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DAILY NEWS: Kennedy Tragedy; “Blair Witch” Opens Big; New Film Distrib

DAILY NEWS: Kennedy Tragedy; "Blair Witch" Opens Big; New Film Distrib

by Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE

>> Family Tragedy Hits NY Docmaker Rory Kennedy

A weekend of non-stop national news coverage reported and explored a family tragedy
for New York based documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy. Kennedy, the youngest
daughter of the late Robert F. Kennedy, was cast in the spotlight on Saturday morning
following the crash of a private plane carrying her cousin John F. Kennedy Jr., his
wife Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, and Bessette’s sister Lauren. JFK Jr. and his wife
were en route to the filmmaker’s wedding in Massachusetts. The marriage ceremony has
been postponed and last night (Sunday), investigators publicly acknowledged the
losses of life and expressed condolences to the involved families.

Rory Kennedy is best known for the recently released feature-length doc, “American
.” Financed by HBO, the portrait of a poor, rural family in Appalachia, debuted
this year at Sundance and has gone on to screen at numerous film festivals, including
showings last month at the Newport and Florida Film Festivals. “Hollow” won the Best
Documentary prize at the 1999 Newport Festival.

Last fall, Rory Kennedy (“Women of Substance“) and docmaker Liz Garbus (“The Farm“)
formed Moxie Firecracker, a new production company for non-fiction projects. Kennedy
and Garbus met while students at Brown University, they recently completed “Different
,” a doc for Lifetime Television.


+ What’s In A Name?: Sundance’s Three “American” Docs

+ Garbus and Kennedy Forming Doc Company

>> “Blair Witch” Opens Strong; Artisan’s Malin Confirms Film Will Expand to 700+

In a conversation with indieWIRE yesterday (Sunday), Artisan Entertainment President
Amir Malin trumpeted the opening weekend grosses for “The Blair Witch Project,” and
confirmed that the movie will expand significantly — to more than 700 screens —
when its release widens on July 30th. According to Malin, the film earned over $1.5
million on 27 screens — a more than $57,000 per screen average.

Since opening in NYC on Wednesday, the film has been popular on two screens at
Manhattan’s downtown Angelika Film Center, where Artisan has focused its launch
publicity. Moviegoers were encouraged to arrive early on opening day to meet the
Haxan filmmakers and receive promotional materials. In addition, a mini-museum of
film memorabilia has been set up in the lobby cafe. Long lines snaked down the
sidewalk in front of the theater with each days screenings selling out early in the
afternoon throughout the weekend. Elsewhere, the film also drew large crowds in
suburban multiplexes — the film’s highest grosses came from a mall in Southern
California. According to Malin, “Blair Witch” earned over $160,000 and sold-out all
showings on two screens at the 30-screen Block complex in Orange County.
Additionally, Malin singled out the film’s $115,000 earned at the Mills mall in
Tempe, AZ at another 30-screen multiplex.

Malin explained that Artisan will be calling theaters around the country this week,
securing screens for the July 30th expansion. When asked about the budget for the
release, he confirmed that the distributor has spent about $1 million on prints and
advertising for the limited release, and intends to spend up to $8 million for the
big push. “Just like a real movie,” Malin offered, the campaign will include TV
commercials. Questioned about the film’s demographics, the exec indicated that
Artisan is targeting the 18 – 29 age group, adding that, based on exit surveys, the
core audience so far has been 20 – 25 year olds, splitting evenly among men and
women. Touting the weekend returns and audience response, Malin excitedly projected
that the movie would ultimately make between $30 – $40 million at the box office.

>> Newly Formed Lot 47 to Release “The War Zone”; New Distrib Also Eyeing Online

Scott Lipsky, brother of Samuel Goldwyn‘s Jeff Lipsky and the Independent Film
‘s Mark Lipsky, has formed Lot 47, Inc., a new theatrical distribution company
that will release Tim Roth‘s “The War Zone” this fall. According to Lipsky, the
company will expand beyond theatrical distribution to include online distribution of
digital work.

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