HOW HIGH WILL STAR TREK FLY?
Paramount is downplaying predictions by some box-office prognosticators that the latest Star Trek movie will open with as much as $80-100 million this weekend. The studio said Thursday that it would regard a $50-million opening as a success. (It reportedly cost $130 million to produce.) The film is opening domestically in 3,849 theaters, 138 of which are IMAX venues, which charge premium prices and could boost the overall gross. Many box office analysts have noted, however, that in the past, the franchise has not been a huge moneymaker. Star Trek: Nemesis, the last film in the franchise, released in 2002, fizzled with just $18.5 million in ticket sales over its opening weekend. The most successful Star Trek film, First Contact, took in $30.7 million in its first weekend in 1996. And while producers of the film appear to have gone out of their way to develop a sequel that would appeal to a younger audience -- who make up the bulk of current moviegoers -- online ticket seller Fandango said Thursday that 80 percent of those buying tickets in advance for the movie are older than 25. The good news: Fandango indicated that 91 percent of its ticket-sales total is for Star Trek. The only other film opening wide this weekend is Summit Entertainment's urban comedy, Next Day Air, which opens in 1,138 theaters and, according to analysts, is unlikely to crack $10 million.
MOVIE REIVEWS: NEXT DAY AIR
Next Day Air might have been simply a funny film if it hadn't been so bloody violent, several reviewers say. "The humor is there, but violence brings the laughter to an abrupt halt," writes Claudia Puig in USA Today. Several critics compare it to a Quentin Tarantino movie, but Peter Hartlaub in the San Francisco Chronicle says that the violence in this one amounts to "a bit of a buzz-kill, running counter to the strict stoner comedy vibe in the rest of the movie." Nevertheless, the movie receives some heavy applause from a number of critics. Gary Thompson writes in the Philadelphia Daily News: "It's hard to make a movie that ends with blazing guns and dead bodies and still send the audience away laughing, but Next Day Air finds the right drive-in movie tone." Comments Nathan Lee in the New York Times: "With a script that snaps, characters that pop, a blaze of streetwise attitude and enough firepower to pulverize a significant chunk of South Philadelphia, Next Day Air nears neo-blaxploitation perfection."
PIXAR TO OPEN VANCOUVER STUDIO
Taking advantage of Canada's and British Columbia's generous tax incentives -- as well as an extensive talent pool of local filmmakers -- Disney's Pixar's unit plans to launch a 20,000-square-foot animation studio in Vancouver by fall. The studio, the company said, will develop computer-animated projects for Disney's theme parks, ABC television shows, websites, and DVDs. Theatrical features will continue to be produced in Hollywood and at Pixar's studios in Emeryville, the company said. Amir Nasrabadi, who will oversee the studio, told the Vancouver Sun: "First and foremost for us is to concentrate on Pixar legacy characters," like Woody and Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story, and Lightning McQueen and Mater from Cars. "We want to keep these well-known and well-liked characters alive without creating a distraction to those working on the full-length motion pictures in California."
COLUMBINE-BASED FEATURE AN ITUNES HIT
Indie filmmaker Andrew Robinson claimed Thursday that April Showers, his semi-autobiographical movie dealing with the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, became the most downloaded independent film on iTunes and No. 65 overall on its first day of availability on Tuesday, rising to No. 30 overall the following day. Robinson, a 17-year-old student at the high school at the time of the shootings, said that the film has also become the top-selling title ever for its DVD distributor, Indieflix. April Showers, which was released theatrically in 18 cities on April 24, the week of the 10th anniversary of the shootings, "I didn't want to focus on the gunmen or the actual shooting," Robinson told the Los Angeles Times last month. "What is more important is what do we do now? You know, these neighborhoods [where such events as Columbine occur] get turned upside down. These lives get turned upside down. We kind of almost became strangers in our own land." Robinson's film is due to be released on DVD on May 11.
JUDGE REFUSES TO TOSS OUT POLANSKI CASE
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza ruled Thursday that while new facts, disclosed in the documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired did indeed suggest misconduct on the part of the judge who presided in Polanski's original trial, he could not overthrow the conviction without Polanski's appearance in his courtroom. Los Angeles authorities have indicated that if the director returned to the U.S. he would be arrested as a fugitive. Polanski's attorney, Chad Hummel, said that he would file an appeal, telling reporters later that the misconduct of the judge is "plainly evident" and that Polanski's victim, Samantha Geimer, had also requested that the charges against the director of Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby and The Pianist be dismissed.