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TOPIC: Art house pics came back!

Art house pics came back! 04 Jan 2001 10:51 #1074

  • Mike
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As reported in Variety.
Updated: 1/4/01

Late-year revs help make up for poor 2000


A robust fourth quarter rescued the arthouse movie biz from the doldrums in 2000, with annual receipts slipping just 2% from 1999 figures.

The past year's tally was $597.2 million, compared with $609.1 million in '99.

By autumn, usually a season of prominence for art pics, many indie film mavens had already derided 2000 as the industry's worst year. The late-year surge didn't put the year on a par with the mid-'90s heyday, but it elicited sighs of relief, since grosses last summer had dipped 15% below the '99 level.

"There was a turnout there in the fall," said Jack Foley, distrib chief at USA Films. "It probably started with 'Billy Elliot' in October and continued with 'You Can Count on Me' in November."

The arthouse segment is always difficult to quantify, especially in this era of pics rapidly platforming from two theaters to 2,000. But a fair definition is: films that never exceed 600 playdates during the year in question.

That measure does eliminate some top-grossers with art origins, such as "The Blair Witch Project," but it paints a reasonable picture of the stock-in-trade releases that aren't aspiring to be the next mainstream crossover.

Revenue in 2000 came from 424 pics, compared with 407 in '99.

Smaller plateaus

While major studios consider $100 million in B.O. a key milestone, smaller distribs covet the $1 million plateau. In 2000, 75 pics hit that mark, up from 65 in 1999.

Cynics insist that the narrow margin between overall B.O. in the past two years doesn't reflect the waning fortunes of longtime indie distribs. Instead, the charts are topped by majors' specialty divisions or even the majors themselves.

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The top two 2000 grossers, for example, came from Warner Bros. ("Best in Show") and Universal ("Billy Elliot"). Excluding that pair and large-format offerings such as "Michael Jordan to the Max," the most successful art pic from a completely independent outfit was Shooting Gallery's "Croupier," No. 10 on the list with $6.2 million.

Fueling the ongoing debate about what constitutes a true arthouse film or indie distrib was the success of Paramount Classics and Sony Pictures Classics, two studio divisions operating with nearly total autonomy.

Arthouse, inhouse

Sony Classics had "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and the large-format hit "Cirque du Soleil: Journey of Man." Par Classics rebounded from a tame '99 with "The Virgin Suicides," "Sunshine" and "You Can Count on Me," three of the year's top 20 limited releases.

"We were getting calls in September from people saying, 'The art film market is dead!'" recalled David Dinerstein, co-prexy of Par Classics.

"But we never saw that happening, and that's not only because of our own slate," added his partner, Ruth Vitale.

Most observers agree on one thing: The overall quality of films improved in the final weeks of the year, regardless of what entity distributed them.

"The business picked up in the latter part of the year, as it often does," said Steven Friedlander, distrib chief at Fine Line. "I'm starting the New Year feeling encouraged."

Foley added: "The art film business is no different from the mainstream business in the sense that quality is important. Good film is back, and the audience is finding it."

Mike Hurley
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Re: Art house pics came back! 04 Jan 2001 17:39 #1075

  • DJ Denis
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Sometimes good things happen to good movies! After a year of dreadful movies (why exactly did they make a 102 DALMATIANS? Oh, yeah, money!), it warms the cockles to see the relative success of movies like BEST IN SHOW. Critics say that this is one of the best ten movies of 2000 and anyone with any taste would and should see this doggie pic over renowned thespian Glenn Close playing dumb in the Disney sequel. Get set for a couple months of good product!
with special guest AMY FOX
and opening act IAN PARKER
in a benefit concert
Saturday, May 11th at 7:30 PM
Union Street Brick Church (126 Union Street, Bangor)

All proceeds benefit Community Radio WERU-FM
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Re: Art house pics came back! 04 Jan 2001 23:02 #1076

  • Rialto
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Billy Elliot plays like a champ - opened in early Nov and still going strong.

You Can Count On Me seems to be getting a nice boost from top 10 lists and critics awards, not to mention those Golden Globe Noms.

Interestingly, in our market, Requiem For A Dream picked-up a bit when Ebert put it at #10 on his top 10 list. It's no where near as strong as Billy, but hey few films are.

State and Main is also doing good business and people are really enjoying it.

Quills has more limited appeal but does well.

Looking forward to Malena, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Gift and Before Night Falls.

Happy New Year!
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