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‘Narnia,’ ‘Kong’ give new hope

first_img Just five days after the opening of “Narnia” comes the Dec. 14 release of “Kong,” one of the year’s most highly anticipated movies. Directed by Peter Jackson (“Lord of the Rings” trilogy) and released by Universal Pictures, the updating of the classic film is destined to be a major blockbuster, according to box office prognosticators. “It’s going to do substantial (ticket sales) numbers Wednesday through its first Sunday,” predicted Horgan. “But its three-hour running time will result in less showings, so it will get to its big numbers more in a staggered way than `Potter’ did. It will take longer. There will be waves of surging interest and you will get people who don’t go to see movies the first weekend.” Aside from “Kong” and “Narnia,” Box Office Mojo’s Gray thinks a handful of other films have a chance of making a more modest impact at the box office, starting with today’s wide release of Warner Bros.’ “Syriana,” starring George Clooney. The well-reviewed thriller has had a strong run in limited release. Other possible contenders are “The Family Stone,” featuring an ensemble cast led by Diane Keaton and Sarah Jessica Parker, the comedy sequel “Cheaper by the Dozen 2” and the remake “Fun With Dick and Jane,” starring Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni. “There are several pictures that will be mid-range performers at best,” said Gray. “`The Family Stone’ could be a sleeper success, but it will depend on the marketing, which has been a little foggy. It needs a specific hook.” “Dick and Jane” will succeed, Gray said, if it can capture young audiences. “It has the potential because it is a Jim Carrey comedy, but it has some negatives going in, including it being a dark comedy,” Gray said. “It’s not the kind of true Jim Carrey comedy that tends to be a sure thing, like ‘Bruce Almighty’ and ‘Liar Liar.”‘ But even if the year ends with three successive blockbusters and several more modest hits, there is little doubt that the 2005 domestic box office tally will fall far short of last year’s record $9.4 billion take. “I think the end of the year will provide a psychological boost to Hollywood,” said Dergarabedian. “But there’s little argument that we will end up behind last year in terms of gross and attendance.” The 2004 slate was chock-filled with mega-blockbusters, including “Shrek 2” ($441.2 million), “Spider-Man 2” ($373.6 million), “The Passion of the Christ” ($370.8 million) and $200 million-plus-grossers “Meet the Fockers,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” and “The Incredibles.” In contrast, “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” is 2005’s top grosser ($380.3 million) with “Potter” on track to finish a distant second place. Other $200 million-plus-grossing films are “War of the Worlds,” “Wedding Crashers,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Batman Begins.” But “Potter,” “Narnia” and “Kong” are the kind of triple-threat the movie industry has been waiting all year for. “These are the films that are going to allow us to end this year on a very high note in a year where there have been very few things to celebrate in terms of box office,” Dergarabedian said. Greg Hernandez, (818) 713-3758 [email protected]! 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals But there has been some encouraging news lately. Since Nov. 18, box office revenue was up by 10 percent compared with the same time frame last year and attendance was up by 8 percent. That increase has largely been due to the success of “Potter,” which had grossed $231.6 million as of Tuesday. The Johnny Cash biopic “Walk the Line” has also been strong during that period and is set to cross the $70 million mark today. “The strength of ‘Potter’ and some of the other films in the marketplace in the past 2 weeks has knocked the deficit down a little bit,” said Exhibitor Relations President Paul Dergarabedian. “Narnia,” a Walt Disney Pictures release, bows in 3,000-plus theaters today and is expected to open big and stay big through the rest of the holiday season. “I think what will surprise people is the legs of this film as word of mouth spreads about how good it is,” said Richard Horgan, a film commentator for movie ticket seller Fandango.com. “It will be hard for it not to open at between $40 (million) and $50 million, then the `Potter’ crowd will gradually come to it.” According to Fandango, much of the opening weekend business will be families; the company has been selling an average of four tickets per transaction, indicating heavy group sales. “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” has done its part. Now it’s time for “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and “King Kong” to step up to the plate and help end an overall disappointing 2005 on a high note. As of last Sunday, the year-to-date domestic box office revenue lagged behind 2004 by 5.4 percent while actual attendance was down by 7.35 percent, according to the box office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations Co. With more than a $600 million deficit to make up in less than three weeks, the movie industry is destined to suffer through its first down year at the box office since 1991. For the 13 years since then, rising ticket prices always resulted in revenue exceeding the previous year’s even if attendance was a bit up and down. “Outside of ‘Narnia’ and ‘King Kong,’ there are no obvious blockbusters in the offing,” said Brandon Gray, president of Box Office Mojo. “It’s emblematic of the year: a few tent poles and not much in between.” last_img