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February 2, 2005 2:00 AM
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Oscar Noms Pad the iW BOT of Specialty Releases

Oscar Noms Pad the iW BOT of Specialty Releases

by Brian Brooks

Awards shows celebrate art, but they're also highly prized for the profile they raise for films they spotlight and the box office returns that result (hopefully). Last week's Oscar nominations translated into generally higher returns for specialty releases receiving Academy Award noms, with distributors mostly increasing the number of screens across-the-board to capitalize on the attention. From smaller releases like "Born into Brothels," which once again topped the iW BOT on a per screen basis, to bigger titles such as "Sideways," and "Hotel Rwanda," film companies added screens and gross, but with some exceptions. The weekend also saw very few new "indie" openers. The top four grossers, however, increased their share of the specialty largesse -- with each receiving multiple nominations.

THINKFilm's best documentary-nominee "Born into Brothels" raced atop the iW BOT in its second month of release, taking in $31,663 on three screens for a $10,554 per screen average. The film had spent its release life entirely at New York's Film Forum prior to its nomination, but THINK added two screens over the weekend after its nomination (THINKFilm's "The Story of the Weeping Camel" is also nominated in the same category). Last week, "Brothels" averaged $3,660, a nearly 75% increase, and a $121,863 cume. Strand Releasing's "Head-On," meanwhile placed second on the chart with a $40,557 gross from four screens (up from just one last week) for a $10,139 average, a one-third drop.

United Artists' "Hotel Rwanda," with three nominations including best actor for Don Cheadle, added 98 more screens over the weekend (417 total), taking in over $1.84 million in its sixth weekend in theaters. The feature averaged $4,427, up slightly over 6%. The film has cumed over $8.184 million.

Miramax's French feature "Les Choristes" received two noms, including best foreign language film and best original song. Last weekend's showings increased by 32 screens (from two the previous week), taking in $127,447 for a $3,748 average. Last week, the film averaged $7,199, a 48% decline.

"Sideways" saw the largest absolute increase in screen number over the weekend after its five nominations including best picture and director were announced. The Alexander Payne feature from Fox Searchlight played 1,694 screens, an increase of 998 from the previous tally. "Sideways" took in nearly $6.35 million, averaging $3,747 ($4,098 last week, a drop of only 9%). The film's 16-week total is over $40 million.

Miramax's "The Aviator" scored the best overall gross on the iW BOT after securing 11 nominations, including best picture and director for Martin Scorsese. The film's per screen average increased 15% to $2,503 from last week with 876 additional sites. Overall, "The Aviator" grossed $7.55 million on 3,016 screens over the weekend, ending Sunday, January 30, and has cumed over $68.23 million in seven weeks.

Also a Miramax release, "Finding Neverland," received seven nominations including best picture and best actor in a leading role for Jonny Depp. Three months in theatrical release, the film added 389 screens, taking in over $2.75 million from 1,258 sites for a $2,190 average, down 60%. The film has totaled nearly $36 million.

Annette Bening received an Oscar nomination for lead actress for her role in Sony Pictures Classics' "Being Julia," which screened at 135 sites over the weekend, up from 65 previously. The film grossed $263,303 for a $1,950 average, a 7% increase. In 16 weeks, the film has cumed nearly $4.18 million.

Fine Line's "The Sea Inside" took two nominations including best foreign-language pic. The company reversed the overall trend for this film, taking away one screen, grossing $21,844 from 14 locations. The film had a slight increase in per screen average at $1,560. "The Sea Inside," which swept last week's Goya Awards in Spain, has cumed $387,936 in seven weeks.

Fellow Fine Line release "Vera Drake" secured three nominations, including best actress for Imelda Staunton. The film screened in 16 additional locations, taking in $80,449 for a $1,183 per screen average ($658 last week, a nearly 45% increase). In 17 weeks in its theatrical run, the film has cumed just over $2.38 million.

Overall, the iW BOT average decreased 2% to $2,629 with 55 titles showing in 8,134 screens takin in nearly $21.39 million. "Hotel Rwanda," "Sideways," "The Aviator," and "Finding Neverland" consumed the lions share of the specialty take, with 86% or nearly $18.5 million. Minus the top four grossing films, the remaining 51 titles averaged $1,652 on 1,749 screens from a total of nearly $2.89 million.

This weekend's openers include Elliot Greenebaum's "Assisted Living," Bjorn Runge's "Daybreak," Christopher Munch's "Harry and Max," Hirokazu Kore-eda's "Nobody Knows," Andrew Horn's "The Nomi Song," Damien O'Donnell's "Rory O'Shea Was Here," and Russell Mulcahy's "Swimming Upstream."

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