DAILY NEWS: Very Few Treats and a Handful of Tricks at Crowded Weekend Box Office
by Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE
(indieWIRE/ 10.31.00) -- "I got a rock," moans Charlie Brown in a famous
line from the Peanuts Halloween special. The perenially plagued kid,
boasting a tattered, homemade costume, knocks on numerous neighborhood doors
hoping for tasty treats but instead regularly comes up empty handed. Such
was the case for a number of independent, specialty and IndieWood
distributors this weekend leading up to today's Halloween holiday.
The box office totals are in for the span that included a dozen indie and
specialty films entering the marketplace. Not surprisingly, while a few
films performed well over the weeekend, there were no runaway successes that
emerged among the crowd. Armchair industry quarterbacks went so far as to
express disappointment at the box office generated by a couple of the more
critically acclaimed weekend debuts -- a few other openers were utter
The strongest debut was clearly Tonie Marshall's multiple award winning
French entry, "Venus Beauty Institute." The film, which Lot47 released at
five sites, earned $32,150 for an average of $6,430. Also performing solidly
was Gerard Depardieu's "The Bridge," which earned $9,959 on one screen in New York City.
Two industry insiders, at rival distributors, expressed sincere disappointment over the grosses for two anticipated debuts, David Gordon Green's "George Washington" and Bahman Ghobadi's "A Time for Drunken Horses." The roundly acclaimed "George Washington" earned $13,335 at five sites, for an average of $2,667. In fairness to the film, which performed well in its two Manhattan runs (with an average of about $4,500), the per site average was pulled down by very small grosses outside the the city, in New Jersey.
"It was a tough weekend to open, there was a lot of stuff for people to
see," Cowboy Booking's John Vanco told indieWIRE yesterday. "All these
little films probably were cannibalizing each other's audiences a little bit."
"A Time for Drunken Horses," which is Iran's official entry for the Academy
Awards, was not a runaway success as part of the Shooting Gallery Film
Series, it earned $48,188 at 16 sites, for an average of $2,637 -- the film
is the widest release of an Iranian film in the United States. Shooting
Gallery's Eamonn Bowles told indieWIRE yesterday that he was encouraged by
the fact that the movie's take grew as the weekend went on, but admitted that with such a crowded field, the competition for editorial space can hurt specialty releases.
Josh Aronson's "Sound and Fury," an Artistic License release that has been one of the most highly-regarded documentaries of the year since its Sundance premiere, earned $7,104 on three screens at three sites for an average of
There were a number of misses among this past weekend's dozen debuts, a
number of which were, in the words of one insider, "dumped" by their
distributors. Phaedra's release of "The Sculptress" earned $6,716 at 25
sites, for an average of only $269, while Lions Gate's debut of two new
films was unsuccessful. Denys Arcand's "Stardom" performed very poorly,
earning only $6,982 on 10 screens (for an average of $698), while Laurence
Fishburne's "Once in the Life" earned $28,358 at 15 sites for an average of
IndieWood distributors did not fare well over the weekend. Artisan's
widely-marketed sequel to "The Blair Witch Project," lacked the strength of
its predecessor, earning $13,223,887 at 3,317 sites for an average of
$3,987. As a point of comparison, the first installment earned more than $29
milllion with an average of $26,528 after expanding to 1,101 sites on July
30th of last year. Meanwhile, Univeral Focus and Shooting Gallery opened
Kwyn Bader's "Lovin Jezebel" at 74 sites, earning only $43,775 for an
average of $2,431 and USA Films' debut of Shane Meadow's "A Room for Romeo Brass" earned $6,713 at three sites, for an average of $2,237.
Calling this past weekend among the most crowded he has seen in awhile, Paul
Dergarabedian, President of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations, said
that the weak numbers are a result of the crowding. "The competition is dog
eat dog," Degarabedian told indieWIRE yesterday, "It really [shows] how
tough it is because you don't see any of them doing good business."
Shooting Gallery's Eamonn Bowles wondered yesterday why so many films are
being released given the difficult marketplace. "Not all of these films
should be released theatrically," Bowles told indieWIRE yesterday, "Some of
these could have probably had a great cable premiere." Bemoaning that fact
that many filmmakers maintain a theatrical release as their "holy grail,"
Bowles continued, "Yes, the big companies are getting out of the business,
but now all of these smaller companies are sprouting up, dealing with the
scraps." Concluding, Bowles predicted that there will be a "shakeout of the
smaller companies in the not too distant future."
Indeed, competition won't be this tight again until the end of December.
During Christmas week the larger IndieWood studios are expected to open a
number of anticipated films ("Before Night Falls," "Crouching Tiger, Hidden
Dragon," "State and Main" and "O Brother, Where Art Thou," among others), most in limited release to qualify for Oscar consideration.
If there was a point of optimism from the weekend grosses, perhaps Cowboy's
John Vanco pegged it, "[The box office gross] was better than it was last
month when it seemed like nobody was going to movies." [Eugene Hernandez]
[EDITORS NOTE: Box office figures for this article were provided by
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