"Enron" Stages a Box office Raid; "Kung Fu Hustle" Takes the Specialty Lions Share
by Brian Brooks
Magnolia Pictures' doc "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" showed its box office wattage last weekend, overtaking the iW BOT pinnacle after its limited release in theaters in the three-day period ending Sunday, April 24. Also joining the rollouts on cue was Emerging Pictures' "Music from the Inside Out," which ranked second on the chart as measured on a per screen basis. Other debuts failed to break the specialty top ten, however, in a weekend that, nevertheless experienced a significant increase in numbers for both overall revenue and per screen average for iW BOT films generally. Sony Classics' nationwide rollout of "Kung Fu Hustle," however, accounted for much of the weekend increase.
"Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" staged a specialty box office takeover, wrestling iW BOT top spot from "Kung Fu Hustle" following a two-week reign ("Hustle" was nevertheless by far the biggest revenue maker). The film, directed by Alex Gibney played three screens averaging $25,546 ($76,639 gross).
"We think it's an absolutely great opening and an incredibly auspicious first production from HDNET Films," commented Eamonn Bowles, president of Magnolia Pictures to indieWIRE yesterday. "The different parts of the company -- Landmark, HDNET and Magnolia -- worked in terrific sync promoting the film." HDNET Films, which made the film, Landmark (the exhibitor) and Magnolia (the distributor) are owned by Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner's 2929 Entertainment.
Magnolia decided to release the film during the current lull in coverage of the Enron scandal, which is expected to heat up early next year after two main figures involved in the company's downfall head to court. "Although it may sound counterintuitive, I wanted to get the film out before the big [Jeff] Skilling and [Kenneth] Lay trials started. I've found in the past that when people are inundated with items in the news, there's often resistance to go pay for the same subject matter in the theaters," said Bowles. The one thing we tried to position in all the marketing was that this wasn't a '60 Minutes' or '20/20' expose. It was much more dimensional and, damn it, entertaining." Bowles praised Gibney and the rest of the film's production team, and said the film drew a "mixed" crowd of specialized audiences but also "goosed significantly" by financial types.
This Friday, Magnolia will open "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" in 20 markets on 45 screens. "[We'll be] expanding out from there [and] throughout May and hopefully beyond," added Bowles.
Daniel Anker's doc "Music from the Inside Out" debuted at one location, scoring the second slot on the chart. The Emerging Pictures release grossed $13,444.
Matson Films' "It's All Gone Pete Tong" remained on one screen in its second weekend out. The film placed third on the chart with $12,257, a 38% decline from its debut.
Self-distributed "Short Cut to Nirvana: Kumbh Mela," meanwhile, remained at the same location over the weekend, grossing $7,095, a 36% drop from the previous week. In its nearly six months theater run, the film has cumed $221,491.
In other openers, Koch Lorber's "Save the Green Planet" took in $3,040 on one screen, while MGM's "Madison" opened at 93 locations with a $2,886 per screen average. IFC Films' "Games of their Lives" debuted on 64 screens with a $2,740 per screen tally. Also making its theatrical debut was TLA Releasing's "The Man Who Copied" at one location, taking in $2,244.
Sony Pictures Classics' "Kung Fu Hustle" expanded from seven to 2,503 screens last weekend, becoming by far the chart's largest overall grosser at nearly $6.75 million, or about two-thirds of the iW BOT's nearly $10.2 million total, although the film placed 14th on the chart with a $2,697 per screen average ($35,373 average last week in its much more limited run). The film has cumed nearly $7.5 million.
Fox Searchlight's "Millions" was the chart's second highest grosser with $667,848 on 313 screens. The film averaged $2,134, 19% below last week's number, though the film played 62 more screens in the current period. The feature, which was the only other title aside from "Kung Fu" to top the half million mark on the chart, has cumed nearly $3.82 million in seven weeks.
Overall, the iW BOT's 77 titles averaged $2,041 on 4,989 screens, a 20% increase from last week's $1,638. Factoring out "Kung Fu Hustle," however, the remaining 76 titles took in just over $3.43 million on 2,486 screens for a $1,381 average, or 32% below the iW BOT's per screen calculation. Industry-wide, 123 films grossed about $92.93 on 39,575 screens for a $2,348 per screen average, 13% higher than the iW BOT's screen average figure.
This week, Sony Classics debuts "3-Iron," while TLA Releasing opens "Death of a Dynasty." Also starting its theatrical run is "The Holy Girl" from HBO Films and Fine Line.