Universal's THE RUNDOWN, which may prove to be The Rock's breakout starring vehicle, scored a whopping $18.5M in its debut for the weekend ended Sept. 28, 2003. Topping the box office chart also gives Rhythm & Hues some vfx bragging rights as well. Disney's Diane Lane romancer, UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN, debuted in second place with $9.7M.
Gabor Csupo of the Klasky Csupo animation studio (RUGRATS and WILD THORNBERRYS) will make his feature directorial debut with GREEN MONKEYS, a live-action/computer-animated version of the comic strip about monkeys that act human, a spokesperson confirmed. GREEN MONKEYS is published by Dan's Papers and written by Betty and Michael Paraskevas. The project seems a perfect match for Klasky Csupo, since the strip resembles THORNBERRYS in its graphic style despite the proposed CGI makeover.
Upon the success of UNDERWORLD in its opening weekend at the box office, Lakeshore Entertainment and Screen Gems have quickly greenlit two additional UNDERWORLD films. Original films writers Danny McBride and Len Wiseman will begin writing the sequels screenplay immediately. Wiseman plans to return as director as well, hoping to start filming as soon as possible. The third film is tentatively set as a prequel to the first film.
STAR WARS: EPISODE III wrapped principal photography at Fox Studios Australia on Sept. 17, 2003, five days ahead of schedule, according to a Lucasfilm announcement.
"It's almost unheard of for a major motion picture to come in under-schedule," boasted producer Rick McCallum of the shoot that was originally scheduled for 12 weeks.
Luma Pictures helped to conjure up a dark and formidable world of werewolves and vampires in providing visual effects services for Lakeshore Entertainment's new horror thriller UNDERWORLD (opening Sept. 19, 2003). A team of some 20 artists from the studio took part in the project, crafting visuals ranging from 3D matte paintings of central Budapest, to the partial transformation of a man into a werewolf, to the creation of microorganisms representing creature transformations on a cellular level.
Carlton International has struck multiple feature, TV and home entertainment deals for its childrens animated classic, THE LAST UNICORN. First, Carlton has signed a deal with movie production company Continent Film Ltd for a live-action re-make. In addition, the film has been licensed for broadcast to Roadshow Television in Australia. Video deals have been signed with NVC Felix Film in Poland and Goldvision in France and French-speaking territories.
Hasbro Inc. has hired Hollywood heavyweight Lorenzo di Bonaventura to shop its classic G.I. JOE franchise around to studios as a live-action feature film, reported DAILY VARIETY. Di Bonaventura track record as an exec at Warner Bros. includes such franchises as THE MATRIX, HARRY POTTER, SCOOBY-DOO and BATMAN. Screenwriter Michael Gordon (LATE NIGHT WITH CONAN OBRIEN) has already been attached to pen a script.
In a further sign of its aggressive commitment to computer animation, Fox Animation and Blue Sky Studios are prepping a feature based on the laidback children's book THE IGUANA BROTHERS: A TALE OF TWO LIZARDS, the trades reported and the studio confirmed. Written by Tony Johnson and illustrated by Mark Teague, IGUANA concerns two brothers in Mexico (Dom and Tom) that will try almost anything, including going vegetarian and acting like dinosaurs.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO, Robert Rodriguez's homage to Sergio Leone, topped the box office chart for the weekend ended Sept. 14, 2003. The Sony movie (with vfx by Hybride Technologies) scored with $23.4M. Ridley Scott's MATCHSTICK MEN, debuted in second (with vfx by Sony Pictures Imageworks), picking up a more modest $13M for Warner Bros. In third place, was another debut, the indie horror film CABIN FEVER (with vfx by K.N.B. EFX Group).
Warner Bros. has announced that Christian Bale (EQUILIBRIUM, AMERICAN PSYCHO) has been cast as Bruce Wayne in Warner Bros. upcoming BATMAN movie. MEMENTO director Christopher Nolan will direct the next installment in the popular franchise, which will be produced by Emma Thomas. The movie is written by David Goyer, along with Nolan, and will follow the early career of the Caped Crusader.
Nolan said, What I see in Christian is the ultimate embodiment of Bruce Wayne. He has exactly the balance of darkness and light that we were looking for.
Michelle Rodriguez (GIRLFIGHT) and Alfred Molina (FRIDA) have joined the voice cast of SIAN KA'AN, the first Hispanic-themed animated feature produced within the U.S. The cast already includes opera legend Placido Domingo and comedian Cheech Marin (STILL SMOKIN). Rodriguez will lend her voice to the fiery secretary of the celestial prime minister of extinct species. Molina will voice the title character and lead villain Ka'an.
MILLENNIUM ACTRESS, the first film to be released under Go Fish Pictures, DreamWorks new distribution arm, opened Sept. 12, 2003 in a limited run. The Japanese production by MAD HOUSE (PERFECT BLUE, VAMPIRE HUNTER D and METROPOLIS) reunites director Satoshi Kon and screenwriter Sadayuki Murai, who first collaborated together on Kons award-winning debut feature PERFECT BLUE. Taro Maki (TENCHI FOREVER) served as the exec producer. Susumu Hirasawa composed the score, and Takeshi Honda was the editor and director of animation.
In the annals of did we need a second version, why are we getting a third, Fox Searchlight has announced that they will be remaking the 1958s classic horror flick THE FLY, reported DAILY VARIETY. Commercials, shorts and music video director Todd Lincoln will make his feature debut on the picture, taking on both directing and writing duties. His agency CAA set up the deal. Lincoln says his remake will be based more on the 1958 version rather than the David Cronenberg 1986 remake. He even hints at his version featuring a fly that, well, flies.
Summer's over and audiences predictably stayed home. For the weekend that concluded Sept. 7, 2003, the box office top 10 couldn't even muster $50M. Paramount's DICKIE ROBERTS: FORMER CHILD STAR debuted at number one, collecting $6.6M. UA's JEEPERS CREEPERS 2 came in second place (featuring vfx by The Orphanage and Makeup and Monsters) with $6.5M and $27.2M to date.
When all was said and done, summer 2003 climbed to a record high of $3.27B, 2% higher than last year, thanks mainly to higher ticket prices. Nonetheless, the number of tickets sold was 542.3M, fourth highest in movie history, though down 2% from summer 2002.
MONTY PYTHON alum Terry Jones and singer Björk have joined the cast of the animated short film ANNA AND THE MOODS. The film is being developed at Icelandic toon factory CAOZ Ltd, which will screen a trailer at this years Cartoon Forum in Varese, Italy. The picture has already received script grants from the Icelandic Film Centre and will receive Icelandic theater, home entertainment and TV distribution through Northern Lights Communications. The half-hour 3D film is scheduled to debut in Iceland theaters at year-end 2004.
The most expensive animated feature produced in Korea, WONDERFUL DAYS, has tanked at the box office in its native country. The film cost $11 million to produce, but has disappeared from theaters after only two weeks in release, garnering a paltry $1.9 million. The film even debuted behind DreamWorks SINBAD: LEGEND OF THE SEVEN SEAS, which was a disappointment in the U.S.
Two more screen legends, Anne Bancroft and Malcolm McDowell, have joined the all-star cast of DELGO, the indie produced fantasy adventure film from Atlanta-based Fathom Studios. The rest of the voice cast includes Jennifer Love Hewitt, Val Kilmer, Michael Clarke Duncan, Chris Kattan, Kelly Ripa, Eric Idle and Burt Reynolds.
In light of Morgan Creek's firing of director Paul Schrader from EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING (the production company disliked his final cut), famed novelist Caleb Carr (THE ALIENIST), who shares screenplay credit with William Wisher, gave his perspective to VFXWorld:
LION KING-director Rob Minkoffs Sprocketdyne Entertainment has signed a deal with United Media to transform Darby Conleys comic strip GET FUZZY into a CGI-enhanced live-action feature, reported DAILY VARIETY. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME director Kirk Wise will be making his live-action debut on the project. Wise has been developing the project with Conley. Minkoff and his partner Jason Clark will produce the picture, with their Sprocketdyne vp of development Warren Davis co-producing.
Corsham Entertainment, a new TV and film production company in the U.K., is developing IN FOR THE KRILL, a 2D animated feature from Australian director Greg Holfeld. This dark "penguin-noir" is a follow up to his short "BLACK AND WHITE RED ALL OVER," a feature shown at the St. Kilda and Adelaide International Film Festivals and is making the international festival circuit.
Galleon Holdings plc has signed a deal with Swedish-based Jaguar Media Productions SA to produce a CGI feature film and 260-episode television series based on Galleons ASTRO KNIGHTS property. Jaguar will fully fund the approximately $12 million price-tag for both projects. As a result of the agreement, a new company, Astro Knights 2003 Ltd will be formed to manage the production and licensing. Revenues will be split 80/20 in favor of Jaguar.
Celebrated writer-director Paul Schrader has been dismissed from EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING over a creative dispute with production company Morgan Creek. Reports of friction have been rampant for weeks, with the NEW YORK POST affirming that Schrader was fired in its Page Six column on Aug. 25, 2003. Warner Bros., which will distribute the prequel to the legendary horror classic, deferred inquiries to Morgan Creek, and a spokesperson there was unavailable for comment.