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R.I.P Pete Postlethwaite

By | Monday January 3, 2011 @ 6:02am PST
Mike Fleming

What a depressing way to start 2011. Actor Pete Postlethwaite has passed away at age 64, losing a long fight with cancer. The British actor had his Hollywood breakout with an Oscar-nominated turn as Guiseppe Conlon, the working class Irish father who shared a prison cell with son Gerry in 1993′s In The Name of the Father. He played good guys and bad guys in equal measure and turned in memorable performances in The Usual Suspects, Romeo + Juliet, Jurassic Park: The Lost World, and two current Oscar contenders: The Chris Nolan-directed Inception and the Ben Affleck-directed The Town. The latter performance, as the florist/vicious Boston gangster Fergie, was a showcase for his considerable talent. He’s survived by wife Jacqui and his son, Will, and daughter, Lily.

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OSCAR: Warner Bros Film Boss Alan Horn On Awards Campaigns Past And Present



This is Part 1 from my recent long Q&A with Warner Bros’ Alan Horn who will step down as President/COO in April. Warner Bros has more marquee category awards contenders this year than probably any other studio because of Christopher Nolan’s Inception, Ben Affleck’s The Town, and Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter. It also boasted a remarkable string of recent winners including Million Dollar Baby and The Departed and Slumdog Millionaire and The Blind Side. But in almost every case, Warner Bros underestimated the picture’s Oscar chances. Studio mogul Alan Horn goes back to the future with me and assesses the campaigns:

DEADLINE: I want to talk to you about this year’s Academy Awards. Your studio has been sitting on its duff about campaigning for Inception. The result is that other movies are overtaking the buzz when your movie should be the logical frontrunner because it did well at the box office and with critics and because Nolan’s The Dark Knight was robbed of a Best Picture nomination. Doesn’t Warner Bros win Oscars in spite of itself?
ALAN HORN: Well, I know that’s how you feel. My response is that, first of all, we care about the Oscars and enjoy Oscar attention. A win is a very, very big deal. It’s very prestigious, it’s very exciting, plus we are a filmmaker friendly company and have long-term relationships with filmmakers. Of course Clint Eastwood comes to mind immediately, but now Chris Nolan and even the emerging Ben Affleck are our filmmakers that we really care about deeply and we want to do right by them. We want to do everything we can to have a strong Oscar campaign. Because we want to win. But we feel that for Inception, we have to coordinate it of course with Chris and with Emma Thomas and with Leo. But what comes to mind for me is, did you see the horse race with Zenyatta by any chance?

DEADLINE: No
HORN: This horse won 19 out of 20 times.  It’s a filly racing against all these giant male horses. She’s six years old whereas all the others were 3 years old. She’d never lost, and then just by a nose on the 20th and final race of her career. It was a very exciting thing. I don’t know anything about horses or horse-racing but I happened to see it. And it made me think of our conversation about the Oscars because the nominations come out, as you know, the end of December. Then the ballots go out. And then the voting takes place and all that. Our campaign is scheduled to start in a big way timed to that schedule. We are going to go very big for Inception. But we are also going to push for Hereafter because of the relationship with Clint. And for Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part 1 although no one really expects a lot of attention for Harry Potter until the final installment which will be next summer. And for The Town because we all think that Ben did just a hell of a job, a really good job. We want to do it right. There is no intention on our part to give short shrift to this, to be cheap about it, or to be stupid about it either. So what my understanding is for Inception is that we’re going to start very heavily doing editorial pieces, we are going to screen the picture like crazy, we’re going to have online participation and print too. It won’t be for lack of trying or spending money.

DEADLINE: But are you too late?
HORN: Well, we don’t think so. That’s why I brought up the horse race. This horse Zenyatta always started at the end of the pack and all of a sudden she comes on like a freight train. And the question for us is: what’s the right timing? Because if you peak too soon, you may blow all the money before people really focus on it. So it’s a big debate you could have but we sure are trying to do it right.

DEADLINE: Clint was not shy about telling people that you did not want to push his Million Dollar Baby because you didn’t see it as an Oscar film. You didn’t even want to greenlight it. Which goes back to the gripe that your studio wins Oscars in spite of itself. Read More »

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OSCAR: Ben Affleck Q&A On ‘The Town’

Mike Fleming

Ben Affleck’s career trajectory rarely happens in Hollywood much less all by age 38: from unknown actor (Mallrats, Chasing Amy) to Oscar–winning co–writer (Good Will Hunting) to leading man (Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Changing Lanes, The Sum of All Fears, Daredevil) to tabloid fixture (“Bennifer”) to washed–up star (after Gigli) to budding director (adapting Dennis Lehane’s novel Gone Baby Gone) to hot actor/helmer with the #1 opening movie September 17–19. For The Town, Affleck returns to his Boston roots and blue collar crime to adapt Chuck Hogan’s novel Prince Of Thieves for the big screen. The result: an adult–pleasing hit that has entered the Best Picture discussion. Mike Fleming talks to him about his and The Town‘s Oscar chances:

DEADLINE: So you wrote yourself a second career as a director in Gone Baby Gone. Now you’ve written yourself the edgiest role of your acting career since Good Will Hunting. How much of this was about you wanting to reinvigorate your onscreen career?
BEN AFFLECK: A huge part of this was wanting to play the role. I hadn’t had the chance to play a character as interesting as the one Chuck wrote in the book in a long time. In that sense, it did feel like Good Will Hunting because I was trying to make the movie, in part, as a step in my acting career.

DEADLINE: These R–rated crime dramas with action sometimes get marginalized in Oscar season, but this one has stayed in the conversation. Gone Baby Gone, though lauded, grossed only $35 million worldwide. The Town so far is nearing $150 million worldwide. What has most surprised you about the way it played and the reaction?
AFFLECK: Relative to my first movie, it didn’t have to do that well to be a step forward, so I was set up well. I think people caught up to that movie on DVD, but when you come out and do $20 million at the box office, nobody calls to congratulate you. In terms of pure commercial success, the thing that struck me was, our opening weekend on The Town was bigger than the whole number on Gone Baby Gone. This time, I had very modest expectations and I was really surprised the movie did as well as it did. It’s not a juggernaut, but my big goal was seeing it turn a profit for the studio. I use that as my metric for whether or not they’ll let me direct another movie. I remember calling up and saying, ‘So have you broken even yet? Are you going to make money on this? Are you happy?’ I’m a little embarrassed I’d done that, but it was what I set out to do. And it made me be sure I kept the costs down to under $40 million. This way I could make a movie that dealt with themes that interested me, at a pace I like dramatically.

DEADLINE: What went through your mind as you were deciding whether or not to do this?
AFFLECK: My first thought was, I really wanted to play the role. But I was concerned that the overlap between this and the other movie I directed would be too much, and that I ran the risk of getting pigeonholed for making crime movies in Boston. When I really want to tell stories that take place all over. That made me pause. But there were a couple things that ultimately persuaded me to take on directing it as well. There were a ton of great parts, and I thought the material gave me a shot to work with really good actors. And there was a big challenge in trying to synthesize the two elements of the movie. There was the traditional genre element — the robbery, heist, chase and all that stuff — which had to be done in an interesting and unique way in order to work. That needed to fuse with the character drama on the other side. I felt intimidated and daunted by that challenge, but felt, if I could execute it right, I’d put myself in a position to be able to make movies that I am really interested and attracted to. That is a rare thing in Hollywood. Mostly we’re just schmucks limited by our options.

DEADLINE: What did you do better this time?
AFFLECK: As director, this definitely had a broader scope than my first movie. Read More »

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Ben Affleck Mulling ‘Replay,’ a 22-Year Old Suddenly Hot Project At Warner Bros

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Sometimes, the hottest projects in town aren’t the newest. Warner Bros is in early talks with Ben Affleck to come aboard to direct and possibly star in Replay, a Jason Smilovic-scripted adaptation of a Ken Grimwood novel. The protagonist is a 43-year old radio journalist who dies, wakes up in his 18-year old body, and gets to relive his life over and over. With his original memory intact, he takes the opportunity to travel down roads he passed up the first time around. The book was published in 1989, and Lee Rich first set it up as a movie back then. It languished, and then Smilovic turned out a script that has top leading men circling. The question will be: does Affleck play the lead role himself? He’s age appropriate and co-wrote and directed The Town primarily to give himself the killer lead role of the thief who falls in love with the bank employee during a heist. Rich and Elaine Goldsmith Thomas are producing.

After the strong grosses and acclaim for The Town, Affleck is being offered a lot of stuff to direct. He is still keen on The Trade, the Dave Mandel-scripted film based on the 70s wife swap of New York Yankees pitchers Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich, Affleck is indeed interested in Replay, and in playing that starring role. He just met with Smilovic and Goldsmith Thomas, and gave them a bunch of notes. Smilovic has … Read More »

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BOX OFFICE GROSS: ‘Jackass 3D’ No Joke With $50M Weekend, ‘Red’ Strong #2

SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM UPDATE: Two movies roundly rejected by Hollywood, one for being too moronic and the other too moldy, led the North American box office weekend with a big $125M weekend overall:

1. Jackass 3D (Paramount) NEW [3,081 Theaters]
Friday $21.8M, Saturday $17M, Weekend $50M

As a studio exec joked to me Friday, “The Oscar race has been turned on its head”. That’s because Paramount’s Jackass 3D aimed at the youth market not only earned twice the gross of Sony’s Academy Awards-touted Facebook origins film starting its 3rd week Friday, but knocked it out of #1. Producers Johnny Knoxville’s and Spike Jonze’s stupid stunt pic directed by Jeff Tremaine earned a “B+” CinemaScore. Still the headline is that, despite the restriction of an “R” rating, it opened to a whopping Friday for the biggest single day ever in October because of the higher 3D ticket prices. That included $2.5M from midnight shows, also the most ever for October. Plus a healthy Saturday after the “first to see” subsided. Its $50M weekend take was the record for the biggest opening in the month of October (besting Scary Movie 3 which did $48.1M in October 2003 but was only 2D). Guess this shows Hollywood that movies don’t need a script and a plot, right? With a budget of only $20M, the studio would have been more than happy with the $30M weekend it expected from the higher ticket prices from the 2,452 3D-equipped locations. (The first 2D Jackass opened with a $22.8M weekend and the 2D sequel to $29M.) Believe it or not, I’m told the filmmakers debated whether or not shooting a film in 3D would mess up their comedic timing.

Exit polling showed the audience was 60% male, and 67% under age 25. Two of the biggest components of the Jackass 3D marketing campaign were premiering 10 minutes of 3D footage at Comic-Con via a mobile 3D screening room and the public spectacle of letting MTV’s Jersey Shore cast been seen watching and talking about the new film. There’s been relentless promotion by the Viacom sister company which first gave birth to the Jackass TV and movie franchise and even product licensing program (now featuring apparel, sunglasses, skateboards, even a Converse shoe, and hardbound book. As if Jackass fans read.) Last weekend, MTV marked the 10th anniversary of Jackass with 2 TV specials leading up to the film’s release: Jackass: The Beginning and The Making Of Jackass 3D featuring never-before-seen content from the gang: Knoxville, Bam Margera, Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Ryan Dynn, Jason “Wee Man” Acuña, Preston Lacy, Dave England, and Ehren McGhehey. MTV also showed the franchise’s humble TV origins back in 2000 before it became a pop culture phenom. (P.S. The Making of Jackass 3D contains a visual of Deadline Hollywood. I couldn’t be more proud)

2. Red (Summit) NEW [3,255 Theaters]
Friday $7.3M, Saturday $9.2M, Weekend $22.5M

Every studio passed on making the stylish PG-13 comedy Red aimed at the adult audience except for Summit Entertainment: now the Robert Schwentke-directed pic features Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, and Bruce Willis — some of them as past-their-expiration-date assassins. That’s surprisingly strong considering the over-the-hill stars and subject matter. But the pic received an “A-” Cinemascore and 73% definite recommend. Exit polling showed the audience was 53% male, and 58% over age 35. In pre-release screenings, I’m told the film played as a crowd pleaser by mixing the right amount of action with humor based on witty lines and deft timing. It was tracking across all quadrants with the strongest being male moviegoers over age 30. But that cast was the #1 reason people went to see the film based on the cult DC Comics graphic novels by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner. Read More »

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FACEBOOK FILM #1: ‘The Social Network’ Opens With $23M Weekend; Big In Cities: “Rest Of The Country Could Care Less”

SATURDAY PM UPDATE: Sources have given me North American grosses for Friday, Saturday, weekend, and cumes:

1. The Social Network (Sony) NEW [2,771 Theaters]
Friday $8M, Saturday $8.9M, Weekend $23M

The stories behind Microsoft and Apple only rated TV movies. But The Social Network received the full big screen PG-13 treatment as the first major pedigreed project about the Internet that wasn’t just another crime thriller. It’s that rarity in Hollywood: a younger movie with adult dialogue but not without an element of risk because it’s a drama. “Big kudos to Amy Pascal because it was not an obvious movie to make,” one Hollywood influencer reminded me. That’s why media coverage of this much-buzzed-about Facebook origins pic has been so breathless about every nuance of the marketing campaign: from the launch of the initial teaser spots to the brilliant one-sheet to the enigmatic trailer and “punk, genius, billionaire” outdoor ads.

It’s never been in doubt that this movie would be a success for Sony since it claims to have kept its budget under $40M thanks to no stars and deferred compensations for the filmmakers. But was it over-hyped? “No matter where we open, I think we will play for a long time with excellent word of mouth,” a Sony exec boasted to me. “For a film skewed towards adults this time of year, $20M is our bar and would be a fantastic start.” But Hollywood expected $25M and the pic slightly underperformed – $8M Friday (including $350K in post-midnight showings), up +11% for $8.9M Saturday, and with an estimated $6.1M that’s $23M this weekend. Still, I’m surprised box office wasn’t even better despite its middling release — like $30+M given its obvious Facebook/My Space/Twitter effect. Too bad those Harvard pretenders in the pic didn’t have more sex or dress better. And they’re brooders without even being vampires. And Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is no super-hero. But, seriously, the reason may well lie in the film’s elitism which could be keeping more mainstream audiences away. “Left coast, right coast, and a smidge of Chicago only. The rest of the country could care less,” a rival studio exec pointed out the pic’s attendance patterns to me late Friday, adding Saturday. “It’s a big city pic only.”

The Social Network isn’t just a figment of hype; it logged a “B+” Cinemascore and very positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Exit surveys showed the opening weekend audience was 53% female and 55% were ages 25 and older. Based on the book Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich, the film ironically wasn’t made by a new filmmaking generation but by the same old showbiz veterans: scripted by Aaron Sorkin (who made $3 million for the writing assignment) and directed by David Fincher (who I’m told took no money upfront at first) and produced by Scott Rudin (who also deferred everything but his producing fee) and Mike De Luca, Dana Brunetti, and Cean Chaffin.

Since its Labor Day screenings for the Hollywood influencers began, it’s been touted for a Best Picture Oscar — although I worry it’s peaking too early because of its early October release date. But from a box office standpoint, that’s the same weekend Social Network star Jesse Eisenberg’s Zombieland debuted last year to #1 with $24.7M for Sony. With 2 big movies opening around $24M each to his credit, Jesse is a new and unlikely star. Justin Timberlake again demonstrates he can act. And even the pic’s unknown stars are reaping its rewards: Sony recently cast Andrew Garfield as its rebooted Spider-Man, and chose Rooney Mara for the Hollywood version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo which, not surprisingly, Fincher is directing and Rudin producing.

The Social Network‘s tracking was unexpected. At first, its awareness was highest among adults. (“Old people thought it looked cool,” laughed one insider.) Then across-the-board strength built among ages 17-34 and teens both male and female. That’s because the Internet outreach campaign for younger people didn’t kick in until 2 weeks ago while campaigns for older people have to be laid in much longer in advance. Sorkin took the movie on a college tour for Sony as part of an extensive word-of-mouth screening campign. And the studio even ran a sweepstakes online where, if you had more than 500 friends on any social network site, you could enter to win a random drawing to host a screening of the film in every state for 50 friends. “The buzz has been building, and I have never seen a crescendo that is so unanimously strong,” a Sony exec gushed to me. The Social Network Original Score Album by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross even rocked the music charts as the top seller on Amazon’s MP3 Store.

2. Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls (Warner Bros) Week 2 [3,575 Theaters]
Friday $2.6M, Saturday $5M, Weekend $11M (-32%), Cume $30.1M

What a surprise #2 thanks to a big +90% Saturday kiddie matinee bounce. Though its opening weekend numbers didn’t heat up audiences, but it’s holding well.

2. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (Fox) [3,597 Theaters]
Friday $3.2M, Saturday $4.3M, Weekend $10.1M (-47%), Cume $35.8M

A decent hold from what was a decent opening a week ago. Fox still thinks it skated, and I agree.

Read More »

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The Oscar Road Traveled By Toronto Films

Mike Fleming

The business story of the Toronto International Film Festival was a cautious resurgence of the specialty film market. But in my opinion the more compelling and even uplifting story surrounds those Toronto films now emerging as Best Picture Oscar candidates. The reason is that so many of them easily could have fallen apart in the struggle to get them to the big screen if not for the filmmakers’ admirable persistance:

127 Hours: After Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle could have taken a multi-million paycheck to direct James Bond or any of several other big budget studio films. Instead he chose to do on an indie level what Chris Nolan did on a studio level when he used his clout to direct his wholly original spec script Inception. Boyle took an upfront salary of just $666K and put all his Slumdog credibility chips on the table to make 127 Hours. The movie’s pitch — hiker amputates pinned arm with dull knife — is so preposterously non-commercial that even Boyle’s writing partner Simon Beaufoy didn’t get it until Boyle sketched out a first draft that showed the potential for a visceral and spiritually uplifting drama. “Sometimes, and this was the first time for me, you can’t explain it verbally, you have to write it down and test it on your collaborators,” Boyle said. Said producer Christian Colson: “While Slumdog was the classic underdog story — not enough money, nearly went straight to DVD, no stars, no power — … Read More »

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‘Wall Street 2′ Banks $19M For Oliver’s Best Opening; ‘Guardians’ #2; ‘The Town’ Holds

Sorry for delays… circumstances out of my control.

SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM: Here are the Top 10 North American grosses for Friday, Saturday, weekend and cume:

1. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (Fox) NEW [3,565 Runs]
Friday $7M, Saturday $7.6M, Weekend $19M

Is it possible to make a sequel 23 years later? Only if it’s an iconic original about a still relevant subject featuring a fascinating anti-hero made by a controversial director with a fine cast. The Hustler sequel Color Of Money had a 25 year span and did fine. And for weeks tracking had been strong for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. I’ve been obsessed with this from development through casting into production because the 1987 movie was so seminal. After all, that den of thieves is as responsible for our current financial crisis as are the politicians. The question is whether filmgoers are ready to relive pain that hasn’t ended or rewind history skewed by the crazy Oliver Stone. That’s his best-ever opening not adjusted for inflation or theater counts or higher ticket prices, after his 2006 World Trade Center ($18.7M) and his 2004 Alexander ($13.6M).

Hollywood had expected more, and Fox hoped for $22M after lowering expectations for this PG-13 adult-themed economics lesson. (Many newspapers even assigned their business reporters to review it.) I hear the studio’s actual cost on the pic was $65M including a $5M tax rebate, reshoots, and additional editing post-Cannes Film Festival in May. But after a disastrous summer, Fox is relieved. After all, with Michael Douglas braving cancer, nobody was sure how much promo he could do. And with Oliver Stone putting his foot in his mouth (the part-Jewish filmmaker made several apologies after that July newspaper interview where he complained about Jewish influence in U.S. media and foreign policy and Holocaust remembrance), nobody was sure how much promo he should do.

I can’t help wondering how the movie would have differed with Javier Bardem, the first choice for the stock-shorting hedge fund villain played by Josh Brolin. The financial press says the character bears resemblance to JP Morgan head Jamie Dimon. Brolin’s firm is modeled on Goldman Sachs. Frank Langella’s persona according to the NYT is former Bear Stearns CEO Jimmy Cayne but others say it’s the firm’s ex-chairman Alan “Ace” Greenberg. Michael Douglas’ Gordon Gekko was partly Ivan Boesky and partly Michael Milken in the original, but now is a post-prison Nostradamus predicting doom and gloom. The real economist credited with forseeing the economic debacle is Nouriel Roubini who gets a cameo in the sequel. Charlie Sheen was supposed to be young insider trader Denise Levine. His successor Shia LaBeouf is playing Shia as always; when is this kid going to show range? Meanwhile, a long list of Wall Street types offered their help to make sure first Stephen Schiff’s and then 21 and Things We Lost In The Fire screenwriter Allan Loeb’s sequel was accurate, just as the previous generation had done for the great scripter Stanley Weiser and his film school pal Oliver both credited as writers of the original. I’m told theaters around the real Wall Street sold out Friday matinees. But Stone never got the satisfaction of seeing Wall Street 2 released “just when the market’s most volatile,” as he hoped it would be this week. That’s because Fox pushed off the April 23rd release date. Had that not happened, Douglas wouldn’t have been diagnosed yet, Stone wouldn’t have been mouthy about Jews yet, and the stock market wouldn’t have been ticking upward in turnaround yet. The later release does make the sequel more awards-friendly, especially for Michael Douglas in the Best Supporting category. I’m reminded that then Fox chief Barry Diller hated Wall Street and thought his big Oscar film that year was Broadcast News, which arrived with 7 nominations but left empty handed. Whereas Douglas won Best Actor. 

2. Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls (Warner Bros) NEW [3,575 Runs]
Friday $4.5M, Saturday $6.9M, Weekend $16.3M

Warner Bros counter-programmed with 3D flying owl warriors and marketed it like a PG-13 Narnia flick. Wanna know why tracking has been lagging for this $100M budget-buster? The title Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole was convoluted, author Kathryn Lasky’s book series isn’t widely known, the voice cast was predominantly Aussie, and Zach Snyder who directed the very violent Watchmen was making his family fare debut. (Yikes, cover those kids’ eyes!) The TV ads never even mention the connection to Animal Logic, the animation studio behind the hit Happy Feet. Sometimes I think studios try to repel audiences. Of its 3,575 theaters, 2,479 were 3D locations, of which 193 are IMAX. Read More »

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The Importance Of Academy Screenings: Oscar Prospects For ‘The Town’ Lift Quickly

Pete Hammond

The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Science’s official private weekend screenings for voting members are generally a must-stop for serious Oscar contenders, not only to show the films to voters all at once but also to gauge reaction both audibly during the film and by buzz in the lobby and restrooms after. After complaints about the quality of some the films shown, the Academy last year revamped the committee that chooses them and now seems much more savvy about booking movies that aren’t wasting members’ time – or so they’d like to think. While some fluff still gets screened, the cinematic menu this time of year turns to a heavy sked of Oscar prospects.

Not everything gets booked because there are basically just four slots each weekend: two matinees and two evening shows. But of the 10 pictures nominated last year, only The Blind Side, which seemed to catch even Warner Bros by surprise, did not play at one of these screenings.

In terms of this year’s Oscar contenders, it was a big weekend for Ben Affleck’s The Town (which he directed and co-wrote and stars in for Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures) which topped the weekend box office with nearly $24 million. That was a bit of a surprise, particularly for an adult-skewing drama (albeit one with a LOT of action in it). Then again, it had a 94% fresh critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But what was really significant awards-wise is that I hear it had a smash screening at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills on Saturday night. So you have a film right out of the gate among Fall releases that looks to be a serious awards prospect.

Even though the movie’s official Academy screening was skedded just as Yom Kippur was ending, the turnout was larger than normal and the response at the end very enthusiastic. A 2-time Oscar winner who frequently attends these private weekend screenings for voting members told me, “There was big loud applause at the end credits — and that’s something I rarely see at the Academy.” He went on to praise the film as easily one of the best he has seen there in some time (and, interestingly, he’s not impressed with much of the 2010 output so far). He singled out Affleck’s direction and the acting ensemble for particular kudos. Two other Academy members who saw the film at non-Academy screenings told me the same thing. So Warners could Read More »

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Ben Affleck’s ‘The Town’ Surprises For #1; ‘Easy A’ #2, ‘Devil’ #3, ‘Alpha & Omega’ #5

SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM: Actor/director Ben Affleck’s Warner Bros crime thriller is overperforming at the North American box office. Extrapolating from Friday’s $8.3M grosses and Saturday’s $9.5M (+13%), it easily finished No. 1 this opening weekend when it was only predicted to come in 2nd. It received a “B+” CinemaScore. (Males 55% rated it A-, and those under 18 rated it A+.) The Town‘s opening gross has moved WB into the #1 market share for 2010 “and we will retain that crown for the third year in a row,” a studio exec boasts to me. The R-rated movie’s $23.8M was still well shy of the $28.6M of the same studio’s October 6, 2006, Boston crime thriller The Departed directed by Martin Scorsese. That “R”-rated film starred Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon and went on to win Best Picture Oscar. Affleck’s The Town is also in the running and stars Affleck, Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) and Jon Hamm (Mad Men). Warner Bros even marketed it as The Departed 2. The studio, which financed The Town 50/50 with Legendary Pictures, paired its first trailer with Inception.

For his 2nd big directing effort after Gone Baby Gone also based on a book (Chuck Hogan’s Prince Of Thieves), Affleck promoted the heck out of it. He called movie journalists personally in Hollywood, NYC, flyover country, and eventually this month’s Venice and Toronto Film Festivals. Even so, at the start of this week, expectations were for The Read More »

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