Warner Bros. Pictures' THE POLAR EXPRESS: AN IMAX 3D EXPERIENCE has achieved a box office milestone, surpassing $40 million in total gross receipts in just 11 weeks of release. Already the highest grossing IMAX DMR (Digitally Re-mastered) release to date, having shattered the previous record of $14 million in just 22 weeks, the film continues to fill IMAX theaters well after the end of the holiday season.
The Sony comedy ARE WE THERE YET? debuted in the number one spot with $18.5M for the weekend ended Jan. 23, 2005. Paramounts COACH CARTER came in second in its sophomore week with $10.5M and $42.7M. Universals MEET THE FOCKERS dropped to third with $9.6M and $247.2M. Universals IN GOOD COMPANY took the fourth spot with $7.9M and $27.4M.
Columbia Pictures has announced that Wes Bentley (AMERICAN BEAUTY) has been cast as Blackheart in the upcoming GHOST RIDER feature, reports VARIETY. DAREDEVIL helmer Mark Steven Johnson will direct the film based on the Marvel comic, which chronicles the adventures of stunt motorcyclist Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) who pacts with Mephistopheles to save his true loveís life. Blackheart is Mephistopheles's son as well as chief nemesis. Michael De Luca, Avi Arad, Gary Foster and Ari Arad are producing. Shane Salerno wrote the script with rewrites by Johnson and David S. Goyer.
New Line Cinema has secured the directing serves of James Wong for FINAL DESTINATION 3, reports PRODUCTION WEEKLY. Wong helmed the original film, which he co-wrote with Glen Morgan and Jeffrey Reddick. Based on a script by Wong and Morgan, the third installment follows high school students Wendy Christensen and Kevin Fischer as they try and stop Death from killing off the survivors of a roller coaster accident. FINAL DESTINATION 2 was directed by David R. Ellis and written by J. Mackye Gruber and Eric Bress.
Fox 2000 has bought the film rights to U.K. author Michelle Paver's six-part children's fantasy book series CHRONICLES OF DARKNESS for Fox-based Scott Free Prods., reports VARIETY. Ridley Scott and Erin Upson are set to produce. Paver reportedly received $250,000 against $1 million for the first book, WOLF BROTHER, and is negotiating option fees for the five additional books. U.S. book rights holder HarperCollins Children's Books will release the first book in the States Feb. 15, 2005. The first book was a best seller for publishing house Orion in the U.K.
Director Robert Zemeckis will team up with PULP FICTION producer Roger Avary and comic legend Neil Gaiman to bring the old English poem, BEOWULF to the big screen. The film will utilize performance capture technology like Zemeckis used on POLAR EXPRESS. Zemeckis will direct the film from a script by Avary and Gaiman with Steve Bingís Shangri-La Ent. producing. Shangri-La is in negotiations with Sony Pictures Ent. to distribute all its films. Producers will include Zemeckis, Steve Starkey and Jack Rapke.
Touchstone Pictures announced that Stephen Fry (TVs JEEVES AND WOOSTER) has been selected to lend his voice to the Guide for THE HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, reports BBC News. In the film directed by Garth Jennings, The Guide is the indispensable, electronic handbook that every galactic traveler needs. The film is based on Douglas Adams famed satirical sci-fi book.
Kerner Ent. has announced that Academy Award-winner Julia Roberts, Oprah Winfrey, John Cleese, Steve Buscemi, Cedric The Entertainer, Reba McEntire, Kathy Bates, Thomas Haden Church and Andre Benjamin (Andre 3000) have joined the voice cast of the upcoming live-action/photo real CG animated feature adaptation of E.B. White's CHARLOTTE'S WEB. Jordan Kerner is producing with Gary Winick directing. The film is co-production with Paramount Pictures, Walden Media and Nickelodeon Movies. The feature is scheduled to begin production on Jan. 31, 2005 in Melbourne, Australia.
Warner Bros. Pictures has officially announced that British television helmer David Yates (STATE OF PLAY, THE WAY WE LIVE NOW) has been signed to direct HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX. The film will be produced by David Heyman from a screenplay by Michael Goldenberg (WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, PETER PAN). Production on the film is expected to begin in England in January 2006.
Walt Disney Feature Animation has greenlit a story for its TOY STORY 3 feature, reports HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. The premise comes from Jared Stern, a participant in Disney's feature animation story development program. Stern pitched the idea to the studio, who is keeping details quiet. It has not been decided whether Stern will write the screenplay or other writers will be brought in to craft the first non-Pixar sequel to the TOY STORY franchise.
Peter Jackson and partner Fran Walsh have purchased the film rights to the Alice Sebold novel, THE LOVELY BONES, reports VARIETY. FilmFour sold the rights to Jackson and Walsh and will remain a developing partner. Jackson, Walsh and Philippa Boyens plan to begin writing the screenplay next January. Distribution and financing will not be obtained until the script is finished. The move is to ensure that Jackson and Walsh do not have to work under a studio deadline. The film will be produced by Jackson along with Jan Blenkin, Caro Cunningham and Aimee Peyronnet.
Pop star Britney Spears has signed on to voice the lead in Madonnas animated film adaptation of the MATERIAL GIRL singers childrens book, THE ENGLISH ROSES, reports MonstersandCritics.com. Spears will lend her voice to Binah, a young girl who is excluded by the other girls at school because of her beauty. Madonna will voice the role of the Fairy Godmother and David Bowie and Snoop Dogg with also lend their voices. Madonnas husband SNATCH-director Guy Richie will produce the film.
New French distribution company Quinta Distribution has made its first foray into animation with acquisition of all rights in France for Spanish feature, MIDSUMMER DREAM, reports VARIETY. Quinta plans to release the film in France with 200 prints on June 28, 2005.
THE LIVING FOREST producer Dygra produced the CGI MIDSUMMER, based on Shakespeares play. Portugal's Appia Films co-produced the film and Buena Vista Intl. will distribute the film in Spain this year. The 6 million ($7.9 million) budgeted film was directed by Dygra's Manolo Gomez and Angel de la Cruz.
Anna Paquin (X-MEN), Alfred Molina (SPIDER-MAN 2), and Patrick Stewart (X-MEN, STAR TREK: NEXT GENERATION) will provide the voices for the North American dubbed version of director Katsuhiro Ôtomo's STEAMBOY, reports ComingSoon.net. Sony's Screen Gems will conduct a limited release of the film in theaters starting March 18, 2005.
Five new films debuted during the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday period ended Jan. 17, 2004, and the result appears to be the second best gross ever for the holiday.
Mandate Pictures (formerly known as Senator Intl) has announced that Takashi Shimizu will return to helm THE GRUDGE 2, reports VARIETY. Ghost House Pictures, Mandate's joint genre production label with Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert, will produce the film. The original American remake of the Japanese cult sensation JU-ON THE GRUDGE grossed out audiences to the tune of $110 million in the States and a global box office take of $143 million.
Universal has obtained the film rights to Darren Shan bestselling childrens book series, CIRQUE DU FREAK, reports VARIETY. Brian Helgeland is attached to write/ exec produce with Lauren Shuler Donner producing. Helgeland plans to base the first film on the first three books in the dozen-book series. Universal hopes this will be a new trilogy for them. The storys main character is named Darren Shan and follows him to an illegal freak show where he is lured into becoming a vampire's assistant in order to save his best friend's life.
Disney has hired scribes Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal to draft a remake screenplay for the 1982 cult classic, TRON, reports VARIETY. Brigham Taylor will supervise the new film.
For the remake the computer world will be expanded with the computer programmer will get trapped in the cyberworld of the Internet. Steven Lisberger wrote and directed to original film, which utilized cutting-edge graphics.
Sony has purchased Trevor Sands sci-fi script RESURRECTION, reports VARIETY. Mosaic Media's Charles Roven and Alex Gartner are producing. Shannon Gaulding will shepherd the project for Columbia, with Gloria Fan watching over for Mosaic. The studios are quiet about the flick, which is described as an imaginative sci-fi action-adventure set in the distant future.
Sands wrote the adaptation of Martin Caidins novel, THE SIX BILLION DOLLAR MAN, for Dimension. He will also write and direct THE FOUR JACKS for producer Holly Wiersma (WONDERLAND).
Eyetronics, an international provider of high resolution scanning services and animation-ready 3D models, is coming off its most successful year yet and looks to 2005 with a prestigious slate of projects, including RACING STRIPES, ELEKTRA, the much anticipated CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, BATMAN BEGINS, THE BROTHERS GRIMM, LEGEND OF ZORRO, THE ICE PRINCESS and TRANSPORTER II. Among the recent feature films employing Eyetronics scanning services are ALEXANDER, BLADE: TRINITY, MASTER AND COMMANDER, KING ARTHUR, THE LAST SAMURAI and XXX.
Swedens Traktor has optioned Paul Sloans sci-fi thriller screenplay, SIPHON, reports VARIETY. Traktor will produced the flick with Bryan Brucks. Set in a futuristic world, a female detective tracks a serial killer that may not be human with a most advanced technology available.
Buena Vista has set plans for a June 2005 release of Hayao Miyazakis highly anticipated animated feature, HOWLS MOVING CASTLE. Since its release in Japan six weeks ago, the film has garnered more than $100 million at the box office. In South Korea, the film is smashing box office records in becoming the most successful Japanese film ever in South Korea.
Jim Henson Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures have teamed to turn the 2001 children's book THE WITCH'S CHILDREN, written by Ursula Jones and illustrated by Russell Ayto, into a feature film, reports VARIETY. The picture book tells the tale of several witches-in-training whose magic goes awry. Scribe Aline Brosh McKenna (LAWS OF ATTRACTION) will weave the simple story into a tale of a single-mother witch who leaves her magical, but morally questionable, world to raise her kids in the suburbs.
McG's production firm Wonderland Sound & Vision and James Stern's Endgame Ent. are set to co-produce horror flick, STAY ALIVE, reports VARIETY. First time director/writer Brent Bell will helm the picture, which follows a group of New Orleans teens as they play a videogame that spurs the losers own death in real life. Endgame will finance the film, which will start shooting in March. Matthew Peterman. McG, Peter Schlessel and Stern will produce, with Wonderland's David Manpearl as co-producer.