Box office preview: It’s the boy-who-lived versus the-girl-with-the-hair

Yep, though there is only one new major release, the real action this weekend is going to be between the two very strong holdovers: the third week of Warner’s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One” and week #2 of “Tangled,” which may be well on its way to reviving Disney’s supposedly endangered princess brand. Figuring out which will emerge on top i’s really a matter of how much the respective films drop off and, as jolly Carl DiOrio wisely admits, involves a big guess. Still, he and Ben Fritz seem to agree that power-haired Rapunzel has some slight edge over horcrux-seeking Harry.

Both films did roughly equivalent business last weekend, though the Potter juggernaut earning extremely well over the entire Thanksgiving period. Still, family animated comedies traditionally have great holds, while the madness of the Potter fans generally makes for huge openings with huge drop-offs to follow. Fritz expects about $18 million for the Potter film and about a 50% drop off for “Tangled,” which I guess would mean roughly $23-25 million or so. I wouldn’t be surprised if the drop-off were small, though post-holiday doldrums could also hamper overall box office this weekend.

This week’s one major new release, a martial arts fantasy shot in New Zealand but set in a sort of Never-Never land version of the American West, “The Warrior’s Way,” is opening in a relatively very modest 1600 theaters. That’s probably a good thing because the film, which was made independently but is being distributed by upstartish Relativity Media, doesn’t appear to be generating any excitement. It’s been in the can for some time, though it boasts an interesting cast including Geoffrey Rush and Danny Huston in supporting roles as well as Kate Bosworth and talented Korean superstar Jang Dong-gun (“Typhoon“), whose been compared to Johnny Depp, as the butt-kicking super-swordsman lead.

The Warrior's Way

In an attempt to square the marketing circle, members of the press were shown clips from the film, wined and dined (in this case saki’d and sushi’d as the post-not-screening reception was held at an apparently very good Japanese restaurant) and allowed to interview some of the stars — including, in my case, Tony Cox of “Bad Santa” and “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnussus.” We’ll see how well the approach works. Ben Fritz is extremely pessimistic about its chances, jolly Carl is more jolly, but even he admits it’ll be somewhat lucky to break $10 million. This one’s best hope might be in the international market, but the refusal to show the film in its entirety to the press should be a tell to wary audiences.

There’s more because, as awards season heats up, several very interesting films are opening in limited release. Among them is “I Love You Phillip Morris.” It’s the long delayed but well-regarded same-sex romantic comedy and true-crime tale with Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor as lovers on the run. Also opening in a relatively aggressive 18 theaters is a very likely Oscar contender and already one of the most discussed genre-blending films of the year, “Black Swan.” It’s being described frequently as Powell and Pressberger’s “The Red Shoes” meets Polanski’s “Repulsion” and that’s good enough for me. More about that to come, for sure.

Natalie Portman and Vincent Cassel in

  

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Two kinds of eerie for a Black Friday evening

Viral marketing was very good for Neil Blomkamp on “District 9.” So, no wonder he’s indulging in it again for something which apparently first showed up in some kind of newfangled i-something version of Wired Magazine.

And now a brief clip from what seems certain to be one of the year’s biggest sensations and a very likely major Oscar contender, Darren Aronofsky’s “The Black Swan.” I’m really hoping this will be 50% Powell and Pressburger’s “The Red Shoes,” 50% Roman Polanski’s “Repulsion” and 50% something entirely new and original.

H/t Movieline and the Playlist.

  

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Roman Polanski arrested in Switzerland

Roman Polanski in 1978

I’ll be getting to the weekend box office fairly soon but we have some breaking news today. Kind of a bombshell, actually.

As if to fill the void left by the conclusion of the Phil Specter case, a long-running Hollywood legal drama of some real significance has reemerged this morning and is almost certain to be filling the gossip and news pages for some time. As I write this, arguably one of one of the world’s five or so greatest living directors, whose resume includes “Chinatown,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” 2002’s “The Pianist” and the psychological horror classics “Repulsion” and “The Tenant,” is under arrest at age 76 and may be extradited back to L.A. county. This one could get messy and makes yet another painful and extraordinary chapter in the life of a director and occasional actor who escaped the Holocaust as a child, became an internationally famous filmmaker during the sixties, lost his pregnant actress wife in one of the most brutal murder rampages in U.S. history, and then nearly lost everything else over a inexcusable drunken encounter nearly a decade later.

Younger readers may not be aware how, in 1978, 45 year-old director Roman Polanski was arrested after having sex and sharing champagne and part of a Quaalude — a tranquilizer and de riguer party drug of the time — with 13 year-old Samantha Geimer. The victim’s name has only become public knowledge in recent years when, now middle-aged, she has come out publicly to forgive Polanski and call for a conclusion to the extremely muddy and muddled case which, however you come down on it, has more sides to it than you are likely aware of.

Indeed, though you may be hearing now end of moral grandstanding this week, this is no simple case. Even as someone who literally grew up with the matter and with Polanski’s career, I really knew very little about it before seeing and reviewing Marina Zenovich’s outstanding film about the matter: “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired.” As Zenovich said in the film’s commentary, Polanski was both a perpetrator and a victim of a publicity hungry judge who used to case for his own ends and drew out the case needlessly. The real heroes of her film were, ironically, both the prosecutor and the defense attorneys in the case. Yes, Virginia, there may be two honest lawyers in greater Los Angeles.

Anyhow, there are any number of questions at this point, including how did Polanski’s lawyers not know what the Swiss authorities might do? (Polanski has been able to live peacefully in France because the U.S.-France extradition treaty does not cover his particular crime and he is highly regarded there. He has carefully avoided being seen in countries such as England where the laws are different.) Nikki Finke calls it a double-cross.

This case is huge and has already been condemned by French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand who is in communication with President Nicolas Sarkozy. No doubt, even as we speak poor Robert Gibbs is probably trying to figure what President Obama’s answer should be when he’s asked about it. Maybe he can use the whole “ongoing legal matter” construction to avoid it. That’s what I’d try to do.

Whatever happens, we certainly won’t be avoiding the case here. Stay tuned.

  

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