I can say with certainty that I don't know anyone personally, who hasn't heard of Ava DuVernay's upcoming new drama Middle Of Nowhere, which opens in limited release this Friday, en route to a gradual nationwide expansion after its premiere weekend.
The films marketing campaign (especially in the last 2 weeks) has been wide-reaching and dare I say, relentless, especially if you're online, and a member of any of the popular social network sites like Facebook and Twitter, culminating in a wonderful profile of Ms DuVernay in the New York Times late last week, as well as some Oscar consideration talk (Best Original Screenplay and Best Actress), thanks to a piece penned by Sasha Stone at AwardsDaily.com yesterday.
I haven't begun our Oscar coverage yet, but I'll look at the film's chances in coming weeks (along with other films and performances), after more of you have seen it, so we can discuss.
In the meantime however, given how strong the marketing campaign has been, and the fact that a lot of you are (or should be) aware of the film and its debut in theaters this weekend, and its cross-over potential (cross-over as in non-black audiences who are aware of the film, thanks in part to the mainstream recognition it's received, and who might think of it not solely as a film for black people), the question I have is, how well will that awareness translate to box office?
It goes without saying that we hope it does very well; however, I'll still say that I have absolutely no idea what to expect in terms of audience turnout and ticket sales. You'd think it a given, for reasons I've already stated, that sales will be brisk, but I honestly can't say with certainty.
Her first film, I Will Follow, opened in 5 theaters, grossing over $56,000, with an $11,000 per screen average. But Middle Of Nowhere is not I Will Follow for a number of reasons – differences in budget, awards recognition, new theater location dates, the involvement of Participant Media in the film's release, versus AFFRM solo with I Will Follow last year, and overall awareness in terms of press and audience, are just a few to start. We could say that there's more at stake now than there was before.
All that to say, I don't know if I'd use I Will Follow as a gauge for how Middle Of Nowhere might do. I'd say that expectations are certainly higher.
So while the film opens in just one more theater than I Will Follow did last year (6 versus 5), I'll look for per screen averages to be higher than last year's $11,000+ opening weekend. At least, that's what we hope to see.
I Will Follow ended up with a total gross north of $150,000, by the way.
It may not do Beasts Of The Southern Wild numbers (it averaged over $42,000 on its opening weekend on 4 screens) – although, if it does, or even surpasses it, that would obviously be a good thing; but we're talking about 2 different animals, and I won't go into differences between the two here.
However, a per screen average anywhere close to $42,000 per screen, would be a big win! Beasts has grossed over $11 million thus far.
The most recent example of a black indie by a black filmmaker that received this much and this kind of attention (press, awards potential, audience awareness, cross-over potential, etc) was Dee Rees' Pariah, which was released by Focus Features last December. That film opened on 4 screens, and grossed just over $12,000 average per screen, en route to a $769,000 total.
I'm sure AFFRM and Participant would like to see larger figures.
By Friday, the box office experts will print their projections for the weekend, so we'll know a bit more by then.
However, as is customary around here when a much-talked about black film is facing its first weekend in commercial release, we're giving you folks the opportunity to play the role of box office pro; but, this time, not to guess how well you think the film will do on opening weekend; rather, how well it'll do throughout the course of its domestic (USA) theatrical run.
So, the challenge is: guess what Middle Of Nowhere's TOTAL theatrical box office will be. When it's completed its theatrical run, what do you think that cummulative figure will be?
Tougher, I know, but the reward is higher – instead of the usual $50 Amazon gift certificate. The winner will get a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Yes, there can only be 1 winner.
You have until this Thursday, October 11th, at 11:59pm EST to post your guesses in the comment section below. Any guesses posted after that won't be accepted; you've got 4 days to do any further research you think you need to do, to come up with your answer.
You're encouraged to scan responses posted before yours (assuming there are any), to make sure that no one else before you has already come up with your guess. If two people guess the same figure, the person who posted their response first, will get the nod. The other person won't.
And when the film completes its theatrical run in 3 to 4 months or so (or maybe longer), we'll revisit the contest and the guesses, and at that time, choose a winner – whomever guessed a figure closest to, but without going over, the actual number.
Got it? Good. Go!