Box Office 10/18-20: A Weekend For A 'Slave,' An 'American Promise' & Love For 'A Church Girl'
Photo Credit: S & A

Box Office 10/18-20: A Weekend For A 'Slave,' An 'American Promise' & Love For 'A Church Girl'

nullI’ll skip the formalities and just dive right into the good stuff…

How did 12 Years A Slave do on its opening weekend? How does a solid $50,526 per screen average sound, for a total gross of $960,000

While expectations may have been higher (given how buzzy the film has been since its Telluride debut), it claims the highest per screen average this weekend, handily beating out other high profile new releases in Carrie (which opened on 3,138 more screens than Steve McQueen’s drama, and managed a $5,385 per screen average, for a weekend gross of $17 mill), Escape Plan ($3,399 per screen; $9.8 mill gross), and The Fifth Estate (a dismal $969 per screen average and $1.7 million gross).

Fox Searchlight will expand 12 Years A Slave’s reach, opening it in even more cities, and on even more screens, over the next few weeks, which should eventually see it do very well at the box office for the studio, especially as word-of-mouth continues to be strong.

Ultimately, it’s a grim film that tackles an ugly period in American history – specifically the realities of slavery in America, without the sensationalism. Thus, I certainly wouldn’t expect blow-out figures its opening weekend, and overall. This isn’t Django Unchained, and even that much-discussed and debated film didn’t earn anywhere close to the per screen average of 12 Years A Slave. In fact, in the history of cinema, I don’t think you’ll find any film with slavery as its central subject, grossing anything like what this one has, on its opening weekend. Definitely not Amistad, nor, most recently, Lincoln – although the latter was more about the then president’s efforts to see the 13th Amendment passed than about the brutality of slavery itself, as experienced by slaves. Interestingly, both were directed by the same filmmaker – Steven Spielberg.

So I’ll say that there’s really no precedent for 12 Years A Slave.

Meanwhile, Joe Brewster’s and Michèle Stephenson’s acclaimed feature documentary, American Promise, also made its theatrical debut this weekend, on just 2 screens, earning a healthy $9,150 per screen average (also beating out the aforementioned Carrie, Escape Plan and The Fifth Estate in that regard), and an $18,300 gross.

Considering that it’s an independent film, as well as a documentary (one on black male achievement in education – broadly speaking), these are pretty good numbers to open with.

After this weekend’s start, American Promise will see releases in Los AngelesWashington, D.C.PhiladelphiaAtlanta, the Bay AreaChicago and Detroit in coming weeks, and should do well overall.

This personal film, a 13-year journey, follows the directors’ son (Idris) and his best friend (seun), from their first day of kindergarten through high school graduation, and how their lives diverge, as they navigate an elite, performance-driven, ivy league New York City prep school in a world still largely segregated by race, class and culture.  

The completed film, which made its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January is scheduled to air on PBS’ prestigious POV program eventually, so it should be accessible to most of us, especially if it doesn’t screen at a theater near you.

The surprise opening this weekend – although maybe it shouldn’t be – is the Ja Rule romantic drama, I’m In Love With A Church Girl, which opened on a healthy 457 screens, grossing over $1 million, with a per screen average of $2,243

There was a time, not-so-long ago, when a movie like this was more than likely destined for the home video market directly, without a theatrical release. But times have changed, with several options available today to filmmakers and producers, than there ever have been, affording them the opportunity to open their films in theaters, and doing so without robbing a bank.

Take the AMC Independent initiative for example, launched 3 years ago, to name one.

Last we heard of Ja Rule, he was doing time behind bars (nearly two years) for illegal gun possession, and tax evasion. But he’s a free man now (as free a man as the rest of us are), and stars in the indie feature film that opened on Friday, via an outfit called High Top Releasing

The film follows a man with a criminal past, who many aren’t convinced he’s completely left behind, who meets and falls for a “church girl” which creates some turmoil as his past life catches up to him, and he’s forced to make some hard decisions about his future.

It’s a different type of role for Mr Rule, who’s usually playing more 1-dimensional “thuggish” characters on screen, and not what appears to be a far more complex dramatic role in this new film.

I’m In Love With A Church Girl is based on screenwriter Galley Molina’s own life, and co-stars Adrienne Bailon (as the “church girl) of Cheetah Girls and 3LW fame.

Stephen BaldwinVincent Pastore and Michael Madsen round out the starring cast.

The film is directed by Steve Race, and produced by Molina and Grammy-winning Christian singer Israel Houghton.

But a solid $1.025 million opening weekend for a film that has really been overlooked by the mainstream press, and even smaller film blogs like ours. Something tells me that this weekend’s opening will help raise its profile a bit, once more industry types walk into their offices tomorrow, and read this weekend’s results.

Older releases still in theaters worth noting, include Baggage Claim, which has grossed just over $20 million as of this weekend; Lee Daniels’ The Butler continues to push further into the centi-million range, grossing $114 million so far; The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete has earned a respectable $443,000, after just 2 weekends in limited release (playing on 147 screens); and finally, Mother of George, currently playing on 7 screens across the country, has earned $124,000, which, for an arthouse film with Nigerian characters and culture at the center of the narrative, is actually good and noteworthy.

The top 10 entries below, courtesy of Box Office Mojo:

11Gravity  $31,030,000   3,820  $8,123   $170,566,000
22Captain Phillips$17,300,0003,020$5,728   $53,300,000
3NCarrie (2013)$17,000,0003,157$5,385   $17,000,000
43Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2$10,100,0003,602$2,804   $93,137,000
5NEscape Plan$9,800,0002,883$3,399   $9,800,000
66Prisoners$2,065,0002,160$956   $57,259,000
711Enough Said$1,800,000757$2,378   $10,787,000
8NThe Fifth Estate$1,714,0001,769$969   $1,714,000
95Runner Runner$1,625,0002,011$808   $17,536,000
107Insidious Chapter 2$1,533,0001,665$921   $80,923,000

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