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March 2, 2005 2:00 AM
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"Downfall" Rises Again: "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" Takes the Lions Share of BOT

"Downfall" Rises Again: "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" Takes the Lions Share of BOT

by Brian Brooks

Newmarket's "Downfall" once again reached the specialty box office's summit in its second weekend in theaters, following a small expansion in a week that saw several openings, including a mammoth debut for Lions Gate's "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" over Oscar weekend. Miramax's "Bride and Prejudice" also saw a sizeable screen increase, maintaining a moderate per screen average and a third ranking on the chart, tallied on a per screen basis. In other openings, "The Other Side of the Street" and "Up and Down" debuted modestly in limited release, while "Born into Brothels" added screens. The combined totals of four films as well as "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" soared over the weekend due to the lopsided success of the Lions Gate release.

Newmarket Films' "Downfall" (Der Utergang) again rose to the occasion in the specialty box office, adding three screens, taking in $62,817 from four locations. The film, directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, averaged $15,704 ($24,220 last week, a 35% decrease), and its two-week cume is now $102,207.

Darren Grant's "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," starring Tyler Perry, debuted on 1,483 screens. The film may not have normally been included on the chart due to its big opening, but the film, a Lions Gate release, is being distributed by an independent company regularly included on the chart. The film grossed, almost $22 million, representing about 61% of the entire specialty box office take for the weekend. "Diary" placed second on the iW BOT with a $14,771 per screen average.

"We are of course thrilled with the opening of [the film], it is a big win for Lions Gate," commented the company's head Tom Ortenberg to indieWIRE Tuesday. "John Hegeman, our head of marketing, deserves the lions share of the credit here. John was the first among us to see the true, huge potential of the film, and he and his team knocked it out of the park."

Ortenberg said the majority audience was African-American females over 25, but that they expect to widen that appeal going forward. "The film played equally well to all demos, so we expect great growth to a crossover audience over the coming weeks. The film scored 96% top 2 boxes (excellent, very good) in our exit polls, with a definite recommend score of 94%." Lions Gate plans to go up to 1,700 screens this weekend, with a further expansion planned "as warranted" thereafter, according to Ortenberg.

Miramax's Bollywood-inspired "Bride and Prejudice" added 124 sites for the film, grossing $856,488 on 156 screens. The film placed third on the chart with a $5,490 per screen average, a 54% decline. The feature's three-week cume is now just over $1.8 million.

In other openers, Strand Releasing debuted "The Other Side of the Street" on one screen, taking in $4,316, placing fourth on the chart, while Sony Classics' "Up and Down" rounded out the top five, opening on six screens with a $4,191 average from a $25,144 gross. Vitagraph, meanwhile, opened "Sunset Story" at one location, grossing $2,966.

Best documentary Academy Award-winner, "Born into Brothels" added nine screens over the weekend that also saw the film winning its Oscar. "Brothels" grossed $130,078 from 41 sites, averaging $3,173 ($5,477 previously, a 42% drop). THINKFilm issued a release that the film will be on 60 screens beginning Friday, and will "expand to its widest release pattern" March 11 with 100 prints.

"I am particularly proud of this achievement," said THINK's CEO and President Jeff Sackman in a statement. "Not only is it the first Oscar of our young history, but it is the result of a very carefully planned distribution strategy and when it works to perfection as it did here it is particularly satisfying."

In addition to "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," Oscar contenders "Sideways," "Hotel Rwanda," "The Aviator," and "Finding Neverland" again had seven-figure grosses. Together, the five titles represented about 90% of the entire specialty box office. In all, 59 titles took in nearly $36.1 million on 7,228 screens, a 43% increase. Minus the top five grossers, the remaining 54 films on the chart took in nearly $3.5 million on 2,681 screens for a $1,302 screen average. That average is 74% below the iW BOT's overall $4,993 average when all the films are factored in.

"The Best of Youth" from Miramax is among this weekend's specialty debuts. Also opening are "Dear Frankie" (also from Miramax), Palm Pictures' "Gunner Palace," New Yorker's "Intimate Stories" (Historias Minimas), and Roadside Attractions/Samuel Goldwyn film, "Walk on Water."

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