Box Office: SAN ANDREAS rocks the box office, ALOHA sinks!

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Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson proved he can open a tentpole film all by his not-so-little lonesome with SAN ANDREAS’ estimated, beefy $53M domestic take. That $14K per theater average, in 3,777 venues, was much better than the predicted $40M for the Warner Bros. disaster flick. The real winner in this story, however, is Johnson. SAN ANDREAS is the best opening for him where he was not part of the FAST AND FURIOUS franchise.

On the sad part of the box-office spectrum, the other major wide release, the Cameron Crowe movie, ALOHA, sputtered to an estimated $10M. PITCH PERFECT 2 was in second place, actually adding 100 theaters and ending up with $14.3M and a domestic cume of $147.5M. TOMORROWLAND took a nasty 58.2% drop off of last week for $13.8M over the three days and 3rd place, which is kind of a depressing turn of events for a film with such a hopeful message.

Here are the numbers from Box Office Mojo:

1 San Andreas $53.21M
2 Pitch Perfect 2 $14.38M
3 Tomorrowland $13.8M
4 Mad Max: Fury Road $13.62M
5 Avengers: Age of Ultron $10.92M
6 Aloha $10M
7 Poltergeist (2015) $7.8M
8 Far from the Madding Crowd $1.42M
9 Hot Pursuit $1.37M
10 Home (2015) $1.15M

Marvel completes SPIDER-MAN casting tests, decision coming soon!

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The casting bonanza for the new SPIDER-MAN—who will appear in both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a new standalone franchise for Sony—hasn’t been as widespread or varied as some expected, but it has been a little hectic. Finally, though, it appears that things are nearing the home stretch, as a final decision on who will follow Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield as the new webslinger is now expected next week.

The first crop of young actors who emerged on the shortlist were Asa Butterfield (ENDER’S GAME), Tom Holland (THE IMPOSSIBLE), Nat Wolff (THE FAULT IN OUR STARS), Timothee Chalamet (INTERSTELLAR), and Liam James (THE WAY WAY BACK). Then, reports swirled that Marvel and Sony had narrowed their search down to Butterfield and Holland, with the former having the edge as the “frontrunner”. Most recently, a rumor surfaced that Butterfield was about to enter negotiations for the role, but that was quickly rebuffed by a number of trade reporters.

So where does that leave us? Well today, THR reports, Marvel and Sony screen-tested the finalists for the role and that crop of contenders is as follows: the aforementioned Butterfield and Holland, as well as Charlie Rowe (Red Band Society), Matthew Lintz (PIXELS), Charlie Plummer (Boardwalk Empire), and Judah Lewis (a newcomer who appears in the upcoming Demolition and POINT BREAK).

The tests took place in Atlanta, where Marvel’s CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR is currently in production. This new Spider-Man will make his debut appearance in CIVIL WAR, with his scenes shooting in June, so both the location and timeliness of the screen tests makes sense.

Marvel and Sony are now apparently ready to make their final decision, with that expected to arrive early next week. Present at the screen tests were Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, former Sony exec and SPIDER-MAN producer Amy Pascal, and CIVIL WAR directors Joe and Anthony Russo. THR’s report cautions that there is a slim chance Marvel could come away not liking any of the aforementioned actors and could keep looking, but as time is of the essence, I imagine that scenario is unlikely.

We know that the studios are wanting to cast a teenaged Peter Parker to tell high school-set stories in the standalone franchise, and to provide a nice foil for the adult actors that currently populate the MCU. Holland and Butterfield are both 18, Rowe—who is leading the new David Fincher-created HBO comedy Video Synchronicity—is 19, and the other actors could be as young as 14.

So no, we don’t know who will land the role of SPIDER-MAN just yet, but it sounds like we will imminently. After that, Marvel and Sony will get crackin’ on finding the director for the first new SPIDER-MAN movie, with a shortlist recently emerging that includes Jonathan Levine. Stay tuned, folks!

Disney sadly cancels the development of TRON 3!

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Disney has pulled the plug on plans for TRON 3, the would-be third installment in the hi-tech adventure sci-fi series. Prep had already begun on the sequel, which was planned to see the return of TRON: LEGACY director Joseph Kosinski, as well as stars Olivia Wilde and Garrett Hedlund. It was believed that production would begin this fall in Vancouver. THR broke the news, and does not currently have a reason for the cancellation, but there’s no doubt that Walt Disney Studios is more focused than ever on live-action adaptations of classic animated works and TRON 3 may not have fit in their scheme for the future of the brand. Not to mention the recent box office disappointment of TOMORROWLAND, a big-budget live action sci-fi film that failed to resonate with audiences.

While there were a number of reports indicating that TRON 3 would indeed make it back on the grid, Disney never officially confirmed the sequel and now we know why. Perhaps it was problems with the script, perhaps it doesn’t mesh with the studio’s plans, or it could be one of many other variables, but Disney did not feel confident enough to move forward with the project.

The news does come as a bit of a surprise in light of all the recent stories, the rumored fall start date, and even a possible title, but after such a long delay on the sequel to a film that had a fairly tepid reception from fans and critics it’s not entirely unexpected. Steve recently spoke with Olivia Wilde about the prospect of TRON 3 and while she noted that the film was still unconfirmed, she seemed excited and enthusiastic about the prospect of heading back into that world. She also said that the delay in getting the sequel off the ground was attributed to challenges faced in trying to come up with the right script, saying that the sequel could follow her character Quorra into the real world. Perhaps they never found the right story. Of course, this is all conjecture for now. Mostly I’m just sad we won’t be getting another boss Daft Punk soundtrack.

20th Century Fox developing a LUMBERJANES film adaptation!

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Excellent news! Shannon Watters, Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis and Brooke A. Allen‘s wonderful comic LUMBERJANES is set for a live-action adaptation at 20th Century Fox. Published by BOOM! Studios, the comic series follows five diverse, awesome, witty ladies as they battle supernatural forces at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types. It’s a damn delightful series, and this will come as absolutely wonderful news to anyone who’s read it.

Originally intended for a limited eight-week run, the Eisner Award-nominated comic became such a critical and commercial hit that it was continued as an ongoing series. Per The Wrap, the LUMBERJANES movie is a priority project for 20th Century Fox. Boom! Studios executives Ross Richie and Stephen Christy will produce the alongside Adam Yoelin.

The fiercely feminist, female-centric comic is set to be penned by Black List scribe Will Widger who previously penned the unproduced noir thriller THE MUNCHKIN. Hopefully, he’ll collaborate with the series creators, because having an inexperienced male screenwriter pen the script for a female-created property that celebrates the power of female relationships could be challenging. Thankfully, The Wrap updates that the studio is eyeing female directors for the project, indicating they’ve got some sense of what LUMBERJANES fans want to see.

In any case, I’m utterly thrilled that there’s going to be a LUMBERJANES movie at all. These are exactly the kinds of stories females audiences are clamoring for, and exactly the kind of characters I’d like to see the next generation of young girls grow up with.

Here’s the synopsis from the BOOM! Studios official site:

Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley are five best pals determined to have an awesome summer together… and they’re not gonna let any insane quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! The series is a fun mix of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” meets “Gravity Falls,” featuring five rad, butt-kicking teenage girls who go to summer camp, fight monsters, and discover a mystery that puts the whole world at stake, all while championing the power of “friendship to the max!”

Andy Serkis’ STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS character name revealed!

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When Andy Serkis joined the cast of J.J. Abrams’ highly anticipated sequel STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, there was much debate over what kind of character he would play. Serkis has been a pioneer of performance-capture technology and is essentially the “father” of the entire thing, not only revolutionizing the way CG characters were portrayed as Gollum in THE LORD OF THE RINGS, but continuing to evolve with the technology up through the stunning new PLANET OF THE APES films. But Serkis is also an impeccable actor in his own right, so the question was: would he be playing a live-action character or a mo-cap character in STAR WARS?

Well you don’t hire the foremost actor in the performance-capture industry to not bring that kind of expertise to the first new STAR WARS film in over a decade, and indeed today Vanity Fair revealed the first behind-the-scenes photo of Serkis in full mo-cap gear as Supreme Leader Snoke, his character in THE FORCE AWAKENS.

We don’t know anymore about Serkis’ character other than the name, including whether he falls on the side of the evil “First Order” or the good “Resistance” but most “supreme leaders” are not friendly. We do know that Serkis isn’t playing the only performance-capture character in the film, as Oscar-winning 12 YEARS A SLAVE actress Lupita Nyong’o is filling the role of the pirate Maz Kanata.

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS opens on December 18, 2015.

WONDER WOMAN: Chris Pine in talks to play Steve Trevor!

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It looks like WONDER WOMAN is starting to build out its cast. Gal Gadot is set to play the Amazonian warrior, and now Variety reports that Chris Pine is in talks to play love interest, Steve Trevor.

For those who are unfamiliar with the comics, Trevor occupies a unique place not just in terms of his relationship with WONDER WOMAN, but also her origin story. In the original WONDER WOMAN comics, Trevor is an intelligence officer who crashes on the Amazonian homeland of Paradise Island. Princess Diana/Wonder Woman rescues him and she eventually follows him back to America under the alter-ego, Diana Prince. WONDER WOMAN’s creator William Moulton Marston designed the character to be strong and independent, but her origin story is linked to her love interest.

It’s a trickly balancing act between setting up a woman who doesn’t need to rely on a man, but also having her leave her home because of a man. WONDER WOMAN is a tough character, and I’m not exactly encouraged by the fact that Warner Bros. seems to be at a loss with how it plans to build its DC Cinematic Universe.

In any event, WONDER WOMAN is going to need some star power, and Pine provides it (I’m willing to bet he’ll be paid more than Gadot) even though he’s not exactly a powerhouse at the box office. Nevertheless this isn’t unique to WONDER WOMAN. MAN OF STEEL got five-time Oscar nominee Amy Adams to play opposite Henry Cavill, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Warner Bros. surrounds Gadot with a lot of recognizable actors whose names can litter the top of the movie poster.

Patty Jenkins (MONSTER) will direct WONDER WOMAN, which opens on June 23, 2017. Pine will be seen later this year in the excellent Z FOR ZACHARIAH and then in Disney’s THE FINEST HOURS. WONDER WOMAN will make her big screen debut next year in BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE.