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The Prestige Conjures Up A Box Office Win

Weekend Wrap-Up for October 20-22, 2006

By John Hamann

October 22, 2006

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It was a close race at the box office this weekend, as movies for adults played off against one another. Opening films included The Prestige from Chris Nolan (Batman Begins, Memento), Clint Eastwood's Flags of our Fathers and Sony's Marie Antoinette with the lovely Kirsten Dunst. On the family side, new films included Flicka, and Sony's horse movie.

The number one film of the weekend is, surprisingly, The Prestige, which was able to hold off Flags of our Fathers and The Departed to finish first. From Buena Vista, the dueling magician flick grossed $14.8 million from only 2,281 venues this weekend. It had a venue average of $6,497, the best in the top ten. Still, this is a huge win for director Christopher Nolan, as well as stars Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale. Most prognosticators had picked Clint's war movie to finish on top, or even The Departed, so this is a big win for those involved.

The Prestige is Hollywood's second pic about magicians in only a few short months, as Edward Norton's The Illusionist has enjoyed a long run, and sits with about $36 million after finishing just outside the top ten last weekend. For The Prestige stars, Jackman and Bale, this one obviously doesn't hold a candle to their super hero roles as Wolverine and Batman. It does however potentially expose them to a different, older and dare I say more mature audience. Shedding the roles of icons can be difficult for actors, take for example Mark Hamill and Christopher Reeve. Both actors had large problems moving from franchises to smaller, more character-driven films.

In the review department, The Prestige pulled the trick off. While not dazzling, reviews were good enough. At Rotten Tomatoes, The Prestige received 105 reviews, and of those, 77 were positive, giving this one a fresh rating of 73%. It's also apt to have good word-of-mouth, as users at the RottenTomatoes site have so far given the film a 92% fresh rating. On the box office side, word-of-mouth seems to be working, as the film received a weekend multiplier (weekend gross divided by Friday gross) of 2.9, which means this one played well over the entire weekend instead of just Friday night.

Finishing in second is not Flags of our Fathers; it's Martin Scorsese's The Departed, finishing second after three strong weekends of release. The Departed grossed another $13.7 million this weekend, off only 28%, despite having some stiff competition in the adult male demographic from Flags of our Fathers and The Prestige. The Departed looks like it will now finish as Scorsese's biggest film ever, as it should easily pass The Aviator's domestic total of $103 million. Currently this $90 million production sits with $77.1 million, and is going to finish with at least $110 million domestically for Warner Bros.

Finishing in a somewhat disappointing third place is Clint Eastwood's Flags of our Fathers, but there's no reason for anyone to get too upset at this point. Flags finished the weekend with a gross of $10.2 million and did it with only 1,876 venues, giving it the third best venue average in the top ten at $5,437. Analysts were looking for a first place finish from the latest Clint Eastwood flick, but the war flick finished right in Eastwood's range. Million Dollar Baby, after six weekends of limited release, went wide and grossed $12.3 million from 2,010 venues. Mystic River had one weekend in limited release and then found $10.4 million from 1,467 venues. 1992's Unforgiven opened wide in its first weekend and grossed $15 million from 2,071 venues. Clint Eastwood films are usually of the 'legs' variety, not the breakout variety.



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While the opening take was expected, the reviews were not as favourable as I thought they might be. At RottenTomatoes, 118 reviews were counted and 89 were positive, leaving the war epic with a fresh rating of 75%. While this isn't far off that of The Prestige, this is Eastwood Oscar bait, and the scores pale in comparison to some of his other Oscar worthy efforts. Mystic River came in at 86% fresh (161 positive out of 187) and Million Dollar Baby finished at 92% fresh. (188 positive out of 205). While the Flags rating might improve, the facet that is missing here is acting. Sure, Ryan Phillippe was in Crash, but who talked Eastwood into giving Paul Walker so much screen time? I have a feeling that these choices may hold the director back on Oscar night and in the end limit the box office returns on this one.

Finishing strongly in fourth place is Open Season, Sony's leggy CG creation from its blossoming animation division. In its fourth weekend, the latest talking animals flick grossed $8.0 million, off only 28% from last weekend. This one now seems to have an outside shot at $100 million as it currently sits with $69.6 million. Open Season cost Sony $85 million to make, so this is an excellent start for their upstart animation division.

It was a tie for fifth between newcomer Flicka and the lame Grudge 2. Flicka, 20th Century Fox's horse movie starring Alison Lohman (Matchstick Men). Flicka did what it needed to this weekend, grossing $7.7 million from 2,877 venues. It had a venue average of $2,676. Made for just $15 million, Flicka only had to gross about $5 million this weekend to be considered a success as the budget was so low. Reviews were mixed. At RottenTomatoes, 56 reviews were counted and 31 were positive, giving the girl and her horse movie a rotten rating of 55%. None of it really matters with this type of film, though. It will make $20 million domestically before being huge on DVD.


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