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NORTH AMERICA: 12-Time Oscar Nominee 'The Revenant' Leads Again Wednesday, Boosts Total to $54M; 5-Time Nominee 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Crosses $820M Mark; 'The Forest' Nears $15M In Six Days on January 14, 2016

midjanmidweek.jpgFox reports that The Revenant earned $3.8 million on Wednesday, holding onto first place again as it boosted its domestic tally to an impressive $54.15 million. The film also received 12 Oscar nominations this morning, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor among others. On top of last weekend's Golden Globe wins, the film should continue riding a wave of strong buzz over the coming weeks.

In second place, Star Wars: The Force Awakens posted $3.1 million yesterday, bringing its all-time record-breaking domestic tally up to $822.8 million. The film was also the recipient of five Oscar nominations, including John Williams for Original Score, plus Film Editing, Visual Effects, and both Sound categories. With the four-day holiday weekend ahead, expect families to continue turning out for the blockbuster phenom. Including its Wednesday international gross of $10.9 million, Force has now amassed a stunning $1.781 billion worldwide.

In third place, Daddy's Home tacked on $0.86 million to its haul. That gives the hit comedy a $119.2 million domestic total thus far.

The Big Short cracked the top five again as it placed fourth with $0.65 million yesterday. With $44.6 million in the bank, the pic received five Oscar nods for Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay, and Editing.

Sisters rounded out the top five with $0.63 million and a new domestic total of $75.8 million.

Meanwhile, The Forest grossed $0.57 million in seventh place on Wednesday, giving the low-budget horror film a solid six-day total of $14.8 million.

 

Jia Zhangke’s China: Can one of China’s Most Internationally Acclaimed Auteurs find the Same Reception at Home? on January 14, 2016

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by Jonathan Papish

Three Chinese men in a coffee shop sit wordlessly around a laptop as they stare off into the distance. There's a bustling noise in the background as if a hive of activity is taking place just out of frame. The air is thick with smoke; an ashtray overflows with cigarette butts while the men light up yet again. The camera lingers on this still tableau for what seems an eternity until a jarring cut to black. 

This scene wouldn't be out of place in a Jia Zhangke film. The Chinese auteur, a mainstay on the international film circuit for nearly two decades yet rarely seen on Chinese screens, is known for challenging viewers with long takes and for presenting audiences with sympathetic characters struggling to find a foothold in an ever-changing Chinese society. 

But the three men in this scene are not actors. They are Jia himself, his director of photography, and his sound designer, all close friends and frequent collaborators. The man behind the camera is Walter Salles, the Brazilian film director who is filming a documentary about Jia that he will later simply call A Guy from Fenyang.

Titles help clarify what we are seeing. Jia and his crew have just received word that their latest film, A Touch of Sin, didn't pass China's notorious censorship board. No word on why, just a brief e-mail from the State Administration of Radio, Television, and Film. A Touch of Sin had won accolades overseas earlier in the year, including Best Screenplay for Jia at Cannes, creating enough buzz from local media that it seemed a Chinese release was inevitable. But the film would have certainly irked censors at home, with its tales of violence pulled from actual headlines, perpetrated by average citizens against corrupt officials. Sure enough, A Touch of Sin's release was cancelled at the last minute and never screened in public.

Earlier in Salles's documentary, Jia speaks candidly during an interview on one of China's shiny new high-speed trains that crisscross the country. His tone is rueful as he remembers years earlier walking into a counterfeit DVD shop and finding his film Platform among the stacks. He also recalls a screening of one of his early films that didn't receive an official release. It was shown in a small café, but the glass ceiling and walls let in too much light so staff had to jury-rig tarps to block out the sun. "Why can't my films be seen with proper equipment? Why can't my audience sit in the dark of a movie theater?" Jia, heartbroken that his work wouldn't be seen by the audience he always intended to make films for, contemplated stepping away from filmmaking after A Touch of Sin.

Three years later, in Alice Tully Hall during the New York Film Festival, the lights dim and director Jia Zhangke steps onstage to introduce the U.S. premiere of his newest film, Mountains May Depart. In a dark theater in the middle of New York City, one thousand people sit enthralled throughout the 131-minute film. As the lights come up, the director and his leading actress, wife, and muse, Zhao Tao, wave to the adoring crowd from their mezzanine box.

Mountains' story is simple but it's epic in scope, spanning 26 years and taking viewers from rural Shanxi province in the late 1990s to a future Australia in 2025. It follows a young woman named Tao from her innocent youth caught between two potential suitors to her strained relationship with a son who's forgotten his native language after emigrating to Australia. Ultimately, Mountains May Depart feels like Jia's lament for a simpler time in China's history before the push for economic prosperity propelled the country toward materialism and selfishness and away from grounded, human relationships.

The film is in stark contrast to A Touch of Sin in many ways, not least of which is its utter lack of material that could be deemed controversial in China. In fact, Mountain's themes seem to be in line with official Chinese rhetoric that is flush with messages of antimaterialism as well as reminders that Chinese émigrés should never forget the pull of their Motherland. It's not surprising then that Mountains May Depart passed China's censorship board to become Jia Zhangke's first officially released film since 2006. 

The director himself is adamant, however, that the idea for Mountains May Depart wasn't a reaction to China's rejection of A Touch of Sin. Instead, he says, it originated from his own realization that China's current value system of consumerism and materialism was violently changing how people interact with each other. 

In an interview with EasternKicks.com Jia said, "If we see A Touch of Sin as explicit violence, then we can look at Mountains May Depart as implicit violence ... the former was our reaction to the ruling power, but the latter is our reaction to another power that has been controlling us."
In any case, the themes presented in Mountains May Depart make it Jia's most commercially viable film to date, at least in China. The film opened on October 30 with $1.1 million from nearly 12 percent of China's screens, the widest ever release for a Chinese art-house film. It also benefited from a 17-city nationwide advanced screening tour, several high-profile stories including a segment on CCTV's nightly news, and a theme song by pop star Chris Lee that will play during the credits. Superstar Fan Bingbing even showed up at the red carpet premiere in Beijing, and other A-list Chinese celebrities urged their Weibo followers to support Jia's film.

When asked about his expectations for the box office, Jia, still an independent filmmaker at heart, said, "I just hope for a smooth release. Anything related to the market, I'll hand over to the market to decide. As director, it's my job to present a high-quality film, nothing more."  

NORTH AMERICA: 'The Revenant' Passes $50M Mark After Leading Tuesday with $4.95M; 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Approaches $820M After $3.84M Second Place Take on January 13, 2016

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By Daniel Garris

Fox's The Revenant took in $4.95 million on Tuesday to remain in first place at the daily box office. The Alejandro González Iñárritu directed western starring Leonardo DiCaprio was up a healthy 23 percent over Monday. Daily percentage increases were especially strong in general yesterday; due in part to Monday's grosses being deflated a bit by the NCAA College Football Championship Game. The Revenant passed the $50 million mark yesterday and has grossed $50.35 million after five days of wide release (and 19 days of total release). That places the film 6 percent ahead of the $47.55 million five-day start of 2010's Shutter Island, which fell 6 percent on its first Tuesday to gross $3.15 million. The Revenant is highly likely to hold up well going forward, thanks to healthy word of mouth and continued awards season buzz.

Disney's Star Wars: The Force Awakens held steady in second place with $3.84 million. The seventh chapter of the Star Wars franchise increased 24 percent over Monday and decreased 52 percent from last Tuesday. The Force Awakens continues to pad its total as the highest grossing film of all-time domestically with $819.69 million through 26 days of release. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is currently running 86 percent ahead of the $441.02 million 26-day take of 2009's Avatar and 45 percent ahead of the $565.53 million 26-day gross of last year's Jurassic World.

Overseas, Star Wars: The Force Awakens took in an estimated $11.5 million on Tuesday. The film has now grossed $946.9 million overseas and $1.767 billion globally.

Paramount's Daddy's Home grossed $1.13 million to remain in third. The PG-13 rated comedy starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg was up a strong 35 percent over Monday and down 48 percent from last Tuesday. Daddy's Home continues to significantly exceed expectations with $118.31 million in 19 days. That places the film 30 percent ahead of the $90.79 million 19-day take of 2010's The Other Guys.

The Forest continued to claim fourth with $0.812 million. The PG-13 horror film from Focus and Gramercy starring Natalie Dormer increased 23 percent over Monday. The Forest has grossed $14.21 million in five days, which is ahead of expectations and represents a solid start with the film's modest $10 million reported production budget in mind. The film is running 14 percent behind the $16.53 million five-day start of last year's The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death.

The Weinstein Company's The Hateful Eight, Universal's Sisters and Paramount's The Big Short remained bunched together on Tuesday as they continued to occupy places fifth through seventh. The Hateful Eight was up 35 percent over Monday to take in $0.793 million, Sisters was up 39 percent to claim $0.758 million and The Big Short increased 46 percent to gross $0.737 million. Respective total grosses stand at $75.20 million for Sisters in 26 days, at $43.97 million for The Big Short in 33 days and at $42.91 million for The Hateful Eight in 19 days.

NORTH AMERICA: 'The Revenant' Moves Into First Place on Monday with $4.02M; 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Passes $815M after $3.11M Second Place Take on January 12, 2016

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By Daniel Garris

Fox's The Revenant moved into first place on Monday with $4.02 million. The Alejandro González Iñárritu directed western starring Leonardo DiCaprio was down 61 percent from Sunday. The Revenant received an added boost on Monday from its Golden Globe wins on Sunday for Best Drama, Best Actor in a Drama and Best Director. After four days of wide release and 18 days of total release, The Revenant has grossed an impressive $45.51 million. That places the film 2.5 percent ahead of the $44.40 million 2010's Shutter Island grossed through four days of wide release. In comparison, Shutter Island fell 69 percent on its first Monday to gross $3.34 million. The Revenant is likely to hold up well going forward, thanks to healthy word of mouth and continued awards season buzz.

Disney's Star Wars: The Force Awakens placed in second with $3.11 million. The seventh chapter of the Star Wars franchise declined 75 percent from Sunday and 61 percent from last Monday. The Force Awakens continues to pad its total as the highest grossing film of all-time domestically with $815.84 million through 25 days of release. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is currently running 87 percent ahead of the $435.96 million 25-day take of Avatar and 45.5 percent ahead of the $560.69 million 25-day gross of last year's Jurassic World.

Overseas, Star Wars: The Force Awakens took in an estimated $14.2 million on Monday. The film has now grossed $935.4 million overseas and $1.751 billion globally.

Paramount's Daddy's Home claimed third place with $0.844 million. The PG-13 rated comedy starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg fell 79 percent from Sunday and 62 percent from last Monday. Daddy's Home has grossed a stronger than expected $117.17 million in 18 days. That places the film 31 percent ahead of the $89.49 million 18-day take of 2010's The Other Guys.

The Forest took fourth place with $0.659 million. The PG-13 horror film from Focus and Gramercy starring Natalie Dormer was down 74 percent from Sunday. The Forest has grossed $13.40 million in four days, which is ahead of expectations and represents a solid start with the film's modest $10 million reported production budget in mind. The film is running 15 percent behind the $15.81 million four-day start of last year's The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death.

The Weinstein Company's The Hateful Eight, Universal's Sisters and Paramount's The Big Short were fairly bunched together on Monday as they occupied places fifth through seventh. The Hateful Eight was down 65 percent from Sunday to take in $0.590 million, Sisters fell 69 percent to claim $0.545 million and The Big Short declined 67 percent to gross $0.506 million. Respective total grosses stand at $74.44 million for Sisters in 25 days, at $43.23 million for The Big Short in 32 days and at $42.11 million for The Hateful Eight in 18 days.

NORTH AMERICA: Weekend Actuals: 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Zooms Past $800M After Leading with $42.4M; 'The Revenant' Breaks Out with $39.8M Second Place Take; 'The Forest' Opens in Fourth with Solid $12.7M on January 11, 2016

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By Daniel Garris

Disney's Star Wars: The Force Awakens took in $42.35 million to lead the weekend box office for a fourth consecutive frame. The seventh chapter of the Star Wars franchise claimed the second largest fourth weekend gross of all-time; behind only the $50.31 million fourth weekend take of Avatar back in January of 2010. The Force Awakens was down a sharp 53 percent from last weekend, as the film having been seen by so many moviegoers, the end of the holidays and the added presence of The Revenant in the marketplace all took a toll this weekend.

In the bigger picture Star Wars: The Force Awakens passed the $800 million mark this weekend and continues to pad its total as the highest grossing film of all-time domestically with $812.73 million in 24 days of release. The Force Awakens is currently running 89 percent ahead of the $430.85 million 24-day take of Avatar and 46 percent ahead of the $556.54 million 24-day gross of last year's Jurassic World. When adjusting for ticket price inflation, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is now in twelfth place on the all-time adjusted domestic list, as the film moved past the lifetime adjusted grosses of Return of the Jedi, The Exorcist and The Empire Strikes Back this weekend.

Fox's The Revenant had a terrific expansion into wide release with a close second place take of $39.83 million. The Alejandro González Iñárritu directed western starring Leonardo DiCaprio exceeded its rising expectations and claimed the fourth largest January opening weekend of all-time (without adjusting for ticket price inflation). It was especially important for The Revenant to get off to a strong start this weekend with the film's expensive price tag in mind. The Revenant marks another strong performer for DiCaprio and opened just below the $41.06 million start of 2010's Shutter Island. This weekend's performance for The Revenant was just ahead of the $37.85 million debut of 2014's Lone Survivor and was an impressive 63 percent stronger than the $24.44 million Zero Dark Thirty took in its first weekend of wide release back in January of 2013.

The Revenant took in $14.35 million on Friday (which included an estimated $2.3 million from Thursday evening shows), increased 6 percent on Saturday to take in $15.28 million and declined 33 percent on Sunday to gross $10.20 million. That placed the film's opening weekend to Friday ratio at 2.78 to 1. After an additional two weeks of platform release, The Revenant has grossed $41.38 million in 17 days. The film received a solid B+ rating on CinemaScore and currently boasts a strong 87 percent audience score on Flixster. The Revenant will hope to hold up well going forward, thanks in part to its awards season buzz, which was strengthened by the film's three Golden Globe wins last night.

Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu recently spoke with BoxOffice on the film's themes and its ambitious production, which aims to harness the full potential of the big screen experience. That interview can be read here.

Paramount's Daddy's Home claimed third place with $15.02 million. The PG-13 rated comedy starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg was down a sizable 49 percent from last weekend, as the end of the holiday season and the stronger than expected performance of The Revenant affected holdovers in general this weekend. Even with the decline this weekend, Daddy's Home continues to impress with a stronger than expected 17-day take of $116.33 million. That places the film 32 percent ahead of the $88.25 million 17-day take of 2010's The Other Guys (which fell 42 percent in its third weekend to gross $10.16 million).

The Forest debuted in fourth place this weekend with $12.74 million. The PG-13 horror film from Focus and Gramercy starring Natalie Dormer exceeded pre-release expectations and was off to a solid start with its modest $10 million reported production budget it mind. January tends to be a good month to open horror films and that trend continued this weekend for The Forest. The film opened 15 percent below the $15.03 million start of last year's The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death, but going forward likely won't be quite as front-loaded as that film was.

The Forest launched with $4.98 million on Friday (which included an estimated $0.52 million from Thursday evening shows), increased 4.5 percent on Saturday to gross $5.20 million and fell 50.5 percent on Sunday to gross $2.57 million. That gave the film an opening weekend to Friday ratio of 2.56 to 1. The Forest received a C rating on CinemaScore, which is respectable for a horror film. On the other hand, the film has received a soft 34 percent audience score on Flixster. Regardless of word of mouth, The Forest should be front-loaded given its genre and the upcoming direct competition from STX Entertainment's The Boy beginning on January 22.

Sisters rounded out the weekend's top five with $7.19 million. Universal's R-rated comedy starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler declined 44 percent, which represented one of the weekend's stronger percentage holds among wide releases. Sisters continues to impress with a 24-day gross of $73.90 million. That already gives the film a total gross to opening weekend ratio of 5.31 to 1. Sisters is currently running 20 percent ahead of the $61.44 million 24-day gross of 2012's This Is 40.

The Weinstein Company's The Hateful Eight and Paramount's The Big Short took sixth and seventh place with respective grosses of $6.40 million and $6.17 million. The break-out performance of The Revenant clearly took a toll on both films this weekend, as The Hateful Eight was down a very sharp 59 percent despite adding 464 locations and The Big Short was down 32 percent despite adding 941 locations. Respective total grosses stand at $42.72 million for The Big Short in 31 days and at $41.53 million for The Hateful Eight in 17 days.


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