By Brian Brooks | Indiewire November 1, 2005 at 9:25AM
Zeitgeist Films' "Ballets Russes" waltzed atop the specialty box office over the weekend, opening at a single location, generating a high per screen count and taking the apex position on the indieWIRE box office table as measured on a per screen basis. Fellow newcomers "The Passenger" -- a Sony Pictures Classics re-release -- and Warner Independent Pictures' controversial film "Paradise Now" also opened in limited release, scoring second and third on the chart respectively. Another Warner Independent title, "Good Night and Good Luck," again held the distinguished title of biggest single specialty grosser, with three-day totals over $2 million and per screen numbers placing the critically lauded film in the top five on the chart, four-weeks into its release. The weekend also saw three additional films grossing seven figures with a combined weekend take far out-stripping the remaining 70 "indies" listed.
[View the indieWIRE:BOT Box Office Table for this week's films here.]
Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine's Russian dance-troupe doc "Ballets Russes" stepped into the iW BOT's number one position over the weekend. The doc, which opened last Wednesday, took in $12,230 on one screen over the weekend, while its cume including grosses from its mid-week roll out is $15,995.
"[We're] elated and thrilled. The press has been spectacular, and we're very gratified that the box office keeps climbing," commented Zeitgeist Films co-president Nancy Gerstman, talking with indieWIRE about the film's debut Monday. "The word-of-mouth is obviously very good. We knew that ballet fans would love this film, but it also had much 'crossover' potential. In our market, we've emphasized the glamour, the sensibility, the conflicts, the artistry and much of the history of the 20th century contained in this extraordinary film." Gerstaman also indicated that Zeitgeist has worked on a "grassroots" campaign for months leading up to the film's release. "We also have a very fun poster and a wonderful trailer which expresses the joie de vivre of 'Ballet Russes.'" Zeitgeist expects the film to play well into next year in 100 to 200 cities throughout its theatrical run.
Michelangelo Antonioni's 1975 drama starring Jack Nicholson, "The Passenger" played a pair of screens last weekend, traveling to second place on the chart. The film grossed $24,157 for a screen average of $12,079. Following closely behind was Hany Abu-Assad's "Paradise Now," taking fourth on the chart with a $12,006 screen average from four sites. The film grossed $48,023.
"We are very pleased with the opening," Warner Independent Pictures' executive vice president of distribution, Steven Friedlander told indieWIRE. "The reviews have been, for the most part, extremely positive and motivating, and the opening weekend performance was in the high-end of expectations. The Saturday and Sunday figures already show evidence of the positive word-of-mouth."
Friedlander indicated that the feature's story of two Palestinian men who are recruited to carry out a suicide bombing against Israel was not necessarily a concern due to how it was presented, but did say there was some apprehension as to how the press would treat the film. "We were never concerned that the subject matter, per se, would be a tough sell since the film does such a masterful job of showing the conflict in a balanced and thoughtful way, but we were concerned that the reviews would focus too much on the subject matter and not enough on the quality of the filmmaking. Fortunately, that has not been the case."
Friedlander said the art-house crowd as well as educated and the "upscale and informed" from all age ranges came to see the film, although with a slightly older skew. Audiences from both coasts also included Jews, Muslims and Christians. "So far, the film, like the conflict itself has been deemed important by a whole range of people with differing religious backgrounds and ideologies." Warner Independent Pictures will take the film to the top 20 to 40 markets over the next few weeks and will expand within those markets to art house runs as well as a select number of "upscale suburban runs." "The word-of-mouth on this film has been so motivating, that we believe the educated, suburban audience will seek out this type of thought-provoking film and will not only go see it, but will tell others to see it as well," said Friedlander.
In other openers, Indican Pictures debuted "Wasabi Tuna" at five sites, taking in $19,080 ($3,816 average), while First Independent Pictures also took its doc "New York Doll" to five runs, grossing $17,583 ($3,517 average).
Warner Independent's "Good Night, and Good Luck" again lead the pack with weekend grosses totaling over $2 million or about 26% of the entire iW BOT total. The film, directed by George Clooney, averaged $7,366, 17% lower than last week's average, while the film screened 47 additional venues. In four weeks, the feature has cumed almost $7.24 million.
New Line's "A History of Violence" ranked second on the chart in terms of total weekend gross, taking in over $1.35 million, averaging 35% lower this week at $1,337 and playing 297 fewer screens. The film's six week cume is now over $28.5 million.
Aloha Releasing's "G" took third in the weekend gross pecking order. The film, described as a hip-hop version of "The Great Gatsby," and directed by Christopher Scott Cherot, took in over $1.28 million on 495 screens for a $2,588 average. Last week, the distributor reported the film played eight venues, grossing $10,594 ($1,324 average). And its six-week run total is over $1.92 million.
Sony Classics' "Capote" ranked sixth on the chart after "Good Night" with a $6,648 average on grosses totaling nearly $1.1 million. The film played an additional 113 sites - 165 in all - while its screen average declined 44% from the previous weekend. In five weeks, "Capote" has cumed just under $3.5 million.
Seventy-four specialty films reported grosses over the weekend, totaling just under $7.73 million on 3,395 screens with a combined iW BOT average of $2,277 or 12% below last week's $2,595 average. The previous week's figures included 73 titles on 3,170 screens with about $8.23 million in grosses.
The combined weekend grosses of "Good Night, and Good Luck," "Capote," "G," and "A History of Violence" represented 74% of the entire iW BOT, or just over $5.73 million on 1,943 screens. Minus the top four films, the remaining 70 films on the chart grossed slightly under $2 million on 1,452 screens, averaging $1,375 or 40% below the iW BOT's $2,277 average.
Industry-wide, 132 films took in about $102.28 million on 41,300 screens averaging $2,476 or 8% higher than the iW BOT's overall average.
This week's limited release titles include Strand Releasing's "The Dying Gaul" and THINKFilm's "I Love Your Work."