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Polar Express falters

Arthur J Pais in New York | November 16, 2004 14:43 IST

Polar ExpressHigh-tech animated film The Polar Express just could not derail The Incredibles as the weekend champ.

The Disney-Pixar film, costing an estimated $90 million, not only held on to the top position for two successive weeks, but also grossed more than four times the $160 million Polar Express.

With a $51 million weekend gross, The Incredibles has earned $140 million in 10 days.

The five-day gross for The Polar Express came to $30 million, with $23 million of it coming over the weekend.

Just the other day, Tom Hanks looked invincible but within the last year or so, he has delivered one decisive flop, The Lady Killers; one small hit, The Terminal; and now the hugely disappointing Polar Express. Still, his admirers may claim that his latest film would have crashed at even greater speed but for his presence. The film is headed for a $100 million to $120 million gross in North America.

Unless it does far superior business abroad, and then stronger video and DVD sales, it will be a big loser, a blot on the career of Robert Zemeckis, one of Hollywood's most successful directors with huge hits including Castaway and Forrest Gump with Tom Hanks, and Back To The Future.

The distributors, Warner, seemed to be optimistic about the long-range prospects for Polar Express, confident that the film will follow the usual pattern of Christmas family flicks, holding up well through Thanksgiving weekend and beyond.

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'The momentum for us is on the climb, which is exactly what our strategy was, to get ourselves some money in the bank and have some great word of mouth before we really hit the holidays,' Dan Fellman, head of Warner Distribution told Hollywood Reporter.

The much-hyped movie opened to mixed to downbeat reviews.

A handful of major critics loved the film, in which Hanks plays half a dozen parts including a young boy. The actor's reactions and body movements were conveyed to a computer that helped create digitalised images.

'There's a deeper, shivery tone, instead of the mindless jolliness of the usual Christmas movie,' wrote the widely syndicated Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times.

But The Boston Globe's Ty Burr complained: '...There's only so far you can push a slender tale before it loses what made it special in the first place (in the children's book of the same name), and there's only so much that digital information can convey about what makes a human being human.' 

The New York Times had nothing good to say about the film in which a skeptical young boy takes a fantastical journey to the North Pole and returns home with new values: Manohla Dargis wrote: '..A grave and disappointing failure, as much of imagination as of technology.'

The bad news for Warner Bros continued as the heist drama After The Sunset, produced by New Line, Warner's sister concern, grossed just about $11 million, despite Salma Hayek's sizzling body allure and a briskly paced narration. Most reviews for the Brett Ratner directed film, which was third on the weekend chart, were negative.

In Boston Globe, Ty Burr critiqued: 'There's no plot on the horizon in Sunset.'

And in the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert wrote: 'The subplot is the old standby about the crooks who pull off one last job and plan to retire.'

Seed Of ChuckyDespite showing only in 500 theatres (The Polar Express and The Incredibles each opened across more than 3,600 theatres), Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason started off well with an encouraging $8.8 million, and was at the fourth place. Audiences apparently did not care for mostly mixed reviews. It will more than treble its theatre count next week.

Another sequel, the low-budget Seed Of Chucky grossed a disappointing $8.7 million, taking the fifth position. It is a follow up to Child's Play and its infamous, bloodthirsty doll.

With horror films The Grudge and Saw still commanding good business, Chucky had no strong chance of making a splash. Even then when released on video and DVD a few months, Seed Of Chucky could just turn out to be profitable.

Box office estimates for North America, November 12-14

RankFilmWeekend gross Total grossNumber of weeks
1The Incredibles$51 million (down by 27%)$144m2
2The Polar Express

$23.5 million 

$30.8m5 days 
3After The Sunset$11.5 million$11.5mNew
4Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason$8.8 million$8.8mNew
5Seed Of Chucky$8.7 million$8.7mNew
6Ray$8.3 million (down 39%)$52.4m
7The Grudge$7 million (down 44%)$99m
8Saw$6.4 million (down 42.3%)$45m
9Shall We Dance?$4 million (down 28%)$48.7m5
10Alfie$2.7 million (down 55%)$11m

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