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August 18, 2004 2:00 AM
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"Open Water" Spearheads Narrative Resurgence for Second Week

"Open Water" Spearheads Narrative Resurgence for Second Week

by Brian Brooks

Documentaries failed to make the top five on the iW: BOT for the first time in fifteen weeks over the weekend, as ocean thriller "Open Water" maintained its edge, but left the competition in its reduced wake following a small expansion. Warner Independent Pictures debuted its third feature, "We Don't Live Here Anymore," capturing the second rank on the iW: BOT calculated by per screen average, while Fox Searchlight's "Garden State" continued a strong showing after a sizeable weekend expansion. Zeitgeist, meanwhile, opened "Cowards Bend the Knee" respectably on one screen.

Theaters screened 63 specialty titles over the Friday to Sunday period, a number that has remained unchanged for three weekends. The total 'indie' gross, however, declined $260,000 to $7.64 million (2,732 screens, a decline of 183 locations) from one week prior, although that is slightly ahead of the total from two weeks ago on 2,897 screens. The weekend's overall per screen average was $2,796, an $86 or 3% increase from the previous tally. In contrast, theaters screened 66 titles at 2,232 venues one year ago on the weekend ending August 17, 2003 with $5.38 million in grosses.

"Fahrenheit 9/11" remained a large grosser for the three-day period which ended Sunday, August 15th, although its per screen average fell 26% to $1,413 on 716 screens, a drop of $293. Still, the combined grosses of "Fahrenheit," "Napoleon Dynamite" (nearly $1.76 million on 563 screens for a $3,120 average, a drop of just over 2%) and "Garden State" came to over $4.15 million, or 55% of all specialty revenue on their combined 1,454 screens. The remaining 60 iW: BOT films brought in just over $3.48 million on 1,278 screens for a per screen of $2,726, $70 below the overall 'indie' average. The general industry numbers totaled $137.23 million with 116 titles on 40,471 screens, with a $3,390 per screen average, 18% greater then the specialty average.

Lions Gate's "Open Water," once again floated atop the iW: BOT representing just under 12% of the specialty gross, with a weekend take of $894,747. The scuba thriller averaged $16,268 on 55 screens, an eight-venue expansion over its debut, while the per screen declined 31% from its $23,424 open. The two-week cume is nearly $2.53 million. The film will expand widely this coming weekend.

Warner Independent Pictures released its third feature, "We Don't Live Here Anymore," since the specialty distributor's launch. The film, directed by John Curran, debuted with $101,295 on seven screens for a lively $14,471 per site total.

"We are thrilled with the opening of 'We Don't Live Here Anymore,' Steven Friedlander, executive vice president, distribution at Warner Independent Pictures told indieWIRE yesterday. "It's an incredibly well made and superbly acted drama that deals with some very serious subject matter, and the opening numbers indicate there is an audience for quality films that take an unflinching look at some of today's 'hot button' emotional issues."

Friedlander indicated that a wide-range of ages turned up at the box office for the film with twenty-somethings seeing the feature along with "couples in their fifties." The film's "incredible cast, positive reviews, and subject matter, which was far from being a deterrent for this initial audience," according to Friedlander, were particularly important for audiences over the weekend.

"Interestingly, there were two divergent camps over the weekend. The younger audience, when asked about the film, tended to feel that it should be seen by anyone who's been cheated on or has been unfaithful, while the older demographic felt the opposite to be true," Friedlander offered about the audience's reaction to the picture.

Next weekend, Warner Independent will expand the film to 28 runs in 14 markets, and the company expects to be in the top 40 markets on August 27th. By the first week of September, the film should be in approximately 200 locations.

Fox Searchlight/Miramax's joint release, "Garden State" expanded its boundaries into 175 screens, a 140-site increase. The film grossed nearly $1.39 million for a $7,930 average ($12,105 previously, a nearly 35% decline) and a three-week total of over $2.64 million.

Zeitgeist's "Cowards Bend the Knee" bowed on one screen at New York's Film Forum, taking in $7,030. In other debuts, Indican Pictures opened "L.A. Twister at two sites, taking in $6,722 ($3,361 average), while Lions Gate Films' "Danny Deckchair" landed at four locations with $10,304 ($2,576 average).

HBO Films/Fine Line's joint release, "Maria Full of Grace" added four playdates taking in $495,492 for a $4,631 per screener ($5,231 previously, a nearly 22% decline). The film has cumed over $2.6 million in five weeks.

"Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism" was the only doc to make the iW: BOT top ten, coming in eighth with $44,847 on 11 screens ($4,077 average) and a cume of $151,292.

On Friday, French director Michel Deville's "Almost Peaceful" opens at the Paris in New York, while Stephen Fry's period film, "Bright Young Things" debuts in limited release. Also opening is Michael Gramaglia and Jim Fields' "End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones," Jerry Aronson's doc "The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg" at New York's Cinema Village (opening tonight), Jacob Aaron Estes's "Mean Creek," Hugo Rodriguez's "Nicotina," and Margarethe von Trotta's "Rosenstrasse."

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