“Elephant” Stampedes to Top, “Glass” Solid, and “Die Mommie Die” Caps Sundance Series
by Brian Brooks
“Elephant” continues to show some legs, returning to the number one position on the iW: BOT after spending last weekend at number two. “Shattered Glass” switched places with “Elephant” in its second weekend in theaters, while the final film of the Sundance film series, “Die Mommie Die,” sashayed into third place. Also apparently opening well was doc “The Revolution Will Not be Televised” on one New York screen.
The iW: BOT, which reports grosses for limited release movies, tracked 57 films for the weekend, down from 60 the previous week, while the total take for all films came to $3.6 million on a total of 1,526 screens compared to $3.71 million on 1,625 screens last week.
Gus Van Sant’s Palme d’Or winner “Elephant” trumpeted its way to the top in the specialty release category over the weekend, giving the HBO Films/Fine Line release the number one spot after spending the previous weekend at number two. “Elephant” expanded into 31 sites after screening at six locations last week. The film grossed $182,042 for a per screen average of $5,872 and a three week total of $408,262.
Billy Ray’s film on disgraced journalist Stephen Glass also expanded this week, screening in 35 theaters after debuting on eight the previous weekend. “Shattered Glass” took in $157,853 for a decent $4,510 average and a two cume of $269,898. The film screened well at the Paris Theatre in New York, taking in almost $19,600, an increase over last week. Both “Elephant” and “Shattered Glass” were the best performers at the Angelika in downtown Manhattan, also taking the number one and two spots there respectively.
The Sundance Film Series’ fourth film, “Die Mommie Die,” screened at ten sites in its second weekend, grossing $45,073, or a solid $4,507 average. The film has cumed $123,343.
“We’re really pleased, it was a giant experiment and [we] didn’t know if it would be possible to open a film using other people’s money,” commented Paola Freccero, SVP Film Programming, Sundance Channel, in a phone conversation with indieWIRE yesterday. “We definitely gave four films more visibility, we think, than if they had been given a traditional release.” “Die Mommie Die” is the final release in the series, which included a very diverse group of titles with “The Other Side of the Bed” by Emilio Martinez-Lazaro, “In this World” by Michael Winterbottom, and “Dopamine” by Mark Decena taking part in the program along with Mark Rucker’s “Die Mommie Die.”
Freccero went on to say that the film series does not see itself replacing traditional distribution outlets, but can serve as a means to better promote certain films. She said audiences were very enthusiastic, saying many returned to see all the films in the series, despite the widely varying themes. Nevertheless, Freccero commented, “I was a little surprised there weren’t more people going to see ‘In this World,’ given its critical response, but Americans don’t tend to like such difficult films.” Freccero echoed many others in the industry who have commented recently that the autumn has been a particularly challenging time to open films. “It’s really hard to release films three weeks apart from each other, [and] we learned opening films in the fall is difficult.”
Nevertheless, Freccero added that some venues, like the Lowes on 34th Street in Manhattan and the Georgtown theater in DC, worked even better than expected. Continuing Freccero said, “The most pleasant surprise was the amazing cooperation of Lowes, and what a delight they were to work with.”
“Die Mommie Die” was the programs’ most lucrative title and its more than $120,000 gross so far tops the other three films. Martinez-Lazaro’s “The Other Side of the Bed,” which debuted on August 29th, earned $113,086, Winterbottom’s “In This World,” which opened on September 19th, made $84,299 and Decena’s “Dopamine” has made $69,544 so far.
Asked whether Sundance will bring the film series back in 2004, Freccero said, “Stay tuned.” Continuing she added, “This is a program that relies on the generosity of corporate America, and we’re looking to them to see if they want it. We think there’s a lot of enthusiasm for it, but we’ll have to wait and see ultimately.”
In weekend openers, Strand Releasing’s “Love Forbidden” debuted moderately on one screen, grossing $4,075 and a fifth place on the iW: BOT, while Wellspring’s critically acclaimed French film by Marina De Van was wounded on three New York screens taking in $7,572 for an average of $2,524. Vitagraph’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” by Kim Bartley and Donnacha O’Briain has apparently opened quite strongly at Film Forum in New York City, although the company did not submit figures for the film.
Miramax expanded two of its offerings over the weekend, adding 27 screens for “The Human Stain,” which grossed $762,379 at 187 sites for a solid $4,077 average and a cume of nearly $2.2 million. “The Station Agent” added eight screens, grossing $319,704 for an average of $3,401 and a six-week total of a little under $1.6 million.
This week, Samuel Goldwyn Films will release “Anything But Love” by Robert Cary, and New Yorker Films will open doc “My Architect” by Nathaniel Kahn.