"Hotel Rwanda" Leads the Specialty List; "Woodsman" Opens Solid
by Brian Brooks
United Artists' multi-Golden Globe-nominated "Hotel Rwanda" set up residence at the forefront of specialty offerings over the holiday weekend, calculated on a per screen basis. Newmarket Films' "The Woodsman" opened as well, taking the second position after its theatrical debut in limited release, while Lions Gate's "Beyond the Sea" advanced its standing on the iW BOT in its second weekend in theaters. Sony Pictures Classics expanded "Bad Education" to more screens, while Miramax's "The Aviator" took off nationwide. Overall, bigger titles held sway over the Christmas holiday weekend, with the chart's top three grossers representing a bigger share of the entire specialty take than in recent memory.
Terry George's acclaimed "Hotel Rwanda" opened on seven screens over the holiday weekend, placing first on the chart. The true-story United Artists release set during the tragic genocide in the central African country of the same name grossed $100,091 for a very solid $14,299 per screen average.
Nicole Kassell's "The Woodsman" debuted at six sites, taking in $53,985. The multi-Spirit Awards nominated feature averaged $8,998, placing second on the chart.
"I'm pretty happy with it and the reviews were pretty good," commented Newmarket Films chief Bob Berney to indieWIRE yesterday about the film's opening weekend. "Monday had 50% of Sunday's [gross], which is good. It's tricky opening on the holidays." Berney continued to say that Sunday was particularly strong in Manhattan, while the numbers were generally "soft" on Christmas day. "Holiday movies were strong on Christmas day," said Berney.
The film's theme is challenging, as Berney acknowledged, but he said that positive reviews particularly from the Los Angeles Times, NPR and others helped to attract moviegoers. "It's one of those films where you have to hear it's great," added Berney who also said he felt the overall specialty box office, aside from "Sideways," remained flat for the weekend. Audiences seeing "The Woodsman" weighted toward the traditional art-house crowd and African-Americans. Newmarket plans to add screens in the Bay Area today, and will open the film in ten cities on January 7.
Lions Gate's "Beyond the Sea" remained in a half-dozen venues in its second weekend of release, taking in $39,000. The film edged up to third place in the chart with a $6,500 per screen average, a decline of 14% from the week prior. "Sea"'s cume is $105,280.
Wellspring's "In the Realms of the Unreal" opened on three screens, taking in $15,477 for a $5,159 per screen tally and a fourth place on the chart. Since it opened Wednesday, the film has cumed $25,402.
Sony Classics added 42 sites for Pedro Almodovar's highly praised "Bad Education" after playing its first five weeks with single digit print counts. The feature grossed $244,614 from 50 sites, averaging $4,892. In six weeks, the film has totaled over $1.2 million. Meanwhile, the distributor's "House of Flying Daggers" also added screens, grossing $662,342 for a $4,014 average on 165 screens, up by 20 prints. In one month, the film has cumed over $2.73 million.
The specialty chart's top three overall grossers represented a larger share of the box office over the holiday weekend compared to the recent past. "The Aviator," "Sideways," and "Finding Neverland" had an 83% combined share of the entire box office gross of nearly $13.49 million. Overall, the specialty box office averaged $3,140 with 46 titles. The tally increased 21% from the previous weekend's $2,475 average. Minus the top three grossing films, however, the remaining 43 titles took in over $2.3 million on 1,208 screens for a much smaller $1,926 per screen average.
Martin Scorsese's "The Aviator" scored the most on the chart with a take of more than $8.63 million on 1,796 screens. The film opened last week at 40 sites with a $21,451 per screen average, which is 78% higher then last weekend's $4,806 tally. "Sideways" played 61 fewer screens, taking in nearly $1.7 million for a $3,258 per screen average from 359 sites, down 9% from last week's calculation. "Finding Neverland" played 933 sites with a $1.36 million take for a $1,459 average. In seven weeks the film has cumed almost $20 million.
Niels Mueller's "The Assassination of Richard Nixon" is among the openers this week. Also in release are Shainee Gabel and Bob Yari's "A Love Song for Bobby," and Michael Radford's "The Merchant of Venice."