After weeks of controversy surrounding the MPAA's decision to give the film a 'R' rating -- and the subsequent decision to release it unrated -- The Weinstein Company's "Bully" was released on 5 screens in New York and LA this weekend. According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, the results were quite promising.
Here's the rundown for "Bully" and a dozen or so other specialty films in release:
"Bully" (The Weinstein Company)
Lee Hirsch's doc "Bully" took in a very strong $115,000 this weekend, averaging $23,000. That made it the best documentary debut of 2012 so far (in terms of per-theater-average), and the second best limited debut overall (after the $23,764 "Footnote" averaged four weekends ago).
"We werent sure what to expect," Eric Lomis, President of Distribution at The Weinstein Company, told Indiewire today. "We were certainly hopeful, but you never know what you're gonna get with a documentary. Whether it's gonna be good, fair, poor numbers... It's hard to call. There's no tracking service. But certainly we got a lot of publicity so we were hopeful. And we're pleased with the numbers so far."
As far as historical comparisons go, two notable unrrated documentaries that went on to find strong final grosses include 2003's "Capturing The Friedmans," which averaged $21,718 from 3 theaters in its debut, en route to a $3,119,113 final gross, and 2005's "The Aristocrats," which averaged a whopping $60,949 from 4 theaters and then went on to take in $6,377,461.
From exit polling, the film was "definitely recommended" by 82% of teenagers that saw the film, which is hopeful as the film expands. The Weinstein Company will broaden the film on April 13th, taking it to 50 markets and 125-150 theaters
"Our goal is to get out there as broad as we can," Lomis said.
"The Island President" (IDP/Samuel Goldwyn)
Another doc debut this weekend, Jon Shenk's take on Maldives' ex-President Mohamed Nasheed and his attempt to tackle climate change was released on 2 screens care of IDP/Samuel Goldwyn this weekend. The result was a $15,600 gross and a decent $7,800 per-theater-average. Since opening last Wednesday, the film has taken in $19,504.
The film -- which won the audience award for documentaries at last year's Toronto International Film Festival -- is being released following a surge of press after Nasheed was forced to leave office following a coup d'etat by loyalists to his predecessor, dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom For more on that, check out Indiewire's interview with director Shenk here.
"Turn Me On, Dammit" (New Yorker Films)
Also opening on 2 screens was Jannicke Systad Jacobsen's Norwegian import "Turn Me On, Dammit." The film took in $11,515 for a $5,758 per-theater-average.
Check out analysis on a dozen holdover releases on the next page.