With summer just around the corner, the spring theatrical documentary season is about to wrap up. On the horizon are a few of the titles that made waves at Sundance this year (we expect big things for BUCK, PAGE ONE and BEATS, RHYMES & LIFE, among others), while a few late spring titles (CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS, L'AMOUR FOU) spill over their expansion into the summer months.
So far, 4 of 2011's nonfiction titles have crossed the magical $1 million threshold (with a fifth about to), including two that made it over the top this weekend: Werner Herzog's still-expanding 3D CAVE (which premiered at last year's Toronto Film Festival) and I AM, the big question docu from high concept comedy director Tom Shadyac. The latter has been nursed by distribtutor Paladin (and is by far the micro-distrib's greatest box office success) and has drawn comparisons to the doc/fiction hybrid WHAT THE BLEEP DO WE KNOW?, which grossed more than $10M over its long release in 2004.
The other two hits are no big surprise - there's the Biebernaut, NEVER SAY NEVER, which just became the 4th biggest nonfiction hit in history, as well as AFRICAN CATS, the latest in the Disneynature Earth Day franchise. It looks unlikely that CATS will match the dollars made by its predecessors (EARTH made $34M and OCEANS took in $19), but with a haul of nearly $15M, CATS has surpassed CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY to become the #17 docu of all time.
Herzog's CAVE, meanwhile, looks to be the breakout doc of the late spring. The Sundance Selects title is Herzog's second feature to gross more than $1M (following GRIZZLY MAN's $3M; ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD came up just shy at $944K). Already at $1.3M and continuing to expand, the film shows no signs of slowing, considering its per-theater average of nearly $6K.
Sundance Selects also looks like they may have another hit on their hands with the Yves Saint Laurent docu L'AMOUR FOU. The film debuted this weekend in NYC on two screens and took in a promising $36K. Fashion docs have done very well in art houses of late, what with $1M+ grosses for VALENTINO, THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE and the still-in-theaters BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK. That doc, which is nearing the end of stellar run for distributor Zeitgeist, looks to be the fifth nonfiction title to reach $1M next weekend (or soon thereafter). The film is currently clocking in just shy of $975K.