Jason James Murphy served a five-year prison term for kidnapping and abusing an 8-year-old boy near Seattle, but has been working for a decade as Jason James hiring kids as a casting assistant for productions including Super 8, Bad News Bears, The School Of Rock, Cheaper By The Dozen 2, and the upcoming film The Three Stooges, the LA Times reports. Police said that they have no reason to believe that he molested anyone else; he is cooperating with their investigation into whether he complied with laws that apply to registered sex offenders — including that they report within five days when they use an alias. The law also bars sex offenders from working directly with unaccompanied minors. The fact that he has had so much power and opportunity to victimize kids has child protection advocates up in arms: Several say that they want unions to screen people who work with children, and to have them submit to background checks and fingerprinting. Murphy is a member of Teamsters Local 399 since 2008. The union and casting directors told the paper that they were unaware of Murphy’s background. “It’s shocking and it’s devastating, not just as a filmmaker but as a father and someone who is entrusted to make sure that everyone I work with, especially children, are safe,” Super 8 director J.J. Abrams said. “To think that someone like this was among us is unthinkable.”
Secret No More: ‘Super 8′ Reels In Big $37M Weekend; ‘X-Men’ Reboot $25M For Strong #2; ‘Hangover II’ Grosses $216M In 18 Days
SUNDAY AM, 5TH UPDATE: So Summer 2011′s fast start slows: total moviegoing this weekend is $140M, down -7% from last year.
1. Super 8 (Bad Robot/Amblin/Paramount) NEW [3,379 Runs]
Friday $12.2M, Saturday $14M, Weekend $37M, Cume $38M
It’s encouraging to see an original summer movie overperforming at the North American box office, especially after Hollywood has spent the past month relentlessly beating up on not just the secretive marketing campaign but also what it’s been deriding as a throwback to ET meets Close Encounters meets Jurassic Park. After making $12.2M on Friday, the movie did an even better $14M Saturday — +15% uptick reflects great word-of-mouth — for a weekend of $37M. That puts Super 8 right in the range of the U.S. opening of District 9‘s opening of $37.3M, another well-pedigreed original movie deemed a success. “I bet no one outside of Paramount or the filmmakers thought that was possible,” a studio exec emailed me. International opens also started very strong. It opened in 9 markets, including Australia where Super 8 took in $2.7M which was 50% higher than District 9.
Super 8 received an overall ‘B+’ CinemaScore which broke down as follows: 29% of the audience under age 25 gave it ‘A-’, 71% over 25 ‘B’, 56% of males ‘B+’, and 44% of females ‘B+’. Moviegoers spent $12 million Friday on the the Bad Robot/Amblin/Paramount movie Super 8 from JJ Abrams and Steven Spielberg for what should be $35M from 3,379 locations. “Sweeeeeeet,” a Paramount exec emailed me tonight. These grosses do not include the $1 million made from Thursday’s sneaks in about 335 theaters but do include Friday’s $500K midnight screenings. Hollywood is very skeptical of Paramount’s claim that the pic cost only $50M, but I’ve confirmed that budget independently. (FYI, Spielberg and Abrams didn’t take their normal front or back end, for one thing.) The studio also claims it spent a below-the-norm $25M on marketing.
Speaking of that, Abrams was trashed behind-the-scenes of Hollywood when he insisted on not exposing the creature in Super 8 all those months leading up to release. Tracking as a result was soft going into the week. Then he let Paramount go to work. The studio did 13 super-secret screenings at 10 PM Wednesday night — that’s right, on Wednesday — in 12 markets, plus a screening for the home office of Twitter. (These webmaster hosted screenings were given a code word.) “We allowed the hosts to push to their networks and drive a viral conversation about the screenings and to share their feelings about the film in an organic impactful way”. Early adopters were invited to more sneaks via Twitter only, a first-of-its-kind marketing technique. Also Thursday, Abrams and Spielberg leaked online what appeared to be an industrial film about the creature and even gave the first glimpse. Part of this reel shows up in Super 8.
To position it as an event movie, “it was critical throughout the campaign to deepen a sense of mystery, slowly peeling back the onion and encouraging fans to constantly be asking questions of the movie and the campaign,” a studio exec told me. Throughout, the pedigree of the filmmakers were emphasized. There were TV spots during the Super Bowl and Academy Awards, as well as ESPN homepage takeovers and American Idol integration. Teasers and trailers were launched with Iron Man 2, Battle: LA, and Red Riding Hood. The studio also had the first-ever trailer launch on Twitter which reported it was one of their most engaging tweets of the year (21+% engagement rate). There was a Super 8 national promotion in 6,000 7-Eleven locations, and movie-themed special Big Gulp cups.
2. X-Men: First Class (Fox) Week 2 [3,692 Runs]
Friday $8M, Saturday $10.1M, Weekend $25M (-55%), Cume $98.8M
Fox’s week-old prequel X-Men: First Class is a strong #2.
3. The Hangover Part II (Warner Bros) Week 3 [3,644 Runs]
Friday $5.7M, Saturday $7.6M, Weekend $18.5M, Cume $216.5M
Never underestimate the film taste of the public for sequels because #3 Warner Bros’ The Hangover Part 2 has now grossed over $200m in its first 16 days of release for bragging rights as the largest grossing film of 2011. It’s heading to $250M domestic. “With Green Lantern, Horrible Bosses, and Harry Potter 7B lined up and ready to go, WB is positioned to regain the industry market share (4th year in a row) by the end of summer,” a Warner Bros exec just emailed me.
4. Kung Fu Panda 2 (DWA/Paramount) Week 3 [3,929 Runs]
Friday $4.6M, Saturday $7M, Weekend $16.6M, Cume $126.9M
5. Pirates Of The Caribbean 4 (Disney) Week 4 [3,433 Runs]
Friday $3.1M, Saturday $4.6M, Weekend $10.8M, Cume $208.8M
Pirates crossed the $200M threshold this weekend ($208.8M) and is getting closer to $900M globally which it should cross this week/next weekend. Film continues to dominate in Japan, remaining #1 there for 4 weekends in a row. Film is now in the top 25 films of all time on a global basis and in the Top 10 internationally.
6. Bridesmaids (Universal) Week 5 [2,922 Runs]
Friday $3.1M, Saturday $4.2M, Weekend $10.1M, Cume $123.9M
7. Judy Moody (Relativity) NEW [2,524]
Friday $2.2M, Saturday $2.3M, Weekend $6.2M
Here’s another stillborn weekend release for distributor Relativity despite the ‘B+’ CinemaScore for Judy Moody And The NOT Bummer Summer despite a ‘B+’ CinemaScore, with an ‘A-’ grade from moviegoers under age 18. This indicates positive word-of-mouth for the core demographic. actual filmmakers are Smokewood Entertainment producers Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness who fully financed with their own bucks a $20M budget plus P&A. This lame schoolgirl pic is based on the popular Megan McDonald book series. It took the producers a year to secure the rights because of uncertainty over their novice status and then a bidding war with more established players. Anyway, it’s a real departure from their first full producing credit: 2009′s critically acclaimed drama Precious: based On The Novel ‘Push’ By Sapphire. They sank $12M into what became a two-time Oscar winner which received support from Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey and made $63.6M at the worldwide box office. Of course, it helps that the married entrepreneurs are also loaded scions: Siegel-Magness’ parents founded Celestial Seasonings teas while Magness’ parents founded cabler Tele-Communications Inc. So it’s already been said that the pair have the luxury of failing this weekend. (“The arrogance of billionaires and Relativity way outside their skill set,” a rival studio exec emailed me.) Relativity said in advance of the release that an opening of $6M would mean modest profitability across distribution channels including theatrical, the Netflix pay deal, home entertainment, tv sales. Relativity already has licensed the cable television premiere rights to Disney Channel for a 2013 debut. Next, Siegel-Magness intends to direct…