By Indiewire | Indiewire August 11, 2004 at 2:0AM
"Open Water" Splashes to the Top of the Box Office
by Brian Brooks
Lions Gate Films' "Open Water" drowned the competition over the weekend at the specialty box office, following last week's topper "Garden State" as one of only a handful of recent narrative films to reach the iW: BOT apex as measured by per screen average. Docs, however, continue their summer sizzle with the release of Robert Greenwald's "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism," which made a sensational debut despite being available on DVD. Also opening with less zeal was "Code 46" and "Last Life in the Universe," which were among the top five in the chart, while other weekend openers fared poorly.
"Fahrenheit 9/11" continued to lose its shadow over the specialty box office, with a gross that fell by $1.2 million from last weekend. Indies grossed about $7.9 million (an increase of less then $300,000) on 2,915 screens, an 18-site increase from the previous weekend, while the number of titles tracked remained unchanged at 63. The iW: BOT's per screen average rose 3% to $2,710, although minus "Napoleon Dynamite" and "Fahrenheit," the average would have been $3,124 on a gross of almost $4.25 million ($3.11 million last week using similar calculations). Both "Napoleon Dynamite" and "Fahrenheit 9/11" represented about 46% of the weekend cume compared to 60% last week. Most of the decrease comes from "Fahrenheit," which took in over $1.91 million on 1009 screens ($1,895 average, a 26% decline), while "Napoleon"'s average only saw a 4% drop to $3,186 (nearly $1.74 million gross) in its eighth week, despite adding 123 engagements to 546. When adding grosses from these two films with the addition of "Open Water," however, then 60% of the entire indie box office came from three films.
"Open Water" took in just over $1.1 million on 47 screens. The film, directed by Chris Kentis, joined the iW: BOT with a vast $23,424 average, surpassing "Garden State"'s average, which was the top for the summer for a non-documentary release. It easily grabbed the premier position on the chart.
"The results are very good, [and] just what we were expecting," Lions Gate Films president, Tom Ortenberg told indieWIRE yesterday. "We are hoping this will lead to a strong opening weekend when we go wide August 20." Ortenberg said the film appealed to both males and females equally over the weekend, with the 25-34 age demo attending more heavily. Ortenberg saw the low budget film at Sundance this year. "Nick Meyer, our head of international, went to the first screening while others were at 'Motorcycle Diaries,' and Nick knew there was something special going on with 'Open Water' and encouraged the rest of us to see it early the next morning. So, while others were sleeping, [my colleagues and I] saw the film and loved it. Peter [Block, president of Lions Gate home entertainment, acquisitions and new media] worked furiously all day to close the deal before others had a chance to screen it." The film did debut at the Hamptons International Film Festival in Octobher of last year, where no buyers nabbed it. Lions Gate plans to have the film in close to 2000 theaters by August 20.
Robert Greenwald's latest political doc, "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism" debuted in five theaters, cashing in at the box office, despite a DVD release that preceded it more than a month ago. The Cinema Libre release grossed a liberal $78,054 for a $15,611 per screen average, the 11th doc to appear in the top five this summer.
Last week's number one film "Garden State" added 26 runs taking in $423,681 on 35 screens. The Fox Searchlight/Miramax release averaged a bountiful $12,105 (a 46% decrease). "Garden State"'s two-week total is $935,270.
United Artists' "Code 46" and Palm Pictures' "Last Life in the Universe" took the fourth and fifth positions on the char respectively. "Code 46" opened at three locations taking in $20,179 (with $6,723 average) while "Last Life in the Universe" had one engagement, taking in $5,833.
In other debuts, Excel Entertainment opened "Saints and Soldiers" on 26 screens, grossing $129,056 (with $4,964 average), while Magnolia Pictures' "Bang Rajan" played at one site with a $4,354 weekend. Newmarket Films' "Stander," fared poorly, grossing $19,067 on seven screens (with $2,724 average).
Paramount Classics' "Intimate Strangers" jumped to 21 screens (from five last week), with $110,680. The film averaged $5,270 ($11,167 last week, a 53% decline) and a two-week total of $200,377.
This weekend Warner Independent Pictures will open "We Don't Live Here Anymore" in Gotham and L.A., New Yorker Films will open "It's Easier for a Camel...," Palm will debut "Tom Down & The Language of Music" in NYC, LA and select cities, Lions Gate will release "Danny Deckchair," while Zeitgeist will open Guy Maddin's "Cowards Bend the Knee" tonight in New York.