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3 items from 2007

Boxoffice didn't 'Plan' for $22.7 million bow

1 October 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

Disney's "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. »

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Aardman draws up Sony deal

3 April 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

LONDON -- U.K. claymation studio Aardman Animations has inked an exclusive three-year, first-look deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment, the two companies said Monday.

The Bristol-based studios, home of Oscar-winning animator Nick Park, said the decision to strike a multipicture deal with Sony hinged on "creative freedom," billing it as "the next chapter in the story of Aardman."

Aardman chief operating officer and features boss Stephen Moore said the deal means the Bristol company can now attract animation talent "from around the globe" to work in the U.K. "We want to make more Aardman movies," Moore said, describing the Sony deal as being "at the heart of the company's vision."

SPE chairman and CEO Michael Lynton and co-chairman Amy Pascal struck the deal for the studio. In a statement, Pascal described Aardman as having "a passion for animation that is hard to resist."

The Bristol studio's output will complement that from SPE's own Sony Pictures Animation, which made its debut last year with Open Season and is set to release the CG-animated Surf's Up this year.

Aardman co-founder and executive chairman David Sproxton said the company looked at a number of potential studio deals as well as the indie financing world before making its latest move. »

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Fox makes a deal with 'Devil'

2 March 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

20th Century Fox has acquired Steve Bencich and Ron Friedman's pitch The Devil You Know for mid-six figures against just under $1 million.

Shawn Levy will produce through his Fox-based 21 Laps shingle alongside Gotham Group's Ellen Goldsmith-Vein.

Bencich and Friedman, who penned Open Season, Chicken Little and Brother Bear, will adapt Devil from the children's book by Nathan Hale. Despite Bencich and Friedman's animation pedigree, Devil will be a live-action film.

The book revolves around the Fell family and the little devil that lives in their house. The Fells grow impatient with the demon, who does all sorts of bad things. When the prim and proper Ms. Phisto mysteriously appears and offers to remove the little devil and take his place, the Fells wind up with more than they bargained for.

Plot details of Bencich and Friedman's pitch are being kept under wraps, but the family comedy is described as in the vein of Fox blockbuster Night at the Museum. 21 Laps' Tom McNulty brought the project into the shingle, which also ushered in Museum.

Fox's Emma Watts is shepherding the film for the studio. »

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