BREAKING: I can confirm that tonight’s New York Film Festival mystery film is Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, the John Logan-scripted adaptation of the Brian Selznick novel Hugo Cabret. The festival revealed late last week that it would feature a film by a master filmmaker, and speculation covered everything from Clint Eastwood’s J Edgar to Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I’m told that Richard Pena will introduce the picture at Avery Fisher Hall, but I’m not sure if Scorsese will be in the house. The film isn’t quite finished, but it will be shown in 3D, though there might be some green screen moments. Paramount releases Hugo on November 23. Scorsese hasn’t shown an unfinished film like this before (though he did once tell me that The Last Temptation Of Christ qualified as that when Universal rushed it into release because protesters were dragging crosses in front of the houses of studio higher-ups like Sid Sheinberg), and the NYFF hasn’t shown an unfinished print like this since Disney’s Beauty And The Beast in 1991. But it’s a great opportunity to build buzz on the movie, Scorsese’s first family and 3D film. READ MORE »
Participant Media Can Boast ‘Contagion’ #1 & ‘The Help’ #2; ‘Warrior’ #3 Disappoints; ‘Bucky Larson’ Bombs; Kevin Hart Still #10?
SATURDAY PM: This is shaping up as 2011′s lousiest box office weekend in North America with only $70M total grosses. Yes, even worse than Hurricane Irene’s. A lot of surprises in this weekend’s numbers and a fuller analysis is coming. But no surprise which new North American movie is No. 1:
1. With $8M Friday and +20% for $9.7M Saturday, it’s a $24M weekend for Warner Bros’ Contagion playing in 42% more theaters — 3,222 — than its nearest newcomer. This Participant Media-backed disease movie looked like yet another yikes-you’re-all-going-to-die formula pic. But I’m surprised it didn’t generate more appeal what with Oscar-winning Steven Soderbergh directing 6 Academy Award winners or nominees: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, and Laurence Fishburne. (Readers are urging me to include Oscar-honored John Hawke and Elliott Gould as well…) That added oomph to credited screenplay writer Scott Burns’ material. “Yes, it was important to be provocative and to scare people,” a Warner Bros exec tells me about the $60M-budget pic. “But both the print and trailer and TV campaign present a more well-rounded view of the mystery. We did sell the visceral experience — a smart and thrilling look at a killer virus, the science behind it, and the aftermath.” Warner Bros took the film to Venice to solid reviews and conducted an aggressive consumer campaign. Besides, adult movies are working at the box office.
2. Entering its 5th weekend in release, DreamWorks/Disney’s hit dramedy The Help which is also backed by Participant Media made $2.7M Friday and $4M Saturday going to $9.4M from 2,935 locations for the weekend. It’s estimated new cume of $137.8M by Monday.
3. This seemingly anticipated mixed martial arts drama Warrior starring Tom Hardy (Bane in the next Batman) and Joel Edgerton was only released for 1,869 runs. It opened with $1.8M Friday and $2.1M Saturday for what was just a dismal $4.8M weekend. Another very disappointing opening for Lionsgate which was very high on this actioner. Did last weekend’s sneaks let some wannasee steam escape? Will this hurt Hardy whom Hollywood execs consider a hot soon-to-be-star?
4. Focus Features’ adult holdover The Debt earned $1.4M Friday (-45% from a week ago) from 1,874 theaters and a projected $4.5M weekend for an estimated $21.6M cume by Monday.
5. Sony Pictures’ holdover Colombiana made $1.1M Friday and $1.9M Saturday from 2,354 runs for a $4M weekend and $29.8M cume.
But I have it on good authority that Sony execs were hiding out at the Toronto Film Festival (where better-than-expected Moneyball officially premiered Friday night) rather than get tagged by its Columbia Pictures’ R-rated Bucky Larson: Born To Be A Star which had one of the most annoying TV ad campaigns I’ve ever been assaulted by. Mercifully, its box office take was miniscule: $540K Friday and $570K Saturday for only a $1.2M weekend. That wasn’t even enough to make it into the Top 10 much less Sony’s hoped-for $4M. Fortunately the budget is purportedly just $10M. Usually Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison production banner gives Sony box office gold: stupid pics popular with audiences. But this was fool’s gold.
Before I give you the rest of the Top 10, you should know that Kevin Hart’s Laugh At My Pain was No. 10 Friday despite Hartbeat Productions and Codeblack Entertainment releasing it into only 99 theaters. It opened to $758K Friday and an estimated weekend of $2M. But it may ultimately be beaten by The Weinstein Co’s Spy Kids 4D. (I’ll know Sunday AM.) Hart’s fans turned out for this profanity-filled film version of his recent stand-up tour. It offers less than an hour of Hart onstage but also includes such bonus footage as Hart touring his old neighborhood in Philadelphia and faking a bank heist. Directed by Leslie Small, this 1-hour, 28-minute pic and its entry into the Top 10 now establishes Hart as a bonafide star beyond just his YouTube videos which have drawn tens of millions of views. Look for the major studios to take notice.
It’s official: Atonement director Joe Wright and star Keira Knightley are reteaming for Anna Karenina, the Working Title films adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s novel that was written by Tom Stoppard. The film will be distributed by Focus Features in the U.S. and Universal Pictures International worldwide sometime in the second half of 2012. Working Title co-chairs Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner are producing with Paul Webster; the trio were 2008 Oscar nominees as producers of Atonement.
The BFI 55th London Film Festival will open with the European premiere of 360, the Fernando Meirelles-directed drama that stars Rachel Weisz, Jude Law and Anthony Hopkins. The film opens Oct. 12 and the festival unveils the rest of its titles next Wednesday. I’m told that the opening film came down to 360 and My Week With Marilyn, but the latter film couldn’t make it because star Michelle Williams could not free herself from the production schedule of Disney’s The Great and Powerful Oz, and co-star Kenneth Branagh will be onstage in Belfast. These fest openers are sometimes determined by availability. For instance, the New York Film Festival seriously eyed Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy for its opener, but the film’s star, Gary Oldman, could not free himself from The Dark Knight Rises. The festival opens with Carnage, even though that film’s director Roman Polanski will certainly be a scratch.
360 is a Peter Morgan-scripted drama of interconnected stories about fidelity. It’s considered one of the hot acquisition titles that will unveil next month at the Toronto International Film Festival, and a possible Oscar contender. (Weisz won Best Supporting Actress for 2005′s The Constant Gardener, which was her last film with Meirelles.) The film is produced by Andrew Eaton and David Linde, Emanuel Michael, Danny Krausz and Chris Hanley.
Fox and New Regency put up a trailer this weekend for In Time, the Andrew Niccol-directed futuristic science fiction thriller that takes place in a world where people who want to live beyond 25 have to purchase time. The protagonist’s clock is about to run out when a rich guy …
While I have been on record expressing the sentiment that there are many filmmakers who should retire before Steven Soderbergh, I just got off the phone with the filmmaker. And damn it, he still wants to punch out by the time he hits 50. “I’m still following my plan,” he told me. “I’ve been stupid about it, I should have kept my mouth shut, but at the same time, I don’t think there’s anything that unusual about it. By the time I finish with the series of projects I’m planning, it will be 26 or 27 films. That’s plenty and if you take volume over quality; I’m twice as good as Kubrick.”
Forecasting his exit also didn’t help in terms of preparing the industry to make a fuss over him. “I figured by giving them two years lead time, they would line up those lifetime achievement awards, but there have been no calls or anything,” Soderbergh joked. Asked what he would like, he said, tongue firmly in cheek, “The Oprah thing. A year-long daily celebration of my fabulousness would be nice. Or maybe just a smallish parade.”
Soderbergh and I were speaking about Relativity Media’s decision to release Haywire, which it financed but set distribution originally through Lionsgate. Though that picture was shot before Contagion – the thriller about the outbreak of a deadly virus that stars Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard and Jude Law – Haywire will be released Jan. 20, 2012, three months after Contagion. Soderbergh will talk the picture up while promoting Contagion, which he feels will help an action film that leans heavily on Gina Carano, known only to mixed martial arts fans who’ve seen her fight on the circuit. Soderbergh also liked the Relativity move because it reunites him with Relativity’s new marketing chief Terry Curtin, with whom Soderbergh worked at Universal on Erin Brockovich.
“I think it might be best for Haywire to follow Contagion, which is the kind of film people like to see me make,” Soderbergh said. “It’s in the vein of Traffic, an entertaining multi-layered story about something timely right now. Because Gina has never been in a movie before, being able to draft off Contagion will be very good. We knew she could do the right stuff, but she really delivers as a screen presence. She looks comfortable, and then she tears these guys in half.”
Soderbergh said he’ll start work in September on Magic Mike, the film that will star Channing Tatum and Alex Pettyfer as male strippers in a coming-of-age story reminiscent of Saturday Night Fever. He’ll follow by directing George Clooney in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in February. After that, Liberace with Michael Douglas and Damon will likely be Soderbergh’s swan song. While I reminded him that he’s walking away at a time when he has plenty to say and the wisdom to know how to solve problems that maturity brings, he disagreed.
Mortimer, who appeared in Shutter Island, and Stuhlbarg, who co-stars in Boardwalk Empire, have become the latest cast additions to Scorsese’s 3D children’s movie. Hugo Cabret began shooting in London last month. Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Asa Butterfield and Chloe …