Thursday, December 31, 2009

Weinstein Co sees "Nine" losing ground at

It gained early success on the awards circuit, but the star-studded musical "Nine" will likely be pulled back from hundreds of smaller U.S. cities, after disappointing box office and lackluster reviews.

After playing in 1,400 screens last weekend, the Weinstein Company, which is behind "Nine", said on Tuesday it expects the movie to play in 800-900 screens in big U.S. cities in coming weeks.

"The movie is performing very well on about 890 key screens," David Glasser, an operations executive for the independent Weinstein Company told Reuters.

"The movie's doing well in those areas and obviously in some smaller cities, it was not doing as well," Glasser said, adding that the studio expected "Nine" to perform well in the weeks ahead.

"Nine" was one of the most anticipated movies of the year and cost an estimated $64 million to produce. But it finished eighth at the North American box office on its second week last weekend with a modest $5.5 million in ticket sales.

The poor showing came despite five Golden Globe nominations for the Federico Fellini-inspired song and dance spectacular whose cast includes Oscar winners Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Sophia Loren, Judi Dench and Nicole Kidman.

Harvey Weinstein, who earlier this year sought restructuring advice for his cash-strapped independent Weinstein Company, has long made a strategy of turning awards show buzz into box office success.

Movie industry watchers had expected "Nine" to finish in the top five over the Christmas holiday weekend in a crowded field that included action films "Avatar" and "Sherlock Holmes."

"Nine" opened in limited U.S. release on December 18 and expanded widely on December 25.

"It's got to be a major blow to their strategy," said Larry Gerbrandt, principal with Media Valuation Partners.

"(Weinstein) really needed this to work. I don't know if the blow is fatal or not, but this is certainly a setback," he said of the box office figures.

The film, based on an award-winning Broadway stage musical, follows an Italian movie director through a mid-life career and personal crisis and his entanglements with women.

Two weeks ago it got five Golden Globe and two Screen Actors Guild nominations. But it left movie critics unimpressed, earning a meager 37 percent approval rating at review aggregating website .

Movie goers have been kinder. Show business buzz tracker reported nearly 50 percent of the 12,500 messages posted online about "Nine" fall into the "positive" category.

Success at the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild awards shows in January is widely seen as a precursor to an Oscar nomination in February.

But Pete Hammond at the Los Angeles Times awards show tracker "The Envelope" wrote that "Nine's" poor box office could hurt its chances for a best picture Oscar nod.

"It may take all of Harvey Weinstein's considerable magic touch with Oscar to pull this one out of the hat," Hammond wrote.

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