Thursday, September 18, 2014

12th Annual 168 Film Festival Winners

Los Angeles, CA - 168 Film this evening announced the winners of its short filmmaking competition at the 12th Annual 168 Film Festival. The gala award ceremony - presented as an international celebration of faith in film - took place at the Aratani Japanese Theater in Downtown Los Angeles.

The 168 Film Festival showcases short films that have been shot in 168 hours (7 days); each based on a selected Bible verse tied into this year's theme, "The Gift." The event is presented by 168 Film, an organization founded by John David Ware in 2003 to train and equip filmmakers in the how-to's of making God-honoring films.

This year's winners were selected from among dozens of international submissions and were saluted by a host of celebrity presenters, including four-time Emmy Winner Michael Learned (The Waltons, Nurse); Nathan Kress (iCarly, Into the Storm), Kelsey Scott (12 Years a Slave) and twice Emmy nominated actor Max Gail (Barney Miller, 42).

2014 Winners List

Making of 168 Award
Making of Tula Tula, Diane Vermooten
Best Student Film
DG, Rachel Martin
Best Sound Design
Tula Tula, Chris van der Burgh
Best Original Score
What Showers Bring, Sean Massey
169 Award
Steve and David Puffenberger
Best Hair and Makeup
The Mantle of Granny Belle, Dayna Miller
Best Scriptural Integration
The Ranch, Richard Lee Warren, Writer
Evangelista Award
McKenzie's Gifts, Nancy Bethea, Writer
Best KidVid
Gift of Grace, Mark Baird, Writer
Best Screenplay Comedy
The Parcel, April Manor and Liz Hewes, Writers
Best  Production Design
Skywatch: The Duster of Doom,
Shar-Lee Jessica Nel
Best Editor
Insulin, Shaun Wood
Best Actor
J. Patrick Wise as Tyus Cain in Ayaan
Best Actress
Kelli Goss as Rachel in What Showers Bring
Best Supporting Actor
Anele Matoti as Dr Zolani in Tula Tula 
Best Supporting Actress
Pumeza Matoti as Allile in Tula Tula
Best Screenplay Drama
Tula Tula, Diane Vermooten, Writer
Best Documentary
Identity, Arthur Delgado, Producer
Best Write of Passage Spotlight Film
Stuck, Aaron Kamp, Producer
Best International Film
Tula Tula, Diane Vermooten, Producer
Best Comedy
Unplugged, James Runcorn, Producer
Best Cinematography
Cipta Gelar, Fredrik Wattimena, DP
Best Director
Tula Tula, Shane Vermooten
Best Film
What Showers Bring, Daniel Furukawa, Producer
Friday Audience FavoriteRemnant, Joe Osborn, Producer
Saturday Audience Favorite
Tula Tula, Diane Vermooten, Producer

Among this year's winners are the super talented husband and wife team, Anele Matoti and Pumeza Matoti, who pulled in Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress awards, respectively, for the South African entry Tula Tula. The film, which also features the debut of the couple's infant, picked up the Best International Film award.

Before news of his win, Anele Matoti said "My wife Pumeza Nolumanyano Rashe Matoti and I are at it again! Now we are both nominated for supporting roles in the socially relevant short film Tula Tula, produced by Media Village. Here is to continuing to do what we love!"

The 12th Annual 168 Film Festival featured an "all-star" Presenter line-up including four-time Emmy winner Michael Learned (The Waltons, Nurse); Nathan Kress (iCarly, Into the Storm); Kelsey Scott (12 Years a Slave); this year's Host, comedian Kerri Pomarolli (The Tonight Show, Comedy Central, Lifetime); Vincent Irizarry (All My Children, Heartbreak Ridge, Homeland); twice Emmy nominated actor Max Gail (Barney Miller, 42); Writer, Director Sean McNamara (Soul Surfer, Hoovey); Melissa Biggs (Baywatch, Dreamz: The Movie); Kim Estes (NCIS, Law & Order: L.A.; The Closer, The Matador, Rake); Denise Grayson (The Social Network, Shameless); Melissa Disney (As Told By Ginger; Superman: Unbound); and Bryan E. Miller (film composer America, American Idol, Dancing With the Stars, Next Top Model, Access Hollywood.)

This year's festival took on additional importance as the press declared 2014 as "The Year of Christian Film," following a host of box-office hits that grossed record numbers while dealing with faith-based themes (God's Not Dead; Heaven Is For Real, Son of God, Noah.) 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The American West

The American West from Harold Hay on Vimeo.

Gary Wheeler on Christian Movie Connect

Gary Wheeler of Level Path Productions is a multi-award winning director, producer, and writer from North Carolina who has produced numerous television projects and films globally. Many know him for his adaptations of several legal thrillers by Christian author, Robert Whitlow including the recently released “Jimmy”, “The Trial”, and “The List”. “Mountain Top”, starring Barry Corbin, Coby Ryan McLaughlin, Valerie Azlynn, and Sydney Penny, is the latest Whitlow film; the release date is still pending at this time.
In this interview Wheeler chats with CMC host, Cheryl Ariaz Wicker, about several of his past and present projects, including “Jimmy” and “Mountain Top” and the televised movies, “The Heart of Christmas” and “Somebody’s Child”. There is also mention of another film in the works that sounds very interesting.
To learn more about his past and current movies, and to learn more as new ones are added, visit his website at

Kathleen and Phil Cooke on Christian Movie Connect

Kathleen & Phil Cooke, co-founders of Cooke Pictures and The Influence Lab, are a power couple who know the world of media and entertainment, and whose opinions are highly respected when it comes to the film industry. Phil is an internationally known speaker, author, and producer. His knowledge of how to use media effectively to get your message across is used worldwide. Kathleen is a sought after speaker who is on the advisory board for the Hollywood Prayer Network and Hollywood Connect.  She also heads a group called “Influence Women” whose purpose is to train, teach, and encourage women involved in the entertainment and media industry.
Phil & Kathleen Cooke talk to CMC host Cheryl Ariaz Wicker about movies.
Phil & Kathleen Cooke talk to CMC host Cheryl Ariaz Wicker about movies.
In this interview, Kathleen and Phil Cooke talk to CMC Host, Cheryl Ariaz Wicker, about “Noah” and “Son of God”. They discuss how these films, along with others, can impact our culture and open doors of conversations to share your faith.
In addition to being contributing writers for several magazines and news sources, they both have their own blogs. To read their blogs and other projects, you can find Kathleen at and Phil at

Brad Stine On Christian Movie Connect

Brad Stine, co-star and associate producer of the political suspense thriller, “Persecuted”, talked to Cheryl Ariaz Wicker before a screening of his film at the National Religious Broadcasters convention this year. Calling “Persecuted” a movie that will bring a new wave of what faith based films will look like in the future, Stine also expressed his belief that the best way for Christians to make an impact on their culture is by supporting what they believe in rather than protesting what they oppose. He says that many people today pay more attention to entertainers than to politicians or pastors, and films are a useful tool for expressing beliefs and values.
Scheduled to be released in theaters July 18, 2014, this film is a fictional account of a nationally known evangelist, John Luther, who stands in opposition of religious reforms that are sweeping the nation. When he is framed for the murder of a young girl, Luther sets out to find the truth and is confronted with persecution that threatens the Christian community in the United States. Stine believes this is a film that can be enjoyed by all, but warns that it is not meant for children. It is rated PG13. “Persecuted”, written and directed by Daniel Lusko, stars James Remar, Bruce Davison, Dean Stockwell, James R. Higgins, Gretchen Carlson, Fred Thompson, Raoul Trujillo, Brad Stine, and Natalie Grant
Visit the “Persecuted website at

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Rebel Storytellers: Reckless Faith Live with Beth Guckenberger


CHARLOTTE, N.C. – July 29, 2014 – Alex and Stephen Kendrick—creators of hit faith films FIREPROOF and COURAGEOUS—have just wrapped principal photography on their anticipated fifth movie—a family drama with humor and heart focused on the power of prayer and its primary role in the Christian life. 

“We made this film to inspire, challenge and motivate families to fight the right kind of battles and to fight them the best way possible,” said Director and Co-Writer Alex Kendrick. “We have plans for everything—careers, finances, health. But what about a strategy for prayer for our lives, our spouses and our children?”

The Kendricks’ fifth film is their first project independent of Sherwood Pictures, the movie ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church. Pre-production began in 2013 with the blessing and support of the Sherwood family, where they remain associate pastors. 

“Sherwood is still our church home, and we’re here talking to you now only because Michael Catt, our pastor, took a risk, supported us and let us make a movie,” Alex Kendrick said.

Provident Films and AFFIRM Films partnered with the brothers to distribute their fifth movie.

The film features New York Times best-selling author and Bible teacher Priscilla Shirer in her film debut. 
“I'm honored to be working with the Kendricks, and to be part of a story that encourages people to pray,” Shirer said. “Prayer is the most powerful weapon the church has to unlock the activity of heaven on earth.”

Filmed in and around Charlotte, N.C., this is the first Kendrick Brothers project shot outside their hometown of Albany, Ga. It drew more than 1,000 volunteers from 85 churches in the Charlotte area who stepped up and reached across denominational lines to support the production.

In addition to Shirer, the cast of the Kendricks’ latest movie includes T.C. Stallings (COURAGEOUS), Alex Kendrick (MOMS’ NIGHT OUT, COURAGEOUS), Robert Amaya (MOMS’ NIGHT OUT, COURAGEOUS) and veteran actress Karen Abercrombie (MY NAME IS PAUL, MOUNTAIN TOP). It introduces film newcomers comedian Michael Jr. as Michael and Alena Pitts as Danielle, and features a cameo by renown speaker Beth Moore in her first acting role.

“It's time for fierceness in prayer, and I cannot think of a more crucial message for a movie to convey,” Moore said. “God waits to see a generation that will take Him at His Word. Let's be that generation.”

“We’re going after something here that could radically improve our culture, and moviegoers will experience it within the context of an inspiring and emotional story,” Producer and Co-Writer Stephen Kendrick said. “Prayer is so much more than people realize. It can powerfully affect every problem and need in our lives if engaged from within a vibrant relationship with God.”


A family-friendly drama, the film is about learning to fight the right kinds of battles. Filled with humor, wit and heart, it follows Tony and Elizabeth Jordan, a middle-class couple, and their daughter, Danielle, as they struggle through personal, marital and spiritual issues. Their lives are forever changed after Elizabeth meets an elderly widow who helps her develop a secret prayer room in her home.


Each Kendrick Brothers film explores a subject deeply important to Christians and the Christian life: personal integrity in FLYWHEEL, resilient faith in FACING THE GIANTS, loving marriages in FIREPROOF and heroic parenting in COURAGEOUS.

This film’s focus on prayer strategically highlights a subject of interest to a majority of Americans. According to a National Opinion Research Center survey on frequency of prayer, nearly 90 percent of Americans claim to pray regularly. Some 60 percent say they pray at least once a day—for Christians, that number grows to 84 percent, according to a U.S. News and Beliefnet online poll. Almost 80 percent of American Christians say they pray most often at home.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Forecast: After Months of Controversy, 'Noah' Finally Storms Theaters

Thursday Update: Playing at around 3,000 locations, Noah earned an estimated $1.6 million on Thursday evening. In comparison, Gravity earned $1.4 million, while 300: Rise of An Empire grossed $3.6 million. This number doesn't give a clear indication of how Noah will perform for the weekend, though most signs continue to point toward a debut north of $30 million.

Forecast: Following months of controversy, audiences will finally get a chance to make their own assessment of Noah this weekend. Sabotage and Cesar Chavez also open, though both should be under $10 million.

Playing at around 3,500 theaters, director Darren Aronofsky's Noah brings to life the well-known Old Testament story of Noah's Ark. Months ago, word began to spread that the movie took serious creative license with the story, which is fairly brief (Chapters 6 to 9 in Genesis) and strange (for example, Noah didn't have his kids until he was five hundred years old). This created an air of controversy around the project, which typically improves box office potential (controversy creates conversation).

While Paramount would like Noah to connect with religious audiences, you don't exactly have to be a regular churchgoer to be familiar with and curious about the story of Noah's Ark. The marketing material for the movie has focused mostly on the disaster elements, and also fashioned Russell Crowe's Noah as a warrior akin to his roles in Gladiator and Robin Hood. While this has broadened the potential, it's also diluted the message. Is it a faith-based movie? An action movie? A disaster movie?

Reviews are solid, but not spectacular, and probably won't move the needle much. Paramount is expecting an opening in the $30 to $33 million range. Meanwhile, Fandango is reporting that its selling more tickets ahead of time than 300: Rise of an Empire, which opened to $45 million at the beginning of the month.

Even if Noah is a miss in the U.S., it does seem poised for strong returns overseas (where its playing in 3D in most markets). This past weekend, it got off to impressive starts in South Korea and Mexico, and more territories will follow in the next few weeks.

At 2,486 theaters, Sabotage marks the third major role for Arnold Schwarzenegger since he returned to the big screen. The first two didn't work out so well: The Last Stand bombed with $12.1 million, while Escape Plan wasn't much better ($25.1 million). From those abysmal results, it seems like audiences just aren't interested in seeing the Governator in butt-kicking mode anymore.

Marketing for Sabotage has highlighted the End of Watch connection—they're both written and directed by David Ayer—and put a heavy focus on action. Story-wise, it's jumped between "drug bust gone wrong" and "kidnapped wife and child," both of which have been done countless times before. With tough competition from Noah—and with Captain America on the horizon—it would be surprising if Sabotage opened above $10 million.

While Cesar Chavez is only opening at 664 locations, it could do surprisingly strong business. The movie stars Michael Pena as the civil rights activist who worked to improve labor conditions for Latino farmworkers in the mid-20th century. Chavez is a major hero within the Hispanic community, who make up nearly one-third of frequent moviegoers in the U.S.

Last year, Hispanics flocked to Instructions Not Included, which opened to $7.8 million at just 348 theaters. That was a comedy, though, and Chavez doesn't have the same immediate appeal. Still, Lionsgate is doing a great job courting Hispanic audiences: Spanish dubbed and subtitled prints will be available at all locations. An opening north of $5 million seems likely.

After earning over $15 million in limited release, Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel expands in to nearly 1,000 theaters this weekend. It should once again earn over $6 million (and could be much higher).

Jason Bateman's Bad Words expands to over 800 theaters this weekend. The movie hasn't done too well in limited release, and there doesn't seem to be much buzz surrounding this nationwide expansion. It would be surprising if this made over $4 million this weekend.

Finally, God's Not Dead expands to over 1,100 theaters after its very successful $9.2 million debut last weekend. On good word-of-mouth, the movie should hold well: a weekend north of $6 million is likely.

Forecast (March 28-30)
1. Noah - $36.2 million
2. Divergent - $22.9 million (-58%)
3. Muppets - $10 million (-41%)
4. Sabotage - $7.8 million
5. Peabody - $7.7 million (-35%)
6. Grand Budapest - $7 million
7. God's Not Dead - $6.7 million
8. Cesar Chavez - $6.5 million

Bar for Success

Noah star Russell Crowe's Robin Hood opened to $36 million back in 2010. Noah ought to be in the same range: anything over $35 million gets a pass. Meanwhile, anything above $10 million is a win for Sabotage

Noah – The Emperor’s New Movie

FROM Barbara Nicolosi

Let me just start by saying two words which you can accept as fair warning to avoid this stupidest movie in years: Rock People.

Need more?

Tragiclly, as Western Civilization continues to decay all around us, one thing remains unmuddled: everything is politics. And nowhere is that more true than in media. The same polarization that fired Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty and then got him rehired, and made Mel Gibson $600 million, and then lost him his Hollywood career, and made half the world want to canonize Roman Polanski with the other half wanting him castrated — these are the same social causes propelling the embarrassingly awful horribleness of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, into an 76% fresh rating from the shameless, agenda-driven critics at, and setting so many Christian leaders and critics into shilling for the same.

Please, stop the madness. It is astounding to me how Christians can be lured into a defense of the indefensible because they are so afraid of the charge of “unreasonablenes.” Trying so hard to be nice, we end up being patsies for people who have no other agenda than to make money off of us.
Oh yeah. And ROCK PEOPLE.

Honestly, there is so little that is Biblical in the piece that it isn’t even worth critiquing it as an irreverent adaptation. If the Bible was an original writer of the material, the WGA wouldn’t even insist on it getting a shared story credit with Aronofsky. It isn’t an adaptation in any serious sense of that term. There is a boat, a flood, and a guy named Noah in both pieces, and that is all they have in common.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

CMC #89 - Kathleen and Phil Cooke

The Gospel of John

The Gospel Of John

Sunday, March 16, 2014

New Study Reveals Shocking Statistics About Women in Hollywood

If I asked you to name your favorite actress, I am sure you would have no shortage of names: Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Sandra Bullock, Amy Adams, Judi Dench, Kate Winslet, or Cate Blanchett? 
What if I then told you that women are so marginalized in Hollywood that a recent study showed that theyonly had 30% of all speaking roles on-screen?

A little over a week ago, Cate Blanchett won an Oscar® (her second) for her role in the filmBlue Jasmine. In her acceptance speech she waved her little golden man and bravely stated:
"Those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences - they are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people."
This statement was met with cheers from the audience and whoops of delight - clearly a sentiment that the actresses in the auditorium shared.
Of the top 100 domestic US grossing films, females were only 15% of the main protagonists (in other words, the heroine, the main character we root for), 29% of the major characters, and 30% of all speaking characters. So over two thirds of all speaking roles were spoken by men. This figure remains virtually the same as the 1940s.

Monday, March 3, 2014

'House of Cards' DP Reveals the Camera & Lighting Techniques

Television cinematography has come quite a ways in the past 10 years. In the arena of episodic television, where multi-camera shoots with high-key lighting were once the norm, incredibly cinematic single-camera cinematography has now taken hold. Although many of HBO’s and AMC’s offerings started the ball rolling with this delightful trend, the Netflix original drama House of Cards is the absolute epitome of dramatic cinematography in an episodic show

 Igor Martinovic, the cinematographer from the second season of House of Cards, recently sat down with our friends at the GoCreative Podcast and he shared quite a bit about the cinematography of this world-class show.

First and foremost, Igor Martinovic is a world-renowned cinematographer known for his fantastic work on the Oscar-winning documentary Man On Wire.


Friday, January 31, 2014

Building a Better Mouse Trap - Part 2

When talking about the media, Laura Ingraham and other commentators seem focused on nudity, sexuality, bad language, and violence.They see this as the main problem. Unfortunately, they are only highlighting the symptoms of a greater disease. And, as we know, treating the symptoms will not cure the disease. There’s an underlying issue that they are missing.

What’s driving today’s media culture is the relationship between corporations, big business, media companies, producers, directors and writers who have a hidden agenda. They have created a business model where everyone profits whether you’re conservative or liberal. Media and entertainment has one primary message that is essential in making this business model function. The viewer must believe he or she is more important than anything else. “You” are the center of your own universe, and you deserve to have anything you want. This is a powerful message and, most often, is deliberately hidden within the media and entertainment we view.

What’s different today is we have a force that is capable of defining and creating culture unlike anything we have ever seen in human history. And it has tapped into the human condition as an energy source. It has reinforced three principles within our society.

First, media is teaching us that there is no right or wrong. Everything is relevant to the person and the situation; therefore, the concept of sin no longer exists. In the past, people may not have gone to church nor done the right thing, but they knew they were sinning. The things they were doing were against God’s law. They had a conscience. Today, we are developing a society without a conscience. This allows us to do hideous things and not give it a thought or lose a moment of sleep over it. We are being conditioned to believe that we must define our own right or wrong.

The second thing is today’s media has created a sense of entitlement. Whatever we see or want we should have it regardless of the consequences. It is our birthright to have it. This entitlement concept goes well beyond the government providing for us. We don’t care if it’s our employer, credit card, bank account, our parents, or our society in general. We are entitled. It’s somebody else’s responsibly. The media has been very successful in weaving this entitlement mentality through the distortion of the so-called American dream. We have become a nation that loves material things because that’s what brings happiness. Our value is determined by the pursuit of the American dream through possessions and products that define our lifestyle.

The third thing is our mass media is creating a self-centered society. It’s all about “me”. When you can convince an individual that he or she is the most important thing in his or her life, that individual becomes a good consumer. You don’t think about anybody or anything else except what can make you happy. Forget about your family, society, or you fellowman. It’s all about getting yours. A self-centered attitude is the perfect recipe to fuel today’s mass media culture, and everybody is profiting. I’m not saying that consumerism is bad, but the model that we have built is out of control and has the ability to take our society down.

Laura Ingraham might blame Hollywood or the Left for what’s happening to America. But the truth is everybody is participating. While each party is blaming the other, the checks keep rolling in, nobody cares about the consequences. Big business and corporations are making money hand over fist because consumerism and materialism are fueling the American dream.

Final Thoughts

Western civilization, as we know it, probably will not collapse tomorrow. There are still plenty of people who believe in morals and values. Christianity continues to have a strong influence in our society; however, there’s no question that we are facing enormous obstacles. It remains to be seen if future generations will continue to follow Christ or some other type of belief system. As the bible says, there is nothing new under the sun. The “cheese” is the same. We just have more of it these days. What is different though is we have built a better mouse trap thanks to the expansion of mass media and the emergence of today’s media culture

Building a Better Mouse Trap - Part 1

Are things as bad as they seem? Are we living in the worst of times? According to radio host and political commentator, Laura Ingraham, America is experiencing a total cultural and moral collapse. She highlights this in her new book, Of Thee I Zing. She believes the media is the source of America's decline. Of course, she’s not the only one who is pointing this out. Many social commentators believe morals and values are at an all-time low. Is this true?

Is there something different about today’s culture? Just like all complex issues, you’ll find no simple answer. How you address these issues will depend on your worldview. If you are a Christ follower, you have reasons for concern. On the other hand, if you identify yourself as a secular humanist, you probable believe we are living in the age of enlightenment.

Getting back to the question, what’s different today? Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 1:9, “History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new (NLT) and in Ecclesiastes 1:13, “I observed everything going on under the sun, and really, it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind.” NLT

The Bible makes it clear that we’ve seen it all before, and we’ll see it in the future. Human activity and the human condition have not changed over the years. Since the dawn of time, we’ve seen murder, jealousy, greed, corruption, sexual impurity, lust, etc.—the same things we see today.

Laura Ingraham and other commentators would have you believe that sin and bad behavior all started somewhere in the 1960s with the counter culture revolution. I’ve heard many argue that America in the 1950s was something like a utopian society. Most people went to church, believed in God, prayed, and always did the right thing. We believed in morals and values and expressed them in our daily lives. Does anybody really believe this? Perhaps, Ingraham’s concept of America is based on TV shows from the 1950s and 1960s and movies from the 1940s and 1950s that depicted America as a wholesome, family-friendly, and God-centered nation. I somehow doubt we were ever the society that Leave It to Beaver or Father Knows Best would have us to believe. It’s a nice myth.

Sin didn’t just pop up out of nowhere; it’s been with us a long, long time. But Laura is right about one thing in her new book. The media is playing a significant role in helping to advance the moral and cultural decline of mankind. What’s different today is sin in increasing and becoming more public and more acceptable. Laura points to the media as the source of the problem and blames Hollywood elitists for polluting American culture.

But it’s more than just the media. Media is no longer just media, and entertainment is no longer just entertainment. They have become something greater than their sum. That something is difficult to express in thought or words. The best way I can describe it is as a media culture or a force where media and culture have combined as one. This force is now capable of creating, shaping and defining a reality that we all accept as normal. In other words, what we see and heard in the media, we accept as truth and thus becomes important in our lives. The things that we don’t see become unimportant even though they could hold the greater value.

We no longer think about faith, Christianity, and belief as important and valuable because they are no longer reflected in any significant form in our media. The mass media acts as a giant amplifier helping to increase the effects of sin. It communicates the importance of wealth, power, sex, influence, materialism and consumerism as the things to desire and aspire to. Mass media therefore is the perfect vehicle or delivery system to highlight the human condition. That’s what’s fundamentally different today. Media is only a conduit. I believe in the power of media and that it can be used in a positive fashion to lead people to the truth. Unfortunately, in our society, it’s primarily being used in a destructive manner. 

Forecast: Super Bowl Weekend Could Get 'Awkward'

Counter programming is the name of the game over Super Bowl weekend this year. Both new releases—That Awkward Moment and Labor Day—are targeted at female audiences that may not be completely consumed by the insanely popular sporting event. Neither movie is poised to really break out, though, and it would be surprising if any title earns over $15 million this weekend.

Playing at 2,809 locations, That Awkward Moment could be in a tight race with Ride Along for first place. The R-rated romantic comedy is being sold mostly on the likeability of its three male leads, who have so far achieved varying levels of fame. Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan have seen their stars rise a bit in the last year thanks to their work in The Spectacular Now and Fruitvale Station; unfortunately, neither of those movies set the box office on fire, and it's unlikely that either actor is much of a draw yet.

Zac Efron, on the other hand, has a proven track record at the box office. So far, Efron has exclusively headlined three nationwide releases—17 Again, Charlie St. Cloud and The Lucky One. The worst among those was Charlie St. Cloud, which started with $12.4 million on its way to $31.2 million. That Awkward Moment is Efron's first major R-rated movie, though that shouldn't be too much of a deterrent; fans of his from the High School Musical era should be old enough now to buy an R-rated ticket.

Last Summer, FilmDistrict acquired domestic distribution rights to the movie for $1.5 million (at the time, it was called Are We Officially Dating?). Later in 2013, FilmDistrict merged with Focus Features, and That Awkward Moment marks the first release from the new Focus. The studio executed a targeted campaign geared toward younger women; while that's kept costs low, it also means the movie probably won't open too high. Still, it should earn at least $10 million this weekend, which is a fine start for a modest romantic comedy.

Labor Day
, adapted from Joyce Maynard's novel of the same name, opens at 2,584 theaters this weekend. Marketing is primarily focused on the movie's director (Jason Reitman) and two leads (Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin). Unfortunately, the movie is off-brand for Reitman—his previous outings all include a healthy dose of comedy—and Brolin hasn't really opened a movie yet. Winslet, on the other hand, has had modest success with similar fare, though a pairing with Titanic co-star Leonardo DiCaprio wasn't enough to get 2008's Revolutionary Road past $23 million total.

Labor Day
's marketing has been geared toward older, more discerning moviegoers. Unfortunately, the movie was shut out of Oscar consideration, and is getting poor reviews (as of Thursday afternoon, it was hovering around 40 percent on Rotten Tomatoes). Paramount is currently expecting between $6 and $8 million this weekend, which seems like a safe bet.

Forecast (Jan. 31-Feb. 2)
1. That Awkward Moment - $12.1 million
2. Ride Along - $12 million (-44%)
3. The Nut Job - $7.9 million (-35%)
4. Frozen - $7.7 million (-15%)
5. Lone Survivor - $7.3 million (-43%)
6. Labor Day - $7.2 million

Bar for Success

That Awkward Moment and Labor Day are modest movies—both in budget and in marketing costs. As a result, both are in good shape if they get past $10 million this weekend.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Golden Raspberry Awards Crown 'Grown Ups 2' With Eight Razzie Nominations

"Grown Ups 2" is making the most noise at this year's Golden Raspberry Awards.
The silly comedy sequel about four childhood friends starring Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock and David Spade led the Razzie lineup Tuesday with eight nominations, including worst picture, sequel, ensemble, screenplay, lead actor for Sandler, supporting actor for Taylor Lautner, supporting actress for Salma Hayek and director for Dennis Dugan.
Sandler is no a stranger to the Razzies, which launched in 1980 as a spoof of Hollywood's awards season. He won the worst actor trophy last year for the man-child comedy "That's My Boy," and his 2011 cross-dressing comedy "Jack and Jill" made Razzie history the year before with a record 10 awards, with Sandler winning both the worst actor and actress prizes.
This year's other worst-picture nominees are the Wild West romp "The Lone Ranger" starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer, Tyler Perry's holiday comedy "A Madea Christmas," sci-fi coming-of-age story "After Earth" starring Will and Jaden Smith, and comedy anthology "Movie 43" featuring the likes of Kate Winslet, Richard Gere, Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Harris Poll: Americans Still Prefer Buying, Renting Discs

Survey respondents would rather consume home entertainment than frequent a movie theater — a trend that rises with age

Digital distribution of movies may be on the tip of the tongue of most studio executives, but Americans would rather buy or rent a title on DVD or Blu-ray Disc, according to a new Harris Poll.
In an online survey of 2,311 adults conducted Dec. 11-17, 2013, Harris found that 47% of respondents bought discs, while 37% rented them. By comparison, 32% of respondents opted to watch movies offered on demand through their multichannel video program distributor (i.e. Starz, Encore), while 31% opted for subscription streaming (i.e. Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, Hulu Plus), and 28% watched a flick recorded on the DVR.
Most respondents (60%) still prefer watching movies on live television.
The Harris Poll also found that while roughly two-thirds (68%) of U.S. adults went to the movies at least once in 2013, just about the same percent (66%) say they're going to the movies less often now than a few years ago.
When asked whether they prefer watching movies at home or in a theater, the majority say they prefer watching at home (57% total), while only two in 10 (21%) prefer watching in a theater. Indeed, 83% of “echo boomers” (born between 1977 and 1995) would rather watch movies in the theater compared with 73% of Gen Xers (1965-76); 59% of “baby boomers” (1949-64), and 44% of “matures” (before 1948).