When it comes to popularity and box office revenues in the world of indie films, it sometimes comes down to a symbolic coin toss. Much of the success of low-budget independent films, largely depend on the audience’s reception at film festivals. Last month in Lake Worth, Florida, the Stonzek Theater, a small art-film movie house, located next to the historic Lake Worth Playhouse, screened back-to-back two films that were wildly successful in this year’s festival circuit, particularly Cannes and Sundance: Amy and Tangerine.
In a July interview with Art Film File, Stonzek Theater manager, Charlie Birnbaum, and projectionist Ben Brown, both stated uncertainty whether two festival favorites, Amy and Tangerine,would attract the Stonzek’s regular moviegoers or if on the contrary, the films would play to an empty house. “I have great deal of confidence in my taste, but much less confidence in what will be a hit in the theater,” Birnbaum stated. Ben Brown affirms this statement, revealing that the Stonzek’s regulars seem to be quite fickle and unpredictable in regards to their taste in films. “Most of the people that come here are retired, elderly patrons, who prefer the Stonzek because it’s quieter that bigger theaters,” Brown said. “We get some younger people that like art films sometimes, but it’s not the vast majority,” he concluded.
Surprisingly these two films beat the odds, both screening to almost a full house in each of their two daily shows, as seen in the infographic below, starting at a peak during the weekend, and slowly trickling down, but still going strong for the remainder of the week:
Tangerine, distributed by Magnolia Pictures, is a film that unconventionally brushes on the topic of transgender prostitutes in Hollywood, additionally has the unique feature of being the first film shot completely on an iPhone by director Sean Baker. It’s success at the Stonzek was evident in the revenues, totaling an astounding 980 dollars by the end of the week, which is not a common number for most films shown at the theater. Amy, a documentary directed by Asif Kapadia and distributed by A24 Films, about the life of late twenty-seven year old British singer Amy Winehouse was equally successful, ending the week with a little over twelve hundred dollars in revenues.
Not one, but two unexpected hits with the Stonzek’s audience, astounded even it’s steadfast manager. “I am amazed,” Birnbaum stated, his voice remaining a tad incredulous. “I never expected that these films would do so well. We made over two thousand dollars with both of them the week they ran, and for us, that’s really, really good.” So good in fact, that Birnbaum plans to bring them back in September for an encore presentation, with the exciting addendum of a Skype Q&A with Tangerine director Sean Baker, and co-writer Chris Bergoch.
Listen to Art Film File’s Adriana Delgado, talking about the unanticipated hit of indie films Amy and Tangerine: