'THE GAME PLAN' EXCEEDS AS 'KINGDOM' FALLS
The Game Plan pulled off a surprise at the domestic boxoffice during the weekend as the PG-rated family film exceeded expectations and scored an estimated $22.7 million in its debut. It finished about $5 million ahead the second-place film, Universal's R-rated "The Kingdom," which bowed to about $17.7 million.
Heading into the weekend, prerelease tracking indicated that the two films were neck and neck, with most industry observers giving a slight edge to "Kingdom." But families and kids are the wild card in tracking because interest from that demographic is more difficult to gauge than teens and adults.
Another factor playing into the strong finish for "Game Plan" was the relative dearth of family-oriented pictures in the marketplace of late. The majority of wide-release films opening the past four to eight weeks have been rated R, with a smattering of PG-13 films thrown in.
"It always feels terrific when you over-deliver on industry expectations," said Chuck Viane, president of Walt Disney Pictures Distribution, which now has had four films debut in first place this year.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson stars in "Game Plan," which opened in 3,103 locations and averaged $7,307 per theater. Andy Fickman helmed the gridiron-set family comedy, which centers on a carefree NFL quarterback (Johnson) who discovers he has an 8-year-old daughter (Madison Pettis) from a previous relationship.
The opening was the second best for Johnson in a starring role, after Universal's "The Scorpion King," which grossed $36.1 million in its April 2002 debut.
Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner toplined "Kingdom," which opened in 2,793 venues. Peter Berg directed the action thriller, about a team of U.S. counterterrorism investigators who work with local authorities in Saudi Arabia to track down the perpetrators of an attack on Americans there.
"Considering how many R-rated films are in the market, we are very pleased with the opening," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said.
Although "Game Plan" exceeded expectations and "Kingdom" bowed in the area expected, the total for the weekend's top 12 films was $76.7 million, down 11% from a year ago, when Sony's "Open Season" shot into the top spot with $23.6 million.
AD SPENDING TO GROW IN 2008
Mature markets will see advertising spending grow 4.8% in 2008, the lowest quadrennial expansion since 1992, with possible further downside, investment bank UBS said Friday.
The firm said it sees its proprietary Advertising Key Global Indicator, which forecasts global advertising, at $454 billion for 2008. That would mean year-over-year gains of 6.7% driven by emerging markets and the Internet.
UBS forecasts advertising in those categories to expand 24% and 15%, respectively, accounting for 30% and 42%, respectively, of next year's global ad dollar growth.
The investment bank continues to expect ad spending to underperform GDP in mature markets in the long run. Among UBS' top media and entertainment stock picks is News Corp., while it sees risk for U.K. broadcaster ITV, among others.
MORGAN PREPARES 'QUEEN' SEQUEL
Oscar-nominated screenwriter Peter Morgan has started work on a sequel to "The Queen," which will dig into former U.K. prime minister Tony Blair's relationships with U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
The movie will focus on Blair's reaction to the handover of power between Clinton, a natural liberal ally, and Bush, who came from the other end of the political spectrum.
"Peter sees this as a pivotal moment when the special relationship between Britain and America changed," says producer Andy Harries.
This project will be the third film in Morgan's "Blair trilogy," which began with the Channel 4 telepic "The Deal" and continued with "The Queen." Michael Sheen is expected to reprise his role as Blair.
"Peter always hoped to do a trilogy to mark the Blair years that we've all lived through, but it's been difficult to find the right point at which to look at Blair in power," Harries says.
Morgan initially considered tackling the more obvious drama surrounding the run-up to the Iraq war, when Blair fatally compromised his own premiership by his whole-hearted support for Bush's invasion plans. But in the end Morgan decided that the roots of those events lay in Blair's difficult adjustment to the transition from Clinton to Bush a few years earlier.
He's researching the project with a plan to start writing by the end of this year. Harries will produce with Christine Langan, the team behind "The Deal" and "The Queen." No financing is currently attached, although with Langan now working at BBC Films, that would be an obvious home for the project.
Harries already has another Morgan screenplay, "The Damned United," in development with Langan at BBC Films. It's adapted from David Peace's novel about the legendary English soccer coach Brian Clough, with Sheen set to play Clough.
The project was originally due to be directed by Stephen Frears, who also helmed "The Queen," but he stepped aside over the summer to be replaced by Tom Hooper. Pic is currently casting to shoot next April.
Morgan recently finished a re-write of "State of Play," and a draft of John LeCarre's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," both for Working Title. Working Title and Imagine Entertainment are also co-producing "Frost/Nixon," Ron Howard's movie version of Morgan's stage hit.Return from Entertainment News October 2 to Entertainment News