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MARTIN GROVE'S HOLLYWOOD REPORT -- FEBRUARY FOCUS – 2/8/16


 
HAIL CAESAR - SCARLETT JOHANSSON

HAIL CAESAR - SCARLETT JOHANSSON

THE CHOICE - ALEXANDRA DADDARIO

THE CHOICE - ALEXANDRA DADDARIO

DEADPOOL - BRIANNA HILDEBRAND

DEADPOOL - BRIANNA HILDEBRAND

February focus: February may be a short month, but it's bringing moviegoers a long list of new wide releases.

The month got off to a quiet start thanks to last weekend'sSuper Bowl competition that cut into Sunday ticket sales. Three new wide releases arrived as alternatives to the football festivities and one holdovertargeted to family audiences continued to do well.

The holdover, DreamWorks Animation and 20th Century Fox's PG rated 3D animated action adventure "Kung Fu Panda 3,"held on to first place with $21 million. Its cume after two weeks is $69.1 million. Families are a good audience to target on Super Bowl Sunday.

Universal and Working Title Films' PG-13 rated comedy drama "Hail, Caesar," came in second with $11.4 million. Directed by Ethan & Joel Coen ("No Country For Old Men"), it stars George Clooney, Josh Brolin and Scarlett Johansson. With its appeal to adult women – Clooney fans, needless to say – "Caesar" was a good alternative for them to watching the game.

Lionsgate's PG-13 rated romantic drama "The Choice" was fifth with $6.1 million. Directed by Ross Katz ("Adult Beginners"), it stars Benjamin Walker, Teresa Palmer and Alexandra Daddario and is based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks ("The Notebook"). "Choice's" young adult female appeal also made it a good choice to see Super Bowl Sunday.

Sixth place went to Screen Gems and Cross Creek Pictures' PG-13 rated action horror romance "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" with $5.2 million. Directed by from Burr Steers ("Charlie St. Cloud"), it stars Lily James, Sam Riley and Jack Huston."Pride's" appeal to under-25 females also made sense to go up against the male driven Super Bowl telecast.

Feb. 12 will also bring three new wide releases competing for moviegoers' time and money. It'sa four day holiday weekend withmoviegoing expanding for Valentine's Day on Sunday and Presidents' Day on Monday.

It's perfect timing for the weekend's dating driven title, Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema's R rated romantic comedy "How to Be Single,"opening at about 3,250 theatres. Directed by Christian Ditter ("Love, Rosie"), it stars Dakota Johnson, Alison Brie and Leslie Mann.It should play best to young adult men and women.

In "Single," New Yorkersare busy seeking the right match – whether it's a love connection, a hook-upor something in-between. Withtheirteasing texts and one-night stands, they're learninghow to be single in a world with ever-evolving definitions of love. For them, sleeping around in the-city-that-never-sleeps has never been as much fun.

Male action fans will be heading to20th Century Fox and Marvel's R rated sci-fi action adventure "Deadpool"at about 3,400 theatres. From first time feature director Tim Miller, it stars Ryan Reynolds, Karan Soni and Ed Skrein. It's Marvel's first R rated film.

"Deadpool" tells the origin story of Wade Wilson (Reynolds), an unconventional Marvel Comics anti-hero who's a former Special Forces operative turned mercenary. Wilson becomesDeadpool after a rogue experiment leaves him with accelerated healing powers. Armed with new abilities and a dark, twisted sense of humor, Deadpool goes after the man who nearly destroyed his life.

          Paramount Pictures and Scott Rudin Productions' PG-13 rated comedy "Zoolander 2,"opens at about 3,200 theatres. From"Zoolander" director Ben Stiller, it stars Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell, Penélope Cruz and Kristen Wiig. It should play best to under-25 males.

          This time around Derek (Stiller) and Hansel (Wilson) are modeling once again when a competing company tries to force them out of the business.

          The franchise's first episode opened Sept. 28, 2001 to $15.5 million and did $45.2 million domestically.

The weekend of Feb. 19-21 will be even more crowded, bringing four new wide releases. Columbia Pictures' PG-13 drama "Risen" is directed by Kevin Reynolds ("Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves") and stars Joseph Fiennes, Tom Felton and Maria Botto. It should play best to faith based adult audiences.

"Risen's" story of the Resurrection is told through the eyes of a non-believer. Clavius (Fiennes), a powerful Roman military tribune, and his aide, Lucius (Felton), are tryingto solve the mystery of exactly what happened to Jesus in the weeks following His crucifixion. They're hoping to disprove rumors of a risen Messiah andprevent an uprising in Jerusalem.

A24's R rated horror thriller "The Witch," from first time feature director Robert Eggers, stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickie. Like most horror genre films, it should play best to under-25 females.

"Witch"combines elements of witchcraft, black magic and possession in an intimate story of a family's frightful unraveling in the New England wilderness of 1630. After being threatened by the church with banishment, an English Puritanical Christian farmer(Ineson) leaves his colonial plantation and relocates his wife (Dickie) and five children on the edge of an ominous forest where unknown evil lurks.

Immediately afterwards, strange events begin happeningand as suspicion and paranoia mount, the couple'steenage daughter, Thomasin (newcomer Taylor-Joy), is accusedof witchcraft.

Open Road Films' R rated crime thriller "Triple 9" is directed by John Hillcoat ("Lawless") and stars Teresa Palmer, Gal Gadot and Kate Winslet.It should play best to adult men.

In "Triple 9," a group of dirty cops areblackmailed by the Russian mob to execute a virtually impossible heist. The only way they can pull it off is by staging a "999," the police code for "officer down". But their plan is turned upside down when the unsuspecting rookie cop they've set up to die, foils the attack.

Focus Features' PG-13 rated biographical sports drama "Race" is directed by Stephen Hopkins ("The Reaping") and stars Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis and Eli Goree.It should play best to adult men.

James plays legendary black athlete Jesse Owens, whose goal of becoming the world's greatest track and field star puts him onthe world stage at the 1936 Olympics in direct conflict with Hitler's twisted vision of Aryan supremacy.

The month will wind up Feb. 26 with two wide openings and the Oscar telecast Feb. 28. On Oscar Sunday, many millions of people around the world stay home to watch live red carpet coverage followed by a commercial stuffed live telecast that tends to runwell over three hours.

While the Oscars hurt Sunday movie ticket sales in the U.S., they reach so many people interested in movies that they typically help boost ticket sales for the high profile upcoming films the studios spendbig bucks to advertise on the telecast.

Last February's 87th annual Academy Awards live telecast on ABC drew 37.3 million total viewers, down about 16 percent from 2014. The average price of a 30-second commercial on last February's show was reportedly $1.95 million, up about 8 percent from 2014. That is said to have added up to a record setting $100 million-plus in ad sales.

          Summit Entertainment and Mystery Clock Cinema's PG-13 rated 3D fantasy adventure "Gods of Egypt," from"I, Robot" director Alex Proyas, stars Chadwick Boseman, Rufus Sewell and Gerard Butler.It should play best to adult men. That's a good audience to go after on Oscar Sunday since the awards show plays best to adult women interested in seeing what the stars are wearing.

          When Set (Butler), the merciless god of darkness, ascends the Egyptian throne, the once peaceful empire is thrust into chaos. Then a young thief (Brenton Thwaites)moves to dethrone Set with help from the powerful god Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau).

          20th Century Fox and Marv Films' PG-13 rated biographical sports drama "Eddie the Eagle" is directed by Dexter Fletcher ("Wild Bill"). Starring are: Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman and Christopher Walken. It should play best to adult men and also benefit from the Oscars having somewhat better playability to adult women.

          Inspired by true events, it's the story of Michael "Eddie" Edwards (Egerton), an unlikely but courageous British ski-jumper who never stopped believing in himself -- even as an entire nation was counting him out. With the help of a rebellious and charismatic coach (Jackman), Eddie took on the establishment, winning the hearts of sports fans worldwide with animprobable but historic showing at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics.

          Bottom line:With the Oscars fast approaching, Hollywood handicappers are still reading the best picture tea leaves trying to figure out who will win. The race is still wide open since its three best bellwethers have come up with different winners.

The Producers Guild of America (PGA) honored "The Big Short"while the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) voted for "Spotlight,"elevating them both as front-runners."The Revenant"was also a front-runner, having received 12 Oscar noms, the most for any film this year.

The race remains wide openafter Saturday's 68th annual Directors Guild of America (DGA) awardswhere Alejandro G. Inarritu won for best feature film directing for"Revenant."Inarritu won the DGA award last year for "Birdman" and then won the best directing Oscar. This is the first time the DGA has ever voted back-to-back awards over a two year period for a director.

The DGA has been a consistently strong indicator of how Academy members are likely to vote for best directing. Since 1950, only seven times has the DGA winner not also gone on to take home the best directing Oscar.

Frequently, but not always, the best picture winner is from the Oscar-winning director.That is what happened last year when "Birdman" and Inarritu both won. Hollywood handicappers will be wondering now if lightning will strike twice as the DGA vote suggests it could or whether the PGA or SAG will turn out to be right.