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September 15, 1999
Earth Looks Ahead To A Good Showing In North America
Aseem Chhabra in New York
Earth, Deepa Mehta's film based on Bapsi Sidhwa's Partition novel, Cracking India (Ice Candy Man in England and India) is expected to do well at the US box office.
The film had a strong opening in art house cinemas in New York and Los Angeles in its first weekend of release. According to Boxoffice Guru, a Hollywood trade web site, Earth was the number one movie among art house films in New York City's prestigious Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and Quad Cinema.
The movie, generally well received by most critics, grossed approximately $ 27,000 for the weekend. The numbers from other theaters were not available on Monday but many theaters reported several near sell-out shows.
Meanwhile, Manoj Night Shyamalan's supernatural thriller, The Sixth Sense, which has grossed a robust $ 198 million in less than six weeks, was upstaged by another supernatural film, Stigmata which grossed $ 19 million last weekend.
The Sixth Sense, which declined by a moderate 26 per cent from the previous weekend and pocketed a strong $ 17 million, has a lot of life left in it and could end up with at least $ 280 million, Hollywood insiders say.
While Subhash Ghai's Taal grossed nearly $ 2.3 million from dance halls in North America and England, Hello Brother, which received a wide opening, is not exactly soaring. Baadshah had to be content with a more modest opening.
But Shekar Kapur's Elizabeth received a regal welcome in Japan, its final destination worldwide. In two weeks, the historic drama has grossed $ five million, bringing its worldwide take to $ 70 million. It is expected to gross another $ five million in Japan.
Zeitgeist Films opened Earth in the United States on September 10 on eight screens in New York and Los Angeles. In the next three months, they plan to open the film on 20 other screens in 10 states, from Massachusetts to Hawaii.
The marketing plan assumes that a good word of mouth, positive reviews and a steady opening in major markets across the US, will build a momentum that may garner the film a few Oscar nominations in the spring of 2000.
A spokesman for New York's Lincoln Plaza Cinemas said the total three days revenue for the film was approximately $ 15,000. On Friday, Earth opened in a 180-seat theater, the spokesman said. On Saturday and Sunday the movie was shifted to a larger 235-seat theater. Lincoln Plaza Cinemas has six screens.
The other film that opened on Friday at the Lincoln Center is Yugoslavian director Emir Kusturica's hysterical black comedy Black Cat, White Cat, winner of the Silver Lion (Best Director) award at the Venice Film Festival.
The Lincoln Plaza spokesman said Earth performed better than Kusturica's film. Last year in a chat on rediff.com, Mehta had identified Kusturica as one of the directors she admires.
In Los Angeles, Earth was released at The Music Hall, a three screen art theater on Wilshire Boulevard. It is estimated that the film grossed approximately $ 16,000 in The Music Hall's 256-seat theater during the weekend.
To reach South Asian viewers who live outside the cities of New York and Los Angeles, Zeitgeist also released the film in suburban theaters. This marketing strategy is usually not adopted by art film distributors, at least in the opening week.
On the west coast, Earth was also released in Costa Mesa in Orange County and in Pasadena. Both towns have large South Asian populations.
On the east coast, the film was shown at the Regal Cinemas in North Bergen, New Jersey, Kew Gardens Cinemas in Queens, New York and The Cinema Arts Center in Huntington, Long Island. Both the Queens and the New Jersey theaters also show current Bollywood films and are frequented by large South Asian audiences.
Hello Brother, directed by Sohail Khan and starring his brothers, Salman Khan and Arbaaz Khan, is not getting a warm welcome. According to Kishor Dadlaney, the spokesperson for Video Sound, the film's distributor, Hello Brother did modest business in the opening weekend in North America.
The total weekend gross for the three days as reported by the Hollywood trade publication, Daily Variety, is $ 245,000. The film was released on 41 screens in the first week with a per screen average of $ 5,976.
By comparison, Taal, a huge hit in North America, raked approximately $ 600,000 in gross revenue in its opening weekend in August. In the first three days, Taal had a per screen average of $ 13,438.
Now on its last legs, Taal has grossed approximately $ 1.7 million; in England, it has made about $ 600,000 as of last week.
Baadshah, starring Shah Rukh Khan is also on its way out, with a total gross of approximately $650,000.
Arthur J Pais contributed to this story
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