'Brokeback' Faces Burnout at Box Office

Brokeback Mountain | Michael Jackson | Holiday Poem

Brokeback Burnout? Cowboys Collapsing?

You wouldn’t know it from all the hype and the endless critics’ awards. But Ang Lee’s "Brokeback Mountain" may be suffering a little burnout in its third week of release.

Indeed, "Brokeback"—-aka the Gay Cowboy movie—-has seen declines at the box office every day this week after a huge premiere and subsequent run in gay-concentrated neighborhoods.

But now it may be that reality is setting in, and reality bites, as we all know. On Monday, "Brokeback" was 51 percent off from Sunday. On Tuesday, it was down 9.1 percent from Monday. By Wednesday, it was off another 7.6 percent. All in all, it dropped to No. 10 on its 13th day out.

Today, "Brokeback" nearly doubles its number of theaters to 217, but this may be a real litmus test. There is hardly a straight male in the U.S. who will see this movie voluntarily. No matter how well made it is—-and it is very well crafted by a hugely talented group of people—-it’s hard to imagine a suburban wife coaxing hubby to the Cineplex on Saturday night to see two men consummate their passion.

On the other hand, the season’s sleeper, James Mangold’s "Walk the Line," continues to field a steady following. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon present a compelling enough “traditional” love story of the saga of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash that the terrific film did a respectable average half million bucks a day this week. It’s now at $85 million, and could cross the $90 million mark by Monday.

Even though Brokeback has been the choice of a rarified group of critics, I predict that "Walk the Line" is about to emerge as a serious contender for Best Picture of the Year. As Academy voters play their Walk the Line DVD’s this weekend, my guess is they will be reminded how impressive Phoenix and Witherspoon’s performances are—-all of the music is done by them.

Meanwhile, "King Kong" fell to second place on Thursday night, beaten by "The Chronicles of Narnia." Walden Pictures made "Narnia"; they’re a company I’ve criticized in the past especially for making the big money loser "Around the World in 80 Days." But company owner Philip Anschutz told me as we watched this last year’s Oscars together that "Narnia" would right their ship. He was correct. Now Walden has a big slate coming up with Disney including an animated "Charlotte’s Web" starring Julia Roberts and directed by one of my favorite people, Gary Winick ("Tadpole").

As for "Kong," like "Brokeback" it has experienced serious declines all week. The New York City transit strike may be partially responsible. Now that it’s over, we’ll see what happens this crucial weekend.

By the way, Patricia Nell Warren, author of one of the first gay novels, "The Front Runner," has voiced her support for "Brokeback." She says that famed cowboy songs hint that the movie has a lot of veracity. This may be, but something tells me that if Johnny Cash were alive, he’d be singing a different tune.

Neverland: No Checks Yet

They’re still waiting at Michael Jackson’s Neverland Valley Ranch for paychecks. Jackson missed making his payroll for the fourth week in a row yesterday.

The word now is that the checks may arrive sometime in the afternoon. That means for a month leading up to Christmas, the staff was given no money. They also have no word whether Neverland is for sale, and they haven’t seen Jackson in five or six months.

Some good news, though: they’ve been told that Monday is an official day off. “That might be a good time to get to the unemployment office,” a staffer quipped.

A 2005 Holiday Ode (ouch!)

With apologies to all real poets...

‘Tis the holiday season and what have we done?
Gossiped, reported and had a lot of fun
So here’s a gift written with some bold faced urgency
As the stars disappear to St. Barts for some face-lifting surgery.

It was a year of trials and vast tribulations
Break-ups, make-ups and wasted celebrations
The near and the dear ones sold their stories to tabs
While Maury Povich sent the results to DNA labs

Wasn’t there enough said about our friend, Mr. Jacko?
Whose enemies said he’d been crazy right from da capo
If it was money he wanted he called out for French fries
While a welfare fraud mother told lies after lies

Did he molest little boys, or was he a victim of fraud?
The jury didn’t care—they were suitably awed
They thought they’d get book deals—they didn’t, oh well
And recanted their verdict when it started to smell

Not guilty, they’d said, but who were they kidding
Agents and grandkids were doing their bidding
Meanwhile Michael fled eastward to Bahrain
And shut down poor Neverland, even the choo choo train

But Jacko wasn’t all that 2005 had to bear
Angelina Jolie supplied her own fair share
Of baiting the press and then protesting too much
While Brad Pitt she devoured, a matinee idol crush

There was Brad and Jen, Ben and Jen, and of course Nick and Jess
Each couple got bigger but in fact they were less
Tom and Katie got preggers a minute after they met
While Tom jumped on couches, she was his new pet

Did he lose his mind, or had it already been lost?
And to his career, what was the cost?
Now sitcom characters make jokes about Tom
You’d think by now he’d be very alarmed

But it turns out Mr. Cruise is part of an alien nation
That thrives on clearing—a real high sensation
Back home in Toledo, though, folks might not be swayed
As they hope for dear Katie’s frozen grinning to fade

Brooke Shields wasn’t happy—she thought Tom a pill
When he went on TV and called her quite ill
For being depressed, taking prescriptions and seeing a shrink
Cruise lectured Matt Lauer and caused a real stink

And it was the year of Mariah, who came back from Glitter
While Tommy Mottola booked Lindsay Lohan a sitter
His old friends at Sony got fined ten mil for payola
And Andy Lack was told to go home—and get a Crayola

Kanye knocked Bush, and promoted himself
While Diddy dallied and sat on the shelf
Lil’ Kim went to jail, and Eminem retired
A jury said Murder Inc. rappers never conspired

To wash drug money like laundry through Ashanti’s label
They did everything but ask, Was Ja Rule stealing cable?
L.A. Reid dissed Labelle, who sent back more knocks
While Clive launched Santana, Carrie Underwood, Jamie Foxx

Oh Clive, he’s one of our faves, a true mannered guy
Who got hits from Alicia, Rod, Reuben, Maroon 5
Who knows what he’s got up his sleeve for next year?
A revival of JLO or – gasp!—Britney Spears!

And what about movies? It was a gay old time
For passionate cowboys who mumbled all of their lines
And a chimp with a chip on his hairy old shoulder
Who came to town looking haggard and older

It was the year of George Clooney, "Good night," he enthused!
But his good luck with "Syriania" left people confused!
Who was Matt Damon, and what did he do?
Did Jeffrey Wright play them, or us, or me or just you?

In 2005, Hilary Swank took more awards
Russell Crowe threw a phone, Heath Ledger used swords
Batman began, and Clint Eastwood was cool
Star Wars ended and Britney sued

Miramax vanished and came back reinvented
While Disney was bruised and damaged — and dented
Harvey unleashed Judi Dench, Felic’ty Huffman, and Proof
While Pixar tried to escape from their goof!

Dreamworks imploded, sold off to its foes
They released "The Island," which didn’t smell like a rose
They tried one last time with Wallace and Gromit,
But the audience said Dreamworks just couldn’t con it!

Paris engaged, broke it off and cavorted
Teri Hatcher got thinner, and all the tabs reported
That these dames were expecting, Botox altered, or dying
And anything they said just meant they were lying

Well, that’s celebrity, and they all pay a price
No one ever said actors had to be nice!
Going into rehab, dressing badly, or worse
At least we weren’t their slaves or—god forbid— their nurse!

And to so to ’06 we approach with some dread
Are those people on "Lost" alive, in comas, or just dead?
My advice is who cares, read a book, take a stroll
Use next week to purge sins, clean your mind, feed your soul!

See you back here on Tuesday morning!