Third Week's a Charm for "Bad Education"; Fellow Sony Classics Release "Daggers" Comes out Fighting
by Brian Brooks
Sony Pictures Classics has capitalized on the final month of 2004 with two hits, taking the top spots of the iW: BOT, ranked on a per screen basis, with Pedro Almodovar's "Bad Education" holding the pinnacle place for the third straight week and "House of Flying Daggers" by Zhang Yimou placing second. Warner Independent Pictures' "A Very Long Engagement" remained steadfast in its affair with the chart's top tier with a brisk gross in several locations, while Avatar Films' "After Midnight" and Wellspring's "Notre Musique" rounded out the top five. Miramax's "Finding Neverland," and Fox Searchlight's "Kinsey" and "Sideways" continued to be the largest overall specialty earners last weekend, capturing a larger share of a reduced 'indie' gross compared to the previous holiday weekend.
Almodovar's "Bad Education" remained last week's indie valedictorian, remaining on three screens, grossing $88,856 for a very solid $29,619 per screen average, down 36% from the Thanksgiving weekend three-day tally. The film has now cumed $526,559.
Sony Classics launched Zhang's "House of Flying Daggers" at 15 locations, taking in $397,472 for a $26,498 per screen finish, giving the Chinese/Hong Kong feature a second placement on the chart.
"I think it's really terrific [and] we're getting a little bit of everybody [attending the film]," said Sony Classics co-president Michael Barker in a conversation with indieWIRE yesterday afternoon. "We're counting on word-of-mouth to make the film a very big holiday picture." Sony Classics will have the film on 200 screens by Christmas, and up to 1000 by January 14th.
Barker conveyed his company's excitement with their recent releases, and praised the film's directors. "If you were to count on one hand the top directors [working today], I believe Almodovar and Zhang Yimou would be on that short list. Having the number one and two films is very gratifying." Continuing, Barker reiterated previous comments regarding the viability of foreign-language films he has made to this column earlier in the year. "Today, there's more of a [commercially successful] possibility to have subtitled movies. It's not just for the 'high art audiences' anymore."
Another foreign-language pic, "A Very Long Engagement" took the third place in the chart, grossing $72,585 on four screens in its second weekend in release. The Jean-Pierre Jeunet directed feature averaged $18,146, down 29% from its opening, with a total of $213,031.
Avatar Films debuted "After Midnight" on one screen, taking in $7,634. indieWIRE attempted to reach the company for comment yesterday, but to no avail. Jean-Luc Godard's latest, "Notre Musique" added two engagements in its second weekend, grossing $16,656 for a $5,552 per site average, and a $33,201 total. Wellspring will open the film in Washington, D.C. on Friday, and will expand the film further after the new-year.
Miramax's "Finding Neverland" grossed the largest amount of box office returns overall, taking in over $2.82 million on 526 screens. The feature averaged $5,369, a 41% decline form last week's $9,104 on 513 screens. "Neverland"'s four-week total is over $11.68 million.
Alexander Payne's "Sideways" had the second biggest windfall of the weekend, taking in over $1.8 million on 497 screens for a $3,627 average ($5,861 previously, 38% lower than last week's $5861). The Fox Searchlight film's seven-week total is nearly $12.5 million.
Bill Condon's "Kinsey," another Fox Searchlight release, ranked third overall in terms of gross, taking in $740,669 on 189 screens. The controversial feature averaged $3,919 ($6,875 last week, a 43% decline) and has cumed over $3.65 million.
"Finding Neverland," "Sideways," and "Kinsey" represented 67%, or nearly $5.37 million, of the entire specialty box office gross of over $7.95 million. Three fewer films were included on the chart then last week, although 311 more screens had specialty titles. Overall, the weekend saw a 33% drop in box office sales compared to the Friday to Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, with the indie average coming in at $2,764 ($4,673 previously, a 41% drop).
Factoring out the top three earners, the remaining 58 films on the chart took in over $2.58 million for a $1,552 average on 1,665 screens. Industry-wide, 109 films took in over $87.05 million on 35,094 screens for an average of approximately $2,480. Last year, 43 specialty films were reported to the iW BOT for the weekend ending Sunday, December 7 with $2.2 million on 1,264 screens. Jim Sheridan's "In America" ranked first that weekend, with a $13,035 average from 11 engagements.
Next weekend's openers include Takeshi Kitano's "Dolls," and Ari Kirschenbaum's "Fabled." Also debuting are Wes Anderson's "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," Sandeep Sawant's "Shwaas," and Manoel de Oliveira's "A Talking Picture."