Did Hicks in Sticks Dig Chicks?
It got great reviews, locally and nationally; a "riveting documentary," wrote David Ansen in Newsweek, while USA Today called it "a compelling and rousing film." Both The Dallas Morning News and the paper version of Unfair Park ran feature stories about the movie. Certainly, opening as it did before the mid-term elections in New York and Los Angeles and the Friday after across the rest of the country, including in Dallas, the Dixie Chicks' documentary Shut Up & Sing had plenty going for it--a volatile mixture of art and politics, forged in the firestorm caused by Natalie Maines' remark in 2003 from a London stage: "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas."
Yet, upon first glance, it does not appear Dallas has much interest in seeing Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck's movie. Box-office figures obtained by Unfair Park reveal that Shut Up & Sing made only $5,636 during its opening weekend here--which is either pocket change or a fortune, depending upon how you interpret those numbers.
On the one hand, Shut Up & Sing opened in only one theater locally: the Magnolia Theater in the West Village. That means its per-screen average is actually pretty high: It came in fourth locally, behind runaway train Borat ($9,065 on 43 local screens), the sleeper smash The Queen ($6,984 on five screens) and the well-reviewed Will Ferrell film Stranger Than Fiction ($6,067 on 44 screens, including two at the Magnolia). It made significantly more per screen than most of the week's other new offerings: The Return ($2,491 on 43 screens), A Good Year ($2,182 on 37 screens), Harsh Times ($1,758 on 24 screens) and Copying Beethoven ($1, 293 on one screen).
Shut Up & Sing came in at No. 27 of all the movies currently showing in town--again, not bad since it's on one screen. And it's even better when you consider that among the Top 20 there are movies like Flicka and Man of the Year, which are pulling down pennies on the dollar on multiple screens. But the Weinstein Company, which is releasing the movie, doesn't have plans to expand it locally: The movie will open in Austin and San Antonio this weekend, but not on other screens here.
The doc's not likely to become the smash hit that, oh, the Al Gore lecture An Inconvenient Truth was: Shut Up & Sing's local box-office average is way down from its October 29 opening-weekend numbers, when, on four screens in New York and Los Angeles combined, it made $50,103. On 11 screens across the country, it made $70,075 last weekend--down about 21 percent when you spread out the screenings. The Gore movie ran from May to October nationally and wound up pulling in more than $23 million; it comes out on DVD next week, only two weeks after finally ending its theatrical run. Really, more people wanna see Gore drone on about global warming than hear the Chicks record a record. That's an inconvenient truth. --Robert Wilonsky