"Penguins" Continue their Box office Onslaught; "On the Outs" Debuts Strong on One NYC Screen
by Brian Brooks
Warner Independent Pictures and National Geographic Feature Films' "March of the Penguins" once again towered over the specialty box office, spawning another weekend at the head of the iW BOT, as measured on a per screen basis. The film also handily took the lions share of the entire indie gross for the weekend, with about 40% of the entire box office take for the three-day period ending Sunday, July 17. Self-distributed feature "On the Outs" opened at one New York venue, placing second, while Sony Pictures Classics' "Saraband" took the third placement, after adding a pair of showings. Lions Gate's Sundance 2005 opener, "Happy Endings," meanwhile, placed fourth, debuting over the weekend on over several dozen screens. Other openers rolled out in theaters tepidly, while the overall iW BOT average increased over the previous week, but mostly buoyed by "Penguins."
Luc Jacquet's doc "March of the Penguins" flocked to an additional 68 locations last weekend, once again taking the top position on the iW BOT with a gross of over $1.51 million on 132 screens. "Penguins" easily took the top polar position on the chart with an $11,478 per screen average in its fourth week in release ($15,927 average last week, a decline of 28%), with a cume of over $4 million.
"Nobody predicts something will go this well," Mark Gill, president of Warner Independent Pictures told indieWIRE Tuesday when asked if he thought the film would perform so well, prior to its release." Even the most optimistic among us had no idea it could perform the way it has." Warner Independent had expected the film to be in 200 theaters by next weekend, but will expand to around 700 because of its strong appeal. "The figures keep going up week after week, [and] both city and suburban areas showing strong [grosses]." Gill added that "Penguins" is also solid in art-house venues, displaying strength across the board. "They're coming in droves," he added.
In general, Gill said he has noticed the specialty box office has softened this summer, but that distributors have been less inclined to open a large slate of films. "Last year there were some big bruisers like 'Fahrenheit 9/11,' so many [distributors] thought it would be better to release fewer this year." "March of the Penguins"'s expected screen number this weekend will be the biggest "specialty" release since "Kung Fu Hustle"'s 904 screens at the beginning of May.
Self-distributed feature "On the Outs" opened one screen at New York's Film Forum, taking the chart's second position with a $7,750 per screen average, and placing second on the iW BOT. "We are thrilled with the opening weekend. I believe we are the only film in America that opened without one advertisement in one newspaper and we still had enormous crowds," said Michael Skolnick, who along with Lori Silverbush, directed "On the Outs."
"We love the Film Forum, [and] it was amazing to see such a young and diverse crowd there. At times it felt like a hip-hop concert mixed with an Edward Albee play." Solnick indicated a go-slow approach to the film's future release schedule. "We hope to continue with a theatrical release as we have had numerous companies show interest since we opened. We are sorting all that now. But we will get this film out one way or another."
Sony Classics' "Saraband" by Ingmar Bergman placed third on the chart for a second weekend, with its per screen average dropping 32% to $5,804. The film took in $34,823 on six screens, and the title has totaled $88,796 in two weeks.
Lions Gate Films' "Happy Endings" by Don Roos was the weekend's highest grossing debut film, opening on 52 screens, taking in $240,075. The film averaged $4,617.
In other openers, Palm Pictures' "Memories of Murder" opened at one site, grossing $4,487, while Strand Releasing's "The Reception" also played one screen, taking in $4,213 and Shadow Distribution's "Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus" had a $4,095 weekend, also from one location. Miramax's "The Warrior," meanwhile debuted at four venues, grossing $14,170 ($3,543 average).
Paramount Classics' "Mad Hot Ballroom" grossed the second highest absolute amount on the chart, taking in $416,802 on 180 screens for a $2,316 average, a decline of 9% from the previous week. "Me and You and Everyone We Know" grossed $357,847 on 97 screens, the third highest earner on the chart. The IFC Films release averaged $3,689, a 43% decline from one week ago.
"Mad Hot Ballroom," "Me and You and Everyone We Know" as well as "March of the Penguins" together represented 61% of the entire iW BOT, which took in over $3.76 million on 1,302 screens with 65 titles. The iW BOT averaged 6% higher overall last weekend from the previous week at $2,890, although the figure was inflated with the success of "Penguins."
Factoring out the top three grosser, the remaining 62 titles grossed over $1.47 million for a $1,650 per screen average, 43% below the overall iW BOT average. Industry-wide, 121 films took in over $164.49 million on 37,200 screens, averaging $4,422, or 35% over the iW BOT figure.
Paramount Classics' "Hustle & Flow" and Tartan Films USA's "9 Songs" opens this coming weekend. Also debuting are IFC Films' "The Edukators," Picturehouse's "Last Days," First Run Features' "Monumental: David Brower's Fight for Wild America," and Sony Pictures Classics' "November."