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"Huckabees" Clings to the Specialty Box office's Top Spot

Indiewire By Indiewire | Indiewire October 14, 2004 at 2:0AM

"Huckabees" Clings to the Specialty Box office's Top Spot
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"Huckabees" Clings to the Specialty Box office's Top Spot

by Brian Brooks

The specialty box office spread more love to Fox Searchlight's "I ♥ Huckabees," for a second week. The film graced the top spot of the iW: BOT, ranked on a per screen basis, following an expansion. Also proving a b.o. stalwart for a second week at number two is self-distributed "Guiana 1838," while new releases "Stage Beauty" from Lions Gate, and Wellpring's "Tarnation" entered the chart, assuming the following two slots respectively. Focus' "The Motorcycle Diaries" rounded out the top five specialty offerings, despite a decent expansion over the three-day period ending Sunday, October, 10. THINKFilm's "Primer" and Fine Line's "Vera Drake," meanwhile, took root in the top ten in a weekend that most likely experienced some revenue fallout from last week's live televised presidential debate on Friday night.

David O. Russell's existential comedy "I ♥ Huckabees" remained firm atop the iW BOT for a second weekend with forty screens added from its debut of four. The film grossed $901,123, retailing $20,480 per screen, and racking up a cume of over $1.3 million.

Rohit Jagessar's historical pic "Guiana 1838" maintained one screen, fastening itself on the BOT just below "Huckabees" for a second time. The feature took in $16,610, a 54% decrease from last week. In three weeks, the film has cumed $123,490.

Richard Eyre's "Stage Beauty," meanwhile, debuted on three screens, grossing $38,654. The film, starring Derek Hutchinson, Mark Letheren, Claire Danes and Billy Crudup, averaged $12,885.

"We are pleased with our opening weekend, and are hopeful of good hold figures in New York and to strong openings in Los Angeles, San Francisco and a few other markets this weekend," commented Lions Gate Films president Tom Ortenberg in a conversation with indieWIRE yesterday. "The debate Friday definitely had an impact on smart, adult-oriented pics Friday night, though it is impossible to tell exactly how much." Ortenberg said the film drew a "50/50 male-female audience that was mostly over 25 years-old. "Our exit polls were very strong, so we hope to play up our [solid] word-of-mouth while trying to get younger audiences in to see 'Stage Beauty.'"

Jonathan Caouette's critically lauded "Tarnation" opened its theatrical run at New York's Film Forum last week, following screenings at the New York Film Festival. The film took in $12,740, and has cumed $18,210 since opening last Wednesday.

"We are encouraged. The film has held up incredibly well against major competition from last weekend," commented Wellspring head of distribution Ryan Werner in a conversation with iW yesterday. "It was certainly helped by the amazing press and reviews and also from its New York Film Festival screening where it got a standing ovation. We are encouraged that a number of shows sold out. It's a very unique, special film, and we are expecting word-of-mouth to kick in."

Werner said the film attracted large gay audiences, though it was still "very diverse," including such notable moviegoers as Tamara Jenkins, Jim Taylor, Diane Wiest, and Carson Cressley catching screenings at the downtown Manhattan theater. Wellspring will take the film to Los Angeles this Friday at the NuArt, as well as San Francisco's Castro, Detroit at DIA, Chicago's Music Box and Boston at Kendall Square. On October 22nd "Tarnation" will open in Caouette's hometown of Houston (a local premiere will take place there this coming Monday) and additional markets on October 29th.

Shane Carruth's Sundance 2004 winner "Primer" opened in four screens over the weekend, taking in $28,162, for a $7,041 per screen average.

"No doubt the debates had a great effect on grosses Friday night," commented Michael Tuckman, director of theatrical sales for THINKFilm. "Much of the audience for this film is hip, sophisticated and intellectual -- and this is an audience extremely concerned with the upcoming election. This effect could be seen in specialty films across Manhattan Friday night, [and] the Yankees game combined for a one-two punch."

Audiences turned out for the film, however, as the weekend continued. "Fortunately for us, the incredible reviews and great buzz and awareness generated by our marketing team after a long and deliberate campaign paid off, as grosses for 'Primer' more than doubled from Friday to Saturday in New York." The film opened on three screens in Dallas where it grossed $28,162, and at the Angelika on one screen, taking in $12,000. "We also saw significant sales for midnight shows, which bodes well for the development of a cult following. Grosses continued to be strong Sunday and Monday," commented Tuckman. "Primer" will expand to ten additional markets this weekend.

In other weekend openers, Fine Line's "Vera Drake" by Mike Leigh played two locations, taking in $13,207 ($6,604 average), ranking seventh on the chart. New Yorker Films' "Vodka Lemon" placed tenth with $9,303 on two screens ($4,652 average) and Warner Independent Pictures' "Around the Bend" had four playdates, grossing $17,879 ($4,470 average). Also debuting on one screen each were Strand Releasing's "The Child I Never Was" ($1,617), First Run Features' "Silent Waters" (also $1,617) and Tartan Films' "The Hillside Strangler" ($1,546).

Over the weekend, the overall specialty lineup included 84 titles, three more than the previous week, but 1,200 less screens were devoted to 'indie' titles. The overall box office gross dropped 25% to $9.24 million on 4,438 screens for an "indie-wide" per screen average of $2,038, a drop of just under 5% from last week's tally. Industry-wide, the box office counted 122 films with a $107.62 million gross, a drop of over 3% on 34,394 screens (1,538 fewer then one week prior). The industry per screen average was $3,129.

The combined grosses for "The Motorcycle Diaries," "Woman Thou Art Loosed," "Shaun of the Dead," and "Napoleon Dynamite," which all grossed seven-figures during the weekend, represented about 58% of the entire specialty take, although only "Motorcycle Diaries" ranked in the top tier of the iW: BOT with a per screen average of $9,042 on 167 screens, up from 67 last week. The three-day take for the film was just over $1.51 million, with a three-week cume of over $3.29 million.

Factoring out those four films, the remaining 80 films in the chart took in $3.823 million on 2,453 screens for a $1,559 per screen average. Last year, the iW BOT tracked 48 titles on 2,108 screens with a $4.85 million weekend gross, which measured the three-day period ending Sunday, October 12. "The Station Agent" took the top spot then for a second weekend, with a $16,853 average on three screens.

This weekend, Newmarket opens "P.S." and Sony Classics rolls out "Being Julia." Also on offer will be Artisan's "Eulogy," Lions Gate's "The Final Cut," Freestyle Releasing's "Riding the Bullet," and Kino International's "Untold Scandal."