Fri, Dec 31, 2004 - Page 16 News List

`Fockers' tops the box office at year's end

AGENCIES

Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand: Meet the Fockers.

PHOTO: AP

Meet the Fockers claimed the top North American box office spot over the lucrative Christmas holiday weekend, grossing US$44.7 million, according to preliminary figures released this week.

The sequel to the 2000 comedy Meet the Parents, featuring Robert De Niro, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand, has grossed about US$68.5 million since opening, according to Encino, California-based Exhibitor Relations, Inc.

Cartoon-turned-live-action comedy Fat Albert debuted in second place, with a two-day gross of US$12.7 million.

Last week's top film -- Lemony Snicket's a Series of Unfortunate Events -- fell to third place, earning about US$12.5 million.

It was followed by the debut of the Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator with US$9.4 million dollars, and Ocean's Twelve which pulled in US$8.6 million.

In sixth place was another new film, Darkness, which is expected to earn US$6.4 million by the end of the weekend.

Rounding out the top 10 were The Polar Express with US$6.2 million; "Spanglish" at five million; The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, at US$4.8 million, and the debut of The Phantom of the Opera, the Andrew Lloyd Webber smash, which has earned US$4.2 million since debuting.

The hunt is on for Oscars

The race for the Oscars was heating up, with Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby and the road movie Sideways dominating Hollywood's awards chatter.

Scorsese, always a bridesmaid but never the bride at the Oscars, may finally be in line for cinema's top honor with his epic biography of eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, awards pundits said.

"It looks as if a Marty Scorsese film finally is flying high in the Oscar best picture race," said Tinseltown awards guru Tom O'Neil, adding that the film was pulling ahead because of its size, scope and overdue director.

Despite turning out classics such as Taxi Driver and Goodfellas, Scorsese has never won the best director Oscar, heightening speculation among awards voters that 2005 may be the year to correct past oversights.

The Aviator will no doubt lead with the most Oscar nominations and that has in the past overwhelmingly foretold the winner of the best picture award," said O'Neil, who runs the awards-monitoring Web site

Goldderby.com.

The Aviator picked up six Golden Globe nominations, including best drama film nods for director Scorsese and a lead actor nomination for Leonardo DiCaprio.

The Globes, frequently seen as an Oscars bellwether, will be handed out on Jan. 16, just over a week before the 77th annual Oscar nominations are announced on January 24.

However, the grand-scale Aviator faces intense

competition from Eastwood's movie about a female boxer, starring Hilary Swank, and from Alexander Payne's critically adored movie about two ordinary men on a road trip, Sideways.

Sideways, a moving yet funny film about two oddly-matched pals searching for happiness while on a wine-quaffing car trip, led the Golden Globe nods with seven and has also swept the US critical awards.

The film by About Schmidt director Payne has picked up best picture honors from influential critics groups based in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Million Dollar Baby is also generating major Oscars buzz for best picture and best actress for Swank, for her turn as determined boxer Maggie Fitzgerald. She won the gong once before for 1999's Boys Don't Cry.

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