"Loch Ness" Nestles a Specialty-Chart Topper in Continued Box Office Malaise
by Brian Brooks
Werner Herzog's "Incident at Loch Ness" surfaced atop the iW: BOT in an otherwise continuing shallow showing for specialty releases for a second weekend. Last weekend's top ranker, "Testosterone," by David Moreton continued to display some box office resilience, taking the second position with minimal drop off, while Tsai Ming-liang's "Goodbye Dragon Inn" debuted in the third position. Sony Classics opened a pair of features, Ondrej Trojan's "Zelary," and John Duigan's "Head in the Clouds" in limited release, rounding out the top five on a per screen basis, while other openers fared less well. The four films that have garnered seven-figure weekend grosses continued to do so last weekend, but their overall share of the "indie" cume continued to decline marginally.
Eden Rock Media's "Incident at Loch Ness" peered above the chart in its debut on two screens in New York and Los Angeles over the weekend, capping a lackadaisical final summer weekend, with the lowest per screen average to top the iW: BOT in the number one position all season. Nessie gulped $13,313 for a $6,657 average for the weekend of September 17-19.
"It was less successful in New York then we hoped, but L.A. was fine," commented Richard Abramowitz, who is distributing the film as a service deal. "It's hard to rise above a soft New York Times review, not impossible, but hard [especially] with a limited release film without big star power."
Abramowitz said the audience was naturally skewed toward a younger crowd in Gotham, since the film played downtown, but the audience in L.A. was more across the board, with Herzog appealing to a mature crowd. The film will open an additional 10-12 markets, and is opening soon in Santa Monica and other L.A. locales. "[We] will open in places where we expect audiences to be receptive, [it's] a traditional pattern for a movie of this kind," concluded Abramowitz.
Strand Releasing's "Testosterone" took the chart's second placement with a $17,973 weekend gross on three screens. The film averaged $5,991 (a 19% drop), although the film shed one screen. "Testosterone" has bulked up $61,820 in two weeks.
"We're thrilled with the numbers, and it means our expansion will go a lot wider," commented Strand Releasing co-president Marcus Hu to iW yesterday. "[Moreton's] 'Edge of Seventeen' did so well for us, and hopefully this will be as successful." Hu continued that it seems to be receiving favorable audience reaction since "the numbers have been holding up pretty well." Strand will inject "Testosterone" into 40 markets through the end of the year, and will debut next week in Ocean, NJ as well as Palm Springs, Irvine, CA and the following week in the Bay Area and Florida.
Wellspring welcomed "Goodbye Dragon Inn" to New York's Cinema Village, taking third on the chart with $5,322.
"It is what it is," commented Ryan Werner, head of distribution at Wellspring on the opening. "We didn't do this film expecting a huge opening. It is a filmmaker that Wellspring has always supported, and we have every single one of his films on DVD, and have theatrically released the last two. If a film this good doesn't get a release, something is wrong in the world. Hopefully we've found a way to make sure that we can do a couple of films like this a year without putting ourselves at risk, and still getting the film out there."
Werner also added that the deal for the film included all materials, and that Wellspring did all publicity in-house, so there was little out of pocket expense. Going forward, Wellspring will ship its two prints of the title to festivals and institutions in the rest of the U.S. "We have more than made up our advance on this film through these sort of bookings, and expect to make a small profit theatrically on this film before we send it off to video."
Sony Classics opened two titles over the weekend. "Zelary" debuted on six screens, taking in $29,002 ($4,834 average), while the company opened "Head in the Clouds" at 10 locations with $46,133 ($4,613 average).
In other openers, Newmarket brought out John Sayles' "Silver City," taking in $337,484 on 114 screens ($2,960 average), while Regent Releasing screened "Merci Docteur Rey" at two locations, grossing $5,184 ($2,592 average).
The specialty box office grossed a combine $11.26 million with 75 titles on 6,569 screens, down 26% from last weeks $15.2 million tracking 68 films on 7,488 sites. Overall, the specialty average for the weekend was $1,714, a $316 decline. The average for indies, however, actually increased for the week if factoring out the top four grossers with seven-figure weekend takes. Minus "Napoleon Dynamite," "Garden State," "Vanity Fair," and "Hero," which earned a combined 73% of the entire specialty box office, the remaining 71 titles shared a $2.98 gross on 1,869 screens for a per screen average of $1,596, up 14% from the previous tally using similar calculations.
The iW: BOT's big four took in a combined $8.27 million on 4,700 screens. Their lopsided share of the specialty gross, however, declined from the previous weekend's 76% share. Of the four, "Napoleon Dynamite," which has been in release the longest at 14 weeks, had the highest per screen average at $2,233 (down 18% from last week) on over $2.28 million from 1,024 screens. The film's cume is over $33.34 million.
This weekend, look for openings of John Waters' "A Dirty Shame," Philippe Caland's "Hollywood Buddha," Walter Salles' "The Motorcycle Diaries," Bruce LaBruce's "The Raspberry Reich," Curtiss Clayton's "Rick," Christian Johnston's "September Tapes," Edgar Wright's "Shaun of the Dead," and Chris Smith, Dan Ollman, and Sarah Price's "The Yes Men."