Darren Aronofsky's ambitious science fiction saga, The Fountain, debuted in disappointing fashion, earning a mere $3.75 million over the past weekend (and just $5.4 million over the full 5-day Thanksgiving period).  


Aronofsky had originally planned to make the film, which features three intertwined love stories set in three different time periods, in a $70 million version with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in 2002.  When Pitt pulled out the project originally collapsed, but Aronofsky kept the graphic novel rights and commissioned artist Kent Williams to turn the script into a sequential narrative, which was published under DC's Vertigo imprint.  In 2004 Aronofsky got Warners to agree to produce a $35 million version of The Fountain starring Hugh Jackman (Wolverine) and Rachel Weisz. 


Graphic Novel

Critical reviews of the film have been split with 52% of the reviews on the Rotten Tomatoes Website negative.  Critics who disliked the film tended to really hate it and described it with adjectives such as 'artsy-fartsy,' 'pretentious,' 'incoherent,' and 'turgid,' while those who admired the film found it 'hugely ambitious,' 'visually commanding,' 'gripping,' and 'utterly transcendent.' 


As it turned out the mass audience rendered a negative verdict as The Fountain averaged a mere $2,530 per location over the weekend.  But it has already earned nearly as much money in its first five days as Ghost World, which sold a ton of graphic novels, took in over its entire run; and The Fountain could be the kind of metaphysical science fiction that will inspire its partisans to purchase the graphic novel as well as a hardcover illustrated screenplay (Universe Books $30).


While The Fountain may have disappointed, Jack Black's Tenacious D film flat out bombed in spite of a considerable TV advertising campaign.  The Pick of Destiny, which features the horizontally challenged Black and his even more rotund bandmate Kyle Gass, was definitely not the audience's choice -- it earned a mere $1,620 per venue during its debut.


At the other end of the success spectrum the computer-animated penguin movie Happy Feet retained the box office crown for a second straight weekend declining only 8.6% over the 3-day weekend, and the new James Bond film, Casino Royale, remained in second place with a decline of just 24% in its second weekend -- a superb performance for a big budget action film.  If Casino Royale, which has already earned $94.2 million, can continue to demonstrate this kind of 'legs,' it might have a good shot at breaking the Bond franchise domestic box office record of $160.9 million held by Die Another Day.


With Happy Feet and Casino Royale bringing in nearly $100 million between them over the 5-day Thanksgiving weekend, this year's top ten box office cumulative was virtually identical to last year's in spite of the fact that there is no Harry Potter-type blockbuster in the theaters now.