‘Snakes’ Flying All Over the Radar
By Nicole Sperling
LOS ANGELES — 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 boxoffice.
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.”
REPTILES, FEDS AND MOBSTERS
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 digits.
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.