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August 26, 2003 2:00 AM
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"Thirteen" is a Box office Rage

"Thirteen" is a Box office Rage

by Brian Brooks

Piercings, drugs, theft and teenage rage raced to the top of the specialty releases chart over the weekend with the Fox Searchlight debut of "Thirteen," while last week's number one, "American Splendor" expanded and held very well. Palm Pictures debuted skater doc "Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator" in New York joining the top tier of weekend releases, while "The Battle of Shaker Heights" and others bow in limited release.

Catherine Hardwicke's drama of a teenage girl who thrusts herself head-on into a friendship with a a teenager who introduces her to life on the edge, "Thirteen," opened in New York, L.A. and Toronto on five screens grossing $116,260 for a fab $23,252 per screen average and a number one placement on the iW: BOT which ranks per screen average. "Thirteen," which opened last Wednesday has taken in $139,860 overall. "Great opening," said Steve Gilula, president of Fox Searchlight distribution in a brief phone conversation with indieWIRE. "From a screen average point of view, it's [the] third [largest specialty opening of the summer]." Indeed "Thirteen"'s per screener was only exceeded by the opening of "American Splendor" last weekend ($26,618) and by "Step into Liquid" ($27,197) on the weekend of August 8 - 10.

Gilula credited the film's big opening with its timeliness given the upcoming school year, saying that the film is "very topical," with a positive "embrace by the press." "The film [has] extraordinary performances [by] three women [and was] widely praised at Sundance. People [however] thought it would be difficult to find an audience for the film," Gilula continued. He added that parents are taking their teenagers to see the movie, and credits the film for being a "fantastic catalyst for dialogue." Next week, the film will open in nine markets including Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Wasnington D.C., Seattle, Boston, and will expand in the New York area.

70 films are included this week on the indieWIRE: Box Office Tracker, earning a total of $6.18 million, up 15% from the previous weekend, on 2,462 screens, up 10% from the previous week. Growth in speciality films stood in marked contrast to a slumping overall industry performance, where second-weekend releases like "Freddy vs. Jason" and "S.W.A.T." lost significant box office ground, bringing the total industry box office down over 31% to just shy of $101 million. Last weekend marks the first time in this column's history that the independent overall per-screen average ($2,510/screen) surpassed the industry overall per-screen average ($2,365/screen).

The HBO Films/Fine Line release of "American Splendor" continued well in its second weekend. The film played at 32 sites, up from 6, taking in $454,375 for a still impressive $14,199 per screen average, and a second ranking on the chart. The film's tally so far is $716,971.

Palm Pictures bowed Helen Stickler's skater doc, "Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator" at the Anjelika Film Center in downtown Manhattan, grossing a righteous $10,998.

Miramax, meanwhile, bowed "The Battle of Shaker Heights" on five screens grossing $47,693 ($9,539 average). The distributor's "The Magdalene Sisters," meanwhile played 61 sites taking in $354,750 ($5,668 average). The film's cume is now a little under $1.3 million since release one month ago.

"Step into Liquid" continued to make box office waves in its third weekend in theaters, playing 50 screens earning $372,013 ($7,440 average) and a sixth place on the iW: BOT. The Artisan release has cumed $949,498.

First Run Features bowed "Venus Boyz" on one screen, taking in a down to earth $5,045 and a tenth rank on the chart, while ThinkFilm opened "Teknolust" with two runs, earning $9,475 for a slighter $4,738 per screen average. AFD Theatrical also opened its new film, "Rana's Wedding" in one venue, grossing $3,099.

"The Secret Lives of Dentists" dropped from 6th place to 12th, increasing its number of screens from 63 to 86 over the weekend grossing $314,902 ($3,662 average). "Dentists" has totaled just under $1.27 million.

Next week's openings include Paul Hough's "The Backyard," Neema Barnette's "Civil Brand," Shane Meadows' "Once Upon a Time in the Midlands," and Diego Lerman's "Suddenly."

[Brian Clark contributed to this article]

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