"Red Lights" Sees Holiday Weekend Green
by Brian Brooks
French road-rage intoxicator "Red Lights" sideswiped the Labor Day traffic in theaters last weekend, speeding atop the specialty box office in the four-day period, which ended Monday. Korean feature "Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War" debuted strongly in the second position of the iW: BOT, ranked on a per screen basis, even handing the film a new record, while "Remember Me, My Love" opened solidly. Last week's number one, "The Brown Bunny" landed respectfully in the top tier after a small expansion in its second weekend, while Focus opened its anticipated "Vanity Fair," joining four other titles on the iW: BOT grossing seven figures (or more) each.
Cedric Kahn's "Red Lights" revved up its theatrical journey on four screens over the weekend after debuting in New York, taking in $71,208 for a $17,802 average. Since debuting three weeks ago, the Wellspring release has cumed $79,210.
When asked if he was surprised by the film's performance, Ryan Werner, Wellspring's head of distribution commented, "Yes, and we are thrilled." He continued, "We are particularly happy for Cedric Kahn, who has been France's best kept secret for too long. French thrillers are a popular genre and there hasn't been one in awhile. The reviews were pretty much raves across the board, which gave us incredible momentum for the long weekend. We expected it to do business, but it did better than we expected, which is always a nice surprise."
Werner said that audiences were a "great cross-section" of people who typically appreciate foreign fare and noted that it was the "top foreign-language opener of the year" at the Angelika, as well as the second highest at Lincoln Plaza after the debut of "Maria Full of Grace."
Originally, Wellspring had planned to open the film on August 20th, but according to Werner, theaters bookings were "too crowded, [but] we were lucky enough to get screens on Labor Day weekend, which is coincidentally when the plot is set in the original novel."
Wellspring will open the film in Los Angeles and will expand into the New York suburbs next weekend. "Red Lights will also begin screening at the DIA in Detroit as well as in Seattle.
With the debut of "Red Lights," New York-based distributor Wellspring has enjoyed a two-shot in the BOT's premier position. Last week's number one, "The Brown Bunny" by Vincent Gallo ranked fourth for the holiday weekend. Wellspring added seven runs, taking in $82,339 for an $8,234 per screen average on ten screens, a drop of 51% from its debut. "The film [has] made an impact in the markets," Werner commented on the controversial film, while also point out that grosses in L.A. were up 45%. "Bunny" will be in approximately 30 screens by the weekend.
Destination Films/Samuel Goldwyn Films release "Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of the War" bowed on 29 screens, taking in $363,439, the highest debut for a Korean film in the United States on record. The film averaged $12,532.
"This is a terrific performance, and we're delighted with the results [which] exceeded our expectations," commented Samuel Goldwyn Films president Meyter Gottlieb, to indieWIRE. "I was in the Fairfax Theater (in Los Angeles) for three screenings and reaction was terrific." Gottlieb, who first saw the film at the American Film Market, said audiences were primarily Asian and appealed to ages across the board.
"We thought it would be an older audience, but the pleasant surprise was a mix of older and younger. The film played with all age groups." Gottlieb described the Korean War-set film as an "epic," as well as "anti-war," and referred to some critics who compared the feature to "Saving Private Ryan." Destination and Samuel Goldwyn will expand the film in areas where it has already debuted on September 17th. "Our goal is to attract a broad specialized audience, not just an Asian audience," concluded Gottlieb.
In other weekend bows, Roadside Attractions opened "Remember Me, My Love" on two screens taking in $19,684 ($9,842 average), and Regent Releasing unveiled "Yes Nurse! No Nurse!" at one site grossing $7,242. Also on one screen was Artistic License Films' "Virgin" taking in $5,310, while Sony Classics' "Warriors of Heaven and Earth" saw $18,484 from four venues ($4,621 average).
Focus Features also debuted Mira Nair's "Vanity Fair" last week on 1,051 screens, joining four additional titles on the iW: BOT with multi-million weekend grosses. "Vanity Fair" took in nearly $6.27 million for a $5,965 per screen average.
Last weekend's big five grossers, including Miramax's "Hero," Fox Searchlight/Miramax's "Garden State," Fox Searchlight's "Napoleon Dynamite," and Lions Gate's "Open Water" earned a combined gross of just under $28.43 million representing nearly 87% of the entire specialty weekend take of approximately $32.66 million. "Hero" itself was about 35% of the indie take with an $11.51 million gross on 2,092 screens ($5,965 average, a 33% drop). Labor Day weekend's 63 remaining specialty titles took in $4.23 million on 1,664 screens, which represents a $2,542 per screen average.
Next week, Palm Pictures debuts Ake Sandgren and Christoffer Boe's Cannes-winning "Reconstruction." Miramax opens Elliot Berlin and Joe Fab's "Paper Clips," and Enid Zentelis' "Evergreen" opens in limited release. Also in theaters is Gregory Jacobs' "Criminal" and David Moreton's "Testosterone."