By Indiewire | Indiewire September 16, 2003 at 2:00AM
The Land of the Rising Box Office Shines Bright for "Lost in Translation"
by Brian Brooks
Perhaps the telltale signs were present last week during the Toronto International Film Festival that Sofia Coppola's "Lost in Translation" would open tremendously. Fest-goers clamored to movie tickets and a coveted invitation to the after party -- many found themselves in an outdoor area due to the overflow. "Lost in Translation" screamed loudly at the weekend box office soaring to the top of the indieWIRE: BOT of specialty releases as measured by per screen average. In fact, the film was the largest specialty opener of the year. Coming down from its two-week high was "Party Monster," which continued a nice buzz at number two, while TLA Releasing's "Luster" opened third.
Focus Features scored a whopping box office opener with "Lost in Translation," which opened on 23 screens in New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco grossing $925,087. The Coppola directed feature starring Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray easily topped the iW: BOT chart with a huge $40,221 average in its debut weekend, the highest for the specialty box office in 2003. "It's a phenomenally successful opening," beamed Jack Foley, president of theatrical distribution at Focus in a conversation with indieWIRE. "The print average is almost never seen because it's so large. It sets a new standard. I haven't received this many congratulatory calls from exhibitors in a long time. We expect more success [going forward]."
Foley credited the film's wildly successful bow to a number of factors, but said it was mostly because, "it's a great film." He also cited Coppola's track record with "The Virgin Suicides" as well as the performance by Bill Murray, which Foley called "brilliant," adding, "he deserves the Oscar he's deserved for years." Foley also credited the publicity decision to screen the film to the press well before its opening, so that "people were expecting [the film] when it opened rather then just hearing about it."
Exit surveys were great and word of mouth was quite strong according to Foley. "L.A. was remarkable in its grossing power, only dropping by 12% from Saturday to Sunday [which is] extremely rare. In fact, some theaters had grosses climb from Saturday to Sunday [showing that] momentum is there [reflecting on] the level of satisfaction." According to Foley, the film will move into the top 25 markets this upcoming weekend on about 150 screens. On the 26th, the film will broaden to 50 or 60 markets, but the distributor may do more depending on what's needed, he added.
Overall, 69 specialty and limited release titles earned $5.79 million over the weekend, on 3,368 screens, for an overall average of $1,719. That is down from last weekend when 62 films averaged $1,906 overall.
Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato's "Party Monster" continued well in the box office on seven screens, the same number as last week, but with a more sober $68,719 weekend take and a solid per site average of $9,817, down from last weekend's dizzying $19,165 per screen average rush. The Strand Releasing feature has cumed $296,665 in three weeks.
TLA Releasing bowed gay romantic comedy "Luster" in one Manhattan theater grossing $7,589. The film directed by Everett Lewis entered the chart in third place.
Artisan, meanwhile, debuted Gregory Pritikin's "Dummy" on five New York and L.A. screens. The film took in $30,120 for a per screen average of $6,024.
Miramax's "City of God" has been blessed with long-term box office fortune, taking in $9,606 on two screens ($4,803 average) in its 35th weekend of release. The film has cumed so far over $4.6 million and placed seventh on the iW: BOT this weekend.
"The Secret Lives of Dentists," meanwhile topped the $3 million mark in its seventh weekend in theaters, grossing $240,852 on 156 screens (1,544 average).
While not tracked on this chart, last year's Toronto International Film Festival hit "Cabin Fever" from Lions Gate debuted on some 2,000 screens over the weekend and made about $8 million at the box office, competing with the big guys in its debut weekend.
There is a crowded slate of specialty openers next weekend. Among the titles set to screen are John Sayles' "Casa de Los Babys," Oliver Assayas' "demonlover," Eishy Hayata's "Emerald Cowboy," Nick Willing's "Hypnotic," Michael Winterbottom's "In this World," Emile Gaudreault's "Mambo Italiano," and Tom Peosay's "Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion."