"Kinsey" Seduces the Specialty Box office with Another Fox Searchlight Win; Miramax's "Finding Neverland" Takes Flight
by Brian Brooks
Fox Searchlight has added to its specialty box office stamina in 2004 with the weekend debut of Bill Condon's "Kinsey," topping a box office chart that has included a half-dozen titles from the L.A. based distributor that have opened at number one this year, including "Sideways," which maintained an impressive per screen following a sizeable expansion. Miramax's "Finding Neverland," meanwhile, also flew into gear with an impressive launch, and Bollywood pic "Veer-Zaara" opened to a singing debut in an overall box office that showed a slight decrease in overall revenue, film titles, and screens during the three-day period ending last Sunday.
Bill Condon's "Kinsey" titillated the iW BOT with a number one showing as measured on a per screen calculation, giving Fox Searchlight another number one film for the year, and the company's seventh straight week in holding the box office summit following the six week reign of "I ♥ Huckabees" and "Sideways" in the position. "Kinsey" took in $169,038 on five screens for a very satiating $33,808 per site tally. The controversial feature, starring Liam Neeson and Laura Linney, is the sixth film this year Searchlight has debuted at number one, including "The Dreamers," "Garden State," and "Napoleon Dynamite."
"It's a fabulous opening, we're just thrilled," commented Stephen Gilula, president of distribution at Fox Searchlight in a chat with indieWIRE yesterday afternoon. "It's again exciting to be involved with a brilliant filmmaker. He's done a masterful job in profiling Alfred Kinsey, one of the most intriguing and controversial characters of the 20th century. It's also a thrill to be involved with someone (Condon) who is so literate, and to be involved with such an accomplished cast."
Dr. Kinsey, who caused a cultural earthquake in 1948 with the publication of his book, "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male," continues to be a lightning rod figure in the 21st century with conservative groups in the U.S. vowing to oppose the film, although Gilula does not believe the criticism has had any initial box office fallout.
"I don't think it had any affect in turnout, but it'll be interesting to see how it works when we get into some of the other regional cities. We had picketers show up in Century City (in Los Angeles), and there's a lot of 'activity' on the Internet, but we haven't seen [adverse reaction in the box office] as of yet. But so far, the film is only in New York and L.A., a sophisticated [viewing] area, and those groups don't have such a reach [there]."
Gilula continued to say that exhibitors were "enthusiastic" all across the country to show the film, and any lingering protests should not derail the film's ultimate reach. "The controversy won't affect how we distribute and expand across the country."
Fox Searchlight will expand the feature into 13 more cities next weekend, including Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Diego, San Francisco, Indianapolis (where Dr. Kinsey worked at Indiana University) as well as Toronto and Vancouver in Canada.
Miramax's "Finding Neverland" debuted with b.o. adulation, taking the second position with a $27,566 per screen average from eight sites totaling $220,524.
Yash Raj Films' "Veer-Zaara" by Yash Chopra opened on 88 screens, grossing $843,010 ($9,580 per screen average). The film, according to its distributors, is the second largest three-day opening for a Bollywood film in this part of the world, since the weekend debut of "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham" in December 2001 with $1.01 million.
"Veer-Zaara" was also the second largest overall grosser in the iW BOT for the weekend, after Alexander Payne's number one earner, "Sideways," which took in over $1.414 million on 144 screens. The film averaged $9,825 ($15,873 last week, a 38% decline) and placed third on the chart with a four-week cume over $3.75 million.
In other weekend debuts, First Run Features' "La petite Lili" played one site with $5,558, placing fifth on the BOT, while Palm Pictures' "Bright Future" grossed $2,755, and Strand Releasing's "Who Killed Bambi?" took in $1,998 also on one screen each.
Along with absolute box office cash cows "Sideways" and "Veer-Zaara," Focus Features' "The Motorcycle Diaries" took in the third most revenue during the weekend with $745,110 on 238 screens, a decline of 30. The feature averaged $3,131 ($3,541 previously, a 12% decline) and has a nearly $11.83 million two-month cume. "Huckabees," meanwhile is also in the $11 million cumulative club after seven weeks in its run. The film grossed $541,784 on 278 screens, down from 585 previously with a $1,949 average (a 2% increase).
The four largest grossers represented 61% or $3.544 million of the overall specialty weekend total of $5.78 million. Sixty-five films are included in the chart, two less from the previous week, while the total number of screens showing "indie" titles declined by 703 to 2,202. The overall per screen average, however, increased to $2,626 ($2,062 last week, a 22% increase). Industry-wide, 120 films played 34,420 screens, taking in over $144.23 million for an overall $4,190 per screen average.
Minus the four top specialty grossers, the remaining 61 iW: BOT titles averaged $1,538 on 1,454 screens. Last year, the chart tracked 62 films, grossing $3.28 million ($2,243 average), with Nathaniel Kahn's "My Architect," the chart topper with an $18,965 average on two screens for the weekend ending Sunday, November 16.
Opening this week is Pedro Almodóvar's "Bad Education" as well as the re-release of Wong Kar-wai's "Days of Being Wild" (1991). Also debuting are Ali Rez Raisian's "Deserted Station," Alain Corneau's "Fear and Trembling," Olga Stopolvskaya's and Dmitry Troitsky's "You I Love," and Jean-Luc Godard's "Notre Musique." Ron Mann's doc "Go Further" debuts in New York.