Well, one thing is for sure: Cable news viewers like films about killer whales a lot more than ones about pro-nuclear power. CNN’s airing last night of the documentary Pandora’s Promise delivered a wet 345,000 total viewers in its 9-11 PM time slot and just 145,000 among adults 25-54. The heavily promoted Robert Stone-directed film was way, way down from the 1.36 million that CNN Films’ Blackfish drew in total viewers in the same slot two weeks beforehand. Promise also got less overall viewers than the film about keeping killer whales in captivity at marine theme parks pulled in just the key demo. Winning the time slot over CNN’s cable news rivals, Blackfish had 472,000 among the 25-54s when it aired October 24. CNN Films acquired the nuke-themed Pandora’s Promise in April this year after it screened at the Sundance Film Festival and had a theatrical run. Such docus as Promise and Blackfish are a part of the network’s attempt to broaden its programming scope — though with mixed results, obviously.
Nonfic film organization Cinema Eye has unveiled their inaugural “The Unforgettables” list, celebrating 18 of the year’s “notable and significant” docu subjects – including former Indonesian death squad leader Anwar Congo, the mass killer who’s confronted by his crimes in genocide docu The Act Of Killing. In the pic Congo claims to have murdered over 1,000 people while leading the paramilitary forces that also extorted and terrorized half a million Indonesians in the mid-1960s. But Congo and other perpetrators initially participated in the pic to glorify their atrocities, which they’ve never been held accountable for in Indonesia. Should Cinema Eye be honoring nefarious individuals like this rather than the filmmakers who bring them to light?
Over 80 filmmakers and Cinema Eye curators voted on the first class of “Unforgettables” honorees selected “to publicly acknowledge the rich collaborations that often take place between subjects and filmmakers,” according to Cinema Eye founding director AJ Schnack. It’s tricky territory. The list includes another killer: Tilikum the deadly orca who killed multiple humans while in captivity, who doesn’t sit for a single interview with the filmmakers in Blackfish.
Here’s the full list of honorees:
Specialty Box Office: ‘The Act Of Killing’ Is Year’s Top Documentary Debut; ‘Only God Forgives’ And ‘Girl Most Likely’ Open Mixed
Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor
UPDATED: Documentaries lead the way with sizzling debuts among the Specialties over the weekend. Drafthouse Films clearly won bragging rights with critically lauded Danish-produced feature The Act Of Killing. The film re-tells the story of the little-known massacre of leftists and perceived leftists in Indonesia in the 1960s and ’70s through Hollywood-style re-enactments of the crimes by the killers themselves. It opened at downtown Manhattan’s Sunshine theater, grossing $28,067. Though only one venue, the bow nevertheless gives the title reason to boast — placing it atop all other documentary debuts in 2013 including the likes of 56 Up ($22,088 per screen average), The Gatekeepers ($20,517 PSA), 20 Feet From Stardom ($18,199 PSA), Koch ($17,598 PSA) and Stories We Tell ($13,527 PSA). Also opening with some gusto this weekend was Magnolia’s Blackfish. The fellow Sundance docu opened in four theaters, grossing $66,500 for a $16,625 PSA, placing it in the middle of the year’s top non-fiction openers. The weekend’s big narrative debuts, Only God Forgives and Girl Most Likely, meanwhile, skirted the traditional platform strategy and headed into a number of markets. Cannes debut Forgives, starring Ryan Gosling, headed with a mix of critical response into 78 theaters, grossing a so-so $315K for a $4,039 average (though the film is No. 2 on iTunes this weekend). Meanwhile, Roadside/Lionsgate’s Girl Most Likely with Kristen Wiig, Annette Bening and Matt Dillon had the largest Specialty bow of the summer with its 353 locations, grossing $736K for a soft $2,085 PSA.
At this year’s Sundance several buyers were interested in the Blackfish, the documentary about the notorious killer whale Tilikum that is responsible for the deaths of three individuals, including a top trainer. Magnolia Pictures and CNN Films, which kicked off its sales activities during the festival, …