An uptown debut, at least for celebrity filmmaker Michael Moore, means a powerful weekend gross of $70,000 from an exclusive opening at New York's AMC-Loews Lincoln Square for his laugh-til-it-hurts, healthcare documentary "SiCKO." Adding to Moore's rock star persona are Weinstein Company reports of moviegoers scalping tickets outside sold-out, Saturday-evening sneaks at 43 locations, an even mix of conventional multiplexes and traditional art houses across the country. The phenomenal New York opening should boost projections for "SiCKO," which prior to its Lincoln Square premiere were modestly below Moore's previous film "Fahrenheit 9/11."
The iWBOT is based on per-theater averages reported by Rentrak Theatrical, the complete indieWIRE BOT weekly chart is available here at indieWIRE.com
Financed by The Weinstein Company, with Lionsgate Films handling US distribution, "SiCKO" opens nationwide on 441 screens including top-performing art houses like Boston's Kendall Square Cinema, the E Street Cinema in Washington DC and Cleveland's Cedar Lee Theatre. A further roll out to smaller markets like Lexington, Kentucky occurs July 3.
Closer in spirit to a classic, word-of-mouth, downtown, art-film breakout is Zeitgeist Films' mesmerizing documentary "Manufactured Landscapes," filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal's portrayal of photographer Edward Burtynsky on his numerous visits to China to shoot industrial locations filled with toxic waste and debris.
"Manufactured Landscapes" had its share of sold-out shows at New York's Film Forum, earning $9,129 in weekend box office from a single auditorium; $16,039 in total box office since its June 20 opening.
"Manufactured Landscapes" has a lot of buzz," says Stephanie Azam, Zeitgeist Films' director of theatrical marketing. "Edward Burtynsky is well known in the art world. China is a hot topic. The environment is a hot topic. So there are three big draws. This is a good grossing film; a film that will make money."
Its phenomenal debut, second only to "SiCKO" in per-screen average, earned "Manufactured Landscapes" a likely extension at the Film Forum beyond its original closing date of July 3. Its second-wave roll out includes a July 6 opening in Los Angeles, July 13 in Seattle and July 20 in San Francisco with environmental activist groups like World Changing sponsoring numerous screenings.
Attracting hometown fans was Roadside Attractions' "Colma: The Musical," director Richard Wong's post-high school musical set in the titular Bay Area suburb. Weekend appearances by Wong helped boost the weekend box office to $8,403 at San Francisco's Embarcadero Center. "Colma" expands to Berkeley's Elmwood Theatre Friday and New York's Quad Cinema on July 6.
For her debut drama "Broken English," Zoe Cassavetes enjoyed an opening that would have made her late father, filmmaker John Cassavetes, proud. The Magnolia Pictures release earned $55,198 from seven locations for a robust per-screen average of $7,885. "Broken English" expands to numerous markets including Washington DC and San Diego July 6.
With regards to other debut films, "Broken English" outpaced IFC First Take's killer sheep, horror comedy "Black Sheep," which gathered $16,102 from four locations and Kino International's "Lady Chatterly," a sexy adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's classic novel, which earned $32,814 from five locations. John Dahl's hit-man comedy "You Kill Me" earned more for IFC Films, $233,709 in total box office but it took a wider release of 35 locations.
The 1965 Jean-Luc Godard classic "Pierrot le fou," released in a new 35mm print by Janus Films, earned $7,395 from its exclusive run at Brooklyn's BAMcinematek, a small increase from its debut weekend. "Pierrot le fou" closes at BAM on June 26 and rolls out to other cities in July. Tartan Films' "12:08 East of Bucharest," Romanian filmmaker Corneliu Porumboiu's comic tale of small-town residents remembering their roles in the overthrow of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, earned $4,809 in its third weekend at New York's Film Forum.
Still strong after three weeks was Picturehouse Films' French-language, Edith Piaf drama "La Vie En Rose." "La Vie En Rose," featuring Marion Cotillard as Piaf, collected $773,896 from a wide-reaching 118 locations, reaching an impressive cumulative box office of $3,227,004.
Less successful was the second-weekend take of Aki Kaurismaeki's "Lights in the Dusk," from Strand Releasing, a slim $1,431 from its exclusive run at New York's IFC Center.
While Michael Moore was enjoying a rock star-like debut with "SiCKO;" disappointing summed up the weekend box office for Paramount Vantage's "A Mighty Heart," its heavily promoted Daniel Pearl drama starring Angelina Jolie. "A Mighty Heart" was the lone specialty film in the overall top ten with a weekend box office of $3,948,863 from 1355 locations. But its per-screen average was a lackluster $2,956 despite marketing, promotion and a release strategy similar to a studio release.
Jolie's stumble means additional room in the marketplace for Friday releases such as Sony Pictures Classics piano prodigy drama "Vitus," THINK Film's documentary "Ghosts of Cite Soleil," Kino International's Korean/American coming-of-age drama "In Between Days" and Focus Features' mothers/daughters melodrama "Evening," which opens wide, much like "A Mighty Heart."
In terms of awareness, it's hard for a smaller release like "Vitus" to compete with the heavily promoted "Evening." For Zeitgeist's Azam, one way to compete is to feed off the attention generated by the big films while remaining alternative.
"I don't think "SiCKO," is direct competition for us," Azam says. "It's not attracting our audience. Michael Moore is a big star and this is a mainstream film. We are an art film. He opened at an uptown theater. We are downtown film. But Michael Moore improves the market for documentaries. His work has helped build a demand for docs in general. In that sense, films like "SiCKO" can help the release of films like "Manufactured Landscapes."
Steve Ramos is a Cincinnati based writer.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org by the end of the day each Monday.