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

Weekend of November 28, 2003

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

Natl Film Title                Weekend Gross  %B.O. Theatrs
Rank LDS/Mormon Filmmaker/Star   Total Gross  Chnge  $/Thtr   Days
--- ---------------------------  -----------  ----- -------   ----
 1  The Cat in the Hat            24,459,685  -36%   3,467     10
    Eric McLeod (exec. producer)  75,830,805        $7,055
    Aldric La'Auli Porter
      (assoc. producer/1st A.D.)
    Danielle Chuchran (actress)

 7  The Missing (NEW)             10,833,633   --    2,756      5
    Aaron Eckart (actor)          15,232,287        $3,930
    Aldric La'Auli Porter
      (assoc. producer/1st A.D.)

 8  Timeline (NEW)                 8,440,629   --    2,787      5
    Paul Walker (lead actor)      12,424,762        $3,028

48  Bugs!                             46,045   --       31    262
    stars Papilio,                 4,157,150        $1,485
      a Great Mormon butterfly

64  Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure  15,481   +4%       9   1025
    Scott Swofford (producer)     15,517,786        $1,720
    Reed Smoot (cinematographer)
    Sam Cardon (composer)
    Stephen L. Johnson (editor)

67  The Book of Mormon Movie Vol. 1   14,275  -32%      11     80
    Gary Rogers                    1,098,224        $1,297
    Craig Clyde (screenplay)
    David Hales (co-producer, editor)
    Ira Baker (editor)
    Robert C. Bowden (composer)
    Actors: Bryce Chamberlain,
      Mark Gollaher, Jan Broberg Felt,
      Cragun Foulger, Jacque Gray,
      Kirby Heyborne, Michael Flynn

87  Galapagos                          4,880   -3%       3   1494
    Reed Smoot (cinematographer)  14,220,599         1,626

94  Cirque du Soleil: Journey of Man   3,394  +40%       3   1297
    Reed Smoot (cinematographer)  15,592,323        $1,131

102 The Legend of Johnny Lingo         2,110  -25%       3     94
    Gerald Molen (producer)          752,267          $703
    John Garbett (producer)

127 China: The Panda Adventure           346  +24%       1    857
    Reed Smoot (cinematographer)   3,539,648          $346

HESS' "NAPOLEON DYNAMITE" ACCEPTED INTO SUNDANCE: Latter-day Saint BYU film student Jared Hess recently completed production of his feature-length directorial debut "Napoleon Dynamite," a comedy about a quirky teenager growing up in Idaho. The movie is a sequel or expansion of Hess's previous award-winning short film "Peluca," which was one of the top films at last year's Slamdance Film Festival.

No less than two major Latter-day Saint feature film directors have written to us to praise Hess's accomplishment with "Napoleon Dynamite" and inform us that it has been accepted into the world's most important film festival for independent films: the Sundance Film Festival.

One of the people writing with the news was Scottish Latter-day Saint filmmaker Andrew Black, who last year beat Hess in the Slamdance Film Festival when his own short film "The Snell Show" won the top honor as Best Short Film over "Peluca." Black and another director of LDS Cinema have praised Hess's work and thrown around words such as "genius." These are filmmakers who themselves have been winning awards at film festivals across the country, and the way they both insist that admire Hess as a filmmaker forces us to conclude that Hess must truly be filmmaker's filmmaker.

Hess's films have sometimes received less attention in the local press and may not be as familiar to LDS audiences because they are not LDS-themed or LDS Cinema, but they are certainly worth watching for. The acceptance of "Napoleon Dynamite" into Sundance bodes well for that film's chances for theatrical distribution. It would not be surprising if local niche distributors such as Excel and Halestorm end up vying with national distributors for the opportunity to represent this unusual, side-splitting movie.

* * *

TIMELINE, STARRING PAUL WALKER, OPENS: "Timeline" opened on Wednesday for the Thanksgiving weekend, taking in 2,787. The director (Richard Donner), author (Michael Crichton) and top-billed star (Paul Walker) are all hugely popular. Despite being rasied in an active Latter-day Saint home and then serving a mission, Walker is not at all active in a Latter-day Saint congregation at this time. In other interviews (not this one) Walker has noted that there are many rules in the Church that are difficult for a person in a career such as his to follow, but that he respects anyone who honestly follows the teachings, and that he might return to activity one day. He has told interviewers that he now considers himself a just a general Christian and attends non-denominational church services.

Walker has starred in or had major supporting, poster-billed roles in moves which have earned $451 million at the U.S. box office alone, easily making him the top-grossing Mormon actor working today. Perhaps the biggest controversy surrounding Walker, debated by movie reviewers every time one of his movies is released, is whether or not he can actually act. Many consider him a "movie star" and not really an actor. But there's no denying that he's extremely good-looking.

Here is an excerpt from an interview from the Action-Adventure Movies forum at ( that was just published, in which Walker talks about being raised as a Latter-day Saint:

CRITICS REACTION TO "TIMELINE" AND "THE MISSING":, which tabulates reviews from hundreds of published movie reviewers nationwide, lists "Timeline" with a 20% positive rating. There are less than 40 reviews tallied so far, but the trend seems set. On a more positive note, the reviews from "Cream of the Crop" are 40% positive.

Locally, the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune both gave "Timeline" 1 1/2 stars out of 4. Both reviews singled out Mormon actor Paul Walker's performance for much of the blame, calling his acting bland. Walker's acting seems to be one of the biggest complaints leveled by reviewers, but many also criticized the plot.

"Timeline" is rated PG-13 for battlefield action and brief language, including one instance of the so-called "R-rated" curse word.

"The Missing," an R-rated Western thriller directed by Ron Howard is faring better with critics, although it probably won't top "Timeline" at the box office. lists "The Missing" with a 64% positive rating. The rating is 69% positive from cream of the crop reviews. "The Missing" features Latter-day Saint BYU graduate Aaron Eckhart in one of the major supporting roles.

Q. Are you enjoying these action hero roles?
The thing I liked was in the past I got to play cool guys. Especially Fast and the Furious, the guy had a bit of a front and I had to put on kind of the facade that he was kind of tough just because of his involvement in what he's doing, that sort of thing. This guy, I like him just because he's more vulnerable. I really liked the relationship that he had with his father. I identified with that. I just thought it was really sweet and real genuine. You look at the relationship the professor character has, I think it's pretty much the ideal father-son relationship. I liked that about it. That was a really big draw. Then on top of that, I've always had this fascination with the medieval period. I wasn't supposed to see Excalibur when I saw it. My father had it on tape. I remember coming and seeing it because it's kind of racy. I was raised Mormon and my parents didn't want me seeing PG-13 or R type stuff, although I don't think PG-13 rating was even around then. But I remember sneaking it and watching it and that was so awesome. Then a Richard Donner movie, I loved Ladyhawke. I love fantasy, I love knights and wizards and barbarians and all that sort of thing. I love Braveheart. I love those types of movies, so the science-fiction aspect of this really wasn't attractive. Medeival France? That's awesome.

* * *

P-DAY IS JUST 1 WEEK AWAY: LDS CINEMA MOVIE "PRIDE & PREJUDICE" - On Dec. 5th, 2003 audiences throughout Utah will be able to see one of the most talked about LDS Cinema movies EVER: "Pride amp; Prejudice," directed by Andrew Black, featuring "American Idol" runner-up Carmen Rasmusen.

The movie is about Elizabeth, an aspiring author frustrated in love, until (and especially after) she meets the handsome Darcey. Actually, you can read the whole book at any library in the U.S., as it was written over 100 years ago by Jane Austen and has something of a worldwide following. The definitive movie version would have been made long before now, except Andrew Black was born long after Austen and the BYU film student only recently became old enough to make this, his first feature film.

Here's an interesting thing... A major plot point of the movie is the "Pink Bible," a book about dating tips, a book which Elizabeth's friends are crazy about. You can actually buy this book-within-the-movie now from Excel Entertainment. Information about and images from the Pink Bible can be found on the book's own website at:

Director Andrew Black claims, "I'm sure Jane Austen would not have approved in any way whatsoever."

On the other hand... those who have seen "Pride amp; Prejudice" the movie AND read "Pride amp; Prejudice" the novel are forced to wonder... Perhaps Andrew Black really IS Jane Austen... We wonder about this because despite being of a different temporal persuasion, Austen and Black seem to share a remarkably similar creative sense and sensibility.

* * *

EDDIE MURPHY ONCE AGAIN STUMBLES AGAINST AN LDS-MADE MOVIE: The live action Disney spooky comedy "The Haunted Mansion" opened this weekend with a weekend box office gross of $24,278,410. The movie, which cost a reported $90 million to make and had an estimated P&A (Prints and Advertising) budget of $35 million was expected by many to be the top weekend's top movie at the box office. In fact, some early reports before all the data was in heralded the Eddie Murphy starrer as the #1 flick in the country. But when all the numbers were counted, Murphy was edged out by "The Cat in the Hat" in its second weekend, which took in about $200,000 more in weekend ticket sales.

We should not be surprised that "The Haunted Mansion" didn't open at #1. Why? Because every time Murphy has opened one of his movies opposite a movie made by Latter-day Saints, he has been topped at the box office by the Saints. In no way do I think there is some metaphysical reason for this. My impression of Murphy is that he is a very decent family man. This is simply an observation of an odd thing that has happened over and over again.

To recap:

- November 1, 2002: Eddie Murphy movie "I, Spy" debuts on the same day as "The Santa Claus 2," which was written by Latter-day Saint screenwriters Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul. "Santa" earns over $29 million, making it the top movie in the country that week, while Murphy's "I, Spy" stumbles with just $13 million, putting it in 3rd place.

- August 16, 2002: Eddie Murphy movie "The Adventures of Pluto Nash" opens against "Blue Crush", which stars Utah native Matthew Davis and was filmed on the beaches of BYU-Hawaii with BYU students as extras and crew members. Murphy's movie opens in 10th place, far behind "Blue Crush" which was 3rd nationally.

- June 22, 2001: Eddie Murphy movie "Doctor Dolittle 2" opens, which everybody predicts will be the nation's #1 movie at the box office. But the nation's top movie that week turns out to be surprise hit "The Fast and the Furious," which stars Mormon actor Paul Walker in the lead role.

- May 18, 2001: You have to go this far back to find an Eddie Murphy movie that opened in the #1 spot: "Shrek." But this movie did NOT open against any movies made by Latter-day Saints. In fact, the original producer of "Shrek" was a Latter-day Saint: John Garbett, who left before principle work on the movie commenced so that he could work on other projects, including the LDS Cinema movie "The Other Side of Heaven."

- Eddie Murphy's other movie in recent years that was big at the box office was the animated Disney film "Mulan," the producer of which was Pam Coats, a Latter-day Saint woman from Utah.

* * *

DAY OF DEFENSE TO RISE AGAIN?: Michelle Wright with Utah Casting Connection sent out a message to her mailing list on 25 November 2003 with some information about the LDS Cinema movie "Day of Defense," in which she is the lead actress. In it she quotes a communication she received from NewWorld Productions (the film's production company) about "Day of Defense": "Thanks to those of you who supported the initial release in Utah. Because of an initial print delay and print problems, we are scheduling the release in your area when the new film prints arrive."

COMEDIAN JOHN MOYER LIVE: Michelle Wright of Utah Casting Connection sent the following to her mailing list on 25 November 2003:

John Moyer at Wise Guys Comedy Club - UT. John Moyer the writer of the movies The Singles Ward, The R.M. and the upcoming Home Teachers will be appearing at Wise Guys comedy club in Ogden, Utah on Friday and Saturday November 28th and 29th John's style is quick and cutting. He calls it like he sees it. If you are LDS and love to make fun of the culture come on down! If you're not LDS and love to make fun of the culture come on down! If you're one of those really, really, uptight LDS, then maybe you should go check out the lighting ceremony on Temple Square.

Wise Guys Comedy Club Ogden
269 Historic 25th Street
801-622-5588 - to get a coupon and info

* * *

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: FIRST MAJOR LEADING LADY ROLE IN LDS CINEMA PLAYED BY A NON-LDS ACTRESS: If we count "Day of Defense," which few people saw, and "Suddenly Unexpected," which almost nobody saw, then "Pride and Prejudice: A Latter-day Comedy" is the 13th LDS Cinema film. Yet although the lead actor in the very first LDS Cinema movie ("God's Army") was a non-LDS actor (Matthew A. Brown, in the lead role as "Elder Allen"), this is the first time that a non-LDS actress has been featured in a major leading role.

Nobody will forget that Anne Hathaway was the lead actress in "The Other Side of Heaven, the 4th LDS Cinema film. On the national scene, Hathaway is easily the best known actress to have starred in an LDS Cinema film. "The Other Side of Heaven" was her first movie, but she followed it up with the surprise hit Disney film "The Princess Diaries" (released before "Heaven"), and has since starred in "Nicholas Nickleby" and the soon-to-be-released "Ella Enchanged," "Ella" and "The Princess Diaries 2." Hathaway even played a real-life Latter-day Saint character (Sister Jean Sabin Groberg).

Interestingly enough, this is also the way that Kate Winslet began her career (playing pre-baptism Juliet Hulme in Peter Jackson's "Heavenly Creatures"). Mary Steenburgen played a real-life Latter-day Saint character in one of her very first movies ("Melvin and Howard") and she received an Academy Award for the role. And Jane Seymour played a character based on a real-life Mormon woman in her breakthrough movie role in "Somewhere in Time."

But Hathaway's role in "The Other Side of Heaven," although the top-billed female role, is only a supporting role, and the actress had little screen time.

The only other non-LDS lead actress in an LDS Cinema film is Junie Hoang, in "Suddenly Unexpected." Like "Heaven," this film is about missionaries on a mission, and Hoang's role (like Hathaway's) is merely a supporting role with relatively little screen time.

Thus, although "Pride and Prejudice" is not the first LDS Cinema movie with a non-LDS actress, it is the first LDS Cinema movie to feature a non-LDS lead actress in a lead (not supporting) role. In fact, Kam Heskin has the lead role in this adaptation of Jane Austen's famous novel.

By all accounts, Heskin is marvelous in the role, and portrays an Elizabeth Bennett who is indeed a Latter-day Saint, and who should also be interesting and accessible to non-LDS viewers as well. I think that LDS Cinema movies will generally continue to star Latter-day Saint actresses. But for Kam Heskin, this rare opportunity to play a Latter-day Saint should be a great thing for her career, if she follows the precedent set by Kate Winslet, Mary Astor, Jane Seymour, Anne Hathaway, Mary Steenburgen and Jean Seberg.

Because we have mentioned non-LDS actresses who played LDS characters, we should mention a few of the famous non-LDS actors who have played LDS characters in feature films: Scott Caan, Casey Affleck ("Ocean's Eleven"), Paul Newman ("Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid"), Ron Eldard ("Deep Impact"), John Mitchum ("Paint Your Wagon"), Tyrone Power, John Carradine, Vincent Price ("Brigham Young - Frontiersman"), Ray McKinnon ("Goodbye Lover"), Trey Parker ("Orgazmo"), Paul Le Mat, Dabney Coleman ("Melvin and Howard"), Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("Latter Days").

Summary Table: Lead Actresses in LDS Cinema
                                            LDS        LDS
Film Title                Actress           Character  Actress
----------                ------------      --------   -------
God's Army                Jacque Gray       YES        YES
Brigham City              Carrie Morgan     YES        YES
The Other Side of Heaven  Anne Hathaway     YES        NO
The Singles Ward          Connie Young      YES        YES
Out of Step               Alison Akin Clark YES        YES
Jack Weyland's Charly     Heather Beers     YES (conv) YES
Handcart                  Stephanie Albach  YES        YES
The R.M.                  Britani Bateman   YES        YES
Suddenly Unexpected       Junie Hoang       NO         NO
The Work and the Story    Jennifer Hoskins  YES        YES
Book of Mormon Movie, V1  Jan Broberg Felt  YES        YES
Day of Defense            Michelle Wright   NO         YES
Pride and Prejudice       Kam Heskin        YES        NO

Summary Table: Lead Actors in LDS Cinema
                                            LDS        LDS
Film Title                Actress           Character  Actor
----------                ------------      --------   -------
God's Army                Matthew A. Brown  YES        NO
Brigham City              Richard Dutcher   YES        YES
The Other Side of Heaven  Christoher Gorham YES        NO
The Singles Ward          Will Swenson      YES        YES
Out of Step               Jeremy Elliott    NO         YES
Jack Weyland's Charly     Jeremy Elliott    YES        YES
Handcart                  Jaelan Petrie     YES (conv) YES
The R.M.                  Kirby Heyborne    YES        YES
Suddenly Unexpected       Jerald Garner     YES        NO
The Work and the Story   Nathan Smith Jones YES        YES
Book of Mormon Movie, V1  Noah Danby        YES        NO
Day of Defense            Andrew Lenz       NO         YES
Pride and Prejudice       Orlando Seale     YES        NO

For this table, "former day Saint" characters in Rogers' BoM are counted as LDS.
The character played by the lead actress (and title character) in "Charly" converts and becomes a Latter-day Saint during the movie. The character played by the lead character in "Handcart" joins the Church during the movie. The lead actress in "Handcart" is a character who is also a convert, but joined the Church before the beginning of the events depicted in the movie. The lead actor's character in "God's Army" is a convert, but joined the Church before events depicted in the movie.

* 10 out of 13 (77%) of the lead actresses in LDS in LDS Cinema movies have been LDS.
* 8 out of 13 (62%) of the lead male actors in LDS Cinema movies have been LDS.

* 11 out of 13 (85%) of the lead female characters in LDS Cinema movies have been LDS.
* 11 out of 13 (85%) of the lead male characters in LDS Cinema movies have been LDS.

"Day of Defense" is the only LDS Cinema movie in which both the lead male and lead female characters are not LDS, which is ironic because this is considered the movie which is least appealing to non-LDS viewers.

That the majority of LDS Cinema movies feature LDS lead characters should not be surprising, given the fact that this is one of the defining characteristics of the "genre." Movies made by Latter-day Saint filmmakers which are NOT about LDS characters (including Anastasia, The Black Cauldron, Windwalker, Possession, The Legend of Johnny Lingo, Little Secrets, Alan and Naomi) are NOT classified as "LDS Cinema."

This table and the statistics above summarize only the LDS Cinema movies released in commercial theaters thus far (including "Pride and Prejudice", which opens this Friday).

Four more LDS Cinema movies are essentially complete and will be released during the next few months: "Saints and Soldiers", "The Home Teachers", "The Best Two Years" and "Eat, Drink and Get Married." "Pride and Prejudice" is clearly female-centric, with a female lead character, adapted from a novel by a female writer. Yet 3 of the upcoming movies feature male ensemble casts, and have no women in a lead role. "Saint and Soldiers" is about male soldiers in World War II (only one of whom is LDS) in Europe. "The Best Two Year" focuses on four male full-time missionaries, also in Europe. "The Home Teachers" focuses on a home teaching companionship. All of the lead characters in these movies are Latter-day Saints, except for the non-LDS co-lead characters in "Saints and Soldiers" (but they are portrayed by LDS actors). The only leading role for an actress in these upcoming movies is Heather Beers' character in "Eat, Drink and Get Married," a romantic comedy with actor Dan Merkley. Beers and Merkley are both LDS and they play LDS characters.

* * *

UNIVERSITY OF UTAH/BYU RIVALRY AND MYSTERY OF U's POOR SHOWING FILM INDUSTRY: An article appeared in the Deseret News about the longstanding rivalry between the two major Utah universities, Brigham Young University (BYU) and the state government-sponsored University of Utah (U of U): "BYU-U. rivalry takes academic turn" (by Jody Genessy, 24 November 2003,,1249,525039503,00.html). The piece mentions LDS Cinema in its opening lines:

By the time Rivalry Week concludes Saturday, Brigham Young University fans might deal with a 4-8 football season by rationalizing that theirs is a basketball school anyway, University of Utah fans might be basking in their first outright football title since "Leave It To Beaver" was Must-See-TV and the amount of references made to a "Holy War" and former Cougar Lenny Gomes' immortal gas-pumping insult might (gasp!) top the number of Mormon-genre movies currently being released.

And don't be surprised if the chant "We're No. 67!" erupts from BYU's student section before the damage is done.

Sixty-seven refers to the university's recent general ranking among colleges offering doctorate-level degrees.

As for the U., it's only ranked 117th.

The article continues, talking about academics and sports, but without anything else to say about LDS Cinema.

This writer refers to LDS Cinema using the bizarre and awkward phrase "Mormon-genre movies", but it's interesting nonetheless. The entire article, not copied below, but you can click on the link, compares the University of Utah and BYU, listing ways in which one school or the other is ranked higher than the other. The author does not mention one glaring difference between BYU and the U. of U.: Their film schools. All of the LDS Cinema movies, as well as most other movies being made by Utahns, were made by BYU graduates, along with people who attended out-of-state film schools, along with some filmmakers from places such as SUU and USU. University of Utah graduates have not made LDS Cinema movies. Moreover, during the last two decades they haven't made ANY theatrically released feature films in ANY genre, or if they have their output has been negligible compared to graduates of BYU and other Utah campuses. One of the only theatrically released feature films in recent memory made by a U. of U. student is "Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie," which had considerable amounts of low-budget original material, but was largely simply a skewering of the classic science fiction movie "This Island Earth," from the novel by devout Latter-day Saint science fiction writer Raymond F. Jones.

These observations should NOT be taken as criticism of the University of Utah film program. The program simply focuses on other, more advanced topics than feature film production. There is a strong emphasis on film history and film criticism. Also, many of the graduates of the program work in local TV production and produce documentary films. In many ways, producing widely-seen feature films can be seen as "pandering to the masses," and clearly this is something that University of Utah film school graduates do not do. The program has clearly inoculated its students from lapsing into viewing movies as entertainment rather than high art.

Note how the description of the University of Utah Film Studies program (from Filmmaker.Com), carefully avoids using the words "movie", "feature", "theater", "audience" or "income":

The University of Utah Film Studies Program is focused on both the academic aspect of film and the production aspect of film. The Core courses required for a B.A. in Film Studies are:

1) Critical Introduction to Film, a course which broadly covers the extent of film as an art. This course includes aspects of Mise en Scene, Cinematography, Editing, Sound, Film Genres, Characteristics of Fictional Film, Documentary Film, Avante-Guarde Film, and Jobs in the Motion Picture Industry. This course requires a small amount of note taking, however the rest of the class is spent watching films and discussing them. This class gave me a new perspective on film, being able to watch both for entertainment and for analysis of film as an expressive medium. The Films viewed range from Modern Fictional, Film Noir, Black and White, Silent, Experimental, Documentary, and Foreign.

2) History of Film: Silent Period to the 1950's. This course covers the history of fictional film from the invention of the film camera up until the 1950's throughout the world. This class requires note taking, however once again the class is mainly the viewing and discussion of films from that period in history. Films viewed include works of the Lumiere brothers, Melies, Edison, Porter, Griffith, Pudovkin, Eisenstein, Murnau, Lang, Chaplin, Renoir, Welles, and many more critcal filmmakers. This class gave me a greater understanding of how film has come to be the medium that it is today and illustrated the process by which film advanced throughout the world over time.

3) History of Film: 1950's to Today. This course covers the history of fictional film extending from the previous course and covering advances in film until the present. Same requirements as the classes above. The Films viewed cover the 1950's until the Present day including many of the ground breaking Directors: Hitchcock, Kubrick, Spielberg, Stone, and Lucas.

4) Beginning Film and Video Production. This course teaches the basic techniques of film making (using video equipment to start with and graduating to 16 mm film). The class projects include fictional films, documentaries, and experimental films.

The Remainder of the Film Studies Major hours can be filled by classes ranging from The Sundance Film Festival Workshop, Film and Culture, Computer Animation, Directing Actors for Film, Documentary Film Production, Directing and Videography, Screenwriting, Advanced Film Production, Film Post Production, Film Theory and Criticism, Film and TV Acting, and Internships.