Which films have had the best “legs” this year?

It’s too early to say anything about the films released in August, of course, but the box-office trajectories of the films released between January and July seem pretty clear. So, depending on how you count these things, we can safely say that there are only a few wide releases from that period that have had such strong “legs” that their final box-office totals will be at least four times what they made in their opening weekends:

  1. The Bucket List ($20 million by the end of its first wide weekend January 11, closed with $93 million)
  2. The Bank Job ($6 million when it opened March 7, closed with $30 million)
  3. Journey to the Center of the Earth ($21 million when it opened July 11, still going strong with $84 million so far)
  4. Mamma Mia! ($27 million when it opened July 18, still going strong with $110 million so far)

In the more debatable or wait-and-see file we have:

  1. What Happens in Vegas ($20.2 million when it opened May 9, has $80.2 million so far)
  2. Space Chimps ($7.2 million when it opened July 18, has $26.8 million so far)
  3. Kit Kittredge: An American Girl ($3.3 million in its first wide weekend July 4, has $17.1 million so far, but it was in limited release for two weekends prior to that, and it went wide on a Wednesday, so it had $5.8 million by the end of its first weekend, and it has not quite tripled that)

And then there are the even more unusual examples of Atonement and There Will Be Blood, which opened in limited release in December and gradually expanded and made about half of their final box-office totals before they went into wide release in January — so their first weekends in wide release do represent a small portion of the total, but the overall momentum of their releases was in a whole other category from these other films.

Touch of Evil times three on DVD.

Good news for Touch of Evil fans. Jonathan Rosenbaum hinted at this in a footnote to his recent post on director’s cuts, but today Universal put out the official press release announcing that a new, two-disc set will be released October 7 including not only the 1998 re-edited version of the film, but, for the first time ever on DVD, the original 1958 version which, for all the compromises it endured, was still the version that won decades of critical acclaim and attention. The set will also include a third, more obscure version of the film, as well as various commentaries, featurettes and the complete 58-page memo that director-star Orson Welles gave the studio after seeing a rough cut of the film in 1957. And all for only $27 — or $20 if you pre-order it at Amazon.com.

This movie is noteworthy for all sorts of movie-buffish reasons. It was the last movie Welles directed for a Hollywood studio, and it is widely regarded as the last major film of the classic film noir era. It is also probably the most significant film Charlton Heston made between The Ten Commandments (1956) and Ben-Hur (1959), and it features Janet Leigh being terrorized in a motel two years before her more infamous motel experience in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). It also features Mercedes McCambridge as a menacing gang leader, a decade and a half before she provided the voice of the demon in The Exorcist (1973), and it gives Marlene Dietrich a small but significant part in one of her last performances ever.

Final note for Vancouverites: The 1998 version is returning to the VanCity Theatre for two nights at the end of August, where it will be introduced by Rick Schmidlin, a film historian and archivist who supervised the editing of this version. Sounds like fun.

Harry Potter and the Longest Gap Between Movies in the Franchise’s History to Date.

Nikki Finke reports that the release date for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has been postponed by a factor of eight months, from its original release date on November 21, 2008 to July 17, 2009.

That means this film, the sixth in the series, will be coming out two years and six days after the previous film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix — easily the longest gap between Harry Potter movies to date. The second movie came out only one year after the first movie, and each movie since then has been released after intervals of roughly one year and a half.

However, the intervals promise to get shorter again, after that. The seventh and final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is being split into two films, with release dates currently planned for November 2010 and May 2011 — and Finke says the change in release date for Half-Blood Prince “does not alter the production schedule” for Deathly Hallows.

The change in release date also means that 2008 will be only the second year since 1996 in which there was no new Harry Potter book or movie — unless we count the 800-word prequel that J.K. Rowling dashed off for a charity auction earlier this year, or the upcoming re-packaging of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a handwritten copy of which was auctioned off in 2007. The other year without any new Harry Potter product was 2006.

Not coincidentally, I assume, the new release date is also almost exactly one year after the release date for The Dark Knight, and the Batman movies, like the Harry Potter movies, are produced by Warner Brothers. Releasing these mega-sequels in mid-July is working out very well for them, isn’t it?

Newsbites: The adaptations of comic books about the descendants of Jesus edition!

Two items, one new-ish, one old-ish.

1. MTV Splash Page reported yesterday that Jim Uhls has finished the second draft of his script for Rex Mundi, and now the producers, including Johnny Depp, are looking for a director.

The film will star Depp as someone named Dr. Julien Sauniere, and the original comic book concerned “the Holy Grail and a descendant of Jesus Christ” — but all of that must have seemed too similar to The Da Vinci Code (2006), in which one of the key characters was named Jacques Saunière, so Uhls has reportedly “changed the story somewhat”. However, it looks like Julien will get to keep his name, which, like Jacques’s, was presumably based on that of Bérenger Saunière, a priest who figures prominently in the conspiracy theories that inspired The Da Vinci Code.

It also looks like the film will still take place in a parallel reality in which magic is real, Martin Luther was assassinated, and the Roman Catholic Church goes on to dominate the world with the help of European monarchies well into the 20th century.

2. The Hollywood Reporter announced a few weeks ago that Gale Anne Hurd is producing an adaptation of The Magdalena, a comic-book series about a woman who discovers that she’s the latest in a long line of holy female warriors descended from Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Luke Goss, most recently seen playing the bad guy in Hellboy II: The Golden Army, will play Kristof, an agent who works with the Inquisition, an organization that helps these women do battle against various supernatural evils.

Yet another movie not screened for critics.

It’s been a while since I had to do this, but the summer is coming to an end, so… It is called Mirrors. It is a horror film. It is distributed by Fox. So, not surprisingly, as Lou Lumenick reports, it is not being shown to critics before it opens tomorrow.

Tropic Thunder — the review’s up!

My review of Tropic Thunder is now up at CT Movies.