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Interpreter tops box office

April 25, 2005 15:42 IST

The InterpreterAfter seven years, filmmaker Sydney Pollack has a medium-size hit.

The Interpreter opened at the top of the US box-office chart with a decent $22.8 million weekend gross. The political thriller, released in a handful of countries abroad 10 days ago, is translating into a stronger hit abroad. It topped the chart for the second week in many countries including Britain and Brazil. It has broken Pollack's jinx. His recent films, including the Harrison Ford starrer Random Hearts, were artistic and box-office duds.

Except a few like Clint Eastwood, veteran directors have no magic at the box-office today. It seems 70-plus Pollack, whose hits include Absence Of Malice and Tootsie, has become bankable once again.

But the film Rolling Stone's Peter Travis declared scarier than The Amityville Horror, as scandalous as Fahrenheit 9/11 and loaded with more conspiracies than The Interpreter did not make into the top 20 films of the weekend. Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room, which is not even a feature film, could jump into the top 20 from its current position at No 25, as it will add more theatres next week. Playing in three theatres, it opened strongly with $70,000.

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The film, which offers an inside portrait of one of the worst corporate scandals in America, is expanding over the coming weeks. A gripping and fascinating study of corporate greed and arrogance, the movie should not have a problem striking a chord among viewers across the country.

Alex Gibney directed the film based on Fortune reporters Bethany McLean and  Peter Elkind's best-seller. The movie could become an art-house hit, grossing over $1 million. 'Anyone who might be in the jury pool for the coming trials of Kenneth L Lay and Jeffrey K Skilling, the top Enron executives who have yet to face justice, should probably stay away,' wrote A O Scott in The New York Times, 'since the movie makes the case against them with prosecutorial vigour.'

Holding on quite well compared to other scary films released recently, and taking the second spot was last week's champ The Amityville Horror, a remake of the popular 1979 haunted house flick, with $14.2 million in weekend sales in its second week, a reasonable 40 percent drop from its opening week, and a cumulative total of $43.8 million. The movie, which cost $19 million, has recovered its production cost. But it will be some more weeks before its $30 million advertisting cost is recovered. 

It was followed by the expensive adventure Sahara that, in its third weekend, plummeted by about 32 percent for a total gross of $48.8 million.

With A Lot Like Love opening at four, and Guess Who still making plenty of money at eight, Ashton Kutcher has two films in the top 10. But the new film, where he's cast opposite Amanda Peet, grossed just about $7.7 million in three days (Guess Who had grossed over $20 million in its opening weekend) and would be lucky to earn half of the latter's projected $70 million final gross.

Kung Fu HustleKung Fu Hustle, arguably the most enjoyable of the top 10 films, expanded from eight theatres and took the fifth position, but the well-reviewed film earned a somewhat disappointing $7.3 million. Even then, the Hong Kong import, made for about $15 million, could end its run with a profitable $25 million. Abroad, it has grossed about $70 million.

Set against the background of the United Nations and involving a conspiracy to murder an autocratic African leader, The Interpreter received mixed reviews. Some thought it was riveting, some thought it was well intentioned but got bogged down by a convoluted plot and others thought it had no chance of redemption.

'UN-inspired,' was the headline in New York Post for a slamming review by Lou Lumenick. But even Lumenick admitted the flawed film was entertaining.

'...A righteous but wrongheaded thriller,' wrote Boston Globe's Wesley Morris but in Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert found the film to be a '...a taut and intelligent thriller...' And in Chicago Tribune, Michael Wilmington said it is '….the kind of polished, exciting treat the movies should give us far more regularly.'

A Lot Like LoveA Lot Like Love traces the relationship of Oliver (Ashton Kutcher) and Emily (Amanda Peet) who met on a flight from Los Angeles to New York seven years ago, with each declaring that they couldn't be more wrong for each other.

'...characters are grating, the dialogue inane, and the romance tedious,' wrote Roger Ebert, an opinion shared by many major critics.

Kal Penn, who has a significant role in the film, was hardly noticed by the press. But among the few who singled him out was Boston Globe's Ty Burr. Penn plays Jeeter, who becomes Oliver's partner in a new Internet diaper-delivery service company.

'That's right, Kumar from Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle is here,' Burr wrote, 'and while 'Love' desperately needs the sort of withering scorn Penn can deliver, the movie sticks him in the best-pal role and forgets about him.'

The last film on the list brought not even a small fortune to its makers. It was dead on arrival but since it did not cost much of a fortune, it could recover cost with a decent DVD sale. King's Ransom was obviously inspired by the hit kidnapping comedy Ruthless People made over 15 years ago but comedian Anthony Anderson's first go at the top needed an inventive script and brisk direction.

Anderson plays a businessman, who, determined to avoid losing his fortune to his ex-wife, plans his own kidnapping with the help of his dim-witted mistress and her ex-con brother.

Distributor New Line, fearing a flurry of savage reviews, kept the film out of the critic's reach but the reviews that appeared on Saturday were hostile across the board.

Box-office estimates for North America, April 22-24

Rank Film Weekend gross Total gross Number of weeks
1 The Interpreter $22.8 million $22.8m New
2 The Amityville Horror

$14.2 million (down 40%) 

3 Sahara $9 million (down 32%) $48.8m 3
4 A Lot Like Love $7.7 million $7.7m New
5 Kung Fu Hustle $7.3 million (up 2850%) $8m 3
6 Fever Pitch $5.4 million (down 36%) $31m
7 Sin City $3.7 million (down 44%) $67m 4
8 Guess Who $3.5 million (down 28%) $62m
9 Robots $3.3 million (down 8.5 %) $120m 7
10 King's Ransom $2.2 million $2.2m New 
Arthur J Pais