Weekend box office: There’s no way other way to say it, Harry Potter is a lot more popular than Russell Crowe

So, folks, here’s your key to box office success: fund the kind of European-styled welfare state that would drive Tea Party activists into a state of complete hysterics, if they weren’t already there. With impoverished moms actually having a modest amount of free time to themselves because they don’t have to worry about their children starving or being unable to go the doctor and your society as a whole benefiting from improved physical and mental health, wait for one of those moms with a literary bent to come up with a once-in-a-century sensation of a book series. Hopefully, it will be aimed at a young audience with time to watch each movie several times. Then, film it — competently, will suffice, no particular need for brilliance — making sure, as Anthony D’Alessandro reminds us, to avoid the need for a momentum-killing reboot by recruiting strong and likable leads you can continue with for the entire length of the franchise. Repeat.

Daniel Radcliffe can probably afford better mirrors than this That’s pretty much the formula for the massive success of the Harry Potter film franchise. So, as stated Thursday eve, the question for the first weekend of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One” was always whether it would have a great opening or the greatest opening of all time. Well, it did have the greatest opening of all time…for a Harry Potter film. To be specific, according to Box Office Mojo, it earned an estimated $125 million, still well shy of the current opening weekend record holder, “The Dark Knight,” which grossed over $158 million on its mega-huge opening weekend.

On the other hand, that is a series best, significantly well north of the $102 million and change earned by “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” five years back. Also, as the saying goes, $125 million here and $125 million there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money. The emotionally rather dark-hued installment (I haven’t seen it, but I’ve read the book, and I can only imagine) also earned the highest per-screen average this week, a rather unusual achievement for a super-wide release like this, earning a whopping $30,332 average in over 4,100 theaters. That’s a nice infusion into our failing economy, as well, even if we have to share it with billionaire ex-welfare mom J.K. Rowling and a bunch of other Brits because of that whole welfare state thing I propagandized for up top. Well, don’t worry because “austerity” might mean that there won’t be any more new English Rowlings for a while, either. Still, she’s got another even bigger pay day ahead of her with the upcoming 3D series finale.

Meanwhile, last week’s trinity of top moneymakers held on decently with drops somewhere not too far above the 40% region. #2 “Megamind” amassed an estimate of $16.175 for its world domination war chest; runaway train thriller #3 “Unstoppable” was not stopped and earned an estimated $13.1 million; #4 “Due Date” avoided lateness penalties in its third weekend for a star-driven $9.15 million.

Meanwhile, the wide theatrical run for Russell Crowe‘s latest may not be all that much longer than, you guessed it, “The Next Three Days.” Paul Haggis’s underwhelmingly reviewed thriller costarring Elizabeth Banks debuted in the deadly #5 spot with only $6.75 million. The budget on the film, which could well be very modest if you subtract Crowe’s paycheck, is unknown at this point, but Nikki Finke is quick to remind that marketing costs for a film like this pretty much start at $30 million.

Will Russell Crowe and Elizabeth banks last for

  

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Box office preview: Harry Potter and the potentially record-breaking weekend

Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson in

Like Stephen Colbert’s frequently posed query about George W. Bush, the question for this weekend is: will “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One” have a great box office weekend, or the greatest of all time — not adjusted for inflation, of course. Short of the kind of the Hitlerian magic-driven apocalypse that Harry, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley try so hard and so emotionally to avert in the final Potter volume, there is certainly no way it doesn’t top the weekend. “Hallows” has already sold out a bunch of midnight shows already happening nationwide as I write this, according to Ben Fritz. With decent-to-good reviews and the legions of Potter fans still growing, the $400 million total gross figure posited by jolly Carl DiOrio seems more than reasonable. As for the totals of the 3D second half of the conclusion of the saga coming this summer, the sky appears to be the limit.

Russell Crowe in The only other major release that dares to rear its head this weekend is a potentially canny bit of counterprogramming. The very grown-up oriented, if not necessarily all that grown-up, “The Next Three Days” is a sort of character-study-cum-prison-break tale starring Russell Crowe and written and directed by Paul Haggis (“Crash“). It’s getting ho-hum reviews both over at our linked-to-above sister-site and elsewhere. DiOrio’s talking “teens” as in millions, not viewers.

Among limited releases, this weekend sees significant expansions of two bits of prime Oscar bait based on real life ordeals. Taking a look at the Box Office Mojo theater count, we have “127 Hours,” about a guy who sawed off his own arm and “Fair Game,” about a power couple whose (metaphorical) legs were cut off by the Bush-Cheney administration, adding a number of screens. Meanwhile, this weekend also sees the 3-screen debut of that ultimate rarity — a feel-good movie about politics showing that, sometimes, ordinary people really triumph in a democracy. What will a disbelieving world make of “Made in Dagenham“?

Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins, and Geraldine James in

  

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Entourage 7.7 – Tequila and Coke

Anyone who thought that Vince’s thrill-seeking would eventually catch up to him was right, although not in the way most people probably expected. It seems that the back injury he sustained on the Nick Cassavetes movie has resulted in a pretty serious addiction to Vicodin, which has in turn resulted in Vince doing cocaine at one of his infamous look-at-all-the-naked-women parties. Of course, when Vince gets up for his meeting with Randall Wallace the next morning, he’s a complete wreck, and whether it’s from the coke the night before, the coffee he chugged before he left, or just plain nerves, he’s jittery all throughout the meeting. That sets off warning bells in Wallace’s head, and now the studio isn’t sure if they want to work with him on the upcoming “Airwalker” movie. Vince tells Eric that he didn’t do any coke, but of course he’s lying, and Billy Walsh knows it.

I’m not sure how long Billy is going to wait to speak up, but if he truly is Vince’s friend, he would have said something by now. Maybe he was scared because Scotty Lavin (who also partook in the snorting festivities) was in the same room, but that’s no reason to wuss out like that. Still, just like last week’s subplot involving Turtle and Alex’s shaved bush, I simply don’t buy Vincent Chase as a cokehead. Maybe the writers think they need to drag his character through a drug addiction (and eventual drug rehab program) before he can finally win an Oscar in the much rumored “Entourage” movie (honestly, where else can it go?), but despite Vince’s shortcomings as a responsible adult, he just never struck me as the kind of guy who would experiment with drugs. Blame the porn star girlfriend or just lazy writing.

Speaking of Billy, it looks like he’s going to be hanging around for these last few episodes, and for once, I don’t mind. Though he was obviously more entertaining as a self-destructive prima donna, it’s nice to see him acting like a regular dude for once. Unfortunately, that also means that we have to endure this stupid storyline about him creating an animated series for Drama. Now, I’m no Hollywood agent, but how in the world could anyone think that “Johnny’s Bananas” – a cartoon about a “high-strung simian trying to make it in the human world” – is a good premise for a TV show? I always thought Eric had good taste, but if he’s truly intrigued by the idea of Drama voicing a cartoon gorilla, then well, I clearly didn’t know him as well as I thought. Then again, this was the second time in the same episode where one of the leads did something completely out of character, so maybe it can just be chalked up to lazy writing.

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It’s tougher, it’s darker — of course, it’s better!

Once upon a time, the movies used to take properties from other fields, plays and novels mainly, and clean them for the nation’s theaters, removing excess sexuality and violence until, sometimes, what was left made almost no sense at all. Couples who lived “in sin” found themselves with marriage licenses or merely dating, soldiers and prison inmates never cursed but were occasionally permitted to use poor grammar, gay characters went straight — and, in the case of the great noir thriller, “Crossfire,” became Jewish into the bargain — and so it went.

More recently, the trend has been to either completely send something up or to darken it and make it more “real,” as if darkness and reality were identical. (Closer, maybe, but not identical.) Still, we can rest assured that, like “The A-Team,” the proposed movie version of “The Equalizer” with Russell Crowe will be a gazillion times more violent than the television series it was based on — and I’m just talking about the moment when Crowe finds craft services forgot to provide that brand of organic ketchup he really likes. Heck, even the 100% inevitable sequel to “The Karate Kid” will surely be darker than the first because, you know, this time, he’s pubescent!

Still, as the studios grow so desperate for a hit that some, perhaps, might be willing to consider making something not fully recycled, there’s always someone willing to take a property in the darker direction it really needs to go. Who cares if the core audience is under five? Someone’s got to show those goldbricking preschoolers the way the world really is. Are you with me? Well, Rob Bricken (who gets the h/t) and the creative semi-geniuses of It’s Not a Book get it. See the future of cinema, below.

  

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Kinda midweekish movie news

Again, plenty to do so I’ll try to keep things efficient this evening as I go over a few stories. Some of them, I must admit, are left overs from last night. Still, just like the way cold chicken can be even better after sitting in the fridge, maybe this news will have improved slightly with time.

* If we can believe the Wall Street Journal, it appears that the Weinstein/Burkle deal to kinda-sort retake Miramax is off, writes Monika Bartyzel at Cinematical.  Since the company is actually named after the parents of Harvey and Bob Weinstein, I imagine this might hurt a little.

Dominic Cooper in * John Slattery of “Mad Men” was one of the more pleasant surprises of “Iron Man 2” as a middle-aged (actually long-deceased) Howard Stark. Now, we know who’ll be playing Stark as a young man in “Captain America: The First Avenger.” It’s Dominic Cooper, the male ingenue of “Mamma Mia,” whose other recent parts includes playing Uday Hussein, so he’s definitely running the gamut.

* Jesse Eisenberg, who had a rather good weekend with two films in limited release, is reteaming with his “Zombieland” director, Ruben Fleischer. The picture sounds like a pretty fun black comedy about a bizarre bank robbery. Aziz Ansari is also in the film as a middle-school teacher which, right off the bat makes me laugh.

* Sam Rockwell as…Joe Christ?

* There’s very little reason to expect the Paul W.S. Anderson 3-D version “The Three Musketeers” is going to be anywhere near one of the better versions of the oft-filmed adventure tale, but I actually like the idea of elf-to-punching-bag actor Orlando Bloom as a bad ass villain. I’ve missed most of his non-elven performances, so I’m not yet a Bloom-hater. Anyhow, it’s good for actors to stretch a bit.

*  I might have been tempted to run clips from the ongoing “Star Wars” spoofery going on at “The Family Guy” only I have this strange, yet deep, inner conviction that Seth MacFarlane should in no way be confused with someone who makes funny shows. The clip from a table read embedded on a  post by Geoff Boucher only strengthens that conviction. I seriously do not understand what those people are laughing at. I’ve asked this question before and have never received a good answer: is the “joke” of his shows that all the jokes are bad?

* If the movie adventures of young Jack London get more kids to actually read Jack London, I think that’ll be great. Confession time: I’ve only read The Sea Wolf. The movie, despite having Edward G. Robinson, John Garfield, and Ida Lupino in it, didn’t begin to do it justice. Steling Hayden or Robert Ryan were the only men ever born to play the half-insane, ultra-macho, pseudo-intellectual control freak Wolf Larsen. Actually, Russell Crowe could not only play Wolf Larson, I suspect he is Wolf Larsen.

South-Park-60

  

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