Stephen Walker's YOUNG@HEART, the first nonfiction film to be released by Fox Searchlight in over a decade, a film picked up out of competition at the 2007 Los Angeles Film Festival and a film that has already aired on British television, is set to become the 4th documentary of 2008 to reach 1 million dollars at the box office.
Looking at the first four months of the year, you'd have to go back to 2003 - the breakthrough year for documentary film when both WINGED MIGRATION and SPELLBOUND broke big - to find a year that has had the kind of success that 2008 has had to date. In 2007, widely regarded as a depressed year theatrically, only 3 films released all year reached 1 million.
And if you gaze into the crystal ball, you'd have to believe that Larry Charles' RELIGULOUS - set for release this summer - and possibly AMERICAN TEEN and MAN ON WIRE have the potential to be large scale successes.
That doesn't mean that everything has gone according to plan. Errol Morris' STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE looks like it will have difficulty beyond the top 20 markets and Morgan Spurlock's WHERE IN THE WORLD IS OSAMA BIN LADEN? seems to have already run its course, far short of $500,000.
But a few smaller releases are quietly having solid, successful runs, including UP THE YANGTZE, which topped indieWIRE's iW:Bot last week and remained in the top 5 this weekend, and James Tusty and Maureen Castle Tusty's THE SINGING REVOLUTION, which averaged more than $4,400 per theater, even after weeks of screenings.
Here's the 2008 Nonfiction Box Office through Sunday:
1. U23D (National Geographic) $ 7,676,027
2. EXPELLED: NO INTELLIGENCE (Rocky) $ 6,680,168
3. SHINE A LIGHT (Paramount Vantage) $ 4,870,248
4. YOUNG@HEART (Fox Searchlight) $ 952,767
5. VINCE VAUGHN'S WILD... (Picturehouse) $ 603,894
6. UP THE YANGTZE (Zeitgeist/Kino) ~ $ 520,800
7. WHERE IN THE WORLD IS... (Weinstein) $ 309,720
8. TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE (THINKFilm) $ 261,127
9. STEEP (Sony Pictures Classics) $ 260,586
10. PLANET B-BOY (Elephant Eye) $ 246,161
11. CHICAGO 10 (Roadside Attractions) $ 166,627
12. SINGING REVOLUTION (Abramorama) $ 150,428
12. GIRLS ROCK! (Shadow) $ 113,853
13. FIRST SATURDAY IN MAY (Truly Indie) $ 112,006
13. BRA BOYS (Slowhand) $ 103,759
14. PRAYING WITH LIOR (First Run) $ 72,282
15. BLINDSIGHT (Abramorama) $ 70,252