EXCLUSIVE: Hot off helming the kidnap thriller Prisoners, Denis Villeneuve is circling Sicario, a Taylor Sheridan-scripted drama that is fast coming together with Black Label financing, and producing with Basil Iwanyk’s Thunder Road. Black Label is the finance/production company formed by Molly Smith, Trent Luckinbill and Thad Luckinbill. Just as Villeneuve’s films Prisoners and especially Incendies presented thrillers with complex moral dilemmas and shocking conclusions, Sicario presents a similar opportunity for the filmmaker. It focuses on the murky legal loophole that allows mercenaries to breach the border of Mexico to corral drug kingpins, as long as they are accompanied by a legitimate law officer. In this case, a female cop from Tucson accompanies two delta force-type rangers across the border to apprehend a drug lord. Once across the border, the cop finds she has stepped into No Country For Old Men terrain, with violence and depravity she never imagined. I’m told that distributors are sparked about this one, and that CAA will broker the domestic deal. The Canadian helmer is being courted for other films, but this certainly sounds like this is right in Villeneuve’s wheelhouse.
The Contenders 2013: ‘Prisoners’ Screenwriter Asks “How Did I Become So Warped To Give Birth To This Story?” (Video)
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 …
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.
EXCLUSIVE: Alcon Entertainment has added Terrence Howard to round out the impressive cast that has mobilized for Prisoners. The film stars Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Melissa Leo, Viola Davis, Maria Bello and Paul Dano. The cast has responded to the screenplay by Contraband scribe Aaron Guzikowski, and the chance to work with Oscar-nominated Incendies director Denis Villeneuve. The story revolves around a small-town carpenter (Jackman) whose young daughter and her best friend are abducted. After the cops fail to find them, Keller takes the law into his own hands, but in the process runs up against a detective (Gyllenhaal), a hot-shot cop with confidence to burn, assigned to the case.