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"Gay Sex in the '70s" Excites the Specialty Box Office; "Capote" Continues to Charm

By Brian Brooks | Indiewire November 9, 2005 at 4:48AM

Joseph Lovett's self-distributed doc "Gay Sex in the '70s" climaxed the weekend specialty box office, wrestling the number one position on the indieWIRE box office table as ranked on a per screen basis. Last week's chart topper "Ballet Russes" from Zeitgeist Films remained a strong contender, placing second on the chart after adding an additional screen. Sony Pictures Classics' "The Passenger" maintained momentum in its second weekend of its re-release, while the outfit's critically acclaimed "Capote" remained in the chart's top five six weeks out in theaters. Newcomer "Brooklyn Lobster" from Meadowbrook Pictures pinched moderate box office morsels in its initial roll out, while other first-time theatrical releases fared less well.
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Joseph Lovett's self-distributed doc "Gay Sex in the '70s" climaxed the weekend specialty box office, wrestling the number one position on the indieWIRE box office table as ranked on a per screen basis. Last week's chart topper "Ballet Russes" from Zeitgeist Films remained a strong contender, placing second on the chart after adding an additional screen. Sony Pictures Classics' "The Passenger" maintained momentum in its second weekend of its re-release, while the outfit's critically acclaimed "Capote" remained in the chart's top five six weeks out in theaters. Newcomer "Brooklyn Lobster" from Meadowbrook Pictures pinched moderate box office morsels in its initial roll out, while other first-time theatrical releases fared less well.

[View the indieWIRE:BOT Box Office Table for this week's films here.]


"Gay Sex in the '70s" opened at New York's Quad Cinema on one screen, creating a frenzy of ticket-buying over the weekend. The self-distributed doc conquered the specialty chart with a hard $17,367 gross, easily taking the premiere placement on the chart.


"Who would've believed anything like this," Lovett said to indieWIRE Tuesday afternoon about the film's opening. "This is like a dream come true for all of us. We started getting calls from places all over the country [to show] the film, even places we never thought of..." Lovett said that thought the film was obviously targeted toward a gay audience, but he said that heterosexuals found the film appealing as well. "Daytime screenings had a significant straight audience, especially women who came up to me afterward saying, 'It's really hot.'" The film, which recounts the sexual liberation in the gay community following the Stonewall riots and just prior to the first reported case of AIDS in the early '80s also drew a significant number of young people. "Many young people were surprised to see how it used to be. The Republican right has vilified gay people, so to see it is [like] celebrating yourself. People [have fallen] in love with the characters in the film, and young people can't believe that there was ever a life like this," said Lovett who joked that the film is really "just a dirty little movie." "The Christian right has been very successful at [dictating] our collective agenda and people - gay and straight - are sick of it."


"Gay Sex in the '70s" will open the Laemmle Fairfax November 18 in Los Angeles and will debut in San Francisco (Castro) and Chicago (Music Box) on January 20.


Last week's number one "Ballet Russes" placed second on the chart. The film added one additional location, taking in $23,052 on two screens, averaging $11,526, only 6% lower than last week's $12,230 on one screen, while its two-week cume is $48,887.


Sony Pictures Classics had two titles in the chart's top tier. The distributor's re-release of "The Passenger" grossed $36,407 on four screens. "Passenger" averaged $9,102 or 25% lower than last week's $12,079, while its two-week cume is $75,701. Bennett Miller's "Capote" ranked fifth on the iW BOT with a $5,541 average, a 17% decline from one-week prior. The film grossed just over $1 million on 183 screens, an increase of 18 screens from on week earlier.


"The film is like the tortoise and the hare, and the tortoise wins the race," said Sony Classics co-president Michael Barker to indieWIRE about the film's roll out so far. "We've proven the film has real traction in the race." Barker said the company will continue to open the film slowly around the country and capitalize on positive audience reaction to fuel interest. "The key is not go too fast and the word-of-mouth is really strong. We just couldn't be more pleased." Barker also said that Truman Capote's novel, which inspired the film, as well as Philip Seymour Hoffman's portrayal is also drawing attention. "The film's performances and the recognition of 'In Cold Blood' in middle America as well as Truman Capote himself are helping to spread the word. We expect 'Capote' to play theatrically through March."


Barker also praised the opening of "The Passenger," saying that the film occupies a unique part of film history. "What's amazing about the film is that the press is reviewing it like it was new. They also keep asking why films can't be made like it today." Sony Classics will continue to expand the film into the new year.


In other openers, Meadowbrook Pictures debuted "Brooklyn Lobster" on two screens, taking in $11,729 ($5,865 average), while Strand Releasing's "The Dying Gaul" grossed $53,944 on 11 screens ($4,904 average). Eros Entertainment opened "Shaadi No. 1" at 45 sites, taking in $144,435 ($3,210 average) and THINKFilm released "I Love Your Work" at one location, grossing $2,580. And, Shadow Releasing debuted "Christmas in the Clouds" on 25 screens, grossing $54,920 ($2,197 average).


Once again, Warner Independent Pictures' "Good Night, and Good Luck" reigned as the chart's single largest grosser, with weekend box office receipts totaling well over $3 million on 657 screens, representing about 41% of the entire iW BOT total. The film's average dropped 37% to $4,667, while its five-week cume is now just under $11 million.


Along with the chart's second largest grosser, "Capote," the two films took in a combined 54% of the specialty box office's weekend total of just over $7.55 million on 3,341 screens, representing 67 titles, with a combined average of $2,261. Last week, 74 films reported $7.73 million in grosses on 3,395 screens, averaging $2,595, or 13% higher than the current iW BOT average.


Minus "Capote" and "Good Night, and Good Luck," the remaining 65 films on the chart took in just under $3.5 million on 2,501 screens, averaging $1,390 or 39% below the overall iW BOT average.


Industry-wide, 125 films took in $135.5 million on nearly 39,000 screens, averaging 35% higher than the iW BOT average at $3,495.


This week's specialty openers include Fox Searchlight's "Bee Season," Artistic License's "Cape of Good Hope," Vitagraph's "The Comedians of Comedy," IFC Films' "Duane Hopwood," and Strand Releasing's "Ellie Parker." Also rolling out in limited release are Focus Features' "Pride and Prejudice," Magnolia Pictures' "Pulse," Roadside Attractions' "Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic," and New Yorker Films' "Take My Eyes."

[Omission: "At Last," directed by Tom Anton and starring Kelly Lynch and Martin Donovan, was inadvertently left off the indieWIRE:BOT for this past weekend. It premiered on Friday on two screens in Shreveport, LA and had a total 3 day gross of $8934, giving it a per screen average of $4467. "At Last" was shot entirely on location in New Orlean. It was scheduled to be the opening night Film in the New Orleans Film Festival last month.]