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"Kung Fu Hustle" Chops the Competition Once Again; Weekend Newcomers Join the iW BOT's Top Five

Indiewire By Indiewire | Indiewire April 20, 2005 at 2:0AM

"Kung Fu Hustle" Chops the Competition Once Again; Weekend Newcomers Join the iW BOT's Top Five
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"Kung Fu Hustle" Chops the Competition Once Again; Weekend Newcomers Join the iW BOT's Top Five

by Brian Brooks

Stephen Chow's "Kung Fu Hustle" successfully defended its specialty box office title, capturing the premiere position once again on the iW BOT, based on a per screen basis. This week's chart includes a plethora of newcomers, with "It's All Gone Pete Tong," "House of D," and "Palindromes" joining the list's top five films. Additionally, Lions Gate's "State Property 2" also debuted over the weekend, becoming the chart's highest absolute grosser, opening on just over 200 screens, although the film narrowly missed joining the iW BOT's top ten. Specialty titles, meanwhile, broke a recent streak of declining overall screen averages, with a modest gain for the weekend ending Sunday, April 17.

Sony Pictures Classics' "Kung Fu Hustle" fought off the competition last weekend, remaining at the iW BOT's pinnacle position with a $35,373 per screen average, an 8% decline from last week's $38,461 in reportedly the same number of screens. The film grossed $247,613 at seven locations, with a two-week cume of $622,655.

Michael Dowse's "It's All Gone Pete Tong" took the second placement on the chart, opening on one screen over the weekend, taking it a strong $19,717. "We're very happy with the opening, it was a beautiful weekend in New York, and we appreciate the audiences ducking inside for 88 minutes," commented Richard Matson, president of Matson Films to indieWIRE yesterday. "We're hoping this is a good indication of the results the film will have as it rolls out nationally."

Matson indicated the film attracted their intended demographic, people in the 22-40 range, split between both sexes. The company used both traditional and less used methods in spearheading the film's visibility. "We used print, cable, wild posting, street marketing [for awareness], but what I think really set us apart was our immense internet campaign, [with] 15 separate sites devoted to the film." Matson also organized 22 parties in New York City with the help of local DJs and club owners. Similar efforts are underway in Los Angeles and San Francisco, where the film will open next week, while the company will debut "Pete Tong" in 25 more markets May 13.

Also opening strongly was Lions Gate's "House of D." The feature, directed by David Duchovny, averaged $18,186 from its two locations ($36,371 gross).

Maurizio Benazzo and Nick Day's self-distributed film, "Short Cut to Nirvana: Kumbh Mela" opened on one screen in New York, grossing $11,102. In 24 weeks touring to various venues around the country, the film has cumed $210,321.

"[The] Sunshine is such a great theater and having been able to get there on our own is a great accomplishment," commented Benazzo to indieWIRE Tuesday. "After we read the New York Times review, we were in a state of bliss for a day or two. It has been our own Short Cut to Nirvana." Benazzo also told iW that tenacity is important when self-distributing, when asked what advice he'd impart to other filmmakers thinking of doing similar.

"Self-distribution is a very hard game and it gets harder if you are successful as we have been. It is definitely not for the faint at heart. You have to be completely fearless and confident, while entering everyday a game of which you don't know the rules. Have someone you trust on board. Too many details you are not aware [of] can hurt you. We had the extreme luck of finding Sasha Berman at the beginning of our run. She became not only our publicist, but also our mentor." Going forward, Benazzo hopes to find a partner for the film's DVD release, and said the film has been offered a theatrical release in Germany. No other U.S. dates were given.

Todd Solondz's latest, "Palindromes" opened at seven locations, rounding out the chart's top tier over the weekend with an $8,179 average from seven locations. The film grossed $57,251 in the Friday to Sunday period, and has cumed $68,071 since its initial opening last Wednesday at the Angelika in New York.

"Our company was collectively very enthusiastic about the film, and we put a lot of work into it so we were happy," commented Wellspring's head of distribution Ryan Werner yesterday to iW about the film's initial release in New York and L.A. "It was a clear weekend, and despite the beautiful weather in NYC, it still performed overall well." Werner praised the response at the Angelika ($37,641 in five days) and said the company is focusing its attention to cities for the film. "The movie definitely is going to do better in urban markets. We knew this going in and are focusing our energy on key cities."

Wellspring will add a Westside run in Los Angeles this Friday, and will open the film in Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Seattle in addition to further expansions in L.A. and New York on April 29. Solondz will also be promoting the film in the near future at the San Francisco International Film Festival as well as at the re-opening of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

In other openings, Indican Pictures opened "Never Been Thawed" and "A Wake in Providence" over the weekend. "Thawed" launched at one site with $7,048, while "Providence" grossed $32,018 on five screens ($6,404 average) placing seventh and eighth on the chart respectively. First Run Features' "Torremolinos 73," meanwhile grossed $6,321 at one location, while Fine Line's "Year of the Yao" grossed $27,823 from 12 engagements ($2,319 average).

Lions Gate Films' "State Property 2" played 202 screens in its first weekend in release, placing 11th on the chart in screen average, although the film had the iW BOT's highest three-day gross with $756,905. The film has cumed just over $1.1 million since its initial roll out. "State Property 2" along with "Millions" ($664,748 on 251 screens with a $2,648 average), "Melinda and Melinda" ($407,254 on 297 screens with a $1,371 average), and "Downfall" ($327,930 on 174 screens with a $1,885 average) were the top four absolute moneymakers on the chart, consuming 47% of the iW BOT's entire weekend gross of just over $4.55 million.

Seventy-four specialty films were included in the iW BOT, playing 2,779 screens with an overall average of $1,638, a 13% increase from last week's $1,423. As is the case for most of this year, the average for all films on the chart minus the top four grossers was lower. Factoring out those titles, the remaining 70 films on the chart had a $1,291 per screen tally, 21% below the iW BOT figure. Industry-wide, 120 films grossed about $82.93 million on 38,067 screens, averaging $2,179, or about 25% greater than the iW BOT average in the three-day period.