EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that Julianne Nicholson (Boardwalk Empire, Law & Order: CI) has been cast as the female lead in Sundance Channel’s new drama series The Descendants. The project, which has a straight-to-series six-episode order, is described as a hard-hitting drama that revolves around Harold Jensen, a sheriff struggling to keep his family together while simultaneously policing two clashing communities: the small town where he grew up and the neighboring Ramapo Mountains, home of the Ramapo Mountain Indians. After a terrible tragedy and cover-up occurs involving the sheriff’s wife, Jean (Nicholson), an unholy alliance is forged between the sheriff and a dangerous member of the tribe that will come back to haunt all involved. Jean, an over-controlling and over-bearing recovering alcoholic who seems to suffer from dementia stemming from her alcohol use and the loss of her brother, goes on a rampage when she finds her daughter has run off with her new boyfriend. Nicholson, repped by CAA and Davien Littlefield, is a member of the star-studded cast of the John Wells-directed feature August: Osage County, which opens on Christmas Day. The Descendants is executive produced by writer Aaron Guzikowski, showrunner Bridget Carpenter and Sarah Condon.
EXCLUSIVE: Sundance Channel has greenlighted drama series The Descendants (working title), from writer Aaron Guzikowski (Prisoners) and producer Sarah Condon (Bored To Death), with a six-episode straight-to-series order. As Sundance is stepping up its original scripted efforts, the cable network also is expanding its scripted programming team. In addition to the recent appointment of Nena Rodrigue as Head of Programming and Development, overseeing scripted and unscripted development with a focus on scripted series, Sundance has named Christian Vesper as SVP Scripted Development and Current, and Jordan Helman as Director, Scripted Development and Current. Vesper, based in New York, reports to Rodrigue. Helman is based in Los Angeles and reports to Vesper.
The Descendants is Sundance’s second wholly owned original scripted series, joining Rectify, which debuts April 22. (Sundance’s mini-series Top Of The Lake premieres March 18.) The Descendants, which was among the handful of scripts Sundance brass zeroed in on for series pickup, is a hard-hitting drama that revolves around a sheriff struggling to keep his family together while simultaneously policing two clashing communities: the small town where he grew up and the neighboring Ramapo Mountains, home of the Ramapo Mountain Indians. After a terrible tragedy and cover-up occurs involving the sheriff’s wife, an unholy alliance is forged between the sheriff and a dangerous member of the tribe that will come back to haunt all involved. Guzikowski, repped by Verve and Madhouse Entertainment, wrote the script and created the series with former HBO executive-turned-producer Condon. “At Sundance Channel, we are passionately dedicated to the creation of non-formulaic, daring original stories and we are delighted with this outstanding new addition to our scripted slate,” said Sarah Barnett, Sundance Channel President and General Manager.
After all the money the studios and independent distributors poured into campaigning, what was actually winning an Oscar really worth? If you go by pure box office results in the heat of the publicity and mass audience viewership of the Academy Awards, then probably not as much bang for their buck as they would like.
For some films that managed a major win — like The Help (for supporting actress Octavia Spencer), Beginnners (for supporting actor Christopher Plummer), or Midnight In Paris (for Woody Allen’s Original Screenplay) — there may be added incentive to pick up the DVD, but no other residual value. In TV ads I saw for last week’s home video release of nominations leader Hugo, there was no mention of its impressive haul of five Academy Awards (in technical categories), but I am sure they will probably put a sticker on the box. Still, the expensive Martin Scorsese film, which had earned $55 million up to the week before its 11 nominations, added only another $14 million by the time the Oscars rolled around a month later — despite a big campaign spend on TV and print by Paramount. Internationally, Oscar wins can be a very big thing. Sony Pictures Classics’ Best Foreign Language Film winner, Iran’s A Separation, stands to gain from its exposure in the Academy race this season. With nearly $1 million added over the weekend (on more than 200 screens) and a $3.4 million domestic take to date, it will be a sizable art house hit far eclipsing SPC’s disappointing 2010 Foreign Film winner from Denmark, In A Better World, which only rode its Oscar victory to a $1 million gross.
UPDATE, 5:32 PM: Oscar clearly proved lucrative for The Weinstein Company and Sony Pictures Classics. Best Foreign Language winner A Separation added 160 locations in its first post-Oscar weekend outing, grossing over $1 million for the Farsi-language feature, averaging over $4,000 per screen. Best Picture winner The Artist, meanwhile averaged $2,171 from 1,756 theaters, up from the previous week’s 966 locations.
The big box office story of course was Universal’s The Lorax. The studio’s specialty division Focus Features also rolled out a title of its own, Being Flynn, at four theaters with a moderate $11,386 average. Also debuting this weekend were Paladin’s Boy at two location, grossing $45,000 — coming in with the highest per screen average of the titles we’re currently reporting — and Zeitgeist’s The Salt Of The Earth also in two theaters, taking in $21,000. Fox Searchlight’s The Descendants, which won Best Adapted Screenplay at last weekend’s Oscars, dropped 195 theaters from last week, grossing over $1.3 million from 694 theaters. The film directed by Alexander Payne has cumed nearly $80.5 million.
1. Being Flynn (Focus Features) NEW [4 Theaters]
Weekend $45K, Per Screen Average $11,386
2. Boy (Paladin) NEW [2 Theaters]
Weekend $23K, Per Screen Average $11,695
3. Last Days Here (Sundance Selects) NEW [1 Theater]
4. The Salt Of Life (Zeitgeist) NEW [2 Theaters]
Weekend $21K, Per Screen Average $10,500
5. The Forgiveness Of Blood (Sundance Selects) Week 2 [6 Theaters]
Weekend $19,200, Per Screen Average $3,200, Cume $50K
When the awards season kicked into gear at Telluride and Toronto, it appeared the movie to beat was going to be Fox Searchlight’s The Descendants. But then along came the big momentum for the little-silent-movie-that-could, The Artist, and that was all she wrote — that is, until this last weekend before ballots are due. Descendants has been on a tear these past few days, almost seeming to say “it ain’t over til it’s over”. With significant victories for Best Adapted Screenplay at the WGA Awards Sunday night, preceded by the prestigious USC Scripter Award and Best Drama Feature Editing win at the ACE Eddie Awards on Saturday — not to mention writer-director Alexander Payne’s special award from the cinema editors — you have a pretty impressive haul. But is it too late to turn around the momentum of The Artist? After all, ballots are due at PricewaterhouseCoopers by Tuesday at 5 PM, and with the President’s Day holiday on Monday slowing postal delivery, the only way to get ballots in on time is to have them hand-delivered.
Perhaps a victim of too many participants and too little time, a panel featuring the WGA screenwriting nominees Thursday night at the guild’s Beverly Hills theater was heavy on niceties with only traces of insight. Three Moneyball writers — Aaron Sorkin, Stan Chervin and Steven Zaillian (who also wrote The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) — were joined by The Descendants’ writer-director Alexander Payne, Hugo‘s John Logan, Bridesmaids‘ Annie Mumolo, 50/50‘s Will Reiser and The Help‘s Tate Taylor for an hour-plus discussion mostly peppered with practical advice dished to a large audience of new or aspiring screenwriters. The event was billed as a pre-cursor to Sunday’s WGA Awards, featuring the WGA’s and Oscar’s nominees for original and adapted screenplay.
A couple of panelists did offer up moments of insidery detail. Payne tackled his screenplay for The Descendants after drafts were delivered by the project’s other writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, but he said he had to overlook their take on the story before warming up to the project. “I couldn’t get into the film through their drafts,” Payne said. “I respected their work very much but I had to return to the novel. I learned some of the things I didn’t want to do [with the story] through their drafts.” Payne said the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings paved the way for his version of the screenplay, noting that this was his most “faithful adaptation” he’s done to date. “The [Hawaiian] aristocracy is very insular. They’re very suspicious of outsiders who come in and see what they want to see and leave,” he said. “My principal audience is the people who live there and I wanted people in Hawaii to believe I got it right.”
Payne said previous drafts of Descendants played up the high jinks of the younger daughter (played in the film by Amara Miller), but he said he “jettisoned that” and instead focused on the relationship between George Clooney’s character and the older daughter, played by Shailene Woodley. When writing, Payne said he likes to keep things “austere.” Though he may write a long script with details, when he’s ready to show it, minimalism wins out. “I like to keep it super austere. Ninety-one pages is the best length for a script.”
Alexander Payne, the director/co-writer/co-producer of The Descendants, hates road-trip movies even though he keeps making them; he doesn’t give a damn if people don’t like voice-overs; and he doesn’t think he’s a brand — at least not yet. He spoke with AwardsLine’s Ari Karpel about his George Clooney-starring drama Descendants, which is up for five Oscars including Director and Adapted Screenplay for Payne (the latter including Nat Faxon and Jim Rash) as well as Best Picture.
AWARDSLINE: In The Descendants, we see a Hawaii that we never get to see in movies and on TV. Was the author of the book [Kaui Hart Hemmings] singular in knocking on those doors for you?
PAYNE: She opened a lot of doors for me and the production designers, to get the houses right and the sense of place right. It’s not a film about tourists, as most movies are. It’s about people who live there. The nice thing about making a film on location is that you begin the process of superficially weaving yourself into that fabric of society, just enough to be able to make the film with accuracy and verisimilitude.
Even though Fox Searchlight co-presidents Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley have turned “challenging films” like Slumdog Millionaire, Black Swan, Crazy Heart, Once, Juno, and 127 Hours into awards-season successes, they are the lowest-profile indie moguls you will find. At a time when they are steering two Best Picture nominees — the Alexander Payne-directed The Descendants and the Terrence Malick-directed The Tree Of Life – they tell Deadline about the struggles, glory and disappointment that is part and parcel of the indie distributor’s mission of finding audiences for prestige films. When it works, it’s wondrous. Slumdog Millionaire, a $15 million film that was nearly relegated to a direct-to-video fate by Warner Bros, won eight Oscars including Best Picture, and grossed $141 million domestic and $378 million worldwide; Black Swan, a $13 million film that flatlined several times during the 10 years it took to get made, grossed $107 million domestic and $329 million worldwide and won Best Actress for Natalie Portman; Once, an obscure Irish film that cost $150,000 to make, won Best Song and grossed $9.4 million stateside and $20.7 million worldwide; Crazy Heart, a $9 million film about a drunk singer, won Best Actor for Jeff Bridges and grossed $39 million domestic and $47 million worldwide; the $7.5 million Juno won Best Screenplay for Diablo Cody, and grossed $143 million domestic and $231 million worldwide. Here, they lay out how it’s done and why voters should consider The Descendants and The Tree Of Life for Best Picture and other honors.
DEADLINE: Fox Searchlight has eight nominations, with two Best Picture candidates. Make a case why Alexander Payne’s The Descendants is a worthy best picture winner.
UTLEY: The Descendants is a remarkably beautiful and accomplished film that is in the vein of Oscar movies from a little bit further back, like Kramer Vs. Kramer, Ordinary People, Terms Of Endearment, even On Golden Pond or To Kill A Mockingbird. It is in the sort of subtle character-based, humanistic, realistic story-telling tradition. Sometimes it’s a little frustrating because our movie isn’t flashy, it doesn’t have a lot of showy or bling kind of elements in it. It’s highly naturalistic. But I think those kind of movies are important to moviegoers because they reflect their lives and issues. This is a movie that is going to stand the test of time. People will be watching this movie in 10 years, 20 years, in 30 years. That’s an important part of what should be considered in Best Picture.
GILULA: It’s also a film that has really resonated all the way from the rarefied world of the film critics and journalists out to the mainstream: the public. The major studios are making almost none of those kinds of films anymore and it’s not easy for us either. But the fact is that the material is so good, and you have one of the very best directors and some of the best actors telling what on paper is a very simple story but achieves the highest level of the art.
OSCAR Q&A: George Clooney On ‘The Descendants’, ‘Ides Of March’ And His Love Affair With Making Movies
At this point in his accomplished, eclectic career, George Clooney enjoys the luxury of taking his pick of film projects that inspire him. In 2011, those were two films: the political drama The Ides Of March, which Clooney co-starred in as well as directed and co-wrote; and The Descendants, co-written and directed by Oscar-winner Alexander Payne. The latter picked up five Oscar nominations, including a Best Actor nom for Clooney, his third in the category. Clooney will be busy on Oscar night, as he’s also up for Adapted Screenplay with his Ides co-writer Grant Heslov. Clooney talked with Deadline Awards Columnist Pete Hammond about his busy season.
AWARDSLINE: What made you most happy about The Descendants?
CLOONEY: I just wanted to work with Alexander first and foremost. I hadn’t read the script when we met in Toronto a little over two years ago. He said, “Do you want to do this movie?” And I said “Yep!” And then he sent me the script and I was just thrilled. It was sort of the same experience I had the first time I met with the Coen brothers and they said “Do you want to do a movie?” and then they sent me O Brother, Where Art Thou? and I was like how lucky I am!
From ENTV: Deadline Hollywood
Pete Hammond’s 2012 Golden Globe Predictions
Although the track record for the Golden Globes matching the Best Picture Oscar has not been sterling in recent years, all eyes are on the glitzy, star-studded NBC awards show to give some semblance of order in the awards-season picture. Sunday’s night show didn’t really do that as it spread the winners around — just like every other contest seems to have done in this topsy-turvy year. The one thing it seems to have confirmed is that The Artist, the little French black-and-white silent film Harvey Weinstein acquired almost on a dare, is the one to beat all the way to the Academy Awards on February 26. Winning three of its six nominations — for Best Picture, Actor-Musical or Comedy, and Best Music Score — it led all comers, with only The Descendants being the only other multiple winner with two last-minute victories for Best Actor-Drama George Clooney and Best Picture-Drama.
At the Fox party afterward, Globe-winning producer Jim Burke told me it was like a surprise party where you had no idea you were gonna be surprised. He said the way the evening was going, it was a shock they came out on top in the end. Producer-writer-director Alexander Payne also told me he was very happy with the outcome although there is a long way to go until Oscar night. This definitely gives a shot in the arm to the Hawaiian-set comedy/drama, but it is by no means the only film set to challenge The Artist for Best Picture bragging rights at the Oscars.
Although The Help only was able to cash in one of its Globe nods — for Octavia Spencer, now the odds-on favorite for Best Supporting Actress — there is mounting evidence based on my Academy voter interviews that it could be a major multi-category contender at the Oscars. And also Hugo, which may have lost Best Picture-Drama at the Globes but won Best Director for Martin Scorsese and should not be counted out despite a less-than-glowing box office performance.
What the Globes and Thursday’s Critics Choice Movie Awards results, in addition to the split decisions among many critics groups, have proven is that this is a wide-open year. No sweep seems to be developing, and even though The Artist would seem to be the favorite, anything is possible. Still, Harvey Weinstein was one happy camper tonight as his company was able to bring home Globes for not only the silent sensation but also Meryl Streep for Best Actress-Drama for The Iron Lady; Best Actress-Comedy Or Musical for My Week With Marilyn’s Michelle Williams; and even Best Song for Madonna’s “Masterpiece,” from W.E. (the HFPA can’t resist Madonna), though it’s not eligible for an Oscar nom in the same category.
All photos by Getty Images
After being nominated and falling short in three categories — screenplay, drama and directing for The Ides Of March — on Sunday at the Golden Globe Awards — George Clooney finally came up a winner in best actor/drama for The Descendants. The Alexander Payne-directed film also nabbed the best motion picture-drama award. The first question lobbed at Clooney concerned Republican president candidate Mitt Romney and his anti-gay stand. “I don’t consider him a contender until he’s an actual nominee, but he’s on the wrong side of history.” Clooney was soon joined on stage by his fellow Descendants best motion picture/drama winners, director Payne and producers Jim Taylor and Jim Burke. “You have to look at Alexander and all five of his films are wonderfully made, he knows how to tell a story and how to turn it around,” Clooney said. “I think this film, which is a coming of age film for a 50-year old, touches people.”
Reflecting on The Ides Of March and The Descendants, Clooney acknowledged genuine satisfaction for this evening’s win. “This is three years of hard work and they’re years of what matters to me. It feels nice to have this acknowledgment. … I’m a big fan of film, it’s what I do and love.” The predicted Oscar race between Clooney and Brad Pitt ended the onstage conversation, with Clooney laughing off any kind of rivalry. “We’re friends. There are no wagers or trash talk. We just slap each other on the back and wish each other well.” …
Payne was asked how he chooses his stories. The helmer said he and he producing partners are attracted to story-driven film. “We are interested in making all films — comedies, human stories,” Payne said. “As far as me as a human director … maybe [this] is a bit more serious than our previous comedies, but it’s still in our wheelhouse. And I think George is a like-minded fellow.” When asked whether he chooses material or if material chooses him, Payne said he was relieved someone else might suggest a story might find him. “I think I sound pretentious whenever I say that. Material does present itself to me. … You can tell from the films we make are human stories, [with a] sense of melancholy and laughs.” Payne said he’ll start shooting in May on a father/son road trip film via Fox Searchlight, noting he’s still trying to get the cast together. “They’ll travel from Billings, Montana to Lincoln, Nebraska. …
Meryl Streep started winning at the Golden Globes in 1980 for her role in Kramer Vs. Kramer, and The Iron Lady was her eighth trophy. With Michelle Williams taking the top acting honor in the comedy/musical category with My Week With Marilyn, The Weinstein Co will have a Sophie’s Choice to contend with should both actresses land Oscar nominations.
With regard to her latest character, Britain’s first woman prime minister and long-serving leader, Streep said she doesn’t only look to famous or powerful women to play. “I don’t think about things that way. I think about every individual story. And if it’s a waitress, I’m fine with that. I’m not discriminating in that way.” Streep turned to Europe when speculating what she might say to Lady Thatcher if she were able to speak with the former PM. “I’d be interested in what she thinks about Europe right now — I know this sounds esoteric — and the debt crisis and whether her views on that have evolved.”
Streep described her evolving view on Thatcher. “I think coming into this I had a reductive view of Margaret Thatcher. We do what we usually do to political leaders we don’t agree with. We turn them in to more than human and less than human and the same time. So I looked at a person behind the headlines and to see the human behind those headlines in the winter of her life and find compassion. …”
Turning to Streep’s numerous Oscar nominations, comparisons to Susan Lucci and that actress’ evasive Emmy for All My Children emerged during the Q&A. ”You know, I’m sure Susan Lucci is happy with her career and the longevity and fulfillment it has given her and that’s sort of how I feel,” Streep said. Elaborating on what inspires her to take on specific roles, she noted, “I’ve never really gotten to the bottom of me and the contradictions and conundrum I find in my own personality. I find some understanding of being alive through the characters I play. I gravitate toward the characters I think I feel something of me inside.”
About her onstage verbal slip, Streep laughed, “I can’t believe I said ‘shit’ on TV. I had such a good speech and here it is (pointing to her piece of paper), and I just can’t see it at all” — she forgot to bring her glasses onstage. Streep then turned serious talking about a group she’s involved with aiming to open a women’s history museum in the nation’s capital. “I’m very interested in the stories of women, especially the unwritten story of women. I’m involved with a group to purchase land on the national mall to have the first women’s history museum. So many stories I could go on for hours.” She noted the organization’s website: www.nwhm.org. …
Golden Globes Winners List: ‘The Descendants,’ George Clooney, ‘The Artist’, Meryl Streep, Jean Dujardin, ‘Modern Family’, ‘Homeland’, Michelle Williams
ACTOR-MOTION PICTURE DRAMA
George Clooney, The Descendants
MOTION PICTURE-COMEDY OR MUSICAL
A La Petite Reine – Studio 37 – La Classe Americaine – JD Prod- France3 Cinema – Jouror Production-uFilms co-production; The Weinstein Company
ACTRESS-MOTION PICTURE DRAMA
Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady
ACTOR-MOTION PICTURE COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Jean Dujardin for The Artist
Martin Scorsese for Hugo
ACTRESS-MOTION PICTURE COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Michelle Williams for My Week With Marylin
SUPPORTING ACTRESS-MOTION PICTURE
Octavia Spencer for The Help
SUPPORTING ACTOR-MOTION PICTURE
Christopher Plummer for Beginners
Woody Allen for Midnight In Paris
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
The Country of Iran
(Jodaeiye Nader az Simin) Asghar Farhadi; Sony Pictures Classics
The Adventures Of Tintin
Paramount Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Hemisphere Capital/Amblin Entertainment/Wingnut Films Production/Kennedy/Marshall Production A Steven Spielberg Film; Paramount Pictures and Columbia Pictures
ORIGINAL SCORE-MOTION PICTURE
Ludovic Bource for The Artist
ORIGINAL SONG-MOTION PICTURE
“Masterpiece” from W.E.
Music & Lyrics by Madonna, Julie Frost and Jimmy Harry
TELEVISION SERIES-COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Modern Family (ABC)
Twentieth Century Fox Television
ACTOR IN A TELEVISION SERIES-COMEDY OR MUSICAL
Matt LeBlanc for Episodes
ACTRESS IN A TELEVISION SERIES-DRAMA
Claire Danes for Homeland
The Australian Academy of Cinema and Television, which previously honored Aussie productions, has launched five new award categories that will recognize international product in Best Film, Best Direction, Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Actress. In other words, the Aussies are going Hollywood. The nominees were announced tonight by Jacki Weaver, the Aussie actress who was Oscar nominated for Animal Kingdom. I am not sure how these will factor into the Oscar conversation, but here are the nominees:
INAUGURAL AACTA INTERNATIONAL AWARDS NOMINEES
The Artist – Thomas Langmann (The Weinstein Company)
The Descendants - Jim Burke, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Hugo – Graham King, Tim Headington, Martin Scorsese, Johnny Depp (Paramount Pictures)
The Ides of March – George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Brian Oliver (Columbia Pictures)
Margin Call - Robert Ogden Barnum, Michael Benaroya, Neal Dodson, Joe Jenckes, Corey Moosa, Zachary Quinto (Roadside Attractions)
Melancholia – Meta Louise Foldager, Louise Vesth (Magnolia Pictures)
Midnight In Paris – Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, Jaume Roures (Sony Pictures Classics)
Moneyball - Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz, Brad Pitt (Columbia Pictures)
The Tree of Life – Bill Pohlad, Dede Gardner, Sarah Green (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
We Need to Talk About Kevin – Jennifer Fox, Luc Roeg, Bob Salerno (Oscilloscope Pictures)
LA Film Critics: ‘The Descendants’ Best Pic, Terrence Malick Best Director; Michael Fassbender, Yun Jung-Hee Top Actors; ‘Rango’ Best Animation
UPDATE, 2:11 PM: Alexander Payne’s The Descendants won Best Picture in voting Sunday by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association that grew increasingly contentious as the day wore on. One member identified as Amy Nicholson tweeted afterward, “While the morning vote went fast, LAFCA awards now bogged down …
2011′s Second-Worst Weekend: ‘Breaking Dawn’ Threepeats For #1, ‘Muppets’ #2, Oscar-Buzzed ‘Hugo’, ‘Shame’, ‘The Artist’, ‘The Descendants’, ‘Marilyn’ All Strong
SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM : No major studio movies opened. Interesting that 6 of the Top 10 highest-grossing films are PG. But this weekend is looking like $82M, which is neck-and-neck for the lowest weekend of 2011 (September 9th’s $81M). Deadline begins its closer look at the specialty market. Fox Searchlight’s Shame played in 10 theatres in 6 cities and grossed $361K with a theatre average of $36,118. In a dismal down weekend, the film delivered the highest per-screen average this post-holiday period even with an NC-17 rating. The studio is hoping this Steve McQueen-directed film is receiving enough buzz for a long run through the awards season. Fox Searchlight’s The Descendants sticks the Top 10 despite a low theater count and became the first limited-platform film ever to hit $10M in the first 12 days of release. This Oscar-touted Alexander Payne/George Clooney dramedy expands next Friday into 850 theaters to keep up with continuing demand. The Weinstein Co’s My Week With Marilyn didn’t add theaters but held up well, down only 43% on Friday and 26% on Saturday. Already TWC’s badmouthing of the Oscar competition has begun: “This compares to Descendants which, while down 47% and 24% overall, added 33% more locations (141) theaters, and their actual drop in the existing theaters was down 56% and 37%. Paramount’s Hugo added 44% more theaters (563) and, while their overall drop was down 57% and 24%, their actual drop in the existing theaters was down 62% and 34% for Friday and Saturday. What all this says is that Marilyn is holding in better than the competition and that we have good word of mouth.” [UPDATE: The Weinstein Co's David Glasser called me strenuously denying that this was 'badmouthing' and said this was merely normal box office comping.] The Weinstein Co’s Academy Award Best Picture-heralded The Artist had its best day yet on Saturday in both NY houses. “And while LA took a hit on Friday, it was only down slightly from last week on Saturday with drops of 21% in Hollywood and 11% at the Landmark,” the indie said. “Obviously, we have fantastic WOM on this.” The European Film Awards just wrapped in Berlin, where Magnolia’s Melancholia from the looney Lars von Trier won top prize.
Top 10 highest grossing films:
1. Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (Summit) Week 3 [4,046 Theaters]
Friday $5.5M, Saturday $7.2M, Weekend $16.9M (-60%), Cume $247.3M
2. The Muppets (Disney) Week 2 [3,440 Theaters]
Friday $2.7M, Saturday $5.2M, Weekend $11.2M (-63%), Cume $56.1M
3. Hugo 3D (Paramount) Week 2 [1,840 Theaters]
Friday $2M, Saturday $3.4M, Weekend $7.5M (-36%), Cume $25.1M
Based on the mixed bag out of the New York Film Critics, National Board of Review and Gotham Awards winners along with the announced nominees for Independent Spirit Awards, this year is completely, completely wide open. But then you knew that already.
The New York Critics so wanted to be first and “influence” the Oscars that they advanced their voting date up two weeks and prematurely presented a list of winners Tuesday that seemed downright conservative and very “Academy friendly.” After honoring harder edged films in the past, they went for a delightful black and white silent film as their Best Picture (The Artist) and Director (Michel Hazanavicius) plus big stars Meryl Streep (in another biopic — as Margaret Thatcher this time) and Brad Pitt (Moneyball) both playing real-life characters, something Academy voters have tended to favor in many of their recent acting winners. It was Streep’s fifth acting honor from the NYFCC. The group moved their voting up in order to beat everyone else, particularly the National Board of Review which is normally first, and in effect forced Sony to show them David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by agreeing to move their voting date back a day (and then ignored the film). They also miscalculated Warner Bros’ willingness to show Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close before it was completely finished and ready to be seen by some of the nation’s most “important” (at least in their own minds) critics. So that one wasn’t part of their deliberations. The Broadcast Film Critics Association (I am a member) and the Los Angeles Film Critics among others will be able to see Dragon Tattoo starting Friday. Neither has changed its voting schedules (about 10 days out) in order to jump the gun and will be able to see everything before weighing in on the year’s best. That seems like the right course for critics groups instead of trying to force the hands of filmmakers in order to pursue their own delusional quixotic quest for influence.
‘Breaking Dawn’ Breaks Box Office Slump: $139.5M Domestic Weekend & $283.5M Global Total; ‘Happy Feet 2′ Disappoints
SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM, 8TH UPDATE: Oh sure, you’re too cool (or too male) for the Twilight Saga global phenom. But Summit Entertainment’s Breaking Dawn Part 1 is shattering the four-month-old North American box office slump and shooting the overall moviegoing weekend of $222 million up +14% from last year’s total. Hollywood should be grateful to females young and old for keeping the business buoyed this weekend now that young males have abandoned indiscriminate moviegoing. (Seriously, give thanks early.)
Here is the Top 10 rundown. Full analysis later:
1. Breaking Dawn Part 1 (Summit) NEW [4,061 Theaters]
Friday $72M, Saturday $40.7M, Weekend $139.5M
Yowza! Summit Entertainment was cautiously optimistic that this fourth Twilight Saga installment Breaking Dawn Part 1 could break records. It recorded the 5th best opening weekend of all time, the 3rd best-ever Single Day and Friday opening, and the 2nd best midnight debut. Despite director Bill Condon receiving the worst reviews of the franchise, audiences gave it a ‘B+’ CinemaScore, with females bestowing an ‘A-’. Also, the penultimate pic based on Stephenie Meyer’s vampire romance novels soared internationally as it rolled out in 54 markets around the globe with $144M from Wednesday through Sunday screenings. The global total is now $283.5M. This installment had a budget of $110M budget, the buggest of the franchise. The fact that Breaking Dawn couldn’t exceed New Moon‘s numbers ($142.8M domestic, $296.6M global) isn’t dampening Summit’s relief one bit. Given the dismal state of box office for the past four months, the studio saw that its Twilight Saga is as popular as ever, grossing over $1 billion in international alone to date.
2. Happy Feet Two (Warner Bros) NEW [3,606 Theaters]
Friday $5.9M, Saturday $9.3M, Weekend $22M
Given how well family fare is doing at the North American box office these days, the real test for this 3D sequel to George Miller’s beloved 2D toon will be over Thanksgiving weekend. But for now Happy Feet Two is grossing only half of the 2006 original, which opened to a $41.5 weekend. “One word: disaster. Despite being in 3D,” a rival studio exec snarked to me. But another noted, “No doubt all the families are waiting until next week to go to the movies.” Pic released on the anniversary of the original and received a ‘B+’ CinemaScore from audiences. Hollywood expected an opening in the high $30sM. Nope. Not even close. And next week The Muppets movie debuts so more competition for the tots and their parents. On the other hand, singing and dancing CGI penguins are hard to resist.
3. Immortals (Relativity) Week 2 [3,120 Theaters]
Friday $3.8M, Saturday $5.1M, Weekend $12.2M (-62%), Cume $52.9M
That’s an unfortunate drop for a 300-clone that underperformed last Friday. Immortals is not the Hail Mary that Relativity hoped it would be.
4. Jack And Jill (Sony) Week 2 [3,438 Theaters]
Friday $3.5M, Saturday $5.2M, Weekend $12M (-52%), Cume $41M
This Jack And Jill won’t have the usual gazillion multiple of most of Adam Sandler/Happy Madison comedies.
5. Puss In Boots (DreamWorks Animation/Par) Week 4 [3,415 Theaters]
Friday $2.5M, Saturday $5M, Weekend $10.7M, Cume $122.3M
This toon cat Puss In Boots still has a few more than nine lives left.
6. Tower Heist (Universal) Week 3 [2,942 Theaters]
Friday $2.1M, Saturday $3.2M, Weekend $6.9M, Cume $53.3M
7. J. Edgar (Warner Bros) Week 2 [1,947 Theaters]
Friday $1.8M (-57%), Saturday $2.6M, Weekend $5.9M (-47%), Cume $20.6M
8. Harold & Kumar 3D Xmas (NL/Warner Bros) Week 3 [1,808 Theaters]
Friday $915K, Saturday $1.2M, Estimated Weekend $2.9M, Cume $28.3M
9. In Time (Fox) Week 3 [2,591 Theaters]
Friday $520K, Saturday $750K, Estimated Weekend $1.6M, Estimated Cume $33.4M
10. The Descendants (Fox Searchlight) NEW (opened Wed) [29 Theaters]
Friday $318K, Saturday $493K, Weekend $1.2M, Cume $1.3M
Alexander Payne’s dramedy starring George Clooney had good momentum heading into its opening weekend expansion into 11 additional markets (including Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington DC, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, San Diego, Denver, Minneapolis, and Toronto). Fox Searchlight’s The Descendants had made $79K from Wednesday and Thursday grosses at 5 theaters (2 in NY and 3 in LA) and this weekend scored an outstanding $42,150 per screen average. The production budget was $20 million with tax rebates and the Academy Awards talk should help the film perform through March. “This comedy/drama is attracting the over-30 upscale audience who is aware of the terrific reviews we have received,” a Fox Searchlight exec tells me. “And exhibition is very excited about the film after seeing it at the Show East Convention in late October.” On Wednesday before Thanksgiving, The Descendants increases to over 60 markets and about 425 theaters. “We feel the Thanksgiving Holiday is an excellent time to be playing wider as it is counter programming to the 3 wide kids films opening on this date. At Searchlight, we fell it really is a marathon and not a race with our releases.”
The initial marketing campaign was launched virally in early May with a web teaser called “Who is he?” which consisted only of a scene from the film with George Clooney goofily running to his neighbor’s house to ask – you guessed it – “Who is he?” Then, at the end of May, Searchlight launched The Descendants trailer on The Tree Of Life linking auteur filmmakers Alexander Payne and Terrence Malick and continued through the summer and into the fall. The film was an audience and critical favorite when it premiered at the 2011 Telluride Film Festival, and the buzz carried over into The Toronto Film Festival. The film went on to play over 15 more festivals including New York and London. Searchlight is now working with various museums and film societies across the county to set Alexander Payne retrospectives and to target urban art house cinefiles initially and eventually upscale suburbanites over Thanksgiving and through December.