"End of the Century" Punks the Competition; "Bright Young Things" Sashays Onto the Scene and "Open Water" Wave Grows Bigger
by Brian Brooks
For the second time this summer, a rock documentary dominated the specialty box office following its debut. Magnolia Pictures' Ramones doc, "End of the Century" followed IFC Films' "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster," to the iW: BOT's high altar. Metal band Metallica's punk counter-part managed a higher per screen average, although on two fewer screens, and once again providing more luster for documentaries. Narratives, however, dominated other positions in the top tier of the ranking, with the debuts of THINKFilm's "Bright Young Things," Empire Pictures' "Almost Peaceful," and Paramount Classics' "Mean Creek." Lions Gate's "Open Water," meanwhile, expanded widely, becoming the second specialty film this summer to expand to an eight-figure weekend gross.
Michael Gramaglia's "End of the Century" moshed atop the iW: BOT, taking in $18,422 on once screen at New York's Angelika Film Center, just blocks from where the Ramones helped usher in a revolutionary musical form at legendary concert venue CBGB's in the 1970s.
"We thought the opening was terrific, by far the best gross at the Angelika last weekend," commented Magnolia Pictures chief Eamonn Bowles, regarding the film's opening. "The other bright spot was that it didn't play like a traditional music fan film, which often results in the opening day being your biggest grosser, and the film falling off from there. We performed just like an ordinary feature film, with Saturday going up considerably, which hopefully, is a good sign going forward."
Bowles, who first saw a version of the film at Slamdance 2003, continued saying that he believed the film would appeal to audiences not familiar with the band, citing their own personally gripping story. "The candor on display, and that [the band] was able to function despite their dysfunctional personalities, makes for extremely compelling viewing. That fact is one of the reasons that I decided to get involved with it."
Magnolia Pictures will roll the film out slowly because of what Bowles said were clearance issues right before the opening. "[We had] delivery issues [that] were a problem because of the clearance situation (various Ramones entities took about a year-and-a-half to OK the film), so we did not have time for a proper full-on long lead campaign. This will give national media and slower moving outlets time to cover before we get to many markets. Our nice opening has already jump-started attention for the film from the larger media."
THINKFilm bowed Stephen Fry's period drama "Bright Young Things" at three locations, grossing $46,926 or a princely $15,642 per site average, climbing to the second position on the chart.
"We are thrilled with the response, from both the press as well as the public," commented Mark Urman, head of U.S. theatrical distribution at THINKFilm, adding jokingly, "Since the public pays, we actually like their favorable response better!" Urman said the THINKFilm team worked "long and hard" for the project in what he described as "the single most crowded summer for independents that I can recall." The company mounted a strong "word-of-mouth" campaign, screening the film to "hundreds and hundreds of sophisticates and tastemakers in Manhattan," he said, and Fry introduced several screenings and other events in support of the film recently. "[Fry] is a star in a number of circles, and has a host of wonderful friends who all showed up. It was very right for this film, which is all about the glitterati and the literati. We re-created the world from the film in the here and now, and it generated a lot of ink."
Urman, who saw the film at its world debut last year in Toronto, where he told the sales agent, "I would not countenance any scenario whereby I was not the distributor of the film" -- using some of the panache the characters in the film dish liberally -- said that urban and suburban sophisticates as well as those with an affinity for British humor and "lovers of camp" will enjoy the feature. "It's a surprisingly broad spectrum. To have had virtually identical grosses this weekend on [New York's] Upper East Side, downtown and in Chelsea proves that the film can work in a very healthy range of situations." THINKFilm will open new engagements on September 10th and 17th, with some suburban New York expansion in between.
In other debuts, Empire Pictures captured the third b.o. position with Michel Deville's "Almost Peaceful," grossing $10,020 on one screen, while Paramount Classics' "Mean Creek" flowed into four sites, taking in $29,170 ($7,293 average).
Arenas Group release "Nicotina" opened on 96 screens, grossing $446,768 ($4,654 average) and Samuel Goldwyn Films' "Rosenstrasse" opened at ten sites with $45,024 ($4,502 average) over the weekend.
The cumulative specialty box office soared over the weekend, reflecting the huge expansion of Lions Gate's "Open Water," and the continued robust runs of Fox Searchlight/Miramax's "Garden State," and Fox Searchlight's "Napoleon Dynamite." Last weekend's indie gross for the three-day period ending Sunday, August 22nd was about $19.85 million, a $12.21 million increase from the previous week's $7.64 million. The combined specialty screen average came to $3,552 on a total of 5,589 screens, an increase of 2,857 over the previous period. Grosses from the same weekend time period in 2003 were $6.18 million with 70 titles on 2,462 screens. During that weekend, "Thirteen" took the iW: BOT's top spot with a $23,252 per screen average on five screens.
Lions Gate poured "Open Water" onto 2,709 screens, up from just 55 last weekend, taking in more than $11.41 million ($4,213 average). The film alone represented 57% of the entire iW: BOT, and has cumed almost $14.5 million since its release three weeks ago. Combined with the chart's two other big grossers, "Garden State" and "Napoleon Dynamite," the iW: BOT's remaining 60 titles shared a weekend take of nearly $3.63 million, with the big three, in turn, representing about 82% of the overall specialty weekend total. Minus "Garden State," "Open Water," and "Napoleon Dynamite," the indie per screen average is $2,198 on 1,651 screens.
"Garden State" grossed $3.02 million on 652 screens for a $4,633 average, a 41% decrease from last week with 477 new engagements ($6.51 million four-week cume), and "Napoleon Dynamite" took in nearly $1.79 million from 577 sites (a 14 screen increase) with a $3,099 per site tally, a 1% decrease (10-week $19.11 million cume).
This weekend, Wellspring opens Vincent Gallo's controversial "The Brown Bunny" in L.A. and New York, and First Run Features debuts tobacco doc, "Bright Leaves." Tartan Films will open Karl Rove doc "Bush's Brain" in limited release, while Thanit Jitnukul's "Bang Rajan" opens at New York's Quad Cinemas, and Zhang Yimou's "Hero" makes its theatrical debut.