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By Daniel Loria

A long-time platform for launching new talent, horror films have a tendency to turn filmmakers into genre directors. William Brent Bell knows the genre well, having made features like Stay Alive (2006) and The Devil Inside (2012). Bell returns to horror with this January's The Boy, a supernatural thriller about a babysitter and her unusual charge-a doll used as a surrogate for a couple's recently deceased child. BoxOffice talked with Bell about his latest film and what directing horror films means to him.

Let's start with The Boy. Tell me a bit about the film and how you became involved with the project.

Last year I really wanted to do a classic "haunted house" horror film. I wanted to do something spooky with things that went bump in the night. I first met with Gary Lucchesi, president of Lakeshore Entertainment; he sent me home with the screenplay for The Boy. I read it that night and loved it. It was exactly what I wanted to do-and then some. That week, I went back in to meet with him and Tom Rosenberg, the founder of Lakeshore. The three of us shared a passion and clear vision for this film and they brought me on to direct it.

On the surface, the film seems to have a Twilight Zone quality to it. Was that at all an inspiration for your approach? Were there any other inspirations you drew from when dealing with the material?

The Twilight Zone in general is a huge influence on my filmmaking. With respect to The Boy, an episode called "Living Doll" was a great inspiration when dealing with the material. Another terrifying doll story is from the made-for-television anthology horror film called "Trilogy of Terror." My older sister made me watch this, and it truly, truly haunted my childhood. Doll stories aside, I was inspired greatly by my own fear of Damien, the evil young boy in the film The Omen.

Going back to horror, The Boy is more in the supernatural vein-something you've shown a skill in tackling in your previous work. Why do you think supernatural horror films became so popular with audiences in the last half decade or so? How does The Boy fit into this era?

The supernatural is something the world has been fascinated with for centuries. In a recent poll, over 60 percent of people believe in some form of supernatural phenomena. A horror film, by creating highly visual images and sound of what the supernatural might be, allows us to see things that were only in our imaginations before. That is both captivating-and horrifying. To be honest, The Boy is quite different from comparable films in this era. I don't want to say much about it except to say I believe it will distinguish itself as a highly unique and entertaining experience for moviegoers.

It seems a lot of trends in horror reach a point of saturation. I think back to George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead, a bare-bones production that works so effectively, and then I see where zombies are today: several shows on TV, Brad Pitt as a globe-trotting big-budget James Bond zombie killer, a world where "rom-zom-com" (romantic zombie comedy) is a very real thing. Is that a challenge when making a horror film-how do you keep the material from exploiting itself?

I know when I am making horror film it is a tightrope act when it comes to tone. For the most part, I like to create a world that feels real and believable-sometimes visually, sometimes emotionally, and sometimes both. Hopefully this believability makes the viewer feel less like an audience member and more like the story could actually happen to them. I truly believe when a movie is relatable the film stays with the audience longer. When that works, the movie experience can follow them home. And so can the fear.

Did you set out to become a "horror" director? Or is there a romantic comedy up your sleeve somewhere waiting for the right moment?

Horror is the only genre of film that consistently takes risks with emerging filmmakers, and I love that about it. In fact, many people will say that a studio's horror films pay for their Oscar films. I wouldn't say I set out to do only horror. Like most people, I am a fan of so many types of films so I absolutely want to branch out into other genres. But I must say the kind of excitement a horror film brings out in an audience makes it hard to want to do anything else. For me, bringing scary stories to life is such an exciting thing because of the audience. There is nothing more rewarding than watching my films with a packed house, because horror elicits so many reactions from moviegoers. It might be gasps or laughs or screams or long, horrible silences. It's like creating a roller coaster and watching park goers ride it for the first time.

 

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latejanmidweek.jpgFox reports today that The Revenant earned another $2.22 million on Wednesday as it held first place for the second straight day this week. Representing a 41 percent drop from the same day last week, yesterday's tally sent the 12-time Oscar nominated film past the $100 million domestic benchmark as it continues to enjoy a wave of momentum from awards season and healthy word of mouth. The official total stands at $101.1 million.

In second place, Star Wars: The Force Awakens posted a 42 percent dip from last Wednesday to $1.81 million yesterday. That gives the all-time domestic record holder a current total of $863.2 million and counting.

Ride Along 2 claimed third place yesterday with $1.46 million. The Universal comedy sequel is performing somewhat below the pace of its predecessor, but still remains at an overall healthy level considering its modest budget. The film's total through six days of play is $44.7 million.

Meanwhile, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi took in $1.38 million yesterday, giving it a six-day run of $22.4 million so far. The film will expand into Canadian territories this weekend as it hopes to build on healthy word of mouth.

 

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By Daniel Garris

Disney has announced today that Star Wars: Episode VIII has been pushed back to December 15, 2017.  The eighth episode of the Star Wars saga had previously been scheduled for release on May 26, 2017.  The move isn't a big surprise given the record-breaking performance of Star Wars: The Force Awakens with a December release date.  Disney also has Rogue One: A Star Wars Story scheduled for release on December 16, 2016 and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 scheduled for May 5, 2017.

In addition, Disney has moved up its Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales so that it will now occupy the May 26, 2017 date instead.  The fifth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise had been previously scheduled to open on July 7, 2017.

Shortly after Disney's announcement, Sony also announced that it has moved up Spider-Man to July 7, 2017 and has moved back Jumanji to July 28, 2017.

Wednesday Afternoon Update:

In further 2017 release date news, Paramount has removed Terminator 2 from its previous May 19, 2017 release date and will now be releasing Baywatch on May 19, 2017 instead.  Terminator 2 is currently without a new release date.

Thursday Afternoon Update:

Universal has moved The Mummy to June 9, 2017.  The franchise re-launch starring Tom Cruise was previously scheduled for release on March 24, 2017.

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By Daniel Garris

Fox's The Revenant claimed first place on Tuesday with $3.14 million. The Alejandro González Iñárritu directed western starring Leonardo DiCaprio was down 45 percent from Monday's holiday performance and down a solid 37 percent from last Tuesday. The Revenant is on the verge of passing the $100 million domestic milestone, as the film has grossed a stronger than expected $98.84 million after twelve days of wide release (and an additional two weeks of platform release). The film is currently running an impressive 25 percent ahead of the $79.25 million twelve-day take of 2010's Shutter Island. With not much expected from this coming weekend's three new wide releases, The Revenant looks to be in good shape to lead the box office over the weekend.

Disney's Star Wars: The Force Awakens took second place with $2.38 million. The seventh chapter of the Star Wars franchise declined 64 percent from Monday's inflated performance and a solid 38 percent from last Tuesday. The Force Awakens continues to pad its total as the highest grossing film of all-time domestically with $861.33 million through 33 days of release. That places the film 69 percent ahead of the $509.06 million 33-day take of 2009's Avatar and 45 percent ahead of the $595.63 million 33-day gross of last year's Jurassic World. Today Disney announced that Star Wars: Episode VIII has been pushed back to December 15, 2017.

Universal's Ride Along 2 followed closely behind in third place with $2.28 million. The PG-13 rated comedy sequel starring Ice Cube and Kevin Hart was down 60 percent from Monday. In comparison, 2014's Ride Along fell 70 percent on its first Tuesday to gross $2.10 million. Ride Along 2 has grossed $43.28 million in five days. That is towards the lower end of pre-release expectations and places the film 15 percent behind the $50.73 million five-day start of Ride Along.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi placed in fourth with $1.84 million. The Michael Bay directed action thriller from Paramount held up nicely on Tuesday, as it was down just 39 percent from Monday. 13 Hours has grossed $21.06 million in five days of release. While that is a bit below expectations, the film may be able to hold up well going forward thanks in part to strong word of mouth. 13 Hours is currently running 26 percent behind the $28.42 million five-day start of 2012's Act of Valor.

Fellow Paramount release Daddy's Home rounded out Tuesday's top five with $0.703 million. The PG-13 rated comedy starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg fell 70 percent from Sunday and 38 percent from last Tuesday. Daddy's Home continues to impress with a stronger than expected 26-day gross of $132.56 million.

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Currently serving her third term as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), Cheryl Boone Isaacs is a seasoned veteran of the film industry. Her storied career includes tenures as executive vice president of worldwide publicity for Paramount Pictures and president of theatrical marketing for New Line Cinema. Today, Boone Isaacs also acts as governor of the academy's public relations branch, a post she has held for 23 years, and heads the film marketing consultancy CBI Industries. BoxOffice spoke with Boone Isaacs ahead of her keynote address at Art House Convergence.

Interview by Daniel Loria

What is the importance of art-house theaters in today's film industry?

Two words right off the bat: very important. And I do believe that. I grew up in a world prior to multiplexes. I grew up in a medium-sized town in Massachusetts, and so much of my moviegoing experience was at a single-screen theater. When I lived in San Francisco, a big part of my moviegoing experience was at art-house theaters. I think it's terrific that there is this movement, because it wasn't that long ago that people were saying the single-theater experience was on its way out. I think it's important overall for the entire industry to have a very healthy independent-theater organization.

Since the beginning, the Academy Awards have helped market the cinema-going experience to the general public. And for a while, especially early on, it helped legitimize the cinema as an art form for mass audiences. Today, however, cinema isn't exclusively tied to moviegoing as it once was. What role do the Academy Awards play in promoting that moviegoing experience today?

With regard to our present rules, a film must play theatrically in Los Angeles for seven days in order to qualify. That is still our basic rule of inclusion for recognition by the academy. A film can qualify regardless of whether it's played in four thousand screens or two theaters; for us what matters is that it has been played for a general audience for at least those seven days. I'm always asked if that's ever going to change. I have no idea. Right now, these are the rules that we have. There's a lot of talk right now about the theatrical experience changing. Yes, it is changing, but when you have films grossing over $100 million over three- or four-day periods, it's hard for me to believe that this experience is actually waning. I think that the idea and the camaraderie and the communal experience of watching a movie with others is something that we humans really like. I think that experience will never go away.

It can be frustrating to read how the academy is portrayed in some outlets, as this monolithic bloc making unilateral decisions. We know that's not the case; each of the craft branches has its own voice, tendencies, and regulations. There remains a public perception problem, however, with audiences calling for more diversity on the screen and behind the camera.

It's an industry-wide issue, that's for sure. Studios and production companies really need to look at the audience they serve, because this is a business of serving that audience. I think the production entities need to widen their view of what is talent and start hiring, mentoring, and promoting-not only hiring, but promoting-different voices. The cinema experience is expanding quite a bit, especially in Asia and Africa. Folks like to see stories about themselves and others, because at the core we like to experience other people's journeys-whether it be in a documentary or a big-budget feature film. It's all about entertainment, and it comes in very different forms.

What upcoming projects are on your agenda?

Our biggest one is our museum, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which is scheduled to open in early 2018. We're very excited about this project; it's a very big one for us. As you are aware, there hasn't been a museum dedicated to this art form in its hometown, and I do consider the hometown to be Hollywood, even though movies are made around the world.

 

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