'KINGDOM' SET TO RULE BOX OFFICE
Peter Berg's action-thriller "The Kingdom" will test the appetite for films about fractured U.S.-Middle Eastern relations and the war on terror as it unspools this weekend at the domestic box office, while Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson comedy "The Game Plan" will look to win over families.
With awards season underway, a number of holdover specialty titles will continue to duke it out, including Paramount Vantage's "Into the Wild," which expands to 33 theaters in its second frame, and Warner Bros. "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," which stays put in its second frame at five runs.
In terms of new limited openings, the playing field will be relatively light after two weekends of several high-profile bows. Fox Searchlight opens Wes Anderson's laffer "The Darjeeling Limited" on Saturday in two Gotham theaters because the film, starring Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman and Adrien Brody, opens the New York Film Festival tonight.
Among wide players, Disney bows PG-rated "Game Plan" in 3,103 locations, while Universal unspools the R-rated "Kingdom" in 2,792 theaters. Although they appeal to distinctly different auds, the two could end up in a close race for the weekend crown.
The third new wide entrant is MGM-Lakeshore's "The Feast of Love," an ensemble drama whose cast includes Greg Kinnear, Morgan Freeman, Radha Mitchell, Fred Ward and Selma Blair. The film, which plays in 1,200 theaters, hasn't generated much buzz.
"Kingdom," which sneak peeked in 850 theaters two weekends ago, stars Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman as an elite FBI team recruited to hunt down a terrorist in Saudi Arabia who killed Americans working in the Middle Eastern country.
The film is more an actioner and thriller than political treatise, but it is among a handful of films coming from Hollywood this fall and winter that deal with the Iraq war and the Middle East.
Another one of those titles is Warner Independent Pictures' "In the Valley of Elah," directed by Paul Haggis. "Elah" stars Tommy Lee Jones as a father trying to find out why his soldier son was killed upon returning from fighting in Iraq.
This weekend, "Elah," which also features Charlize Theron, makes a major push in expanding from 317 to 700 runs in its third frame. The film's domestic gross through Wednesday was $1.8 million, according to Rentrak.
"Kingdom" marks Berg's first film since sports drama "Friday Night Lights," which opened to $20.3 million in October 2004.
'BIONIC WOMAN' BLASTS ONTO TV WITH HUGE RATINGS
Fall season, we have liftoff.
After a handful of high-profile newcomers failed to excite auds much, NBC's new take on "Bionic Woman" busted out Wednesday, opening with the net's best premiere numbers on the night in eight years.
In the heavyweight Wednesday showdown between a pair of shows with pre-sold hooks, NBC's "Bionic Woman" bowed bigger than ABC's "Private Practice" in key young-adult demos, though the latter was no slouch: The pair stand as the two highest-rated premieres of the season.
They could easily co-exist in the same hour, with "Bionic Woman" playing a bit older and more male than the "Grey's Anatomy" spinoff.
NBC's new cop drama "Life" was a surprising demo winner to cap the night, besting ABC's frosh hour "Dirty Sexy Money" and CBS vet crime drama "CSI: NY."
And among shows in their second weeks, both Fox's "Back to You" and CBS' "Kid Nation" limited their losses to a modest 10%, while Fox's "Kitchen Nightmares" and CW's "Gossip Girl" saw bigger declinesbut that's understandable opposite a crush of premieres on other nets in the 9 o'clock hour.
ABC edged out NBC for the night's 18-49 demo lead (4.3 rating/12 share to 4.1/11), with the Alphabet holding the advantage among auds on the female and younger ends of the 18-49 category, while the Peacock was stronger in the upper half of the demo and with men. NBC was the most improved, rising by 37% in 18-49 and 50% in total viewers vs. premiere Wednesday of a year ago for the net's best start on the night in three years.
ABC drew the largest overall audience thanks to a special "Dancing With the Stars" that kicked off the night.
According to "live plus same-day" DVR-viewing estimates by Nielsen for Wednesday night, "Bionic Woman" averaged a hearty 5.7 rating/14 share in adults 18-49 and 13.91 million viewers overallNBC's highest-rated Wednesday series premiere in 18-49 since "The West Wing" in 1999. The opener was also the net's highest-rated regularly scheduled program in Wednesday's 9 o'clock hour since an October 2003 seg of "Wing."
Most impressive about "Bionic Woman" was that it had to build so significantly upon its lead-in from "Deal or No Deal" (2.7/8 in 18-49, 9.05m) and then grew some more in its second half-hour (5.5 vs. 5.9). It also was pretty balanced along gender lines, commanding 16% of the men 18-49 audience and 13% of women of the same age, and it won the hour in adults 25-54 (6.6/15).
At ABC, "Grey's Anatomy" spinoff "Private Practice" was a strong No. 2 in the 9 o'clock hour among adults 18-49 (5.2/13) and No. 1 in total viewers (14.41 million), but it came in well below the 7.7/19 in 18-49 that "Lost" scored with its third-season bow in the time period a year ago. It skewed young and female, winning the hour in adults 18-34 (5.0/14 to 4.2/12 for "Bionic") and key women demos.
"Private Practice," which didn't see any growth in its second half-hour, had a stronger lead-in than "Bionic Woman" courtesy of the first "Dancing With the Stars" results show at 8 o'clock on a special night (4.1/12 in 18-49, 16.81m).
Also in the opening hour, despite added "Dancing" competition, Fox comedy "Back to You" (2.8/9 in 18-49, 7.47m) and CBS reality show "Kid Nation" (2.8/8, 7.62m) retained 90% of their solid premiere-week 18-49 audience. "Back" ran second in 18-49 at 8, and "Kid" moved to second place for its entire hour, moving ahead of Fox's "'Til Death" (2.4/7, 6.20m) at 8:30.
CW's "America's Next Top Model" remained potent at 8 o'clock (2.4/7 in 18-49, 4.90m), winning the hour among adults 18-34 (3.0/10), rising week to week in the younger demo. Lead-out "Gossip Girl" (1.1/3 in 18-49, 2.48m) predictably fell off opposite the big drama premieres in its timeslot but held up reasonably well among its core young-female audretaining 81% of its premiere week females 12-34 aud (2.9 vs. 3.6).
Also at 9, Fox's "Kitchen Nightmares" (2.5/6 in 18-49, 5.42m) dropped by about 20% from its premiere, while CBS drama "Criminal Minds" (3.5/9, 12.66m) was down year-to-year but held up OK given the tough drama newcomers.
At 10 o'clock, NBC's new "Life" (4.0/11 in 18-49, 9.95m) won in 18-49 over CBS vet "CSI: NY" (3.7/10, 12.72m) and ABC newcomer "Dirty Sexy Money" (3.6/10, 10.44m).
"Life," which declined 16% in its second half-hour (3.7 from 4.4), gave NBC its highest rating in the time period in 15 months. And "Dirty," which dipped just 5% in 18-49 on the half-hour (3.5 vs. 3.7), tied with "Life" for the hour's lead among adults 18-34 (3.0/9).
"CSI: NY" carried the hour in overall audience but was down about 3 million viewers from last year's premiere. It moved to the demo lead in both 18-49 and 25-54 at 10:30 and figures to reclaim the hour overall next week.
BRITISH BOX OFFICE BOOMING
Blighty's wettest summer on record and a flood of popular film sequels combined to deliver the highest level of admissions for the June-August frame in 40 years.
According to the U.K.'s Film Distributors Assn., there were 50.8 million visits to theatersup 26% on the previous summer, which was hurt by the soccer World Cup.
Eight of the 12 top pics over the period were sequels.
Nonsequel success stories were TV spinoff "The Simpsons Movie," toy spinoff "Transformers" and Broadway tuner adaptation "Hairspray."
Foreign-language fare chipped in. French thriller "Tell No One," Edith Piaf biopic "La Vie en rose" and German surveillance drama "The Lives of Others" all saw notable success, with each topping 1 million admissions.
"These are sensational figures, unprecedented in modern times," said a delighted Mark Batey, FDA chief exec.
"The first eight months of 2007 have seen 116.5 million admissionsmore than the whole of 1995while the autumn lineup, including 'Ratatouille,' 'Stardust,' 'Lions for Lambs,' 'Elizabeth: The Golden Age,' 'The Kingdom,' 'The Kite Runner' and 'The Golden Compass,' looks powerful and varied enough to make this an absolutely barnstorming year at the movies."
B.O. biz since the whammo summer season has been remarkably upbeat for early fall partly due to a homegrown double act.
Entertainment Film Distributor's Simon Pegg starrer "Run, Fat Boy, Run" opened well and has displayed muscular legs ever since, winning the last three weekend frames. And Joe Wright's period romancer "Atonement," from Universal, has made the most of excellent reviews and word of mouth for a running cume of $13.6 million after three frames.