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.
The 67th Tony Awards have added more talent to their June 9 telecast. Laura Benanti, Alan Cumming, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Sally Field, Barrett Foa, Jake Gyllenhaal, Megan Hilty, Anna Kendrick, Jane Krakowski, Cyndi Lauper, Audra McDonald, Matthew …
EXCLUSIVE: Panorama Media, the production, finance and sales entity backed by Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures, has boarded road trip drama Mississippi Grind. Half Nelson duo Anna Boden and Ryan …
Hollywood has been one of Barack Obama’s biggest supporters during this Presidential campaign, and with less than 24 hours until polls open, the town is out today knocking on doors, hitting the stage and picking up the phone for the incumbent. Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, longtime supporter Eva Longoria, Parks And Recreation‘s Rashida Jones and Natalie Portman are just a few of the 181 surrogates on the trail today, according to a list released by the Obama campaign (see the full list below). Mitt Romney has star support on the final day of the campaign too: American Bible Challenge host and comedian Jeff Foxworthy, Fight Club’s Meat Loaf, Kid Rock and the Oak Ridge Boys will be performing at Republican rallies today.
One of the most well known liberals in Hollywood, Jake Gyllenhaal, is a hot retweet today in what seems to be a huge change of political partisanship. In fact, it’s yet another fake celebrity Twitter account:
Jake Gyllenhaal does not have …
Jake Gyllenhaal’s ‘End Of Watch’ Clear #1; Clint Eastwood’s Baseball Drama Tied With Jennifer Lawrence’s Horror ‘House’ For #2; ‘Dredd 3D’ Dreadful On Very Soft Weekend
SUNDAY PM UPDATE: That’s the pecking order before Monday actuals, according to my sources. This was one of those weekends which can only be described as box office hell for me. Because the three top pics were neck-and-neck for #1 this weekend. Final film order came down to Sunday late shows on the West Coast with Open Road’s End Of Watch easily placing #1 with $13+M. There’s still a battle for 2nd place after Relativity’s The House At The End of The Street came in way under their estimate, while Warner Bros’ Trouble With The Curve came in a little below their estimate as well. Lionsgate’s Dredd still did dreadful. All four newcomers are low- to medium-budget movies, but none opened to more than $13+M this very soft weekend. And total filmgoing likely won’t add up to a lot more than $88M, which is down a big -25% from last year. “It’s a close race to mediocrity with no winners,” one movie exec snarked to me.
Open Road Films has put up this R-rated trailer for writer-director David Ayer’s End Of Watch, which looks at the workday activities of two L.A. cops — Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena — from the perspective of various hand-held, dashboard and security cameras. Co-starring Anna Kendrick, Frank Grillo, …