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iW BOT | "Flow" Finds Followers, "Towelhead" Tops Chart

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire September 15, 2008 at 9:35AM

Irena Salina's "Flow," the first film to be released through Oscilloscope Pictures (the distribution leg of Adam Yauch's Oscilloscope Laboratories), debuted to nice numbers this weekend (and caused some heated debates at its screenings). Its $8,305 average wasn't enough to lead the iW BOT though, a crown held by fellow newcomer, Alan Ball's "Towelhead," which averaged $13,206 from its 4 screens for Warner Independent Pictures. Both films played spectacularly in comparison to Fred Ashman's "Proud American," which averaged a pathetic $128 from its surprisingly wide 750 opening screens.
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Irena Salina's "Flow," the first film to be released through Oscilloscope Pictures (the distribution leg of Adam Yauch's Oscilloscope Laboratories), debuted to nice numbers this weekend (and caused some heated debates at its screenings). Its $8,305 average wasn't enough to lead the iW BOT though, a crown held by fellow newcomer, Alan Ball's "Towelhead," which averaged $13,206 from its 4 screens for Warner Independent Pictures. Both films played spectacularly in comparison to Fred Ashman's "Proud American," which averaged a pathetic $128 from its surprisingly wide 750 opening screens.

The iWBOT is based on per-theater averages reported by Rentrak Theatrical, the complete indieWIRE BOT is available at indieWIRE.com.


"Flow" Creates Debates, Box-Office

Irena Salina's "Flow," which takes on the world water crisis, opened in two theaters this weekend, the Laemmle Sunset 5 in Los Angeles, and the Angelika Film Centre in New York. It grossed $16,610 for a promising $8,305 per screen. David Fenkel, the former THINKFilm exec hired to run Oscilloscope's operations, seemed pleased with the weekend figures. "Both NYC and LA showed consistently strong business throughout the weekend with sellout primetime shows at both theaters," Fenkel said in an interview with indieWIRE.

Those sold out shows also included heated debates with representatives from Nestle as they tried to defend their false marketing of bottled water. "The post-screening panels - comprised of water experts and filmmakers -throughout the weekend drew large crowds of progressive younger and older audiences which resulted in very involved discussions," said Fenkel. "At the Angelika, the discussions became more heated when a Nestle slick spin doctor stood up and attempted to defend his company." Fenkel said it was "like a scene out of 'Thank You For Smoking.'" In LA, things got even more heated, as Fenkel noted, "the filmmakers had to break up a scuffle about to erupt over fluoridation in Los Angeles water."

On the more business side of the weekend's narrative, though, Fenkel believes there is a promising future for "Flow." "Since Irena's film delivers in so many ways, it's impossible to not be engaged, enlightened and galvanized," he said. "[Our team], with the filmmakers, have been working for the past few months engaging all water-related groups and this grassroots effort is definitely paying off. Plus, we're getting tons of emails each day from groups and institutions all over the country asking for the film. So we expect 'Flow' to have a long theatrical life." That life will get tested in the next three weeks, as Oscilloscope will expand "Flow" to the top 15 markets.

"Towelhead," "Reading" Debut Strong

Defunct specialty division Warner Independent Pictures released one of its last films this weekend, "Towelhead," and led the overall iW BOT, which ranks films based on per-theatre-average. The critically divisive film, the directorial debut of "American Beauty" scribe Alan Ball, had its premiere a year ago at the Toronto International Film Festival (under the title "Nothing Is Private"). This weekend it grossed $52,823 from 4 runs for a decent $13,206 average. "Towelhead" details the sexual awakening of an Arab-American girl, and stars Summer Bisill, Aaron Eckart and Toni Collette. It will expand significantly next weekend, which will be much more telling as to how far its controversial subject matter can go in the marketplace.

Leading the overall box office this weekend was Joel and Ethan Coen's "Burn After Reading." Though ineligible for the iW BOT due to its very wide release (2,651 screens), its performance is certainly notable. The Focus Features release beat out three other high-profile openers to take the top spot with a well-above-expectations $19,128,001. This is the highest opening for the Coens, beating "The Ladykillers," which grossed $12,634,563 on 1,589 screens in March 2004 and "Intolerable Cruelty," which grossed $12,525,075 on 2,564 screens in October 2003. Of course, "No Country For Old Men" is by far the Coens' top grossing film overall, with $74,283,625. That's a number that "Reading" - a film unlikely to receive much mainstream approval, despite its all-star cast led by George Clooney and Brad Pitt - might find difficult to end up challenging.

"American" Bomb

The most significant record-breaker of the weekend has to be Fred Ashman's doc, "Proud American." Sponsored by Coca-Cola, MasterCard, Wal-Mart and American Airlines, "Proud" is a series of dramatic vignettes about tolerance and inspiration. Opening on 750 screens, the film grossed just $96,076. That makes for an average of just $128. And according to BoxOfficeMojo.com, it also makes for the all-time worst opening for any film debuting on more than 600 theaters (the site tracks back to 1982).

Next weekend sees a large group of specialty openers, all likely to average a hundred (or a thousand) times "Proud"'s per-theatre average. They include Ed Harris' "Appaloosa," Stuart Townsend's "Battle in Seattle" and Saul Dibb's "The Duchess."

indieWIRE:BOT tracks independent/specialty releases compiled from Rentrak Theatrical, which collects studio reported data as well as box-office figures from North American theatre locations. To be included in the indieWIRE Box Office Chart, distributors must submit information about their films to Rentrak at studiogrosses@rentrak.com by the end of the day each Monday.






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