August 17, 2006

“Snakes” flying all over the radar

By Nicole Sperling

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Hollywood is dealing
moviegoers a wild card this weekend. Industry experts are all
over the map as to how well, or not so well, New Line Cinema's
Internet phenomenon "Snakes on a Plane" will do at the domestic

Ever since the Internet digerati took hold of the title of
the film, buzz has been unlike anything the Internet has seen,
especially for a nonsequel. And since Samuel L. Jackson came
aboard, the buzz has climbed to a fever pitch.

But that all began months ago, and there have been no early
screenings of the film. The Hollywood premiere was set for 9
p.m. Thursday -- too late for most reviewers to file before the
film bows Friday, though most everyone recognizes that reviews
matter little for a film fans are hoping will be so bad that
it's good.

New Line remains confident. The studio is opening the film
in 3,555 theaters, the widest release for an R-rated New Line
film ever -- 630 more than "Wedding Crashers" last year. Even
if it opens at the low end of expectations, most handicappers
are confident that "Snakes" will be the top grosser of the
frame. Estimates for the $35 million production range from the
low-$20 millions to the low-$30 millions.

The other new wide releases are Universal Pictures'
"Accepted" and MGM's "Material Girls."


From director David R. Ellis, "Snakes" stars Jackson as an
FBI agent escorting a witness on a flight from Hawaii to Los
Angeles. A crime lord releases hundreds of snakes on the jet in
order to eliminate the witness before he can testify. Julianna
Margulies co-stars.

From the 10-minute clip shown at last month's Comic-Con to
the video for the overplayed song from Cobra Starship to the
many parodies on the Web, "Snakes" has entered the zeitgeist in
a manner that is surprising even the studio, which says it is
still trying to catch up with all the publicity.

The PG-13 "Accepted" stars Justin Long as a high school
senior who has been rejected by all the colleges to which he
has applied. He then creates his own university, where
applicants unexpectedly start showing up by the hundreds.
Produced by Tom Shadyac, the film is helmed by Steve Pink in
his directorial debut.

"Accepted" was scheduled to bow August 11 but shied away
from the date after Buena Vista's "Step Up" looked like it
would cannibalize its audience -- a wise move, considering that
the latter opened last weekend to $20 million for the No. 2
spot. "Accepted's" gross looks closer to the $13 million-$15
million range, and the under-18 crowd might choose it as their
option when turned away from "Snakes." Jonah Hill, Blake Lively
and Lewis Black co-star.

"Material Girls," MGM's second summer release, features
sisters Hilary and Haylie Duff as heiresses to their family's
cosmetics fortune who are stripped of their wealth and forced
to work for a living. Martha Coolidge directs the PG comedy,
which bows Friday in 1,509 locations. Interest in the film has
been underwhelming, and industry insiders don't have much hope
for a solid gross. The distributor is looking at low-single


The limited-release market should be interesting. Fox
Searchlight is bowing its second summer entry, "Trust the Man,"
an acquisition from last year's Toronto International Film
Festival. "Trust" marks the first attempt at comedy by
writer-director Bart Freundlich ("The Myth of Fingerprints,"
"World Traveler"). With a cast featuring Billy Crudup, David
Duchovny, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Freundlich's wife and frequent
creative collaborator, Julianne Moore, "Man" revolves around
two New York couples and their efforts to keep their
relationships together. The film bows Friday in 38 theaters in
eight cities.

Freestyle Releasing will open the Bob Yari production "The
Illusionist" from Neil Burger. With a stellar cast featuring
Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti, the PG-13 film centers on a
magician in early 1900s Vienna who comes under attack by the
Crown Prince. Opening in 38 theaters, the film will expand next
weekend before going wide September 1.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter