Estimated (as of 12/7/10) weekend per screen averages:

Title Per Screen Average Weekend Gross Theater Count
127 Hours $66,500 $266,000 4
Fair Game $15,217 $700,000 46
Megamind $12,082 $47,650,000 3,944
Due Date $9,985 $33,500,000 3,355
For Colored Girls $9,450 $20,100,000 2,127

via: Box Office Mojo

I’m rolling out the Watercooler early this weekend because I’m off to AFI Fest shortly.

There isn’t much of a story at the box office this weekend. The brightest news is the $66,500 per screen average pulled in by Danny Boyle’s terrific 127 Hours. That gives the James Franco starring true story the 2nd best average of the year behind The Kids Are All Right’s $70K per and bodes well for its ultimate expansion. The also excellent Fair Game clocked in with an estimated $15,217 per which is a lot lower, but still solid. Doug Liman’s drama-thriller about outed CIA agent Valerie Plame starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn goes wide next weekend.

In wide release, Megamind’s estimated $48 million is a bit better than How to Train Your Dragon’s $44 million, but it remains to be seen whether it will hold up as well. Due Date’s $33.5 million is quite a bit lower than the $45 million open of Todd Phillips’ last film The Hangover, but comparing a fall release to a summer release can probably only be taken so far. Finally, Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls opened on the low end of his normal range. Two of his films did worse, 3 did about the same and 3 did significantly better.

Among the box office holdovers, Saw 3D dropped more than 63% from its so-so opening leaving it a clear also-ran to Paranormal Activity 2 which cost less than 1/6th of Saw 3D’s budget. Meanwhile, despite losing theaters, Red, Secretariat, The Social Network, Life as We Know It, Hereafter and The Town all continued to hold strong. I mention this only because I’ve been sort of following those films and the first four were pegged as disappointments by the experts in their opening weekends.

In actual movie news, AFI Fest started Thursday and so far for me it’s been mostly a disaster. Thursday night, I decided to skip the gala premiere of Ed Zwick’s Love and Other Drugs starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway in favor of a non-AFI related screening of Peter Weir’s upcoming gulag escape drama The Way Back starring Ed Harris, Colin Farrell, Jim Sturgess and Saorise Ronan. I’m glad I did. I have little interest in the Zwick flick, but The Way Back was quietly and surprisingly excellent.

On Friday night, I once again made the last minute executive decision to skip the gala showing of The King’s Speech in favor of a couple of films no one has ever heard of or will likely see. My thinking was that everyone already knows about King’s and it’ll be hitting theaters in a couple of weeks. Still, I could’ve chosen back ups better than I did. For one reason or another I ended up at different films than I originally planned. Instead of Aardvark and Putty Hill, I chose a couple of documentaries: Barbershop Punk and Blank City. The former was an interesting and properly infuriating if somewhat scattered look at the fight for net neutrality by an unlikely fellow who sings in a barbershop quartet and just happens to have discovered that Comcast was slowing down his upload speed whenever he tried to share obscure and public domain barbershop quartet music across peer to peer networks. If I get off my ass here, I’ll have more to say about it later. Same for Blank City which was an equally scattered, though also interesting look at the indie film movement in New York in the late-70s and early ’80s.

Last night I had big plans for four films including probably my most anticipated film of the festival: Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. I started off with the highly recommended Two Gates of Sleep which was a terrific 30 minute film that unfortunately went on for 78 minutes. The cinematography was beautiful, the sound design amazing and the mood was captivating at first, but the nearly dialog-free story ultimately amounted to two brothers dragging their mother’s coffin around the woods for 30 minutes. It was like Malick on tranquilizers. The second film was The Princess of Montpensier, Bertrand Tavernier’s very entertaining period drama set among the 16th century fight between Catholics and Huguenots. I decided to skip whatever I had planned next in order to have dinner, but I timed it poorly. I ate too quickly and my laptop battery died leaving me nearly 2 hours before Uncle Boonmee with nothing to do. Leaving the parking garage and coming back would’ve ended up costing me double the maximum daily rate, plus it had gotten cold and I was dressed in shorts and a tee-shirt making the prospect of walking around Hollywood for an hour unappealing. So… I bailed. That’s right. I skipped the movie I was most looking forward too because I was cold, bored and cranky.

Sad, but true.

What about you? What have you been doing moviewise in the last week?

16 Responses to “Watercooler: 127 Hours opens strong, AFI Fest lurches to a weak start (for me)”

  1. I went to “ha ha ha’ yesterday afternoon at AFI – that was a great little film by Hong Sang Soo. I couldn’t stick around for his second film though,”Oki’s Movie” …shame because he did a q & a after the screening.

  2. wtf Ari? Are you here today? I just saw Im Sang Soo’s THE HOUSEMAID and I’m having cocktails before Kiarostami’s Certified Copy.

    Also, thanks for not mocking me for bailing on Boonmee.

  3. I wish I could say my week of movies was as exciting as yours, Craig. Bailing on Boonmee or not, a film festival is better–or more glamorous–than a living room.

    Tuesday was Toy Story day, as I bought the Blu-ray and my wife and I watched it almost instantly. The movie still packs a surprising emotional punch (surprising only in that I’m feeling teary for toys), and it’s a fitting finale to the trilogy. Best film trilogy ever, IMO, though I’m welcome to arguments there.

    This weekend, I saw a few movies on TV or Netflix. I rewatched IRON MAN 2, which I’d liked in theaters (though with diminishing returns, as a day or two later, I wasn’t as hot on it). I still think that some of the movie works very, very well, but once Mickey Rourke’s character is separated from everyone else and sitting around a computer talking about or to a bird, the script goes dead. I don’t think the entire movie functions as an Avengers prequel, and I don’t mind the aspects that do, but I did miss having Robert Downey, Jr. spar with Sam Rockwell in the second half.

    Finally, I watched yet another Sean Connery era James Bond movie, Thunderball. I feel like this is the flattest and least interesting of the Connery films (I’ve seen the first four, including this one), partly because so much of it takes place underwater, and you’re only barely aware of who’s who. The movie doesn’t fall victim to excessive editing or cutting, but it’s genuinely hard to know who’s who in the various silent scenes. Not a bad movie, per se, but not as involving as the others.

  4. After staying home all week and watching some episodes of “Thriller” and a British sitcom, Steptoe and Son, (highly praised by Allan and Bobby J.) I felt sufficiently recoved to make some weekend screenings (even while interspercing these events with some brisk walking) One of the year’s critically praised features, Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours was watched on the prime Saturday night slot:

    127 Hours **** 1/2 (Saturday evening) Landmark Sunshine Cinemas

    Black Sabbath ***** (Sunday afternoon) Lafayette Theatre, Suffern, NY

    Carnival of Souls **** 1/2 (Friday evening) Lafayette Theatre, Suffern, NY

    An Autumn Afternoon ***** (Sunday morning) IFC Film Center

    Lucille and I treated the kids to two weekend screenings at the historic Lafayette Theatre in Suffern, New York in the annual Horrorthon weekend. We couldn’t manage the Universal horror line-up on Saturday (which included Dracula and The Bride of Frankenstein) but we took in a Friday evening show of the early 60?s cult classic Carnival of Souls, and a Sunday afternoon screening of Mario Bava’s atmospheric masterwork Black Sabbath. The Lafayette is a true treasure trove for film lovers, and the pre-showing organ playing by Len Barker is a real treat.

    The Ozu Festival concluded at the IFC Film Center on Sunday morning with a screening of An Autumn Afternoon, the humanist maestro’s final film, and yet another masterwork. I will be posting a final -massive- wrap on this 20 week festival in a few weeks at WitD. I managed to attend the last 18 films of the 20, missing only the first two weeks, when The Good Son and An Inn in Tokyo were offered. But of course, like most, I’ve seen those two on DVD more than once.

    Danny Boyle’s pulsating (sometimes impossible to watch) 127 HOURS has won some deserved critical acclaim for its riveting re-enactment of a true-life story of a hiker who got his hand stuck after falling in a canyon crevice, with no hope for outside help. Boyle’s dazzling and visceral style brings a human interest story to amazing depth and perspective by heightening the trapped hiker’s mental anguish and inner thoughts while in excrutiating captivity. Doyle alumni cinematographer Anthony Todd Mantle and composer A. R. Rahman contribute mightily to the impact, but actor James Franco gives the performance of his career.

  5. From what I’m hearing from Sam and elsewhere, James Franco will be giving Colin Firth some competition for awards this season. I’m anxious to see 237 Hours and also feel destined to see Due Date for better or for worse.

    I just got done watching TCM’s premiere of the restored Metropolis. I’d never seen the whole thing from beginning to end, so this was a treat.

    Instead of seeing anything first-run, this weekend I opted for Nanny McPhee Returns. Don’t laugh, it’s well written (Emma Thompson, naturally), well shot, well cast, and well acted.

  6. I bet Uncle Boonmee himself wouldn’t have waited around under those conditions, Craig. Completely understandable. I have a lot of respect for the idea of seeing the little un-buzzed festival films. For better or worse, those were somebody’s passion projects and it’s a shame when they get lost in the festival shuffle even after making it into the festival.

    I had in mind to watch more than I did. I watched the informative 2010 doc Rolling Stones: Stones in Exile, the last half of Hudsucker Proxy (for the zillionth time), a mediocre Zombiemania documentary, 22 fabulous minutes of Twentieth Century before stupid Netflix cut the movie off for no apparent reason, and Notorious (for the first time, not the last). Sunday I skipped TV and movies and just concentrated on reading and writing and a bit of antique shopping.

    Pierre, you kill me. Nanny McPhee Returns? How did it compare to the first Nanny McPhee? Never saw it either. She just seems to me too much like Mary Poppins after a few bad weeks in the alley.

  7. Glad The Way Back was excellent. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts either on the podcast or in a text review.

  8. Josh, Thunderball is my second least favorite Connery Bond after Diamonds Are Forever. A lot of people don’t like You Only Live Twice, but there’s too much about it I love for me to dismiss it even if I have to admit that it suffers in many ways symptoms of Bond at its worst (silliness, bloatedness)

    Besides, it has ninjas in it before ninjas were cool in the west.

    I’ve had little desire to revisit IM2. It wasn’t bad, but it just wasted so much of its potential: namely Rockwell and Rourke.

    I’m a teeny bit less crazy about 127 HOURS than Sam was, but I still really liked it and Franco was fantastic.

    As scratched up as they were, seeing the restored sequences of METROPOLIS was one of the highlights of my moviegoing year. It’s like this movie El Dorado you’ve been reading about your whole life and to finally see large chunks of it when you assumed you never would was amazing.

    Jennybee, there’s just no excuse for skipping the Weerasethakul. SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY, which I saw without really knowing anything about the guy, was one of my all time favorite film festival experiences. I doubt BOONMEE would live up to that expectation, but still.

    I watched the same 22 minutes of 20th Century. Infuriating that there’s a Netflix problem and we can’t finish. I LOVE Barrymore in that flick and Lombard is fantastic. I hope you get to finish it soon.

    Thumbs up on Stones in Exile. Surprisingly good stuff if a bit short. I hope it inspires you to listen to Exile on Main St. into the ground :)

    Alex, The Way Back was a really nice surprise. From the trailer it looked a little desperate for Oscars, but the film doesn’t play that way at all. I’ll definitely be reviewing it before it’s released and will maybe have a few things to say about it in the mean time.

  9. Late to the Watercooler party this week.

    @Sam: I just watched Carnival of Souls again too, on Halloween weekend. That movie is such an eerie little classic. That’s great that you got to see it on the big screen; I was only able to stream it off of Netflix on my little laptop.

    This weekend I caught The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, the adaptation of the third installment in the Millenium trilogy. I really enjoyed it. It’s long but it moves really quickly and doesn’t feel like 2-1/2 hours. And the cast is so good, especially the title character.

  10. jennybee, unfortunately I haven’t seen the original Nanny McPhee film, but after seeing the second installment I’m tempted to search out the original. My respect for Emma Thompson the writer overcame the shudders down my spine at the sight of her snaggle tooth. This is a first-rate production directed by the same person (Susanna White) whose direction of BBC’s Bleak House and Jane Eyre won her a BAFTA and an Emmy nomination, not to mention her work on Generation Kill. In other words, Nanny works for both kids and adults.

  11. Alison: Actually COS is the kind of intimate and eerie film that works maybe even better in the confines of the home base!

  12. Better late then never Alison. Where would you rank the third Millenium flick among the three? Not as good as the first but better than the second?

  13. Immediately after seeing it I thought it was the best one, Craig. But it’s been several months since I saw the first one and I think I need to revisit it. I really enjoyed this last one and thought it was very well done. It may just be that I’m biased toward it since it’s the freshest in my mind.

  14. Interesting. Maybe also the third one was more satisfying because it wrapped things up? It gave you a sense of closure you didn’t quite get with the other two?

  15. That’s possible. The second book and movie are both left open pretty much, and then the third resolves everything from it. The first book and movie stands on its own, and it didn’t feel like there wasn’t closure with that one.

    But I also thought this third installment was done really well. It was very gripping, and the court room scenes later in the movie were interesting and exciting.

  16. Well, I have no excuse not to catch up to the last two now.

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