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

Weekend of May 9, 2003

[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
---  ----------------------------- -----------  -----  ----
29   The Shape of Things (NEW)         173,246     40     3
     Neil LaBute                       173,246

34   Piglet's Big Movie                139,564    320    52
     Ken Sansom (3rd-billed actor)  22,628,390

49   The Core                           54,928    152    45
     Aaron Eckhart (lead actor)     30,583,153

66   Final Destination 2                32,699     53   101
     A.J. Cook (2nd-billed actor)   46,855,851

78   Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure   18,788     10   822
     Scott Swofford (producer)      14,574,906
     Reed Smoot (cinematographer)
     Sam Cardon (composer)
     Stephen L. Johnson (editor)

96   The Cremaster Cycle                 6,874      1    17
     Mathew Barney                      40,768

103  The R.M.                            6,067     11   101
     Kurt Hale (writer/director)       943,277
     John E. Moyer (writer)
     Dave Hunter (producer)
     Cody Hale (composer)
     Ryan Little (cinematographer)
     Actors: Kirby Heyborne, Will Swenson,
        Britani Bateman, Tracy Ann Evans
        Merrill Dodge, Michael Birkeland,
        Maren Ord, Leroy Te'o, Curt Dousett
        Wally Joyner, etc.

112  Galapagos                           3,275      5  1291
     Reed Smoot (cinematographer)   14,014,428

128  China: The Panda Adventure          1,355      2   654
     Reed Smoot (cinematographer)    3,044,121

"SHAPE OF THINGS" PERFORMS WELL - Latter-day Saint filmmaker Neil LaBute's new film "The Shape of Things" was the 3rd highest-grossing NEW movie to open this weekend, with a box office total of $173,246 in just 40 theaters in New York City and Los Angeles, and an impressive per-theater average of $4,331 per theater. Among movies premiering this weekend "The Shape of Things" opened behind "Daddy Daycare" in 3,370 theaters and "Les Invasions Barbares" in 134 theaters). "Daddy Daycare," the top-grossing new movie, is an alleged comedy starring Eddie Murphy. This broke a long string for Murphy in which his new movies opened behind new movies starring Latter-day Saint actors or made by Latter-day Saint filmmakers. Although audiences turned out to see "Daddy Daycare" (giving it a $27.6 million box office gross), critics were not happy about it. ranked it with 29% positive reviews out of 93 reviews counted. Ebert and Roeper called it one of the worst movies of the year. lists "The Shape of Things" with 62.2% positive reviews out of 74 counted. Many critics have remarked that "The Shape of Things" marks a welcome return to form after LaBute's "Nurse Betty" and "Possession" (his two films NOT based on an original play he wrote himself). Yet when one runs the numbers, "Nurse Betty" is has a higher overall critical response than both "Your Friends & Neighbors and "The Shape of Things."

Neil LaBute movies ranked by critical response:

Title                   Avg. Grade   RT.c  Combined
-----                        -----   ----  --------
In the Company of Men        82.3    95.5    88.9
Nurse Betty                  75.1    79.8    77.4
Your Friends and Neighbors   69.8    75.7    72.8
The Shape of Things          67.8    62.2    65.0
Possession                   67.3    61.7    64.5

Although it is something of an old story, a few of the reviews and a few in depth articles about LaBute appeared that mentioned his Church membership. LaBute was in Dallas two weeks before the theatrical release of "The Shape of Things." Dallas Morning News film critic Chris Vognar interviewed LaBute and contrasted the man he met with the raw, vicious nature of his films. Vognar wrote:

[QUOTE] But Mr. LaBute just doesn't seem all that vicious. He's happily married, a practicing Mormon with a 15-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son. He sports a frizzy Afro and a mismatched sweat suit. He rambles on about the bottled water in his hand... Seems like an affable guy. [END QUOTE]

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"CHARLY" DVD/VIDEO RELEASED - "Jack Weyland's Charly" was released on video and DVD on May 6th.

DUTCHER MAY HELM HUEBENER FILM - According to a Salt Lake Tribune article, director Richard Dutcher is apparently interested in interested adapting Thomas Rogers play "Huebener" as a feature film. The play tells about one German Latter-day Saint youth's opposition to Hitler's Nazi regime. Frankly, we can hardly think of better subject material for Dutcher to work on. We hope him, or somebody equally talented, brings this incredible story to the big screen. Meanwhile, there is a fantastic documentary available on DVD and video: "Truth & Conviction: The Helmuth Hubener Story," directed by Matt Whitaker. Excerpt from the Salt Lake Tribune article: "[Thomas] Rogers said he was approached by filmmaker Richard Dutcher about a movie project, which might go forward if financing becomes available." See

FOSTER, IRWIN AND DUTCHER DOCUMENTARY ON 1978 REVELATION IN THE WORKS - Former BYU president Robert Foster is producing a documentary about the 1978 revelation which opened up the priesthood to all worthy adult males in the Church. Foster, an African American, is calling the film "The Eleventh Hour Laborers." Richard Dutcher is directing and BYU film professor Tim Irwin is advising. A full-length article is at:

TEXAS: THE BIG PICTURE NOW PLAYING - "Texas: The Big Picture," the new IMAX documentary film directed by Latter-day Saint filmmaker Scott Swofford and photographed by Latter-day Saint cinematographer T.C. Christensen, just finished the second weekend of its theatrical run. If you are in Texas, you can see it at the IMAX Theatre at The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum Texas State History Museum in Austin, Texas. Christensen, whose credits are too numerous to list here, is currently preparing to co-direct the feature film "Saturday's Warrior." His new short film "A Pioneer Miracle" debuts on video and DVD in about three weeks. This is actually only the 2nd feature-length film that Swofford has directed. The first was the Feature Films For Families video "Secret of Treasure Mountain." But Swofford has been the PRODUCER of over 2 dozen films, including: Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure", "The Testaments of One Fold and One Shepherd" and "Mysteries of Egypt." Swofford is both director and producer of "Texas: The Big Picture."

SUDDENLY UNEXPECTED TRAILER - A brand new "long trailer" for the upcoming LDS Cinema film "Suddenly Unexpected" has been posted on the movie's official website. See The site also features a teaser and the previously posted "short trailer."

* * *

SLOW SPRING FOR LDS CINEMA, BUT SOON COMETH THE FALL... - Spring has been slow for the releases of LDS cinema films. With the release of "Charly" on DVD and the concurrent end of its theatrical run, now there is only one LDS Cinema film in the theaters: "The R.M." Last fall there were an amazing FIVE LDS Cinema flicks playing in theaters at the same time (during the weekend of October 11th, 2002).

However, if things go according to plan, the famine will turn to a feast again in the fall of 2003. There are currently 7 LDS Cinema films scheduled for release before the end of the year, plus DVD/video releases are still scheduled of "Handcart" and "The R.M." (as well as a re-release on DVD and video of the 1940 20th Century Fox production "Brigham Young" starring Dean Jagger in the title role. Jagger is an Academy Award-winning actor who joined the Church years after playing Brigham Young, and remained a stalwart through the rest of his life. Since it is difficult to find venues for independent films during the blockbuster summer months and around Christmas, the bulk of the theatrical run for these films will have to occur during the Fall - that is assuming, they meet their projected release dates. Our guess: You will see 4 or 5 of these films actually hit theaters during the fall. The challenge: Even with "only" 4 or 5 LDS Cinema films in theaters at the same time, is there enough of an audience to go around? Last fall saw somewhat disappointing box office figures for the LDS Cinema films that were playing concurrently - and only 2 of those 5 were actually RELEASED in the fall. "The Journey," Gary Rogers' feature film based on 1st Nephi from the Book of Mormon, is scheduled for a possible July 24th release date. All of the others are likely looking at the late August, September and early October window, which means they will all possibly be vying for the same audience at the same time. Since there is a limited time when these films can even find a theater to play in, what can be done about this situation? I have just one suggestion. Make great - and I mean REALLY great films - and then attract the crossover (non-LDS) audience. In this kind of a competitive market, the "bar" will necessarily "be raised." The films that make a profit will be the ones that succeed in "taking things to the next level" (to apply an far-too-over-used sports phrase).

I (Thomas Baggaley) would like to add in my own music-centric way that GREAT music is an absolute necessity for a GREAT film - so don't shirk on that music budget. Taking shortcuts on the music is an absolute kiss of death for a film in a competitive market. Of course, I'm not supposed to editorialize like this, because recognizes that there are many other important elements to GREAT films - like GREAT scripts, GREAT acting, GREAT directing, GREAT cinematography, etc.) I think Hitchcock believed that GREAT craft services were the most important part of making a successful film. Or was that Peter Jackson?

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HESS FEATURE TO LENS SOON - From a press release:


BYU filmmaker Jared Hess writes and directs his first feature.

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. (May 8, 2003) - Following up on the success of his BYU student short film PELUCA, which screened at last year's Slam Dance Film Festival, writer/director Jared Hess (class of '04) is prepping his first feature, an independent comedy titled NAPOLEON DYNAMITE.

"In my mind, PELUCA had always been a feature length idea," says Hess. "The contributions of the BYU film program and the Slam Dance Film Festival have given us a chance to make that film. I'm really excited."

DYNAMITE - the quirky story of a small town high schooler who marches to the beat of his own drummer - is being financed through private investment and produced by BYU alumni Jeremy Coon (class of '02) and Chris Wyatt (class of '99), as well as their partner Sean Covel.

"Jeremy, Sean and I are delighted to be involved with DYNAMITE," notes Wyatt. "Jared's script is hilarious! He has an incredible sense of character comedy."

"While a grad student at the University of Southern California, I was astounded by the caliber of talent coming out of BYU," adds Covel. "Combining that talent with Jared's script is sure to result in a hit."

The director co-wrote the script with his wife and fellow BYU student Jerusha Hess (class of '04). In fact, over 25 BYU alumni will be involved in the production of DYNAMITE, including the film's stars Jonathan Heder (class of '04) and Aaron Ruell (class of '00), cinematographer Munn Powell (class of '97), production designer Cory Lorenzen (class of '03), 1st assistant director Tim Skousen (class of '01) and second assistant director Brian Petersen (class of '00).

"BYU introduced me to the super-talented people on this crew," says Hess. "It's great to collaborate with these guys and make it happen!"

The film is currently in the casting phase and discussions have begun with established talent at top agencies. The project is set to go before cameras on July 8th in Hess' hometown of Preston, Idaho.

* * *

BOOK OF MORMON MOVIE MAJOR WEB SITE UPDATE - The generic graphics of the home page for Gary Rogers' upcoming feature film have been replaced with images from filming, dominated by a dramatic photo of Noah Danby as Nephi. "Nephi" is drawing an arrow from his quiver and biting his lip slightly, apparently preparing to shoot for box office $$. In silhouette behind him is a two-humped camel, blissfully unaware of the impending firestorm. See:

New photos have been added, identifying the name used for Nephi's wife in the movie: Terza. See:

"Terza" is, of course, played by Jacque Gray, best known as the lead actress from "God's Army" (she's the sister missionary who eventually marries Elder Allen). Gray played a Japanese character in Treu's "Wish Upon a Star," and it is no surprise that she looks sufficiently Jewish/Israeli in the photos from the production. Physically, Nephi looks like he could easily kick the collective butts of Will Swenson, Kirby Heyborne and Jeremy Elliott -- all at one time. But then, the same could be said for Vin Diesel.

You definitely will not want to miss the special "preview trailer" which is newly available on the site. See: This is NOT the Theatrical Trailer that will include dialogue, special visual effects, final sound mix and the completed musical score. The full 2 minute theatrical trailer will be available shortly before the release of the movie.

On the site's feedback page here's a letter from none other than Academy Award-winning director Kieth Merrill: [QUOTE] Gary, If the images of your very impressive "peek" are an accurate reflection of your movie I can't wait to see it. I was most impressed. I am startled really knowing the limited budget you had to work with. As an early skeptic of your plan and project I am preparing to eat as much humble pie as necessary, hoping in fact the completed film is as beautiful and compelling as these quick selected images. Congratulations...I wish you the best in the homeward stretch of post. Wow [END QUOTE]

There is also a new letter from the executive producer (R. Thane Hales), thanking many of the people involved in making the movie and recounting some of the profound spiritual experiences that occurred during filming.

There are also about 70 new production photos posted in the "On Location" section and you can read Gary Rogers' new post-filming "Director's Notes" at

* * *

CHURCH BALL STORIES SOUGHT - Message from HaleStorm:

Halestorm Entertainment has given John Moyer ("The R.M.", "The Singles Ward") the green light to write the script for their long anticipated project, "Church Ball." Now, we've had tons of people say, "I've got a church basketball story for you..." So, we've finally decided... Let's hear 'em! If you've got a great, violent, bloody, un-Christ-like church ball story to share - we want to hear! Keep it to 300 words or less. If we like it, we may use it! What do you get? A chance to see your game story immortalized for time and all eternity on the screen! Email your stories by June 1st to

MOYER LIVE - John Moyer will be appearing at Johnny B's Comedy Club Friday in scenic downtown Provo Friday and Saturday May 30th and 31st. One show each night at 9:00 PM. John E. Moyer is a professional comedian and also a screenwriter. In the feature film world, he is best known as the writer for the popular comedies "The Singles Ward" and "The R.M." As a comedian, Moyer is widely regarded as almost (but not quite) funnier than state statutes permit.

* * *

AUDITION SINGING ROLE IN DAY OF DEFENSE - Auditions for singing roles in the score of the upcoming film, Day of Defense Coming to Theatres September 2003.

Auditions will be held May 22nd at 6pm at Spirit West Studios, 2525 South State Street, Salt Lake City, #801-474-9100:

Please have with you a minus track of a song that you will present, or you can sing a capella. Thanks, good luck.

Score by Rick Reeve. Orchestrations by Sam Cardon and Matthew Donavan.

* * *


One South Studios is a Pasadena-based production company ( We will be shooting "Liken the Scriptures," a musical based on a few chapters of the Book of Mormon, beginning this Saturday. This production is aimed primarily at children, but we're hopeful that it would be enjoyable by children of all ages, in the vein of "Joseph and the Amazing..."

It stars Joy Gardner ("Testaments"), Larry Bagby ("Saints of War," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" TV series), Merrill Dodge ("R.M."), and many others. Music composed by Aaron Edson, whose album "Wondering" is available in Deseret Book and other LDS bookstores.

Our budget is on the small side, but we are hopeful that it will be the start of a series of fun and inspiring musicals from the scriptures.

The reason I bring this up here is that we think we could use a couple more people to help out on the crew this Saturday (we're shooting on the soundstage at KJZZ in Salt Lake City). Unfortunately, we can't pay anything on this episode, but there would be a credit and we're hopeful it would be a good experience, and that there would be more opportunities, possibly some even with pay, on subsequent episodes.

If you're available on Saturday and want to help out, please drop me an e-mail. If you have a particular expertise you'd care to share with us, so much the better, but not required.

Thanks for your consideration,

Dennis Agle
One South Studios