Newsbites: Nativity! Church Boy! Monastics!

Newsbites: Nativity! Church Boy! Monastics! December 3, 2006

Here’s a fresh batch of news and reviews.

1. Why did The Nativity Story do so poorly at the box office this weekend? New Line Cinema blames the weather, first in the Associated Press

Snow in the Midwest kept many movie-goers at home, undermining the film’s opening, said David Tuckerman, New Line’s head of distribution.

“The storms in the middle of the country couldn’t have hurt us more,” Tuckerman said. “It’s a movie made for the heartland, and it killed us in the heartland.”

… and then in Variety:

As for the “Nativity” bow — coming as Hollywood more aggressively aims to target faith-based demos — New Line’s Tuckerman said the pic possibly suffered from winter weather in the Midwest. “This movie was made for the red states,” he said. But he also mentioned that the studio wanted to plant their Christmas flag early in anticipation of a busy December and that he expects buzz to build in smaller markets and buoy biz.

For what it’s worth, David Poland comments:

The Nativity Story was not saved by a massive wave of Christians. But we’ll see if it picks up. I think the endless media obsession with marketing to Christians has perhaps become a serious problem for distributors who are looking to go after that audience with anything more than the smallest, most subtle campaigns.

Meanwhile, composer Mychael Danna talks to about his work on the score. The interview is available as an MP3 or as a Real Audio file. You can also sample the score — which makes heavy use of melodies from Christmas carols — here.

DEC 4 UPDATE: Cinematical notes something which had not yet occurred to me to look up: namely, of the 238 films that have ever been released on over 3,100 screens, The Nativity Story had the second-lowest opening weekend of all time, grossing only $7.8 million; it is “beaten” only by the cartoon Quest for Camelot, which grossed $6 million on its opening weekend in May 1998.

2. The Hollywood Reporter and Variety report that Lionsgate, the studio responsible for the films of Tyler Perry, is now at work on Church Boy, in which gospel-music star Kirk Franklin will relive his own life story:

“Church Boy” follows the singer from his abandonment by a young mother to his direction of a Texas choir at age 11, a teenage dive into sex and drugs and his ultimate redemption and success.

Paul Hall, Bobby Smith Jr. and Robi Reed are producing the project with Franklin, and Will Young is serving as co-producer. Lionsgate president of production Mike Paseornek will oversee the project, which is expected to begin principal photography this spring and be released theatrically in 2008.

Could be interesting to see how good an actor Franklin is when he plays himself. Casting non-actors as themselves has certainly worked quite well in the past, in films as diverse as Joni (1979), starring author Joni Eareckson as herself, and United 93, in which quite a few of the FAA and military types play themselves.

3. Awards, awards, awards. Variety reports that The Lives of Others, the excellent Cold War drama by German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, won best picture at the European Film Awards, while Philip Groening’s Into Great Silence, about a monastery in the French Alps, won best documentary.

Meanwhile, Variety and IndieWIRE report that Pernille Gronkjær’s The Monastery: Mr. Vig & the Nun — which has its North American premiere next month at Sundance — won the top prize at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.

4. Variety reviews Canadian director Thom Fitzgerald’s three-part AIDS drama 3 Needles, which played some festivals over a year ago and opened in some American theatres this weekend:

Thom Fitzgerald’s “3 Needles” bowed at Toronto last year to lukewarm response in a producer-mandated edit that awkwardly intercut its three separate globe-spanning stories about the ongoing AIDS pandemic. The U.S. release, however, is a new director’s cut that arranges the narrative panels consecutively. Result is still flawed, but greatly improved in the coherency of individual parts and as an engrossing whole. Aptly launched Stateside on World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, the sprawling drama’s arthouse pull should benefit from critical support and tie-in educational efforts. . . .

Never saw the original, doubt I’ll see the new version, but still, I wonder if both will be made available on DVD some day.

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