The news at the documentary box office was very good this weekend, as the reality nonfiction sequel Jackass Number Two, outperformed its predecessor to top the charts with a cume of over 29 million dollars, immediately becoming the highest grossing non-fiction film of the year, as well as the first non-fiction feature to lead the box office charts since Fahrenheit 9/11 in 2004.
Meanwhile, Paul Rachman's American Hardcore, fresh from screening in Toronto, was a big hit on a single screen at the Angelika in New York, grossing more than 18,000. That tally makes American Hardcore the 4th successful music-related doc opener of 2006, following Leonard Cohen I'm Your Man (which opened with $17K on a single screen), Neil Young: Heart of Gold (which averaged over $13K on 4 screens) and last week's The U.S. vs. John Lennon (which averaged over $11K on 6 screens). The Lennon film had a good second weekend as well, dropping only 37% from its initial tally.
But the big news may be the successful New York opening of Jesus Camp, following the much discussed "Bible belt first" strategy employed by distributor Magnolia. Steven Rosen reports in Indiewire that Jesus Camp grossed nearly as much as American Hardcore did at the Angelika - a whopping $16,781 - and an additional $8k at the uptown Empire 25. While it's per screen average is low due to holding on at the more rural outposts where the film premiered last weekend, the New York take suggests that the audience for docs continue to be centered in the cities, no matter the subject.
Additionally, it seemed that audiences generally were ready to turn to indie fare this weekend, as Michel Gondry's latest, The Science of Sleep, and Kelly Reichart's Old Joy each had excellent debuts. (See my earlier post for more about Old Joy.)