November 23, 2005

‘Rent’ due at Thanksgiving box office

By Nicole Sperling

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - With the Thanksgiving
holiday weekend about to begin, Harry Potter shows no signs of
breaking his spell on the box office.

"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," which opened to
$102.3 million last weekend, will head a field that includes
such varied newcomers as the musical "Rent," the comedies
"Yours, Mine & Ours" and "Just Friends," the Usher vehicle "In
the Mix" and the black comedy "The Ice Harvest," all of which
open Wednesday.

"Rent" and "Yours, Mine & Ours" will try to knock "Walk the
Line" off its well-earned second-place perch. But the Johnny
Cash biopic, which opened to a better-than-expected $22 million
last weekend, has the benefit of strong reviews and good
word-of-mouth, making it a formidable competitor for the No. 2
spot, especially with adult audiences.

Luring a younger audience, "Rent" is likely to land in the
$20 million-$25 million range during the five-day holiday frame
-- a figure that "Line" could surpass.

Sony Pictures and partner Revolution Studios are gambling
that well-done musicals still can reach mass audiences. After a
decade of development, "Rent" has scored well in early reviews,
and is sure to draw fans of the stage production, but whether a
musical about AIDS patients, drag queens and drug addicts can
connect with mainstream audiences remains to be seen.

Six of the eight lead actors are from the original 1996
Broadway show created by Jonathan Larson, who died unexpectedly
just before the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical bowed to rave
reviews. The other two actors are Rosario Dawson ("Sin City")
and Tracie Thoms (TV's "Wonderfalls"), rising stars in their
own accord but not yet big-time names who can carry a film.
Taye Diggs ("Chicago") is reprising his role as evil landlord
Benny from the Broadway version.

The PG-13 "La Boheme"-based musical, set in 1980s New York,
is directed by Chris Columbus.

Paramount's PG-rated "Yours, Mine & Ours," from director
Raja Gosnell ("Scooby-Doo"), will hope to capture some of the
success of Fox's "Cheaper by the Dozen," which opened to $27.5
million in 2003. "Yours," based on the 1968 movie that starred
Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda, revolves around two widowed
adults (Rene Russo, Dennis Quaid) who fall in love and unite
their 18 children.

Because opportunity abounds during Thanksgiving to
capitalize on the "entire family" audience, "Yours" has the
potential to draw in the same $20 million-$25 million range
eyed by "Rent," even with "Cheaper by the Dozen 2" set to bow
in less than a month. "Yours" also must contend with Disney's
"Chicken Little," which just crossed the $100 million mark.

Urban and teen audiences are being courted this holiday
with Lions Gate's "In the Mix" and New Line Cinema's "Just
Friends," respectively.

"Mix," featuring R&B crooner Usher in his first theatrical
starring role, is looking to score with the fans who made his
album "Confessions" one of the biggest sellers of 2004. The
PG-13 film from director Ron Underwood ("The Adventures of
Pluto Nash") centers on a DJ (Usher) who saves a mob boss' life
and is rewarded with a job of watching over the don's daughter
(Emmanuelle Chriqui).

"Just Friends," from director Roger Kumble ("Cruel
Intentions"), centers on an overweight kid who grows up, loses
weight and continue to pursue his high school crush. Starring
Ryan Reynolds ("Waiting"), Amy Smart, Anna Faris and Chris
Klein, the PG-13 film is likely to earn in the midteen millions
for the five-day frame.

Focus Features will bow "The Ice Harvest," whose impressive
ensemble cast includes John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Oliver
Platt and Randy Quaid. The R-rated film takes place in one
evening in Kansas, where Cusack's mob lawyer and Thornton's
porn exec have stolen more than $2 million in cash but can't
leave town because of an ice storm. Harold Ramis directs.

In limited release, Warners will open the highly
anticipated "Syriana" on five screens in Los Angeles and New
York. Directed by Stephen Gaghan, who won an Oscar for writing
the "Traffic" screenplay, the film stars George Clooney as a
21-year CIA veteran who has spent his career investigating
terrorists around the world. Consisting of interconnecting
stories that highlight the world's dependence on oil, the film
co-stars Matt Damon and Amanda Peet and is looking to score
Oscar recognition.

The Weinstein Co. bows its second release, "The Libertine,"
starring Johnny Depp as John Wilmot, the second Earl of
Rochester, who enjoys a life of debauchery. Directed by
first-time helmer Laurence Dunmore, the film arrives on two
screens in Los Angeles and New York.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter