The new Dixie Chicks documentary, Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck's Shut Up and Sing, had a successful launch in 4 New York and Los Angeles theatres this weekend, grossing an average of $12,525. That total made Shut Up and Sing the fifth music-related doc of 2006 to open with an average of more than $10,000 (the others were Neil Young: Heart of Gold, Leonard Cohen I'm Your Man, The U.S. vs. John Lennon and American Hardcore).
Shut Up and Sing debuted in Toronto and has been playing select festival engagements in the run up to its theatrical launch by The Weinstein Co. I saw the film in Rome and wrote about it here.
The faux-cumentary Death of a President, which sucked all the air out of this year's Toronto Film Festival, ended up being a non-starter at the US box office, averaging less than $2,000 in its debut in 143 theatres. By comparison, The Last King of Scotland, considered a box office disappointment by some, outgrossed Death of a President even though Scotland played in 1/3 less theatres and has been in release for five weeks.
Surprisingly, due to the proximity of this year's midterm elections, the theatrical debut of Death of a President garnered no where near the amount of controversy that accompanied the announcement of the film's premiere at Toronto. Then, talk radio stations, internet blogs and even presidential aspirants were abuzz about the Bush assassination film, condemning it, sight unseen, as an outrage, but little fuss was raised this weekend when the film actually played on American soil. (In fact, more was made over NBC's decision not to air ads for the Dixie Chicks movie, as mentioned here earlier.) Prior to this weekend, the Hollywood Reporter's Martin Grove was speculating that Newmarket could launch an Academy campaign for D.O.A.P., but that seems as fantastical as the movie's premise now.
One of my favorite reviews of Death of a President came from James Rocchi over at Cinematical when he compared the film to this summer's Samuel L. Jackson internet sensation:
Death of a President isn't art, or even entertainment: It's the art-house, indie-doc equivalent of Snakes on a Plane, where someone thought of a single idea and then, it seems based on the end-resulting film, stopped thinking altogether.
Beyond the two films in which George Bush played at least a supporting role, it was a busy doc weekend at the box office as, in addition to Shut Up and Sing, three other high profile nonfiction films hit theatres - Stanley Nelson's Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, Eric Steel's The Bridge and Billy Corben's Cocaine Cowboys. All had tame debuts, with only Jonestown placing on the indieWIRE i-Bot Top 10 with just over $4,000 on each of its two screens - the Quad in New York and the Nuart in Los Angeles.
The Bridge, which I also saw in Rome and wrote about here, opened in NY, Chicago, Los Angeles and, of course, San Francisco on 19 screens total, averaging just $2,600. The film continued to spark heated debate in Northern California, with a writer at the Contra Costa Times calling the film "perverse" and "a snuff film with (supposedly) good intentions" and grading it a "D". The film recently found its way to the Drudge Report, after a screening at the recent London Film Festival led to press reports that suicide experts were upset with the film. One London professor said, "showing, in detail, methods of suicide does result in an increase of those methods immediately afterwards, so portrayal of methods of suicide is ill-advised."
Cocaine Cowboys, which was released by Magnolia Pictures in 12 theatres in New York and around South Florida cleared just over $3,000 per screen. The film's director was queried by indieWIRE's Brian Brooks in an interview posted last week on the site.
Meanwhile, in ongoing nonfiction news, Jackass Number Two is nearing the end of its run and now looks unlikely to challenge March of the Penguins for #2 on the all-time nonfiction list. The sequel passed the original earlier this month to rank #3 all time. Meanwhile, the aforementioned John Lennon documentary is closing in on $1 million, which would make it the 6th nonfiction film this year to hit that marker.