On a reasonably quiet weekend for independent/specialty films, with nothing earning a five-digit per-theater average and Terry Zwigoff's "Art School Confidential" not impressive in its fast expansion, documentaries led the latest indieWIRE Box-Office Tracking Report (iWBOT). "Stolen," "Giuliani Time" and "Sketches of Frank Gehry" finished one-two-three, with just over $200 separating first from third. And with Columbia Pictures' blockbuster "The Da Vinci Code" opening this Friday, with subject matter and a cast appealing to art-house crowds, the coming weekend may also be subdued for indies.
[View the indieWIRE:BOT Box Office Table for this week's films here.]
"Stolen," Rebecca Dreyfus' look at the world's greatest unsolved art theft - 13 masterpieces, including Vermeer's "The Concert," from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990 - rose to the top of iWBOT after opening at Landmark's Kendall Square Cinema in Cambridge. It grossed $8,829 there. It had done well during three weeks in New York previously, although never topping iWBOT.
"We had hoped Boston would be our biggest market because everyone there knows about the story," said Wendy Lidell of distributor International Film Circuit, which also is represented on iWBOT with the documentaries "Shakespeare Behind Bars" and "Darwin's Nightmare." "And we expect a good expansion throughout the Northeast, which we're working on now." (The film expands to West Newton 6 theater in suburban Boston on Friday.)
Meanwhile, the performance of Kevin Keating's "Giuliani Time" last weekend at Landmark's Sunshine Cinema in New York proved there is at least an initial audience for a film that takes a highly critical look at former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. It grossed $8,661 and finished second on iWBOT.
Giuliani has been considered a hero in that city and nationally for his response to 9/11. But the documentary questions his effectiveness as mayor before that, especially in regards to police brutality, and comes out at a time when he's considering a run for the presidency in 2008.
"It's the feeling of the director that he's representative of a demographic in New York not supportive of Giuliani," said Rich Castro of distributor Cinema Libre Studios. The film opens in Washington on May 16, Boston on June 9 and Chicago, San Francisco and L.A. on June 16.
Adding more evidence to the belief that architects are the new movie stars, Sydney Pollack's "Sketches of Frank Gehry" finished third by averaging $8,620 at two Manhattan theaters. And the best may be ahead. Sony Classics, whose co-presidents were en route to Cannes and unavailable for comment, chose to open it in New York ahead of Gehry's hometown, L.A., where his Walt Disney Concert Hall has quickly become one of the city's most famous buildings.
The film opens in L.A. on Friday at six locations throughout the metro area. (It already has received a long section-front feature in Los Angeles Times.) That opening will be a good test of the strategy of quickly taking art films to multiple urban/suburban locations in sprawling L.A. rather than keeping them exclusive. Often, that booking policy limits per-screen average.
This week, John Hillcoat's First Look-distributed "The Proposition" fell to ninth from third on iWBOT while expanding into five L.A. locations. Yet it earned an impressive $12,665 at the luxurious Pacific Arclight 15, according to Nielsen EDI, more than at either of its two Manhattan theaters.
And Rialto's "Army of Shadows" slipped to fifth from first this week on iWBOT with a $6,254 average, after expanding to two sites in L.A. and two in Washington D.C. The rediscovered 1969 Jean-Pierre Melville drama about the French Resistance had been at the top of iWBOT because of its strong Film Forum grosses. Based on a positive L.A. Times review, it did $7,680 at Laemmle's Royal in West L.A., but only $3,444 at Laemmle's Pasadena Playhouse 7. Yet both of those theaters did better than "Army of Shadows'" two D.C. locales.
Sony Classics' "Art School Confidential" collapsed after leaping to 762 theaters from just 12 in its second weekend, despite the fact it was promoted heavily at newly dedicated AMC Select art-house screens inside multiplexes. With its per-screen average plummeting 87%, to $1,467 from the previous weekend's $11,311, it fell to 31st from second on iWBOT.
The latest film from a studio-connected indie to try a fast national release, after "Thank You For Smoking" and "Friends With Money," it apparently couldn't surmount its weak reviews. It did, however, generate $1.19 million in weekend revenue, the only film among the 81 titles on this week's iWBOT to do so.
Those 81 films played 2,809 engagements over the weekend, up from the 2,597 engagements that the 93 films on the previous iWBOT played. But the overall gross was down a slight 12% -- to $5.26 million from $5.98 million. The combined per-screen average was $1,873.
[Steven Rosen is a Los Angeles film writer and former movie critic at the Denver Post.]
indieWIRE:BOT tracks independent/specialty releases compiled from Rentrak Theatrical, which collects studio reported data as well as box-office figures from North American theatre locations. To submit information about your film to Rentrak, please email email@example.com