The Friday night box is in, and the winner is clear: a Panda has beaten Adam Sandler.
In a marketing war that pitted Paramount vs. Sony the former won with "Kung Fu Panda," an animated film that should have continued its conquest all day Saturday and Sunday. The $20 million Friday night take points to a near $60 million win for Dreamworks Animation — distributed by Paramount — and Jeffrey Katzenberg.
Adam Sandler, as Zohan the counter-terrorist who longs to be hair stylist, didn't do badly. Its almost $15 million take on Friday could reap a total of $40 million for the weekend if Saturday night audiences prove strong. Sandler notoriously has a strong core group of fans who see his movies on their first night. The big test comes later.
Meanwhile, both "Sex and the CIty" and "Indiana Jones" remain strong hits. The surprise sleeper of the late spring is Liv Tyler in a horror film, "The Strangers." Thanks to Universal's strong backing, "The Strangers" is still bringing in a lot of customers while it fights off all these bigger hits. Next Friday, Tyler debuts with Edward Norton in "The Incredible Hulk." She might wind up having two hits in the top 10.
On Thursday, I told you that Mel Gibson was being lampooned — that’s a nice way of putting it — in Adam Sandler’s new, uh, comedy, "You Don’t Mess With the Zohan." Sandler and his writers used Gibson as a punch line for his anti-Semitic remarks two years ago in Malibu.
This isn’t so great for Gibson, who is trying to re-start his dead-in-the-water Hollywood career with a police thriller called "Edge of Darkness."
Sandler and friends may have ended that before it began, since the former "SNL" star’s audience is 12-year-old boys — the next generation of movie-ticket buyers. Sandler leaves no doubt in their minds that Gibson is a bad guy, a hick and a racist, to be mocked. Talk about reverse propaganda!
What both Gibson and Tom Cruise don’t realize is, when the kids start laughing at you, not with you, it’s over.
But Gibson’s obstacles to starting over don’t end there, and I don’t mean his recent friendship with Britney Spears. I do mean the Web site and MySpace page recently started by his controversial 89-year-old father.
Much has been made of Hutton Gibson, a Holocaust denier, among other things. Gibson has invested what is now more than $30 million in a private church in Malibu. Not recognized by the archdiocese, the 70 or so Holy Family parishioners consider themselves Catholics. They just don’t follow the Roman Catholic Church, the pope or what's known as Vatican II.
Gibson never has refuted his father’s shocking and offensive statements about the Holocaust. He told Diane Sawyer: "He's my father. Gotta leave it alone, Diane. Gotta leave it alone."
And what was the result of leaving it alone? Hutton Gibson now has a MySpace page. Welcome to the 21st century. Not only that: He has a Web page, too.
The MySpace page appears to have gone live on May 26. Since then, Gibson has attracted 68 new "friends," including one in Costa Rica, where his son recently bought a $28 million ranch.
The page carries a picture of Gibson reading what looks like an illustrated Bible. Next to that there’s a description of Gibson as "Defending the Faith of Our Fathers." Underneath that: "Hutton Gibson, Age 89, Pleasant Unity, Pennsylvania."
Two years ago, Gibson moved from West Virginia to Pleasant Unity to start a church similar to the one in Malibu. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the effort failed even though Mel — through his privately funded World Faith Foundation — bought his father a house there for $315,000.
(Mel Gibson’s World Faith Foundation — run by author James Hirsen, a profound critic of Gibson’s former co-star Danny Glover — also funds religious ministries in Apple Valley, Calif.; Corpus Christi, Texas; and Brussels, Belgium.)
The last log-in for Hutton Gibson’s page is registered as June 5, 2008. There’s an accompanying bio of Gibson under which he writes whom he’d like to meet: "Fellow Catholics and other patriots."
There’s also a 30-second YouTube video in which Gibson is introduced as a "patriot, author, WW II veteran, 'Jeopardy' champion and father of Academy Award-winning director Mel Gibson."
Addressing the camera, Hutton Gibson announces that he’s telling his 10 children and 48 grandchildren that "the only way to save the country is to vote for Ron Paul in 2008."
The video went up on YouTube last November, but now it’s apparently found its proper home.
Meanwhile, over at huttongibson.com — which was registered in September 2005 — Gibson senior organizes in one place his entire assault on the modern Catholic Church, rejecting any changes to the church doctrine since the 1500s. He spells out in stunning detail the beliefs of Mel’s Malibu church group. Two sentences pop right out: "Heresy is the Greek word for choice." And "Nothing new is Catholic."
Alanis Morissette’s "Flavors of Entanglement" hits the world on Tuesday. But it almost didn’t make it. Originally, Warner M. Group, where Alanis has been her whole career, didn’t want the album and turned it down. It's had so many successes (not) that it figured, "Why go with the female artist who had the biggest hit in the history of the company?"
"Jagged Little Pill" towered over every Madonna album, which was ironic (get it?) since it was released on Madonna’s old Maverick label.
Anyway, now the album is coming out, just as Warner M. Group has given a contract to the son of owner Edgar Bronfman Jr. and his incredibly mediocre-sounding group called The Exit, which sounds like a Police cover band at a high school prom. The son, Ben Brewer, does not use the Bronfman name even though he is the great-grandson of the man who founded Seagram’s.
Exit, Edgar Jr. felt, was more promising than Alanis. For the record, and just as a tutorial, Edgar Bronfman Jr. gave away the lion’s share of his family’s company in 1995 when he convinced Dupont to buy back its majority stake in Seagram’s for $9 billion.
He then sold off the liquor distiller, leaving Seagram’s a vanished empire. The remnants of it exist in Warner M. Group, a company that recently was revealed to have lost $20 million with a failed concert promoter.
To make up for that stunning mistake, WMG has invested another $20 million, according to reports, in Lala.com. It’s a Web site where you can listen to music for free on your computer or rent songs for 10 cents a shot. That’s right: rent them. On the computer. They can’t be downloaded to your mobile listening device (iPod, Zen, etc). This will be known in the future as Bronfman’s Folly, Part (fill in the blank).
This whole misadventure (that’s a euphemism) with Warner M. Group was instigated by the sale of the legendary Warner Music Group by Time Warner to Bronfman four years ago. Now Time Warner has shut down and "absorbed" New Line Cinema, the best movie-making part of the company. Never fear, though, New Line is not completely dead. Out of its ashes will rise a production company fronted by New Line founders Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne.
The pair is making a deal, I am told, with Time Warner at least for the time being. In the current precarious economy, Lynne and Shaye are said to be more comfortable staying close to home rather than schlepping around the world looking for money.
My bet is that in 18 months, after a global turnaround and one or two hits, the pair will launch into something even bigger. They’re responsible for "Lord of the Rings," "Rush Hour" 1-3 and dozens of hits up to and including "Sex and the City: The Movie."