Feature Films by LDS/Mormon Filmmakers and Actors
Weekend Box Office Report (U.S. Domestic Box Office Gross)

Weekend of May 17, 2002

[If table lines up improperly, use mono-spaced font, i.e. Courier]

Natl  Film Title                Weekend Gross
Rank  LDS/Mormon Filmmaker/Star   Total Gross Theaters Days
---  ----------------------------- -----------  -----  ----
 5   The New Guy                     6,478,078  2,687    10
     Eliza Dushku (lead actress)    17,305,157

 9   Murder by Numbers               1,672,454  1,580    31
     Ryan Gosling (lead male actor) 29,911,694
     R.D. Call (6th billed star)

21   ESPN's Ultimate X                 344,553     47    10
     Reed Smoot (cinematographer)    1,103,114

26   We Were Soldiers                  177,804    241    80
     Keri Russell (actress)         77,479,274

31   Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure   123,151    22   465
     Scott Swofford (producer)       11,417,702
     Reed Smoot (cinematographer)
     Sam Cardon (composer)
     Stephen L. Johnson (film editor)

53   The Other Side of Heaven           34,415     57   157
     Mitch Davis (writer/director)   4,454,789
     John H. Groberg (author/character)
     Gerald Molen, John Garbett (producers)
     Steven Ramirez (film editor)

58   The Believer (NEW)                 26,236      4     3
     Ryan Gosling (lead actor)          26,236

61   The Singles Ward                   22,481     13   108
     Kurt Hale (writer/director)       702,938
     John E. Moyer (writer)
     Dave Hunter (producer)
     Cody Hale (composer)
     Ryan Little (cinematographer)
     Wynn Hougaard (film editor)
     Actors: Will Swenson, Connie Young,
        Daryn Tufts, Kirby Heyborne,
        Michael Birkeland, Robert Swenson,
        Wally Joyner, Lincoln Hoppe,
        Sedra Santos, etc.

71   Cirque du Soleil: Journey of Man   10,111      5   745
     Reed Smoot (cinematographer)   13,283,935

98   Mark Twain's America 3D             2,649      1  1417
     Alan Williams (composer)        2,220,581

BOX OFFICE BUZZ: Latter-day Saint cinematographer Reed Smoot's "ESPN's Ultimate X" passed the $1 million mark in merely 10 days -- not bad for an IMAX film only playing in 47 theaters. In its second weekend, it still made $7,331 per screen.

Meanwhile, "The Singles Ward" continues to find an audience -- actually moving up in this weekend's rankings, although it dropped from 18 to 13 theaters.

BELIEVE IN GOSLING: Not only did Latter-day Saint actor Ryan Gosling's "Murder by Numbers" remain in the Top 10 this week, after a month in release, another movie starring Gosling in the lead role opened in limited release. "The Believer," which was a critical favorite and an award winner at the Sundance Film Festival, opened in four theaters, grossing $26,263, or $6,559 per theater. This gave "The Believer" the 5th highest per-theater gross nationwide. Now, remember, it opened the same weekend as "Star Wars: Attack of the Clones." Not bad. In "The Believer" (which is based on a true story) Gosling delivers a tour de force performance as an Orthodox Jew who becomes involved with neo-Nazis. Although it played in only four theaters, "The Believer" earned the 3rd highest total gross nationwide of any NEW movie, behind "Star Wars: Attack of the Clones" (which played in 3,161 theaters) and "About a Boy" (starring Hugh Grant, which played in 1,207 theaters).

ENDER'S GAME DIRECTOR AND STUDIO ANNOUNCED: Latter-day Saint writer Orson Scott Card's official website confirmed a report from Ain't It Cool News that the director chosen to helm the "Ender's Game" feature film is Wolfgang Petersen (who is not a Latter-day Saint). The studio was also announced: Warner Brothers. The recently signed project will soon be announced officially. German director Petersen is a seemingly perfect choice. He has worked with children and he has directed high-quality, big-budget science fiction movies. He directed "The Neverending Story" (featuring child actors, which will be what "Ender's Game" features as well) and he directed "Enemy Mine" (about humankind in war with an ultimately benign and deeply ethical race of aliens). Other films Petersen recently directed include "Outbreak" (1995) starring Dustin Hoffman, "In the Line of Fire" (1993) starring Clint Eastwood, "The Perfect Storm" (2000) starring George Clooney and "Air Force One" (1997) starring Harrison Ford. Many of these have been highly successful blockbusters. But perhaps Petersen's most critically acclaimed film is the submarine war film "Das Boot" (1981), which earned him two Academy Award nominations (Best Director and Best Screenplay). "Ender's Game" tells the story of Ender Wiggin, a half-Mormon/half-Catholic child prodigy who is trained by the government to fight in an expected conflict with an insectoid alien race.

ANGEL HANGING AROUND: CBS has renewed "Touched by an Angel", the Hollywood trade papers reported. The show's fate had been in doubt. This weekly television series filmed in Utah, has been the place where many local actors and crewpersons have gotten their first network television experience.

DERBIDGE ENGAGED IN NEW FILM PROJECT: Cary Derbidge, the producer of the LDS-themed feature film "Out of Step", has announced his next feature film project. The project is called "Temple Marriage," and has yet to receive a title. The executive producer will be Steve Ames, the D.J. and dance promoter (see his site at Derbidge told us that the movie, about a Latter-day Saint wedding, will have similarities to "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and "Bridget Jones's Diary," which I understand to mean that the movie will be a comedy. This movie, which has NOT yet been cast, is in the pre-production stages and is scheduled to be released in theaters in January 2003.

In other Derbidge news, there are plans to re-release "Out of Step" (directed by Ryan Little) into theaters this Fall before the movie is distributed on video/DVD by Thomson Productions. "Out of Step" was first displayed in theaters on February 15th, 2002. Despite complaints about technical flaws (sound problems in a few spots, changes in film stock), the movie's excellent script and acting earned it the best local reviews given to any LDS-themed feature film since "Brigham City." But the producers were unhappy with the scheduling and the advertising campaign, and they pulled the movie from theaters.

STARRING AARON ECKHART: BYU graduate Aaron Eckhart, who has played important supporting roles in most of Neil LaBute's films, as well as in other big movies such as "The Pledge" and "Erin Brockovich" has been cast in the starring role in "Suspect Zero," an FBI thriller about an agent (Eckhart) assigned to track down a rogue agent (Ben Kingsley) on a vigilante crusade to kill murderers. (It gets even more complicated: Kingsley's character is apparently on the trail of a serial killer, known as "Suspect Zero", who has committed hundreds of murders while copying the modus operandi of other serial killers. Which poses the question: Should Eckhart stop Kingsley, when what Kingsley is doing may actually be making the world a better, safer place?) The part that Eckhart will play has previously been attached in rumors to Tom Cruise, Ben Affleck, and Sylvester Stallone. The movie is being made by Tom Cruise's production company, C/W Productions ("The Others", "Vanilla Sky"). Eckhart stars as Roland Michell in Neil LaBute's "Possession," which hits theaters this summer, and he stars in the sci-fi action pic "The Core", scheduled for release later this year on November 1st.

MORE TREU: Latter-day Saint director Blair Treu will soon begin production on yet another feature film: "Dudes", starring Jeff Bridges and Aaron Carter. This major film release will be his 7th feature film, but only his 2nd one to be released theatrically (after "Little Secrets", which will be released nationwide this summer by Columbia TriStar).

MORMON ACTORS AT CANNES: The Los Angeles Times ran an in depth article about this week's Cannes Film Festival premiere of Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film "Punch-Drunk Love." (See: The movie stars Adam Sandler as a small business owner who doesn't fly, but is obsessed with collecting frequent flyer miles, which he does by collecting pudding box tops. He has seven sisters, and is something of an odd fellow, as Sandler's characters are wont to be. Important in the story are "four blond Mormon brothers from Utah who are the bane of Barry's existence." They are "played by four Mormon brothers from Utah." Moreover, "with the exception of Sandler, [Emily] Watson and co-stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Luis Guzman and Mary Lynn Rajskub, everyone on screen is a nonprofessional. According to the P.T. Anderson website (, the four non-actor brothers are David Stevens, Nathan Stevens, Jim Smooth Stevens and Michael D. Stevens. They play "David", "Nate", "Jim" and "Mike D." They are listed in the cast immediately after Sandler, Watson, Hoffman, Guzman, and Rajskub, in the 6th through 9th billed roles. In the movie, the Stevens brothers are from Utah, but they are not identified as "Mormons" and are in no way intended as representative of Latter-day Saints.

SMOOT SHOOTS HORSES: Latter-day Saint cinematographer Reed Smoot recently returned from Namibia where he shot an upcoming live-action Disney IMAX film: "The Young Black Stallion," a prequel to Carroll Ballard's 1979 boy-and-his-horse drama "The Black Stallion." The new movie should hit really big screens in early 2003. Smoot, whose hit IMAX film "ESPN's Ultimate X" is currently in theaters, was profiled this week in the Salt Lake Tribune:

ROOTS & WINGS LANDS ON VIDEO: Christian Vuissa's short dramatic film "Roots & Wings" earned him yet another award: it recently won First Prize at the Performing Arts Showcase of the Golden Key Int'l Honour Society. The film is about a devout Catholic Mexican father grappling with how to deal with his family's conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "Roots & Wings previously won the Audience Award, as well as awards for Best Screenplay and Best Actor, at the Final Cut Film Festival at Brigham Young University. The film was written and produced by BYU film student Maria Perez, who is herself a Latter-day Saint convert from Catholicism. "Roots & Wings" will be available on video in August.

NEW LITTLE FILM: Ryan Little (award-winning director of "The Last Good" and "Out of Step"; cinematographer of "The Singles Ward") recently screened his new short film "Freedom on the Water" at the Windsong Film Festival in Indiana. For this film he received the festival's Best American Director Award. (Oddly enough, Little was born in Canada.) The purpose of the Windsong Film Festival is to foster recognition of human value and dignity, and affirm cultural and ethnic authenticity with dignity.

DANSIE WITH DOUGS: Award-winning writer/director Tucker Dansie (whose documentary "Colors: Up Close and Personal" is sold at Deseret Book and online) has finished his short film "The Lesson," based on the moving, possibly true story about remarkable events at a piano lesson. This is a departure for Dansie, whose short films have previously been comedies. Dansie will soon be shooting "The Dougs." He says the film is about "three Mormon guys named Doug who are all best friends. And they all have these girlfriends, but they decided that they are bored with their girlfriends so one night they decided to all swap with each other. But will the girls agree?" "The Dougs" will star Todd and Lisa Ruitman, and Nate Anderson from Dansie's "Chick Magnet," along with newcomers Dan and Rebecca Barton, and Nate's fiancee Laura. "The Lesson" and "The Dougs" will premiere this summer as part of Unwound 2002, held in Salt Lake City.

EXCITEMENT AT THE POLLS: Things continue to heat up at the unbelievably online poll page ( Currently, in the "favorite LDS Cinema movie" poll, "The Singles Ward" is ahead, followed closely by "Brigham City," with "God's Army", "The Other Side of Heaven" and "Out of Step" only a few votes behind. In the "most looking forward to" poll, "Handcart" is currently ahead of "Jack Weyland's Charly." But the polls are still open, and these results can all change with just a few votes from people visiting the site.

BEN KENOBI, MEET JOHN GROBERG: No word yet on whether or not the "Star Wars: Attack of the Clones" DVD will be combined with "The Other Side of Heaven" in a package called "Recent Movies About Lone White Religious Guys Traveling to Remote Islands Inhabited by Polynesians."

NELEH WATCH: As the whole country must know by know... "Survivor: Marquesas" has come and gone, and Neleh Dennis came in second place. It's an amazing feat, really, considering she was an underdog from the start, and the youngest in a field of 16 competitors. But the 21-year-old Latter-day Saint college student from Layton, Utah kept her cool, had some luck, played hard, and ALMOST won the million dollar grand prize. Her $100,000 2nd place consolation prize should help ease any pain that may have stemmed from coming so close, only to lose in the final seconds of the contest. The 2-hour final episode of "Survivor: Marquesas", which aired Sunday, 19 May 2002, contained a number of direct references to Neleh being a Latter-day Saint, and showed her praying a number of times. Vecepia, a devout Evangelical who along with Neleh was probably the most openly religious and spiritually-oriented competitor on the show, was the winner by one vote. In a side interview shown during the show, Paschal English (a judge from the deep South who came in fourth place) said "It's great to have two nice Christian girls in the final two."

In an interesting coincidence, Neleh Dennis is the SECOND Mormon woman to come in 2nd place on "Survivor." Three years ago, on the FIRST "Survivor", Kelly Wiglesworth, a Mormon but not an active churchgoer, came in 2nd place, losing out (also by just one vote) to Richard Hatch.