"Lost Boys in Sudan" Finds Itself At Top of Specialty Box Office
by Brian Brooks
"Lost Boys of Sudan" opened at New York's Film Forum last weekend, finding itself atop the specialty box office with the highest per screen average. The Afghan film "Osama" migrated its way to number two for the three-day period, although its average declined, reflecting somewhat less robust b.o. numbers compared to the previous holiday weekend's break-neck pace. The iW BOT's "big three" meanwhile, continued to dominate the weekend grosses, although their post-Oscar nominations luster may be starting to subside somewhat. Also opening over the weekend to moderate numbers were "Crying Ladies" and "Kitchen Stories."
The iW BOT tracked 46 films over the Friday to Sunday period, a decline of one from the President's Day holiday. Venues across the country had specialty titles on 3,570 screens, down from 4,083 previously. Overall, the iW BOT total was $8.16 million for the weekend, down from $12.1 million prior, and $10.14 million two weeks ago, although the number is still "high" compared to most weekend total grosses over the last six months. Once again, however, "Monster," "Girl with a Pearl Earring," and "Lost in Translation" represented a disproportionate amount of that, with about 50 percent of the weekend total. Also worth noting, the specialty gross represents 8.7 percent of the industry-wide weekend take, up slightly from about 8.3 percent one week earlier.
Shadow Distribution's "Lost Boys of Sudan" debuted at Film Forum in Manhattan last Wednesday, taking in $7,485 over the weekend, topping the iW BOT. The film has cumed $13,060 overall since its official theatrical release one week ago. The chart shows a total of $28,088, which includes income from one-off screenings of the feature organized by the filmmakers before Maine-based Shadow's release involvement in the project. (The chart went to press before we could resolve the confusion about Shadow's cume being $13,060.) Going forward, the film will open in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. in early March, according to Shadow spokesperson Ken Eisen.
United Artists' "Osama," expanded to 15 screens from five, grossing $110,929 for a $7,395 per-screen average, and a second place on the chart, although the average declined from $10,151 previously. Since its release three weeks prior, the film has totaled $267,835.
"We're encouraged so far," said Erik Lomis, president of domestic distribution for MGM and U.A. in a conversation with indieWIRE early Tuesday. "It seems to hang in there, [and] all three theaters in L.A. were actually up [over the weekend]." Lomis continued to call the film "gripping," but also admitted the film is "not for everybody," because of the film's harsh depiction of Afghanistan under Taliban rule. For now, the film is staying largely in specialized theaters, according to Lomis, although the film is at the United Artists Union Square in New York. Additionally, the film has been received well in areas with large Afghan populations, but the specialty distributor was stymied to open the film widely sans a best foreign language Oscar nom, which had been expected in many corners of the industry. "Had it gotten nominated, it might have broadened its appeal [and] given us an opportunity to go wider, but we're not going to give up on this film," said Lomis, who spoke by phone from his office in L.A.
Next weekend, the film will debut in Philadelphia and Baltimore, with more cities added on March 12. "Some films you can blow out, and there are others you have to nurture, and this is one you have to nurture," Lomis concluded.
In other weekend openers, Unico Entertainment debuted Mark Meily's "Crying Ladies" at 10 sites, grossing $65,664 for a not-so-weepy $6,566 per screen average. IFC Films meanwhile opened "Kitchen Stories" on eight screens, taking in $48,103 for a $6,013 average. The New York-based film company's "Touching the Void" continues its ascent, however, grossing $375,511 on 64 screens (up from 40) for a $5,867 average ($8,762 previously). Since release five weeks ago, the film has grossed more than $1.28 million.
Last week's iW BOT number two film, "Robot Stories," the self-distributed film by Greg Pak, took in $9,062 on two screens for a $4,531 average (down from $11,806). The film has totaled $23,782 in two weekends of release.
TLA Releasing's gay romantic comedy, "Latter Days" added two screens for its fourth weekend in theaters, grossing $35,654 at eight sites, averaging $4,457, down from $7,546. The film has done particularly well at the Quad Cinema in Manhattan, receiving $8,491 during the three-day tracking period. During its first weekend at the venue, the feature, about a gay Mormon missionary in L.A. who falls for his neighbor, performed extraordinarily, with a $23,187 gross. "Latter Days" has cumed $216,869 in one month.
"It's our best grossing film so far in the two years we've been doing this," commented TLA Entertainment president Ray Murray to indieWIRE. "[We're going] to try the film in markets we've never done before." Murray went on to say the film has received attention from exhibitors that the company has never dealt with in the past. "We've had calls from a lot of different chains, such as the U.A. in Atlanta." Exposure at gay film festivals are credited by Murray for helping the film, especially in Palm Springs and Ft. Lauderdale. He also said the controversy in Salt Lake City, Utah, may have given the feature "an early spike." The film had been scheduled to screen at the Madstone Theater there, but the exhibitor later canceled. "We were privately told that they were getting pressure from the Mormon Church," admitted Murray.
Going forward, Murray revealed the company was not sure how to go about expanding the film, inquiring to other companies for advice. "We weren't sure if we should let people stand in line at a few places, or expand," said Murray. "Marcus Hu (of Strand Releasing) said when you have a hit, go further." Texas will see a "Latter Days" roll out next weekend where the film will debut in Dallas, Austin, Houston, and San Antonio. On March 5, the film will go to San Diego, Boston, Washington, and Baltimore with a Salt Lake City engagement at the Broadway Center Cinemas on March 26.
The iW BOT's current "big three" continued to consume the lion's share of the specialty numbers, although the triumvirate's totals began to show some weakening since their post-Oscar nominations box office gallop. Newmarket's "Monster" shed six venues, taking in nearly $2.54 million on 1,087 screens for a $2,333 average (down from $3,269). The film has taken in over $23.8 million in nine weeks of release. Lions Gate's "Girl with a Pearl Earring" took in $724,269 on 319 screens (down from 374 previously) for a $2,230 per screen, down from $3,140. "Earring" has cumed almost $8.54 million. Already released on DVD, "Lost in Translation" continued to screen at 481 sites (600 previously), grossing $831,250 for a $1,728 average, down significantly from $2,915. The multiple Academy Award-nominee has cumed over $43.2 million.
It's going to be another big specialty box-office week ahead as Newmarket opens Mel Gibson's self-financed "The Passion of the Christ" on 4,650 screens today. Sony Classics will open multiple European Film Awards-winner "Good Bye, Lenin!" in New York and Los Angeles next weekend, and Kino International will debut "Alila."