Ava DuVernay’s Middle of Nowhere opened with the top per screen average this past weekend. As Indiewire reports, opening on just 6 screens, the film made $78,030—about $13,005 per theater. Taken 2, which was at the top of the box office with $22 million had less than half the per theatre gross of Middle of Nowhere. So with a $200,000 budget, the film is clearly on its way to being a success. Screenings in LA were said to have sold out, and the film also got Oprah’s twitter blessing and is starting to generate some deserved Oscar buzz.
DuVernay was profiled in The Washington Post and she quickly has become an indie world leading light -- a person who has taken limited resources and has made a big impact. A good news story in a time of deep uncertainty for the movie business.
Here's what she had to say about the success of the film this weekend:
This WHOLE thing was put together by four full-time staffers, our founding organizations, and 109 AFFRM Mavericks (what we call our volunteers in each city). That's the real story. Grassroots distro. Handmade distro. Woman fueled distro. Black driven distro. All those things that we're told don't work. It's working.
One section in the Post piece gave me pause.
A theater in a well-heeled, predominantly black neighborhood in Brooklyn told DuVernay that “Middle of Nowhere” was “not for our audience.” The filmmaker responded, “Well, what is your audience?” she recalls. “ ‘The art-house crowd.’ I said: ‘Well, this film won best director at Sundance; it was a special selection at Toronto. What do you mean?’ And they said, ‘Well, we just don’t think it’s gonna play.’ . . . [As] one of the two or three black people handling hands-on distribution, what are you saying when you tell me that you have an art-house crowd, but this film can’t play there?”
I don't think I'm going out on a limb here by saying that the theatre referred to is BAM which is in Prospect Heights and borders Park Slope. I actually saw a movie there this weekend. The movies that were playing were Argo, The Master and The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Neither Argo nor The Perks of Being a Wallflower qualify in my book as art house fare. The fact that the booker there does not think that Middle of Nowhere will play in that theatre is quite literally one of the most absurd things I have heard in a long time. And BAM programmed Spike Lee's latest film Red Hook Summer this past summer. I know that he has a longer track record ,but to say that Middle of Nowhere is not a movie for the "art house crowd" and Red Hook Summer is makes no sense.
The film expands to 16 screens this weekend. Be sure to check it out near you.
Middle of Nowhere’s director helping to redefine black indie films (Washington Post)
Below is DuVernay talking about Middle of Nowhere with Tavis Smiley.