theatre. For weeks some I spoke to thought on the basis of the trailer and more mainstream elements of the film that it was probably an unworthy commercial film that somehow snuck into the more tony environ of Telluride. Uh, no. This is a first-class motion picture experience unlike any other that I, for one, have experienced in a long time. But it’s not an easy sell.
The applause was strong and early critical praise is over the moon. Pundits will have to add this Alcon production being released by Warner Bros on September 20 to the list of strong Oscar contenders. That is, if audiences and Academy members can handle the intensity of this superbly directed and produced film that features career-best performances, for sure, from Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman (OK, I liked Les Miz too a lot), plus a brilliant supporting cast including Melissa Leo going for another supporting win; Terence Howard; the great Viola Davis; Maria Bello; and Paul Dano, who goes through the ringer for his art. You can easily compare this gem to critically acclaimed pictures like Zodiac, Seven, Mystic River and any number of films in the genre. Director Villeneuve doesn’t shy away from the comparisons. He says he is a great admirer of David Fincher and Clint Eastwood. In fact one of his editors, Joel Cox, is an Eastwood regular.
Global Showbiz Briefs: ‘X Factor’ Musical; Hugh Jackman Honored In Zurich; Beijing Fest In Venice & More
London’s ‘X Factor’ Musical Finds Its Simon Cowell
Nigel Harman, the former Eastenders star who has a role in Season 4 of Downton Abbey, has been tapped to play a character based on Simon Cowell in I Can’t Sing! The X Factor Musical. The show will be directed by Olivier Award-winner and Tony Award-nominee, Sean Foley. It’s set to premiere at the London Palladium on March 26, 2014. Cowell and Sony Music’s joint venture Syco Entertainment is partnering with Stage Entertainment UK to launch the show that’s written by British comedian Harry Hill.
Hugh Jackman Honored At Zurich Film Festival
Hugh Jackman will receive the Golden Icon Award at the Zurich Film Festival which runs September 26 – October 6. The fest’s most prestigious symbol of recognition is awarded “in appreciation of the lifetime achievements of an actor or actress.” Jackman’s latest film, Prisoners, will be screened at the fest. “Hugh Jackman is in a class by himself as a multi-talented entertainer with a global following,” said fest co-director Karl Spoerri. “There is nothing he can’t do and he proves this time and time again with every project he’s involved in. We’re honored to recognize his brilliant career at the Zurich Film Festival.”
Hugh Jackman returns as The Wolverine in the Fox superhero movie that bows Stateside on July 26. The James Mangold-directed pic is the sequel to 2009′s X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the latest in the X-Men franchise. It finds Wolverine out of his depth in modern day Japan where he faces his ultimate nemesis in a life-or-death battle that will leave him forever changed. Brian Tee, Will Yun Lee and Hiroyuki Sanada also star, with a cameo by Famke Janssen. Oscar-nominee Jackman will also strap on his Adamantium claws for Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days Of Future Past that’s out next year. Here’s the domestic trailer Fox released today, followed by the international one:
Hugh Jackman has carved out an image as a major movie star who can easily switch gears from action to drama to comedy and all things in between. But until now the man who made Wolverine a household name has never done a movie musical. That’s a bit surprising since Jackman also happens to be a classically trained musical star outside of movies. He’s starred in stage classics like Oklahoma!, won a Tony on Broadway as Peter Allen in The Boy From Oz, an Emmy for hosting the Tonys, and worldwide recognition for his singing and dancing as host of the Oscars. He recently did a one-man musical show on Broadway, and that’s one of the reasons he says he is even in Les Misérables and making his long-overdue debut as star of a musical on the big screen.
AwardsLine: Would you consider this to be one of the toughest screen roles you’ve done?
Jackman: For sure. There is not an element that really wasn’t the toughest. One of the reasons I did the Broadway show was to make sure I was vocally fit to not only sing it, but sing it all day long, wake up the next day, and have another 12 hours of it. I put on 29 pounds from beginning to end. Tom (Hooper) told me, “I want people to worry, I want your friends to think you’re sick.” The physicality, the emotional (aspect) acting-wise, was tough.
AwardsLine: You rarely see musicals of this size anymore.
Jackman: That’s true. It’s a big risk. I’m not surprised it’s taken 27 years to get there.
“We’ve never seen anything like this. We’re exhausted. We are out every night it seems and the invitations keep coming,” one Oscar-winning Academy member told me recently. He was referring to the glut of invites to parties, lunches, screenings with Q&As and everything else for which Oscar season campaigning has come to be known. He pointedly added that none of it has ever influenced his vote but he is not turning down the elaborate food spreads and the chance to mingle with contenders. “Just don’t tell anyone who invites me to these things, but it doesn’t really have much impact on the way I fill out my ballot,” he added with a smile.
That won’t stop Oscar strategists from trying and the campaign activity this season seems like it pushed into high gear much earlier than normal and hasn’t let up, even as the Christmas break quickly approaches and the town starts to shut down. Don’t tell that to the relentless Weinstein Company who will still have some of their contenders out on the stump even over this holiday weekend. Quentin Tarantino who, despite seeing his Los Angeles premiere for Django Unchained cancelled Tuesday night out of sensitivity to the Newtown tragedy, was out doing a Q&A and reception for a packed screening at the Academy last night and will be doing the same thing for BAFTA-LA Friday night.
The actor and the movie’s director Tom Hooper describe the rigors of performing in the musical in this behind-the-scenes video from Universal:
The official international Website for The Wolverine has released a motion poster depicting a contemplative Hugh Jackman atop a building, in Japan, in the rain. The James Mangold-directed Wolverine is the sequel to 2009′s X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the latest in the X-Men franchise. It’s due out on July 26, 2013. Click over for the poster, but beware the autoplay: