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September 3, 2003 2:00 AM
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"Step into Liquid" Leads the Summer '03 Tide of iW: BOT Films

"Step into Liquid" Leads the Summer '03 Tide of iW: BOT Films

by Brian Brooks

The article accompanying the indieWIRE: BOT this week is a departure from our regular analysis of the weekend numbers, in order to look at the summer's biggest openers in the specialty market. The Summer 2003 season, which indieWIRE considers Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend for purposes of this article, saw doc "Step into Liquid" top the iW: BOT on its opening weekend in August. The movie had the largest per screen average of all the films tracked during the period, while another upstart doc, "Capturing the Friedmans," proved wildly popular with audiences as well. Placing a close second, and perhaps a would-be top placer had the blackout on the East Coast not occurred, was "American Splendor," which opened the weekend following "Liquid." Others making the top ten were foreign films such as "Swimming Pool" and "The Magdalene Sisters."

Below is a list of the summer's top ten as measured by opening weekend per screen averages. Of course this does not necessarily reflect the overall box office life of each film, and indeed some of the summer's best performers did not make the top ten. Some of these films are examined following the list of the top ten.


  1. "Step into Liquid" by Dana Brown made a big summer splash on its debut weekend August 8 - 10. The Artisan release's per screen average was a celestial $27,197 on five screens. For Labor Day weekend, the film, which was acquired during the Tribeca Film Festival, grossed $608,156 on 76 screens, coming in 8th on the chart ($8,002 average) over the past weekend with a cume that is slightly under $1.8 million.
  2. "American Splendor" by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini ranked second for the summer with a $26,618 per screen average at six sites. The debut release by HBO Films/Fine Line opened the film, which won the grand jury prize at Sundance 2003, on the blackout weekend of August 15 - 17. This weekend, the film played 88 screens earning over $1.1 million ($12,675 average) and has cumed just over $2 million so far.
  3. "Thirteen" by Catherine Hardwicke bowed August 22 - 24 on five screens, a furious $23,252 average for the Fox Searchlight release. The film's director took the dramatic director's award during Sundance this year. Over the weekend, the film played on 74 screens taking in $839,277 ($11,342 average) and it has cumed just over $1 million.
  4. "Swimming Pool" by French director Francois Ozon opened over the 4th of July weekend on 13 screens averaging $22,102. The Focus Features release, which played in competition at Cannes in May, has earned just over $9 million to date, screening at 214 sites over the holiday weekend grossing $559,864 ($2,616 average).
  5. "Capturing the Friedmans" by Andrew Jarecki placed 5th on the summer's top ten with a $21,718 opener on three screens for the May 30 - June 1 weekend. The Magnolia Pictures release won the grand jury prize for documentary at Sundance in January and has so far grossed a little under $3 million. For the Labor Day weekend, the film took in $55,648 on 36 screens ($1,546 average).
  6. "Party Monster" by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato ranked sixth for the summer with its debut opening over this past weekend in San Francisco on one screen. The film took in $20,322 at the Castro Theatre. "We're really thrilled with the opening weekend. Strand is anticipating a big opening next weekend [as well]," commented Strand Releasing co-president Marcus Hu in a short conversation with indieWIRE. Hu said the film will open next weekend in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
  7. "Dirty Pretty Things" by Stephen Frears placed seventh with a $20,102 per screen average during the July 18 - 20 weekend screening five sites. The Miramax release continues to do well after seven weeks in theaters, playing 383 screens over the weekend, taking in over $1.4 million ($3,686 average) with a cume of over $4.67 million.
  8. "The Holy Land" by Eitan Gorlin blessed the Anjelika Film Center on its debut weekend July 11 - 13 with the highest per screen average in the specialty market ($19,014) during its debut. CAVU Pictures, which released the film, did not report grosses for this weekend.
  9. "Camp" by Todd Graff came in 8th for the summer, opening three screens with an $18,098 average in its debut. IFC Films' release took in $265,270 over the past weekend (a $2,287 average) on 116 screens and has totaled over $1.3 million since its release on the July 25 - 27 weekend.
  10. "The Magdalene Sisters" by Peter Mullan completes the top ten films with the highest per screen averages of the summer's specialty openers. The film, released by Miramax, bowed August 1 - 3 on five screens with a $16,911 average. Now five weeks in theaters, the film continues to do well, taking in $841,180 during the four-day weekend (a $4,144 average) and has cumed a heavenly $2.27 million.

Newmarket Films' "Whale Rider" continues to be a summer box office darling since its release 13 weeks ago, screening 503 sites and grossing over $1.5 million (a $3,006 average) this weekend. The Sundance audience award-winner has cumed over $16.9 million.

Although it was released prior to summer, Sony Picture Classics' "Winged Migration" soared through the period taking in over $9.1 million since it opened 20 weeks ago. For this past holiday weekend, the Oscar-nominated doc grossed $469,027 ($2,322 average) on 202 screens.

Fellow doc, "Spellbound" by Jeffrey Blitz made the grade through summer. Over the weekend, the film released by ThinkFilm, screened on 50 sites taking in $104,099 (a $2,082 average). Since release 18 weeks ago, it has cumed just under $5.4 million.

Also a huge box office cash cow was Fox Searchlight's "Bend it Like Beckham," which has totaled $31.72 million since release 23 weeks ago. For the holiday take, "Beckham" screened in 152 venues grossing $288,937 with a per screen average of $1,901.

For the upcoming weekend, look for Wellspring's "Carnage," as well as "Home Room" by Paul F. Ryan. Also bowing is Enterprise Films' "Taking Sides" and Ben Coccio's "Zero Day."

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