A slow year at the theatrical documentary box office (only the Oscar-nominated THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN IN AMERICA and the late-in-2009 release of Frederick Wiseman's LA DANSE have made an impact) ends today with the opening of Disneynature's OCEANS, the second year-in-a-row Earth Day release from the company. Last year's EARTH was the biggest nonfiction title of 2009, grossing more than $32M after opening on over 1,800 screens.
OCEANS release is not that ambitious - it debuts on 1,200-plus - but it still will mark the first big documentary hit of the year, with like the first $1M weekend that we've seen since GOOD HAIR and CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY were battling it out in October.
OCEANS marks the beginning of a stretch of important (and possibly successful) nonfiction titles hitting theaters in the next several weeks. May 7 sees the debut of Alex Gibney's CASINO JACK & THE UNITED STATES OF MONEY, Laura Poitras' THE OATH and Thomas Balmés' BABIES. The latter film, from Focus, could be one of the biggest nonfiction successes of the year. (All three will screen at Hot Docs concurrent with their US openings.) It should be noted that Harmony Korine's TRASH HUMPERS, the winner of the jury prize at CPH:DOX, also opens that day.
The following week, Jessica Oreck's Cinema Eye-winning BEETLE QUEEN CONQUERS TOKYO and Michael Paul Stephenson's festival fave BEST WORST MOVIE will make their debuts, followed by the release of Emmanuel Laurent's doc about François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, TWO IN THE WAVE, on May 16.