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by Indiewire
December 1, 2004 2:00 AM
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"Education" and "Long Engagement" Rule the Holiday Box Office

"Education" and "Long Engagement" Rule the Holiday Box Office

by Brian Brooks

Sony Classics' "Bad Education" ruled the school once again in the specialty box office, with only a marginal decrease in its per screen average, remaining in the same venues for its second weekend. Warner Independent Pictures debuted "A Very Long Engagement" at several sites, with a strong showing in the second position on the chart, ranked on a per screen basis. Miramax greatly expanded "Finding Neverland," becoming the largest overall specialty grosser for the weekend, which experienced the traditional holiday jump in people heading to theaters. "Neverland," and two other titles, however, dominated the "indie" box office. Despite the long Thanksgiving weekend, distributors mostly reported three-day grosses, which is reflected in the numbers in the chart and in this article.

Pedro Almodovar's "Bad Education" ("Mala Educacion") received box office honors once again, ranking top in the Thanksgiving class of specialty offerings, grossing $138,546 on three screens for a grade-A $46,182 per screen average. Last week's debut average was $49,123, a decline of only 6%, while the two-week total stands at $379,809.

Warner Independent Pictures opened its feature "A Very Long Engagement" in four engagements, taking in $101,749 for a hefty $25,437 per screen average, placing second in the iW: BOT and first among the weekend's new offerings.

"We are very excited about the opening," said Steven Friedlander, executive vice president of distribution at Warner Independent Pictures to indieWIRE Monday. "We had a per screen average of over $25,000, which is exceptional."

The film's director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, has a track record with U.S. audiences, which Friedlander credited in driving crowds to see the film. "We are obviously getting both the 'Amelie' crowd, which was attracted to the film because of the sweeping romance and the fact that Audrey Tautou is once again the star, and an arthouse crowd that is intrigued by Jeunet's vision of the horrors of World War I trench warfare and the elements of mystery that were so integral to the best-selling book on which the film was based."

The film, which was produced by Warner Bros. France and 2003 Productions, recently had a controversy at home when a Gaul court ruled the film was not "French enough" to vie for French prizes. Warner Independent is handling North American distribution, while Warner Bros. International is distributing the feature elsewhere.

The film will remain in four theaters, two in New York City and two in Los Angeles until December 17th when the company will add about twenty more screens in fifteen additional markets. On Wednesday, December 22, approximately 175 runs will be added in both the U.S. and Canada, while another expansion is slated for January 14th pushing the site count to about 350 locations.

In other weekend openings, Wellspring's "Notre Musique" by legendary Swiss/French auteur Jean-Luc Godard opened at New York's Film Forum last Wednesday, taking in $8,210 over the three-day weekend period ($11,815 since opening) placing fifth on the chart, while Palm Pictures' "Purple Butterfly" flew in with $6,970 in the sixth position. Excel Entertainment's "The Work and the Glory" played 39 locations, grossing $251,145 ($6,440 average) and has cumed $450,324 since opening last Wednesday.

Magnolia Pictures' doc, "Guerilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst" debuted on four screens, grossing $22,444 ($5,611 average), and Cinema Guild's "Fear and Trembling" opened Wednesday with a $14,018 five-day total ($5,082 three-day weekend gross) on one screen. Picture This! Entertainment rolled out "You I Love" on one screen, with $4,577 ($13,476 since Wednesday), while Regent Releasing played "Straight-Jacket" at three locations with a $5,377 Friday to Sunday gross ($1,792 average).

Kino International's "Days of Being Wild" maintained its fury at one location, taking in $10,600, vs. its debut of $18,090, a 41% decline with a two-week $43,295 cume and a third placement on the BOT.

Miramax's "Finding Neverland" discovered 456 additional screens over the weekend, becoming by far the iW BOT's largest moneymaker, taking in over $4.67 million from 513 locations. The film averaged $9,104 ($14,680 last week, a 38% decrease), finishing fourth on the chart. The film's three-week cume is over $7.75 million.

Two other titles also scored weekend grosses in excess of seven figures. Fox Searchlight's "Kinsey" added 152 sites, taking in nearly $1.3 million ($6,875 average, a 57% drop) for a three-week cume of over $2.54 million, while the company's other top performer, "Sideways" grossed nearly $3 million from 497 screens ($5,861 average, an 11% decrease from last week) for a $9.95 million cume. "Sideways," incidentally, received six Independent Spirit Awards nominations on Tuesday.

The combined tally for "Finding Neverland," "Kinsey," and "Sideways" represented about 74% or $8.875 million of the overall specialty box office gross of nearly $12 million. Overall, the 'indie' gross increased 49% from the previous week's $6.35 million, with four less titles, although 521 (2,566 in total) additional screens played specialty titles.

Factoring out the top three titles in terms of revenue, the remaining 61 films on the chart grossed nearly $3.12 million on 1,368 screens for a $2,280 per site average. Industry-wide, 112 films grossed $161.79 million on 35,969 screens.

Among this week's openers are Davide Ferrario's "After Midnight" and Mike Nichols' "Closer." Also debuting is Ali Reza Raisian's "Deserted Station," Zhang Yimou's "House of Flying Daggers," and Paul Feig's "I Am David."

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