VAMPIRE BITES DOG
Teenage fans of Stephenie Meyer's series of vampire books and of the handsome young actor Robert Pattinson poured into the multiplexes over the weekend as Summit Entertainment's Twilight debuted with an astonishing $70.6 million -- about twice what it cost to produce. Only the $100-million-plus Harry Potter productions have opened to bigger grosses in November. The figure far exceeded analysts' predictions, which had been in the area of $50-60 million. That was also the prediction for Disney's Bolt, which fell far below that figure, earning just $27 million, to place third -- edged out by the second week of the James Bond thriller, Quantum of Solace, with $27.4 million -- but that film, too, had been expected to perform more robustly. It dropped 59 percent from last week to bring its 10-day total to $109.5 million. Nevertheless, overall the box office was up 68 percent over the same weekend a year ago, soothing studio and theater executives' worries about the possible impact of the worsening economy on moviegoing. In an interview with today's (Monday) Los Angeles Times, Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers, said, "This is another example of how the economy has not slowed people at all from going to watch movies. ... We're set up to have one of the biggest Thanksgiving weekends ever." And it was not just the usual dating crowd that turned out, either. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas expanded to 406 theaters and took in $1.67 million, while Slumdog Millionaire remained the top-grossing film on a per theater basis, averaging $31,050 (versus $20,636 for Twilight).
The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Media by Numbers:
1. Twilight, $70.6 million; 2. Quantum of Solace, $27.4 million; 3. Bolt, $27 million; 4. Madagascar 2: Escape 2 Africa, $16 million; 5. Role Models, $7.2 million; 6. Changeling, $2.6 million; 7. High School Musical 3: Senior Year, $2 million; 8. Zack and Miri Make a Porno, $1.7 million; 9. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, $1.67 million; 10. The Secret Life of Bees, $1.28 million.
MOVIE REVIEWS: THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS
The Holocaust movie The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is continuing to draw big crowds despite its subject matter and a smattering of negative reviews. When it was released in a handful of theaters three weeks ago, Kyle Smith in the New York Post remarked that the film "works up a severely contrived ending that might strike even the most shameless Hollywood producer as a bit much. When it comes to the Holocaust, contrivance is neither welcome nor necessary." Other reviews were even tougher "See the Holocaust trivialized, glossed over, kitsched up, commercially exploited and hijacked for a tragedy about a Nazi family. Better yet and in all sincerity: don't," wrote Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. And John Anderson in the Washington Post called it "yet another attempt to revisit a sorrowful event in history that should never be forgotten or used for entertainment." But Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal commented: "The film succeeds to the degree that it does -- partially, but honorably and sometimes affectingly -- because it was made as well as it was." Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that it "tells its simple story with directness, concision and insightful detail." And Sheri Linden in the Los Angeles Times concluded that writer-director Mark Herman "crafts an affecting drama that refuses to soft-pedal its harrowing conclusion."
SAG MOVES CLOSER TO A STRIKE
A showdown between the Screen Actors Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers appeared inevitable over the weekend as the latest talks under the aegis of a federal mediator proved to be unproductive. Following the talks union leaders announced that they would "now launch a full-scale education campaign in support of a strike authorization referendum." Seventy-five percent of voting members of the union would have to approve strike action. The leaders said that it was now "time for SAG members to stand united and empower the national negotiating committee to bargain with the strength of a possible work stoppage behind them." For their part, the producers said, "SAG is the only major Hollywood guild that has failed to negotiate a labor deal in 2008. Now, SAG is bizarrely asking its members to bail out the failed negotiating strategy with a strike vote -- at a time of historic economic crisis. The tone-deafness of SAG is stunning."
FRANKENSTEIN BITES THE DUST
The Broadway musical version of Mel Brooks's Young Frankenstein will close on Jan. 4 after being unable to replicate the success of Brooks's earlier Hollywood-to-Broadway triumph, The Producers. Ticket prices have steadily declined since the $16-million production opened on November 8, 2007 with a top ticket price of $450. (They are currently going for less than half that amount, but still a staggering amount for a show that received mediocre reviews and is currently playing to many empty seats.) In a statement, the show's lead producer, Robert F.X. Sillerman, said, "In these uncertain economic times, my partners and I have decided to end our run on Broadway and focus our efforts on the first national tour, which will launch in September 2009."
FAN-EDITED MOVIES REMOVED FROM WEB
A website devoted to movies reedited by their fans has decided to shut down following threats of legal action by the Motion Picture Associations of America, according to the website TorrentFreak. The website Fanedit.org offered "improved or just plain different versions of existing movies," TorrentFreak said, sometimes posting several versions of the movies such as Alien, The Matrix, Terminator, Star Trek, Titanic, Harry Potter, and Pulp Fiction. An administrator of the site, calling himself boon23, said that although the site is noncommercial and everyone who edits a movie is required to own the DVD, the MPAA has taken the position that it engages in copyright infringement, and the host of the website has reportedly warned Fanedit.org that it will be shut down unless it removes the offending material.