By Indiewire | Indiewire April 14, 2004 at 2:00AM
Miramax's "I'm Not Scared" Opens on Top; "Twentynine Palms" and "Shade" Debut as "Passion" Crusades for a Revival
by Brian Brooks
Italian drama "I'm Not Scared" debuted in theaters over the weekend, coming in at number one in per screen average for specialty releases after bowing on limited screens in New York and Los Angeles. Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" once again resurrected the industry-wide box office in terms of gross, cashing in on the Easter weekend. RKO Pictures opened "Shade" at one location providing healthy box office cover, while Wellspring rolled out French drama "Twentynine Palms," which brought out decent numbers in New York.
The Easter holiday weekend boosted the take for "The Passion," helping to send the specialty screen average up by 42% to $3,962 compared to $2,796 last week. The overall indie gross, however, declined to just under $2 million (minus "The Passion," which accounted for 88% of the indie theatrical take) versus $2.3 million previously, while the industry-wide screen average declined 11% to $2,751 on a $115.73 million gross. iW BOT tracked 63 films (124 industry-wide), an increase of one over the previous week with a $17.21 million gross ($12.68 million last week) on 4,344 screens, a decline of 191 sites. Nevertheless, the 15 highest ranked films on the chart outperformed the industry per screen average and the top five titles brought in more than double the industry per screen average.
Miramax opened Gabriele Salvatores' "I'm Not Scared" with four playdates in New York and Los Angeles, grossing $48,292 for a robust $12,073 average. indieWIRE made a call to Miramax for comment, but no one was available. The Disney-owned specialty distributor maintained "Shaolin Soccer" in six venues in the film's second weekend of release, taking in $34,476 for a $5,746 average, a decline of $782.
RKO Pictures debuted Damian Nieman's "Shade" at the ArcLight in Los Angeles, grossing $10,696 and a second slot finish on the chart. An RKO spokesperson, who asked not to be identified, said the company was "very pleased with the film's opening." Additionally, "Shade," a crime thriller starring Gabriel Byrne and Sylvester Stallone, screened last week at the Philadelphia International Film Festival, receiving a "great reaction," according to the RKO rep. The company, behind such classics as "Citizen Kane" and "King Kong," decided to release the film after shopping the film around for a while and the company will open the feature in Miami, Philadelphia and Chicago by April 30th. The spokesperson indicated the company is considering doing more of its own distribution in the future, including titles from its catalogue. "It's an old company with new aspirations," the rep concluded.
Wellspring opened Bruno Dumont's "Twentynine Palms" at the Cinema Village in New York and the NuArt in L.A., grossing $12,870 for a decent $6,435 average. The controversial film played particularly strong in Gotham, where it took in $8,131 of its weekend take following generally favorable reviews in the local media. "I think we were happy with the New York opening," said Wellspring head of distribution Ryan Werner to indieWIRE yesterday by telephone. "It's a challenging and difficult film. Brumont is a director Wellspring has supported since his first two films ("Humanite" and "Life of Jesus")."
Werner indicated the reaction of the press on both coasts were a significant influence in how the film performed in both cities. "The reviews in New York were pretty strong across the board, and weaker in L.A. The movie is very divisive and you can really see the difference between the east and west coast critics." He went on to describe "Twentynine Palms" audiences as typically the "more adventurous moviegoer" and skewed toward an "edgy, intelligent male crowd" as well as others "curious about all the sex [as well as] men hanging out in the back of the theater." Going forward, Wellspring plans a slow release, opening in other cities as the company deems favorable. "It was never meant to be a wide release," said Werner. "We just felt it important to continue working with [Dumont]."
Sony Classics maintained its seasonal bloom with "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring" adding one engagement for a $48,673 gross and a stellar $6,953 average (a decline of only $141) on seven screens. Two weeks into its run, the film has cumed $114,268. Fellow Sony Classics release, "Bon Voyage" added 19 screens, taking in $110,245 for a $4,240 average (down $3,369 from its $7,609 average last week). "Bon Voyage" has cumed $308,180 in its one month theatrical run. "Good Bye, Lenin!" another company title, took in $281,510 at 84 sites, up from 78 last week. The German produced feature averaged $3,351, down $509 from last week's average and it has cumed nearly $1.87 million since opening seven weeks ago.
"The Passion of the Christ" had a full-fledged revival over the holiday weekend, capitalizing on Christianity's most holy weekend to draw in a huge flock of moviegoers. Mel Gibson's self-financed behemoth took in an enormous $15.2 million tithe on 3,240 screens -- an increase of 128 over the Palm Sunday weekend. The film averaged $4,697, an increase of $1,289 from last week's $3,408 average. "The Passion" has now totaled just over $353 million.
Lions Gate expanded "Dogville," adding 39 engagements for a $204,367 take on 55 screens. The film, directed by Danish director Lars von Trier, averaged $3,716 (down nearly 48% from $7,813). "Dogville" has cumed $491,084 in three weeks of release.
This weekend, Strand Releasing will debut "A Thousand Clouds of Peace," and Sony Pictures Classics will open "Young Adam" in Los Angeles and New York.
[ Brian Clark contributed to this report. ]