Rainy Returns

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Box Office Monday: Is it good or bad that Miramax’s SHALL WE DANCE? was only a moderate success at the box office this past weekend? Reportedly budgeted at $50 million, the Hollywood remake of the Japanese original stars Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, and Jennifer Lopez. The Los Angeles Times was kind enough, which generally reflected the view of mainstream critics, but it was difficult to get very excited about the picture. Per-screen average of $6,649 was fine, but a limited number of screens (for a wide release) resulted in a total of $11.7 million, good for 4th place in the charts.

(Speaking of box office poison Lopez, she made a supremely irritating appearance on the David Letterman show last week, in which she responded to his gentle questions about her personal life with either one-word answers or silence — as though it’s a state secret that she’s married, or that she met her current husband while he was otherwise engaged, er, married. What a hypocritical wench.)

Miramax must be patting itself on the back for HERO, which has less to do with its marketing campaign than accidental good timing and the audience’s yearning for a bit of exotic action. When I saw it, one week after it’s general release, I heard several derogatory comments. In general, though, I think people responded as did my moviegoing companions that night — beautiful, unique, and recommended. The numbers: $893 per-screen average in 395 theaters; $52.8 million cumulative total. Region 1 DVD release is scheduled for November 30.

GHOST IN THE SHELL 2: INNOCENCE has received only lukewarm reviews, yet it’s held on in limited release, with a per-screen average nearly identical to HERO ($850) for a much more modest — though still likely profitable — total of $856,451.

Continuing into its 7th week of release, TAE-GUK-GI: THE BROTHERHOOD OF WAR is likely a pleasant surprise for distributor IDP. Several reviews pointed out the heavy-handed melodrama, but audiences are still coming: per-screen average of $1,139 and a total gross of $1,035.632.

Five positions lower on the chart at #95, JU-ON: THE GRUDGE is making its way around the country and is now playing at 13 theaters. The Japanese original will probably get some additional publicity when the American remake opens shortly. Totals: $1,210 per-screen average; $295,176 cumulative.

(Frankly, the remake trailers have creeped me out, and I’m eager to see it, despite having missed my opportunity to see the original when it played here in Los Angeles.)

I’m very puzzled about Miramax’s decision to limit the release of INFERNAL AFFAIRS. I wonder if it’s a victim of the company recent lay-offs. Naturally, the easy conclusion to reach is that the company is conducting business as usual and burying a worthy Asian film, but I’m not so sure that’s the case here. In any event, even playing at just one theater, the film had a nice per-screen figure of $6,308, for a miserly total of $89,594. Region 1 DVD release (with an insulting and misleading cover) is scheduled for December 7.

Right behind IA on the charts at #104, this week Kino International released the Korean erotic drama UNTOLD SCANDAL on four screens, averaging about $6,700 each, for a total of $1,503.

Trailing still lower on the charts were an incredible FIVE (5) more Asian films: THE TWILIGHT SAMURAI, WARRIORS OF HEAVEN AND EARTH, GODZILLA (Original Version), ZHOU YU’S TRAIN, and GOODBYE, DRAGON INN.

I don’t know if the number of Asian films currently in release is a record (I count 11), but it does hold out a tiny ray of hope for better days ahead.

(All box office figures courtesy of Box Office Mojo.)

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