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March 9, 2005 2:00 AM
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"Downfall" Ascends the iW: BOT Again, "Gunner Palace" Opens Solid

"Downfall" Ascends the iW: BOT Again, "Gunner Palace" Opens Solid

by Brian Brooks

Newmarket's "Downfall" again ascended the specialty box office pedestal, taking the number one position in its third weekend of release following an expansion. IW: BOT newcomers also fared decently, with "Gunner Palace," "Dear Frankie," and "Best of Youth" commandeering the second, third and fourth places on the chart respectively, while fellow debuts "Intimate Stories" and "Walk on Water" also comfortably made the top ten calculated on a per screen basis. The inclusion of Lions Gate's "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" again greatly skewed the chart, giving the combined takes of that film and the other top five earners a greater percentage of the "indie" gross then typically seen relative to the 53 other films included in the iW BOT. The remaining 53 films on the chart, however, increased their combined per screen average compared to the previous weekend.

Oliver Hirschbiegel's "Downfall" (Der Untergang) landed atop the specialty box office list for a third week with a $9,020 per screen average ($15,704 last week, a 43% decline) for the weekend ending Sunday, March 6, adding five additional screens. The film grossed $81,179 from nine sites and has cumed $219,419.

Palm Pictures, meanwhile, opened Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein's Iraq war doc "Gunner Palace" on eight screens, taking the second placement on the chart with a $7,940 average from a $63,520 total gross.

"We're certainly very pleased to have had the weekend's strongest specialized opening," commented Neal Block, director of distribution at Palm to indieWIRE yesterday. "We're at the cusp of one of the busiest periods of the year for distribution, and we hope the strong word-of-mouth and continued great press will carry 'Gunner Palace' through the season and make it Palm's biggest success yet." Block also touted the film's take on "current world events" and its accessibility to the polarized American spectrum in its appeal to audiences.

In promoting the film, Palm reached out to a wide-range of moviegoers. "We had a joint marketing campaign that targeted both art-house [audiences] as well as soldiers, veterans, and military family members," said Block who went on to say that males dominated audiences, but ages varied. "Patrons of all ages came to the theater, from old men and their wives to young guys in camouflage fatigues."

Palm will expand "Gunner Palace" to eight additional markets this coming weekend, as well as into the suburbs of the film's initial markets. On March 18, the company expects the film be in an additional 15 to 20 cities, including a few "key military locations" like Fayetteville, NC and Colorado Springs, CO.

Miramax opened "Dear Frankie" and "Best of Youth," taking the third and fourth spots respectively. "Dear Frankie" played five engagements, grossing $37,543 ($7,508 average), while "Best of Youth" took in $7,940 on one screen.

Lions Gate's "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" rounded out the top five, grossing more than $11.02 million on 1,703 screens Last week, the film averaged $14,771 from 1,483 screens, making this week's $6,475 average 66% below the film's opening per site tally. Nevertheless, the feature itself was by far the mlargest grosser on the chart, taking nearly 54% of the iW: BOT's total dollar amount. "Diary" has cumed nearly $37.1 million in two weeks.

New Yorker Films opened "Intimate Stories" at a pair of sites, taking in $12,095, averaging $6,048, giving the film a sixth place showing on the b.o. The Samuel Goldwyn Films/Roadside Attractions release, "Walk on Water," meanwhile, debuted at 10 locations, grossing $60,465 ($6,047 average), following immediately after "Intimate Stories" in the rankings.

"We are very pleased with the initial openings in New York, L.A., and San Francisco," commented Michael Silberman, head of distribution for Samuel Goldwyn Films and Roadside Attractions to iW Tuesday. "We feel we now have a solid base of filmgoers to help spread the word and build more awareness." Silberman praised the film for raising "provocative issues and [challenging] ideologies" in what he described as a "very entertaining manner." Samuel Goldwyn and Roadside expect the word-of-mouth to propel the film to wider audiences, and the distributors have also pushed the film to specific constituencies.

"The film was heavily promoted to Jewish and Israeli, gay and the traditional art-house moviegoer through word-of-mouth and festival screenings, Internet and traditional grass-roots efforts," added Silberman, who also said that "favorable reviews" helped to "position the film" among "target" audiences. Over the next month, the film will expand to the top 30 markets.

Alexander Payne's "Sideways" scored the second largest absolute gross on the chart, with just under $2.1 million in returns from 1,057 screens. The feature averaged $1,983, down from $2,878 last week, a 31% decline. "Sideways"'s 21 week cume is nearly $66.2 million.

"Sideways," along with "The Aviator" ($2.3 million) "Hotel Rwanda" ($1 million) and "Finding Neverland" ($1.04 million) were again among the highest overall grossers for the weekend. Those titles along with "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" took in almost $17.5 million on 5,309 screens, or about 85% of the entire iW BOT total of $20.51 million.

Overall, the chart's 58 films averaged $3,053, a 39% drop from last week's $4,993. Factoring out the top five films, the remaining 53 titles grossed just over $3 million on 1,411 screens, averaging $2,139, a 39% increase from last week's $1,302 using similar calculations. Industry-wide, 111 films grossed over $144 million on 39,494 screens for a $3,648 average, which is 41% higher then the iW BOT's combined average for the smallest 53 titles.

"The Boys & Girl from County Clare" from First Look Media is among this weekend's specialty debuts, as well as Summit Entertainment's "Dot the I," Sony Pictures Classics' "In My Country," First Independent Pictures' "Mail Order Wife," Fox Searchlight's "Millions," and Holedigger Studios' "Off the Map."

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