News for 10/15/2007

Weekend Boxoffice

Moviegoers rush to "Get Married"

By Dean Goodman

The latest movie from writer/director/actor Tyler Perry crushed some high-powered competition at the weekend box office in North America, earning more than the combined total of films starring Oscar winners George Clooney and Cate Blanchett.

According to studio estimates issued on Sunday, Perry's romantic comedy-drama "Why Did I Get Married?" sold $21.5 million worth of tickets. It ended the two-week reign of the family comedy "The Game Plan," which slipped to a distant No. 2 with $11.5 million.

Clooney's legal drama "Michael Clayton" jumped 19 places to No. 3 after expanding nationally in its second weekend. It earned $11 million, tying with "We Own the Night," a new crime drama starring Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Wahlberg.

Blanchett took the No. 6 spot with the historical drama "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," which opened to a disappointing $6.2 million. Just ahead of her was the Ben Stiller comedy "The Heartbreak Kid" with $7.4 million in its second weekend.

Perry's "Why Did I Get Married?" revolves around the turbulent lives of four married couples, and he is joined in the cast by Janet Jackson and Jill Scott.

Industry pundits had largely marked down the movie's chances, despite Perry's success with such chart-toppers as 2005's "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" ($21.9 million opening), and 2006's "Madea's Family Reunion" ($30 million opening).

"This is the last time that anyone will underestimate Tyler Perry," said Tom Ortenberg, president of distribution at the Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.-owned studio.


Going into the weekend, various forecasters had predicted a tight race for the lead, with the leading contenders likely to be bunched in the low- to mid-teen millions.

Ortenberg said Perry's movies, which incorporate themes of family and personal redemption, speak to a "nontraditional moviegoing audience" that does not show up in pre-release studies. "We aren't the least bit surprised" by the opening, he said.

As is the case with Perry movies, the audience was heavily black -- about 90 percent -- and 65 percent of moviegoers were female, Ortenberg said. The studio has been trying to boost his crossover appeal to white audiences with an eye on the exponential boost to box office sales. Ortenberg said Perry's DVDs sell well across the demographics.

As for the other new entries, Warner Bros. had thought it might have a solid shot at winning the weekend with "Michael Clayton," in which Clooney plays the titular hero. In the end, the Time Warner Inc.-owned studio said it was happy with the $11 million opening, hoping that review-sensitive older moviegoers would underpin business in the coming weeks.

Critics were less enthused about Columbia Pictures' "We Own the Night," which stars Phoenix and Wahlberg as brothers battling with Soviet-era drug kingpins. Its $11 million opening was termed "solid" by the Sony Corp.-owned studio.

Universal said it was disappointed with the $6.2 million opening for "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," in which Blanchett reunites with fellow Australian Geoffrey Rush and director Shekhar Kapur for a follow-up to 1998's "Elizabeth." Critics were also underwhelmed. Universal is a unit of General Electric Co's NBC Universal Inc.

Elsewhere, Walt Disney Co's "The Game Plan" has earned $59.5 million after three weekends. A week after its disappointing debut, the Ben Stiller comedy "The Heartbreak Kid" slipped three places to No. 5 with $7.4 million; the 10-day total stands at $26 million. The film was released by DreamWorks Pictures and Paramount Pictures, both units of Viacom Inc.

HBO Gets a Piece of Roc
Network signs Charles S. Dutton to deal

HBO and three-time Emmy winner Charles S. Dutton have signed a three-year development deal that will avail the network of his services both in front of and behind the camera.

The deal covers series, miniseries and movies and will feature Dutton as either an actor or director. He's won Emmys in both capacities.

"I'm excited to renew my long-standing relationship with HBO," Dutton says. "I look forward to developing other projects that will have the same stamp of excellence as our previous collaborations."

Dutton won an Emmy in 2000 for directing the HBO miniseries "The Corner" (which also took home the best miniseries award that year). His other directing credits include Showtime's "Sleeper Cell" and the HBO movie "First Time Felon."

As an actor, he won consecutive guest-acting Emmys in 2002 and '03 for roles on "The Practice" and "Without a Trace." He also starred in and executive produced the FOX series "Roc" in the early '90s.

Other recent acting credits include a recurring part "House" as Foreman's (Omar Epps) father and roles on CBS' "Threshold," HBO's "Something the Lord Made" and "Gothika."

Forest Whitaker Enters FX Arms Race
Oscar winner to produce, direct pilot

Forest Whitaker, who did a season-long arc on "The Shield" in 2006, is reteaming with FX.

The Oscar-winning actor will to executive produce and direct a drama pilot. The show, written by newcomers Matthew Donlan and Jeremy Martin, centers on arms dealers, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The project will be Whitaker's first TV project as a producer and director since a 1998 ABC pilot called "Black Jaq." His directing credits also include the feature films "Waiting to Exhale," "Hope Floats" and "First Daughter."

Whitaker won the Oscar for best actor this year for his performance as Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland." He was also nominated for an Emmy this year for his guest role on NBC's "ER."

Cary Brokaw ("Angels in America") and Eric Overmyer ("The Wire," "Law & Order") will executive produce the FX pilot along with Whitaker. Overmyer will also oversee the writing process.

Will Smith Expands His 'Empire'
Michael Mann will direct from a script by John Logan

Sony has snagged a pitch for "Empire," a drama set to reunite the "Ali" pairing of director Michael Mann and star Will Smith.

Written by John Logan, "Empire" will be produced by Smith and James Lassiter's Overbrook Entertainment shingle, along with Mann's Forward Pass.

Variety was unable to learn anything about the "Empire" plot except that Smith will play a "contemporary global media mogul."

Mann is one of the producers on Smith's upcoming superhero drama "John Hancock."

It's unclear when "Empire" will be ready to shoot, since Smith will finish "John Hancock" and move into publicity mode for the December release of "I Am Legend." He's then slated to move on to "Seven Pounds," another repeat pairing, this time with his "Pursuit of Happyness" director Gabriele Muccino.

Mann's last film behind the camera was "Miami Vice," which he also served as producer on "The Kingdom."