As the champagne was flowing over the spectacular worldwide success of Twilight: New Moon [the movie is coming to India on December 4] which soared to an estimated $258 million in three days (with more territories waiting for it in the next few weeks), Hollywood also had reasons to celebrate the success of several new and recently-released movies.
Among them were the two inspirational films -- the newcomer The Blind Side starring Sandra Bullock, and the Oscar nomination favorite Precious.
New Moon, which grossed $140 million in North America, beckoning million of teenaged girls to the romantic and adventurous screen saga of a high school girl (Kristen Stewart), a vampire (Robert Pattinson) and a werewolf (Taylor Lautner), surprised even the most astute box-office pundits in Hollywood. The pundits were expecting New Moon to gross $100 million to $120 million in North America.
The first film in the series Twilight made about $193 million in its entire run in North America and about $200 million abroad. The new film could outperform its predecessor in just about 10 days.
Made for less than $70 million (with some Hollywood reporters claiming it cost just about $50 million), New Moon, the second film in the Twilight saga, is also creating massive excitement for Eclipse to be released in June next year. Repeating the cast of the previous two films, and based on a novel by the same writer Stephenie Meyer (whose books have sold a jaw-dropping 85 million copies in three years), the movie is directed by David Slade; Chris Weitz directed the current global rage.
Most films which open to huge numbers stumble by about 50 percent in the second week. Even if New Moon, which was roasted by most major critics, were to descend by about 60 percent next weekend, it could still earn worldwide -- thanks to a good extent the Christmas holiday season -- about $600 million. It will return to its producers much more than another recent hit 2012 which is also heading for a $600 million worldwide; that movie cost $200 million.
Champagne also popped open for Sandra Bullock, 45, who has taken over Julia Roberts as the one female actress who could fire up the box-office.
"Sandy has a steady and strong base of followers," says Ashok Amritraj who produced her hit Premonition three years ago. While Roberts' star has been fading in the past five years, Bullock's has continued to rise. Her The Blind Side, in which Bullock plays a white Tennessee housewife who changes a homeless black teenager into a high-school football star, was the number two in North America with $34.5 million, the best opening of her two decade-old career. Made for about $35 million, the movie is expected to gross at least $150 million in North America, meanwhile her previous hit The Proposal is winding down its worldwide run with a hefty $300 million.
Though some critics faulted The Blind Side, directed by John Lee Hancock bet known for the hit The Rookie which also dealt with the redemptive power of sports, for being too sentimental, they were quite liberal in praising Bullock.
'Bullock is most of the fun here,' wrote Mick Lasalle in San Francisco Chronicle. 'As a Southerner herself, she gives the impression of knowing Leigh Anne inside out -- her sense of justice, her resourcefulness and her willful lack of sentiment, which is a cover for a vulnerable inner life.'
He added: 'Bullock brings wit and incisive observation to the role, a familiar combination for this actress, whose charm sometimes causes people to overlook her skill.'
Betsy Sharkey in Los Angles Times hailed the film for being a riveting sentimental drama.
She could understand why some will want to stay away from the film. 'The rest of you can just bring Kleenex and give in to this quintessentially old-style story that is high on hope, low on cynicism and long on heart,' she wrote. 'If Frank Capra was still around, director John Lee Hancock might have had to fight him for the job.'
Box-office experts had not expected the female-audience appealing The Blind Side to do more than $20 million in its first weekend since female fans were expected to rush to see New Moon. But Warner Bros.' belief that the older females and African Americans will support the movie in a big way came true.
Dan Fellman, the Warner Bros president for North American films division, told the trade publication Variety that 75 percent of the audience was over age 25, meaning it got older women not so distracted by New Moon.
'The movie did well in all markets, but we saw outstanding results in small towns and middle-sized markets,' Fellman told Variety. 'And I think younger people will start to gravitate to us. I think they were busy this weekend.
American sports-themed movies don't do great business abroad; even then, the Blind Side could have a decent run abroad, particularly the United Kingdom and Germany where Bullock is very popular. Bullock's mother is from Germany and the star can manage to speak quite a bit of German.
The movie is based on a best-selling book of the same title inspired by a real life story.
Though Bullock faltered recently with All About Steve, which she also coproduced, Hollywood believes that even that dud will break even. As for The Blind Side, she stands to make a lot of money as she is said to have reduced her fee (which is about $10 million) in exchange for a cut in the box-office gross.
Precious, which has created the maximum Oscar nomination buzz so far, is showing strong legs as it continues expanding across America. The film, which will open in many countries early next year as the nomination game starts, jumped from 174 theatres to 629, grossed $11 million over the weekend and was number six on the box-office chart (having pushed down from last week's number three because of the new releases this week). The film made for about $10 million has grossed about $20 million.
With the much anticipated James Cameron movie Avatar opening in a few weeks, Hollywood can toast to a mighty last quarter of the year.