Whale Rider Makes a Splash Opening Weekend; "Underground" Surfaces in New York and "The Eye" has 20/20 Vision
by Brian Brooks
Capturing the Friedmans
Dracula: Pages from a
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Newmarket Films made a box office splash with its debut of "Whale Rider" over the weekend topping the indieWIRE box office chart. The documentary "Capturing the Friedmans" fought its way to the number two spot for its second weekend in theaters, tying with the opening weekend of doc "The Weather Underground" at one New York theater. Coming in at number three was Asian thriller, "The Eye" from Palm Pictures.
Niki Caro's New Zealand feature "Whale Rider" breached the specialty box office as calculated by per screen average in the indieWIRE:BOT, screening at nine sites for a $15,269 average with a $137,418 weekend gross on its debut. The film, set in a Maori village about a girl fighting long held taboos about women in leadership, played in New York and Los Angeles. "It's great, I think the numbers are good, and the reaction is even better," said Newmarket Films chief Bob Berney in a conversation with indieWIRE yesterday, who also credited audience award wins at the Toronto and Sundance film festival with creating buzz.
"The [numbers in the] suburbs of LA were strong, not just with arthouse [audiences]. It's broadening out already," he said. The Newmarket head, who left IFC Films last year to join the new distribution company, also went on to say that the initial numbers for "Whale Rider" were even stronger than the opening of 2002 indie behemoth, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," which he distributed at IFC Films before joining Newmarket.
Berney went on to say that screenings in Santa Monica had a significant number of kids in attendance, which was an encouraging sign that the film has broad appeal. "[We] screened the film for kids initially, and they loved the it. [They] also spoke to Keisha [Castle-Hughes, the star of the film.] The kids loved talking to her about how she got the part." Grown-ups were taken with the film as well, Berney indicated, with audiences staying as the credits rolled, and not just at the Sunshine Theater in the Lower East Side where the Kahurangi Maori dancers gave a performance but also in Chelsea. Newmarket plans to add Portland and Toronto this week, and will open the film in seven markets in addition to an expansion in New York and L.A. on June 20th. "We've had exhibitors calling all day, [but] the plan [is] to take it carefully and go slow and let it build," he said.
Standing firmly at number two on the iW chart is Andrew Jarecki's "Capturing the Friedmans," which debuted in the top spot last weekend. The three-day total for the Magnolia Pictures film was $69,920 on five screens for a great $13,984 average. The film has, so far, cumed $169,654. Sharing the number two spot is Sam Green and Bill Siegel's doc "The Weather Underground," which opened at the Film Forum in Manhattan. The film also grossed, coincidentally, $13,984 on one screen, and has totaled $20,571 since its roll out last Wednesday.
Oxide and Danny Pang's "The Eye" captured number three on its opening weekend, playing four screens (two in New York and two in L.A.), grossing $39,058 for a hefty $9,765 average. Next weekend, distributor Palm Pictures will take the film to Seattle, San Francisco and Boston. "'The Eye' is a film that has done well around the world, and we are extremely happy that American audiences & critics have responded so enthusiastically," commented head of theatrical distribution Ryan Werner.
United Artists' "Together" came in at number four, slipping from last week's number two spot. The film screened at 25 sites (up from six the previous weekend) for a $126,906 gross and a $5,076 per screen average. "Together" has cumed $222,137.
"Winged Migration" rounds out the top five spots. It opened on 15 additional screens for a total of 58 last week, taking in $292,790 during the weekend (a $5,048 average). Since opening eight weeks ago, the film has totaled slightly under $2.5 million.
In other numbers, "Spellbound" from ThinkFilm took the ninth spot with a $3,957 average on 77 screens, up from 42 sites the previous week. The film aced the weekend gross with an additional $304,719 and a total just over $1.12 million. Meanwhile, Matthew Barney's "The Cremaster Cycle" from Palm came in 12th on the chart after spending a month-and-a-half in the top ten, grossing $23,191 on eight screens for a $2,899 average. After seven weeks, the film has earned $266,074.
Next week, look for a large group of openers, including Daniele Thompson's "Jet Lag," Eric Eason's "Manito," Thaddeus O' Sullivan's "The Heart of Me," Julia Montejo and Jesus Nebot's "No Turning Back," Liz Garbus' "The Nazi Officer's Wife," Seijun Suzuki's "Pistol Opera," Prince Chatri Chalem's "The Legend of Suriyothai," Chris Relleke and Jascha de Wilde's "Starkiss: Circus Girls in India," Pavel Lounguine's "Tycoon: A New Russian," and Scott Robert's "The Hard Wood."