"Napoleon Dynamite" Explodes onto the Box Office; "Broadway" Bows in New York
by Brian Brooks
Fox Searchlight's "Napoleon Dynamite" proved its box office bang, opening in limited runs in the U.S. and topping the iW BOT as ranked by screen average. The film unseated "Control Room," which dominated the chart for three weeks. Dada Films debuted "Broadway: The Golden Age," coming in second during the three-day period last weekend, while Zeitgeist's "The Corporation" added screens and maintained a solid cash flow. Meanwhile, United Artists' "Saved!" expanded greatly around the country augmenting the overall indie box office take.
Eight fewer films were tracked last weekend in the chart, but the specialty gross jumped by $1.9 million. Indies took in $4.9 million from 1,886 screens, an increase of 235 from one week ago. The total is the biggest since the four-day Memorial weekend when the gross was $4.82 million from 1,875 screens. "Saved!" represented over 50% of that total, however. Minus that title, the specialty gross would have come to $2.4 million.
Jared Hess' Sundance pic "Napoleon Dynamite" detonated on six screens last weekend, marching right to the iW BOT summit. The Fox Searchlight release grossed $116,666 for an imperial $19,444 per screen average. "It's a fantastic opening for 'Napoleon,' [we're] very, very pleased," Fox Searchlight president of distribution Stephen Gilula told indieWIRE Tuesday afternoon from Los Angeles. "My guess for the opening was in the $15 - 20,000 (per screen average) range, and we came in on the high end of that." Fox Searchlight spent "very little" in terms of media promotion prior to the the film's release, according to Gilula, instead relying on special screenings around the country to stimulate word of mouth. "The best tool was to screen the film, and dozens were organized in 60 cities," Gilula said.
Other aspects of what Gilula described as a "multi-faceted grassroots campaign" are credited with helping the film. Fox Searchlight organized a competition among fans of "Napoleon Dynamite" to find a president of the film's fan club. So far, according to Gilula, 10,000 people have signed on to win. Additionally, the company teamed with MTV to promote the movie. "[MTV] came with us because they loved the movie. They wanted to have the film [and] also tried to get it at Sundance."
The film's appeal seemed to cross all age ranges Gilula indicated, admitting, "not all liked it, but those who do are passionate about ['Napoleon Dynamite']. The film is a true example of regional independent filmmaking. The director and cast are from Utah and Idaho. We were excited to work with a fresh filmmaker." Gilula also added that the film had "only" a 24% drop" Monday night from Sunday. Nevertheless, he admitted the current volatility in the market was a challenge. "It's daunting and unnerving with [such] a crowded marketplace."
Dada Films debuted "Broadway: The Golden Age" at two Manhattan locations last weekend. The film grossed $16,520 for a steady $8,260 per screen average. Audiences were diversified with an older skewed audience attending the film uptown, while the crowds at the Angelika were in the 25-plus range according to Dada Films' Bob Myerson. "We had ten Q&As at the Angelika and Sutton over the weekend with such stars as Tammy Grimes and Michele Lee. The audiences have been so moved and entertained [with] standing ovations." Dada will expand the film into the top twenty markets over the summer.
Zeitgeist's "The Corporation" added five engagements taking in $53,736 on seven screens. The film averaged $7,677, approximately a 46% drop from its opening. In two weeks, the film has cumed $103,942.
ThinkFilm also added five sites for "The Story of the Weeping Camel" bringing its reach to seven screens. The film placed fourth on the chart with a $38,792 gross ($5,542 average, down 50% from one week prior). "Camel" has now totaled $72,926.
Unico Entertainment opened Sundance doc "Imelda" on six screens, grossing $27,617. The doc profiling controversial former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos averaged $4,603.
U.A. crusaded "Saved!" in 589 theaters, an increase of 558 taking in over $2.53 million for a $4,304 per screen average ($10,979 one week ago). After three weeks in release, the film has cumed over $3.7 million.
Roadside Attractions/Samuel Goldwyn's "Super Size Me" took on 25 additional sites in its sixth weekend of release. The Morgan Spurlock directed doc grossed $820,686 for a $3,568 per screen average (a $543 decline). "Super Size Me" has now totaled over $7.53 million.
Magnolia Pictures rolled out "Control Room" to 41 locations after spending the first three weeks at Film Forum. The film grossed $141,070 for a $3,441 average. To date, the film has cumed $290,174.
Regent Releasing will open Clinton doc "The Hunting of the President" this weekend, while Mike Hodges' "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" will debut in New York and Sony Pictures Classics will open "Facing Windows." Also coming to theaters are "Grand Theft Parsons" from Swipe Films and "You'll Get Over It" from Picture This! Entertaiment.