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February 11, 2004 2:00 AM
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"The Dreamers" Granted B.O. Wish; Oscar-Nominated Specialty Titles Expand

"The Dreamers" Granted B.O. Wish; Oscar-Nominated Specialty Titles Expand

by Brian Brooks

"The Dreamers" woke up Monday morning as the biggest specialty box office draw, with grosses for the film's debut topping all releases so far in '04 in the iW BOT as gauged by per-screen average. United Artists' Afghan pic "Osama" also opened strongly, battling its way to the second spot on the chart in limited release. "Touching the Void," continued to successfully mount a box office challenge in wider release, while a number of titles boasting Oscar nominations expand their theatrical reach, including a massive cinema push for Miramax's "City of God."

For the weekend ending February 9, the iW BOT tracked 41 titles, an addition of one over last week with the overall gross virtually unchanged from the previous total at just over $10.1 million. The number represents just over 9 percent of the total box office number for all films of $112.25 million, down from just under 11 percent last week. The number of screens, however, jumped to 3,456 from 3,080. Once again, the grosses for three films represented two-thirds of the total specialty box office take. Newmarket Films' "Monster" had a gross that was more than a third of the overall take for the weekend, while Focus' "Lost in Translation" at over $1.73 million and Lions Gate's "Girl with a Pearl Earring" ($1.102 million) also representedgreater than one-third.

Fox Searchlight's Bernardo Bertolucci feature, "The Dreamers" rioted all the way to the box office crescendo, opening at five sites in New York and Los Angeles grossing $142,632, for a transcendental per screen of $28,526. The film is the highest-grossing specialty release of the year, despite its NC-17 rating and "explicit" sexual content that includes healthy doses of full frontal nudity for all persuasions.

"It's excellent, we're very pleased, [and] the New York numbers were fantastic," commented Stephen Gilula, president of distribution at Fox Searchlight in a conversation with indieWIRE. Gilula went on to say that the numbers were a bit weaker in Los Angeles, perhaps due to the comparatively tepid reviews there, but that the film had an overall robust opening, despite the conventional wisdom that NC-17 films can be the kiss of box office death. "[We had] no limitation in opening the film as far as marketing is concerned," Gilula said yesterday from his office in Los Angeles. "I spent a lot of time seeing how it would be to open an NC-17 film, and I found there's a big gap between myth and reality." Continuing, Gilual said "The Dreamers" had a relatively "fresh start" because a lot of time had passed since the last time a film opened with the rating.

Additionally, most publications -- save for one in heavily Mormon Salt Lake City, Utah -- did not have firm policies on advertising for NC-17 films, and that papers in markets the company is targeting for opening the film have agreed to allow ads promoting the feature. Also, Fox Searchlight has not had difficulty booking the film. "We expect to play the film in every circuit in America, now that the film has opened, we've had more requests to have the film [from exhibitors]. The stigma of the film has largely faded," concluded Gilula. Moving forward, Fox Searchlight will "expand rapidly," taking the film to 17 more cities next week at around 60 venues. On February 20, the film will be in approximately 100 screens in 40 cities, with over 200 runs expected by March 5. "We're prepared to take it as wide as it can go," said Gilula.

United Artists' Golden Globe-winning film, "Osama" had a winning opening in the second spot on the chart, grossing $51,969 on four screens for a robust $12,992 per-screen average, despite being looked over by the Oscars for best foreign language film.

Slipping to number three in the specialty ranking after two weeks at the B.O. summit, "Touching the Void" from IFC Films nevertheless enjoyed a strong week, expanding to 18 sites from five previously grossing $179,901 for an average of $9,995 per screen ($14,827 last week). "Void" has now totaled $413,706.

TLA Releasing's gay Mormon film, "Latter Days" maintained its mission on four screens, grossing $38,584 for a per site of $9,646 on its second weekend ($14,311 previously). The film has cumed $115,128.

First Run Features debuted Menachem Daum and Oren Rudavsky's "Hiding and Seeking" at the Quad in New York, finding receipts of $6,424.

Oscar nominations seemed to provide an overall windfall for many titles over the weekend, including Errol Morris' "The Fog of War" (nominated for best documentary, feature). The Sony Classics film added six sites, grossing $226,025 on 43 screens for a $5,256 site average, up from $4,956 last week. Since release two months ago, the film has cumed almost $1.23 million.

Patty Jenkins' "Monster" continued to reap the specialty box office largesse, cashing in over $3.5 million for the weekend on 892 screens, up from 668 previously. The film, which received an Oscar nom for best actress (Charlize Theron) averaged $3,939 per screen ($5,044 last week) and has totaled more than $15.29 million.

Also vying for Oscar is Sony Classics' animated "The Triplets of Belleville," which added 20 screens, taking in $318,714 from 83 sites ($3,840 average, $4,151 previously). The film has now cumed over $2.57 million.

Multiple Academy Award nominee "Lost in Translation" remained a box office samurai despite a DVD release, shedding two sites for a $1.73 million gross on 630 screens ($2,749 average, down from $3,412 last week). Sofia Coppola's best picture-nominated feature has totaled more than $39.85 million since release 22 weeks ago.

Also hoping for statues next month, Lions Gate's "Girl with a Pearl Earring" took in over $1.1 million from 402 sites (up from 391) for a $2,741 average, down from $3,465.

Miramax offered a huge expansion of its Brazilian feature, "City of God," playing 172 screens, up from just 11. The film received multiple nominations, including best directing and editing. The film grossed $376,999 for a moderate $2,192 per-screen average ($3,726 previously). Still, the gross is impressive since the feature was released almost 13 months ago. "City of God" has cumed more than $5.26 million.

Miramax's best foreign language nominee, "The Barbarian Invasions" added 40 sites for a weekend gross of $109,553 on 56 screens ($1,956 average, compared to last week's $2,537). Since release three months ago, the film has cumed almost $1.12 million.

Next week, look for debuts from Lucas Belvaux's "After the Life: Trilogy 3," Manuel Boursinhac's "La Mentale: The Code," Francois Dupeyron's "Monsieur Ibrahim," and Greg Pak's "Robot Stories."

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