The Golden Compass bombs in North America

I can’t sum up the basic points any better than Lou Lumenick of the New York Post already has:

Early Friday estimates for “The Golden Compass” are running between $8.6 and $8.8 million, suggesting the megabucks fantasy may have a hard time matching the $27.5 million opening weekend of “Beowulf,” much less than $65.6 million debut for “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” New Line has copped to a budget of $180 million for “Golden Compass,” which likely means it actually cost north of $200 million. Perhaps 60-65 percent of that is covered by foreign pre-sales, but that also means New Line won’t be able to make up a domestic shortfall with revenues from overseas, where “Compass” is at least posting respectable numbers. Expect a statement from New Line tomorrow that they expect “Compass” to play well through the holiday season, which is the standard Hollywood spin on underperforming tentpoles. Forget about the second and third installments of Philip Pullman‘s trilogy, and Nicole Kidman can probably say bye-bye to $15 million paydays at least for a while.

Variety, which reported yesterday that the studio was predicting an opening weekend in the $30 million to $40 million range, adds this interesting data point of comparison:

Pic’s opening day take is on par with last December’s “Eragon,” also based on a young adult fantasy book, which grossed $8.7 million on its first day and $23.2 million during its opening weekend.

And Eragon had a production budget of only (only!) $100 million and opened against stiff competition in the form of both The Pursuit of Happyness and Charlotte’s Web, whereas The Golden Compass was the only new wide release this week.

Meanwhile, Nikki Finke of Deadline Hollywood Daily adds:

Wildly expensive flop should sink New Line Cinema chairman Bob Shaye’s chances to stay on when his contract expires in 2008…

And, hmmm, if Shaye were to leave New Line Cinema, maybe that would open the door to the studio patching things up with Peter Jackson and getting started on that long-delayed movie version of The Hobbit. I mean, it’s not like the studio has any other surefire hits in development right now — not after the failure of The Golden Compass has made it pretty much impossible to go ahead with the even costlier, even more controversial sequels to that film.

In the meantime, let’s hope the film’s original deleted ending will be included, in some form, on the DVD. MTV News posted a story yesterday in which director Chris Weitz and a few of the cast members speculated as to what other things might be included if an “extended version” of the film were to be released on DVD.

Brand new Indy IV revelations! … or not.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull producer Frank Marshall has talked to MTV News and revealed … nothing that those following the rumours hadn’t pretty much already figured out. But still, it’s nice to get some official confirmation on a few points, finally.

Cate Blanchett is playing an enemy, Jim Broadbent is playing a friend, and Ray Winstone is playing … a little of both, apparently:

“Ray Winstone, he came from ‘Beowulf‘ to this,” Marshall continued, describing Winstone’s character, Mac, as a sort of cross between villain Belloq and friend Sallah. “He plays an archaeologist competitor to Indy. Friend and competitor.”

Okay, that last revelation is a little new, at least to me. But Marshall doesn’t say anything one way or the other about, say, the role that John Hurt is playing in this film, or whether Shia LaBeouf really is playing Indy’s son as everybody assumes, or whether there is any truth to those alien rumours.

Which is fine. I wouldn’t mind if there were still some surprises in store when the film comes out six months from now.

Miraculous gold tooth fillings — the movie! has a brief report on Finger of God, a documentary premiering at a church in Michigan this weekend. It begins:

If you read this in a press kit for a Hollywood film, you probably wouldn’t believe it. But it is because of an aunt and uncle who, during a church sermon, suddenly discovered gold teeth in their mouths not placed there by a dentist that Darren Wilson was put on a path towards non-fiction filmmaking.

The “miraculous gold fillings” phenomenon is one of those bizarre Fortean things that you hear about every now and then. Eight years ago, I wrote a story for BC Christian News on a rash of such incidents that were said to have taken place here in Canada.

Atonement — the review’s up!

My review of Atonement is now up at CT Movies.

stop. look at city. pronounce. caution. carry on.

Here’s one rather trivial detail I didn’t have time or space for in my review of The Golden Compass, which if I’m not mistaken was already pushing the word-count limit as it is.

There is a scene where Lord Asriel, played by Daniel Craig, stops on a ridge way up in the Arctic looking down at the city where the talking polar bears live, and he says to his daemon: “Svalbard. Kingdom of ice bears. We shall have to watch ourselves.”

This reminds me of the scene in Star Wars (1977) where Obi-Wan Kenobi stops on a cliff looking down at a city and says to Luke Skywalker: “Mos Eisley spaceport. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.”

Or, in an even wordier vein, it reminds me of the scene in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) where Gandalf stops on a field somewhere in view of a city on a hill and says to Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli: “Edoras and the Golden Hall of Meduseld. There dwells Theoden, King of Rohan, whose mind is overthrown. Saruman’s hold over King Theoden is now very strong. . . . Be careful what you say. Do not look for welcome here.”

Are there any other examples of this pattern? (Approaching a city. Stopping when you’re still distant from it. Pronouncing to your travelling partners [1] the name of the city, as though it were a complete sentence unto itself, [2] who lives in that city, and [3] the need to be careful around that city. Carrying on.)

With any luck, there’ll be enough of these clips from enough films for someone to do a proper mash-up video one of these days.

The Golden Compass — the review’s up!

My review of The Golden Compass is now up at CT Movies.