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June 9, 2004 2:00 AM
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Topical Docs, "The Corporation," "Control Room," and "Super Size Me" Riding High on the BOT

Topical Docs, "The Corporation," "Control Room," and "Super Size Me" Riding High on the BOT

by Brian Brooks

Issue docs entrenched their hold on the specialty box office with the Bay Area debut of Zeitgeist's "The Corporation," while Magnolia's "Control Room" maintained its beachhead at the top of the chart as ranked by per screen average. "Super Size Me" meanwhile, easily surpassed the $6 million mark in its further expansion. ThinkFilm's "The Story of the Weeping Camel" debuted to decent numbers, while Newmarket rolled out the director's cut of "Donnie Darko" at seven locations.

Seventy-four films were covered during the first full weekend of June in the iW BOT, an increase of three more than Memorial weekend, although the total number of screens decreased by 224 to 1,651. The total specialty gross came in at about $3 million for the three-day period compared to $4.82 million for four days last week, and $3.18 million (2,093 screens) two weeks ago. The 'indie' per screen average declined by $754 from a week ago to $1,817 compared to $6,542 for overall industry releases.

"Control Room" once again laid claim to the iW BOT's premier spot, for the third weekend in a row, remaining on one screen at New York's Film Forum and grossing $25,320 (it made $34,270 last week). The lauded documentary profiling Qatar-based news network Al Jazeera during last year's U.S. invasion of Iraq has cumed $126,710. Beginning tonight, the film will open at the Landmark Sunshine Theater in downtown Manhattan as well as the Lincoln Plaza uptown. On Friday, "Control Room" will be on 39 additional screens around the country.

Zeitgeist Films debuted the Canadian-produced documentary "The Corporation" by Jennifer Abbott, Mark Achbar, and Joel Bakan, examining the power of big business. The film opened in San Francisco and San Jose over the weekend, grossing $28,671 for a per screen windfall of $14,336. "We're obviously very thrilled, we think theses numbers are fantastic," commented Zeitgeist Films' co-president Emily Russo in a conversation with indieWIRE yesterday. "We expected it to do well, [and] it exceeded our expectations which were high."

Zeitgeist decided to open "The Corporation" on the West Coast because the company felt the "film could work very strongly" there in addition to a commitment incentive from the historic Castro Theater. "We had strong interest from the Castro, which gave it a 13-day deal. We wanted to get the ball rolling out on the West Coast, and get momentum there [prior to the release] June 30th at Film Forum." "The Corporation" is another issue-oriented film that is finding box office success along with Morgan Spurlock's "Super Size Me" and Jehane Noujaim's "Control Room."

Michael Moore's latest, the Cannes-winner "Fahrenheit 9/11," looms as a potential behemoth at theaters later this month when it is released, but Russo remained upbeat about "The Corporation"'s prospects going forward. "Obviously it's something we'll have to contend with [but] we've had these dates for months and months and it ('Fahrenheit 9/11') wasn't in the picture when we were planning [for 'The Corporation']." Russo pointed out that Moore also appears in "The Corporation" and said that "The Corporation" is very different in its subject matter from the Moore documentary.

"We believe there is enough of an audience to see the films that are out there. Audiences are motivated to see these controversial and important documentaries," Russo said. She credited the gaping political divide for creating positive interest in issue-oriented docs right now. "The country is divided on where we should be and where we shouldn't be, and these very savvy filmmakers made films that address these issues."

Zeitgeist will expand "The Corporation" further in the Bay Area including Berkeley as well as in San Rafael and Santa Cruz this week. Interest in Northern California was also helped by a piece that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle's business section about the film, giving further exposure to the movie. "We really are trying to appeal to audiences that wouldn't necessarily think they would agree with the film's point-of-view," concluded Russo. "We think there is enough of a counterbalance that it will have appeal to people aside from those on the far-left of the spectrum."

United Artists added 11 engagements for "Saved!" in its second weekend run, taking in $340,343 on 31 screens for a praiseworthy $10,979 per screen average (down from $22,969 last week). The film, directed by Brian Dannelly, has cumed $922,409. The company meanwhile added two playdates for Jim Jarmusch's "Coffee & Cigarettes," taking in $199,329 on 38 screens for an average of $5,246 ($10,070 previously) and a cume of over $1.1 million.

ThinkFilm opened Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni's "The Story of the Weeping Camel" at two sites, taking in $21,767. The film, which was Mongolia's first-ever entry for a foreign-language Oscar consideration, averaged a respectable $10,884.

Koch Lorber Films' "The Five Obstructions" spent its second weekend on two screens, grossing $17,379 for a buoyant $8,690 average and a fifth rank on the chart. Last weekend, indieWIRE inadvertently left the film, directed by Lars von Trier and Jorgen Leth off the chart. It debuted on one screen with a $13,040 take, placing third among films on the BOT. The film has now cumed $39,429.

"Super Size Me" played on 205 screens (an additional eight over one week ago) grossing $842,684 for a $4,111 per screen average, that is a bit trimmer average compared to Memorial weekend's $7,114. Spurlock's documentary has now totaled a giant $6.2 million.

Newmarket's director's cut release of "Donnie Darko" played in seven sites for a $24,728 weekend gross ($3,533 average). The cume for the re-release directed by Richard Kelly and starring Jake Gyllenhaal is $32,736.

Magnolia Pictures' "Bukowski: Born into This" screened at eight sites (up from five) taking in $27,396 ($3,044 average). The company originally reported nine screens, but later corrected that after the chart was already published. "Bukowski" has cumed $81,682 in two weeks.

Palm Pictures will release "Bright Future" in New York and Los Angeles this weekend. Dada Films' "Broadway: The Golden Age" and First Run Features' "Deserted Station" will also debut, along with Fox Searchlight's "Napoleon Dynamite," and Gone Hollywood Pictures' "The Passion of the Reefer."

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