DAILY NEWS: Looking Back at Summer 2002; Also, Montreal Winners
by Eugene Hernandez and Brian Brooks/indieWIRE
>> BOX-OFFICE ROUND UP, Part 2: Summer 2002
(indieWIRE: 09.05.02) -- When the Toronto International Film Festival kicks
off tonight, all eyes will be on the fresh crop of films set to vie for
audiences later this year and into 2003. At the same time, it's an
appropriate moment to look back at the films of summer 2002.
It goes without saying that an unlikely film dominated the indie box-office
between Memorial and Labor Days this summer. "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"
emerged quietly this spring and as summer wore on, it expanded into wide
release, ultimately reaching the number one slot and topping all Hollywood
films on the final day of the summer box office tracking (Monday). Beyond
"Greek Wedding," a number of foreign-language films were among the top
limited releases of the summer.
IFC was at the heart of a trio of summer successes. IFC Films released
"Greek Wedding" as part of a service deal with Gold Circle and while it will
not see most of the $82 million the movie captured through Labor Day
weekend, the company scored with its release of "Y Tu Mama Tambien." The
Spanish-language hit opened in March and earned $13.6 million through early
"The phenomenon of 'Greek Wedding,' what can one say other than the
best marketing campaign in the world takes a back seat to good old
fashioned word of mouth," IFC Entertainment president Jonathan Sehring
told indieWIRE yesterday. IFC's production of "Monsoon Wedding"
(released by USA Films/Focus) opened in February and has earned $13.7
million through Labor Day. IFC Films release of "The Chateau" has been
less stellar. The film earned $96,659 through Labor Day, after 25 days
in release. And finally, IFC backed the InDigEnt film "Tadpole,"
which was Miramax' big acquisition at Sundance. While it has yet to
strike a major chord with audiences, Miramax has maintained that the
movie will turn a profit.
"It has been a challenging year for the independents in terms of this
summer's box office," offered Strand's Marcus Hu yesterday, "While it is
encouraging to see how Bob Berney turned the tables on the indie world box
office with "Y Tu Mama Tambien" and "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," it is
troubling to see how other high-profile indies have performed at the box
office in comparison to the money spent to put the films out."
"Y Tu Mama" and "Monsoon" launched in the spring and played into the summer,
while a number of other foreign-language entries staked their claim after
Memorial Day. Two hits, "Late Marriage" from Israel and "Read My Lips" from France, came from upstart indie distributor Magnolia Pictures. "Marriage"
has nabbed $1.5 million since its Memorial Day debut, while "Lips" is at one
million since opening during the Fourth of July holiday.
Eamonn Bowles of Magnolia says it's the films that secured good reviews and those "that weren't blugeoning people over the head with marketing dollars"
that were able to make an impact. "Critics seem to be having sway again, 'My
Big Fat Greek Wedding' notwithstanding," Bowles told indieWIRE yesterday,
"Films that got the reviews had a leg up this summer."
Among the many foreign-language entries on offer this summer, Lot 47's
release of "The Fast Runner" stood out. The film earned more than $3 million
with a million of that coming from Canada and Lot 47 nabbing the other two.
It was a film that many singled out as a success story. The movie, a three
hour Inuktitut-language drama, flourished after earning positive notices
from top critics.
"Foreign films remain review driven pictures," Sony Classics' Michael Barker told indieWIRE, singling out films like "Late Marriage" and "The Fast
Runner." He added, "That really helps to make those films major foreign
"Sex and Lucia" from Spain (which was distributed by Palm Pictures through Magic Lamp Releasing) is at the million-dollar mark through Labor Day, a
solid performance by the sexy Spanish-language entry. Among other films,
Sony Pictures Classics' "Nine Queens" from Argentina has earned $1.2 million since its debut in April, while SPC's "My Wife is An Actress" is nearing one million. Kino's release of "The Piano Teacher" has earned just shy of one million this summer, while Paramount Classics has found success with "Mostly Martha," which is at $900,000 after only three weeks. Also notable,
Empire/First Run Features' release of "Merci Pour Le Chocolat" has earned
nearly $200,000 in its first month.
Over at Zeitgeist, the company staked out a late-summer slot for its release
of "Satin Rouge" last month. "We had a lot of competition this summer, but
we knew we had a very strong and crowd-pleasing film," Zeitgeist's Nancy
Gerstman told indieWIRE yesterday. "With the right sort of grassroots effort
and some clever marketing, we could have a hit." The film has earned nearly
$60,000 in 11 days of release.
"For Sony, it was a very good summer, we didn't have a home-run, but we did
have a few singles and doubles that we are very happy about," Sony Classics'
Barker told indieWIRE, referring in part to a pair of American entries that
made an impact this summer. "Thirteen Conversations About One Thing" is at
the $3 million mark after 15 weeks, while John Sayles' "Sunshine State" is
at $2.8 million after 11 weeks.
Lions Gate has earned $3.8 million so far with its release of Nicole
Holofcener's "Lovely & Amazing" this summer, while two American films from Fox Searchlight are worth watching are Miguel Arteta's "The Good Girl" which expanded widely over Labor Day and has earned $7.5 million in one month, while "One Hour Photo" is at $3.8 million after only two weeks.
Companies like Sony, Searchlight, Focus, and UA are among those filling the
gap for English-language entries. As an example on the doc front, Focus has
earned nearly $1.2 million with its release of the USA-financed "The Kid
Stays in the Picture." United Artists weighed in this summer with "24 Hour
Party People," which has earned $630,000 in its first month. Indie
distributor ThinkFilm did release an independent acquisition; "The Dangerous
Lives of Altar Boys" has earned $1.7 million through Labor Day.
Quality American indies, those coming from outside the studio specialty
divisions, are the rare breed though. This fact makes the success of the
entertaining, but non-challenging, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" especially
interesting. Describing a "paucity of American independent films,"
Magnolia's Bowles said, "There are not too many around these days that
aren't pre-bought." He added, "Money for production dried up after the
go-go '90s -- the mad money of the '90s is not really around any more,"
Bowles added, "There are fewer American indies on the market."
Buyers will be sizing up the market beginning today in Toronto, jump-
starting the 2002 fall season that launched last week in Venice and
Telluride. [Eugene Hernandez]
>> Montreal Awards Grand Prix To Comencini For "The Best Day of My Life"
(indieWIRE: 09.05.02) -- European films dominated the Montreal World Film
Festival this year, sweeping most of the top prizes including the Grand Prix
of the Americas (best film) award going to Italian director Cristina
Comencini for "Il Piu Bel Giorno Della Mia Vita" (The Best Day of My Life).
Turkish director Tayfun Pirselimoglu received the Special Grand Prix of the
Jury for "Hicbiryerde" (Innowhereland) while French director Sophie Marceau won the best director prize for "Parlez-Moi D' Amour." Fellow French
director Philippe Orreindy took the first prize in the short-film category
while Spaniard Carlos Saura won best artistic contribution for "Salome."
In other honors, French writer/producer/director Luc Besson received a
Special Grand Prix of the Americas during the event for "exceptional
contribution to the cinematographic art." The festival also recognized
Canadian filmmaker Ori Kowarsky, who won the event's best first fiction film
prize for "Various Positions," with fellow Canadian Deborah Day earning a
special mention for "Expecting." "Cofralandes, Chilean Rhapsody" took the
$25,000 Glauber Rocha award while Ole Bornedal won the Air Canada People's
Choice Award for best feature film for "I Am Dina." The Telefilm Canada
award, chosen by the audience to honor the best Canadian feature with a
$25,000 prize, went to "La Turbulence Des Fluides" by Manon Briand.
Also chosen by popular vote is the best African film award ($25,000), which
was given to the Tunisia-France production, "Red Satin" by Raja Amari. The
festival took place August 22 to September 2 in Quebec's largest city.