"Capturing the Friedmans" Tops the Box office Chart with
Record-breaking Numbers in Manhattan
by Brian Brooks
Family dysfunction reigned supreme at the specialty box office over the weekend, as the debut of Magnolia Pictures' "Capturing the Friedmans" made a record-breaking bow in New York, easily wrestling the top spot on the indieWIRE per screen average box office chart. Fellow opener "Together" from United Artists took the second spot, while "The Cremaster Cycle" penetrated the top tier once again, coming in at number three. Docs took three of the chart's top six slots.
While the national box office was topped by the latest Disney/Pixar film, "Finding Nemo," about a father (a fish) trying to find his lost son, Andrew Jarecki's "Capturing the Friedmans," the true story of a father and son accused of sexual misdeeds lead the indieWIRE box office chart grossing $65,154 on three screens for a strong $21,718 average. The doc, which came close to matching "Bowling for Columbine"'s numbers in its opening weekend in the same Lower Manhattan area, set a box office record for a documentary at the Angelika Theater, taking in $36,768. "We're just jazzed about it," said Magnolia Pictures president Eamonn Bowles in a conversation with indieWIRE. "I imagined a good case scenario, and [the film] went considerably above it."
Asked about the film's debut success, Bowles credited the good reviews and plethora of media attention given to "Friedmans" in addition to the film's heavily sensational subject matter. "There's a lot to chew," said Bowles. "All of our initial screenings had a lot of people talking about the film afterward [and following] screenings over the weekend, people [stayed] talking about it for hours. The response is phenomenal." Outside NYC's two venues, the film played in Great Neck, NY, the home of the Friedman family during the time period covered in the film.
Reporters from the Los Angeles Times, People and 48 Hours were among the media present to cover a Q & A following a screening in Great Neck. "I think we may be scratching the surface in coverage of this film," said Bowles who went on to say that critics from around the country have responded as positively as New York critics. He also credited buzz about the film following the 2003 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Grand Prize, for bringing attention to the movie. The film will open in Chicago this week, followed by six additional markets June 13th and a larger roll out at the end of the month.
Chen Kaige's "Together" came in at number two on the chart opening on six screens, grossing $69,209 over the weekend for an $11,535 per screen average. The film, about a father and son who move from rural China to Beijing so the son can pursue a dream to join a music academy, won two awards at San Sebastian last year, including best director for the acclaimed Chinese director.
Palm Pictures' "The Cremaster Cycle" played on seven screens in its sixth weekend of release, taking in $45,178 for an impressive $6,454 per screen average, landing the five film series by artist-director Matthew Barney on the third spot on the indieWIRE chart. "Cremaster" has earned $201,251 so far.
Last week's chart topper "Respiro" came in at number four in its second weekend in theaters, adding one more venue (8 screens) for a $51,430 gross and a $6,429 average. The film, by Emanuele Crialese has so far totaled $164,194.
ThinkFilm increased screens for "Spellbound," playing 42 venues over the weekend compared to the previous weekend's 24 sites, taking in $230,528 for a $5,489 per screen average and a fifth place on the iW chart. Since release five weeks ago, "Spellbound" has earned a winning $707,048.
Sony Classics continued its magical flight with Oscar-nominated "Winged Migration," which grossed $225,028 over the weekend on 43 screens (25 screens last weekend) for an average of $5,233. The film, seven weeks in release and number six on the chart, has earned just under $1.15 million.
Fox Searchlight's "L'Auberge Espagnole" took the seventh spot, averaging $4,607 on a $198,085 weekend playing 43 screens. Since release three weeks ago, the film has totaled $588,050.
IFC Films' doc, "A Decade Under the Influence" played two sites, taking the ninth place on the chart, averaging $3,932 on a $7,863 gross. The average rose significantly from the previous weekend's $2,274 on one screen.
As expected, Wellspring's "Russian Ark" topped the $2 million mark, earning $25,277 on 17 screens for a $1,487 average in its 25th weekend in theaters. The company announced yesterday it will release "Ark" director Sokurov's latest film "Father and Son" in the U.S.
This coming weekend, look for the thriller "The Eye" from Palm, Sundance doc debut "The Weather Underground" from Shadow, and festival favorite "Whale Rider" from Newmarket.