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Ava DuVernay's Middle of Nowhere Has Big Opening Weekend

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by Melissa Silverstein
October 15, 2012 1:45 PM
9 Comments
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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.

Watch Filmmaker Ava DuVernay on PBS. See more from Tavis Smiley.

Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

9 Comments

  • SHEROWorship | October 16, 2012 11:52 AMReply

    I saw the film and bow down. The best independent film about a woman's heart and mind I've seen in Wendy and Lucy. Many moments reminded me of Jane's The Piamo. Quietly surreal and all too true at the same time. A brilliant piece of art this is.

  • Faith | October 15, 2012 10:46 PMReply

    1) BAM is in Fort Greene, and I'm not sure if it's even a predominantly Black neighborhood anymore. 2) If it was BAM that told her that, then I find it strange (not to mention ludicrous) considering that I've seen numerous films about and/or made by African Americans there ("Precious"--a sold out show, "For Colored Girls," saw "Red Hook Summer" there LAST MONTH!). I wonder if the REAL reason was they were worried that a small self-distributor couldn't give it the marketing push to put folks in seats, and they didn't want to take the screen away from the bigger distributors (Sony, Weinstein Co., Fox Searchlight, etc.).

  • Faith | October 17, 2012 5:26 PM

    @Marie--Hi. First of all, I'm not the enemy here. I'm also an African American woman director/producer so I'm proud of AFFRM's success. I've been aware of you for a while. But while you're throwing out stats, let's clarify some things. 1) AFFRM was founded by Ava DuVernay, in part to distribute her first film "I Will Follow." So that's what I was referring to when I wrote "self-distributing." 2) Yes, Variance is not a big distributor, but Spike Lee is obviously a BIG name in cinema with a hefty track record--as well as a former Ft. Greene resident who still has 40 Acres based there--which I'm sure is why BAM agreed to show it. 3) If this was BAM and that was its answer, did Ava retort with the list that I mentioned above? It's too cut and dried to suggest it's only a "race" thing when they have shown OTHER films by Black directors (not to mention series by the ActNow Foundation and Creatively Speaking--which focuses on films made by folks of the African diaspora...). Congrats on your success so far with "Nowhere!"

  • AFFRMDigital | October 16, 2012 1:11 AM

    Marie here from AFFRM Digital team. Red Hook Summer was distributed by Spike Lee and Variance Films, not a "big distributor." Also AFFRM is not a "self-distributor." It is a formally structured LLC founded in 2011. AFFRM has a track record of four national theatrical releases to date. AFFRM is the size of at least four other companies that have booked film at said venue in the past 24 months. Press coverage and marketing push included CNN, BET, NPR, Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, NY Times, LA Times, Ebony, Essence, Village Voice, PBS as well as summer long street teams, high profile festivals, radio ads and collateral social media from Oprah Winfrey totaling approximately 472 million consumer impressions at last tally on Monday October 11. Yes, I am the geek of the group. Just passing along some data so that you can have knowledge to formulate the REAL reason.

  • Ava | October 15, 2012 10:14 PMReply

    Having worked a BAM (yes, y'all I used to work there years ago when I was fresh out of college), I wouldn't be surprised if it were them. Some of us used to derisively refer to it as 'The Plantation'-- okay, we did get paid--very little.

    And BAM is technically Fort Greene, historically an African American neighborhood...at least it was when I worked there.

  • AFFRMDigital | October 16, 2012 12:55 AM

    Marie from AFFRM Digital here. Pointing out that the above comment is not from Ava DuVernay just for clarification. Thanks Ms. Ava for sharing your comment.

  • Michelle | October 15, 2012 6:25 PMReply

    I just knew it would be at BAM I was gonna tell friends to see it at that theater shame on BAM

  • SELENE | October 15, 2012 5:06 PMReply

    Shame on BAM!!!!! Good for her! i really think she's amazing. And can't wait to see her film. Hoping for San Francisco soon!

  • Abhita | October 15, 2012 3:39 PMReply

    I'm a brooklynite and was baffled as to why M.O.N. wasn't playing at BAM. Half of the audience at my screening at the AMC theatre on 42nd street were Brooklyn folks.

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