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Japanese remakes rule USBO

October 25, 2004 15:39 IST

The GrudgeRemake of a Japanese cult horror movie, The Grudge scared away the opposition and psyched $40 million over the weekend, while the other major release of the week Surviving Christmas opened with a pitiable $4.5 million.

It would be a miracle if the latter, starring Ben Affleck, stays around for more than three weeks, let alone till Christmas. Affleck -- widely criticised for his work in Gigli, one of the worst flops in recent years, and John Woo's also-ran movie Paycheck -- needs a hit badly. Even the Kevin Smith directed Jersey Girl, while a far better film, did not make millions.

While box office pundits had expected The Grudge to open with strong numbers, no one was prepared for a huge opening, most thinking it would earn $ 20-22 million. The film, which cost just about $10 million, made its money back in three days. Given its obvious draw, a sequel is sure to follow.

The film is a huge career boost for 27-year-old Sarah Michelle Gellar, best known for Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series. In her newly minted super hit, she plays an American exchange student in Tokyo who gets trapped in the mysterious happenings of a haunted house.

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The Grudge finally toppled The Shark Tale from the top position.Yet, the animated hit ate up an impressive $14.6 million at the number two spot in North America in its fourth week, with $137 million till date. It is also shaping into a strong hit overseas.

Showing stronger legs than expected, Shall We Dance, starring Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon and Jennifer Lopez, earned an impressive $24.4 million in 10 days. Over the weekend, it added 647 theaters, taking the total count to a solid 2419 and occupying the third place on the chart.

Like The Grudge, the Gere musical is a remake of a Japanese hit film.
Continuing its steady business, football drama Friday Night Lights occupied the fourth place at the box office while puppetry political satire Team America: World Police occupied the fifth place with a $22.3 million gross in 10 days.
I Heart Huckabees
Among the other significant developments of the weekend, the eccentric comedy I Heart Huckabees slipped into the top 10, expanding from 65 to over 785 theaters, and earning $3 million.

Boasting of an ensemble cast, including veterans Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin, and younger stars Jude Law and Mark Wahlberg, the serious comedy opened to cerebral reviews but has been called obtuse by some critics.

The film seems headed for an art-house hit status, ending its run with about $25 million, unless it wins major Oscar and Golden Globe nominations.    

Vera DrakeShowing ample promise and joining the list of small and medium budget films ($5-$25 million) such as I Heart Huckabees, are Sideways and Vera Drake.

Starring Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church, Sideways is director Alexander Payne's follow-up to About Schmidt, the new film centering on two men of different temperaments travelling to the Santa Barbara, Calif., wine country for a bachelor sendoff.

Vera Drake, a hit at a number of film festivals and winner of the top honours at Venice, is directed by veteran Mike Leigh. It revolves around a family-minded woman who performed illegal abortions in England over 50 years ago to help indigent women.

Expanding from four to 42 theaters, the heart-warming but unsentimental film grossed $300,000, impressive considering that many potential viewers have been warned of its bleakness.

Box office estimates for North America, October 22-24:

Rank Film Weekend gross Total gross Number of weeks
1 The Grudge $40 million $40m New
2 Shark Tale

$14.3 million (down 35%)

3 Shall We Dance? $8.6 million (down 27%) $24.4m 2
4 Friday Night Lights $6.9 million (down 43%) $47m 3
5 Team America: World Police $6.4 million (down 45%) $22.3m 2
6 Ladder 49 $5.4 million (down 36%) $61m
7 Surviving Christmas $4.5 million  $4.5m New 
8 Taxi $4.2 million (down 46%) $30m
9 The Forgotten $3.4 million (down 43 %) $62m
10 I Heart Huckabees $3 million (up by 227%) $6m
Arthur J Pais in New York