Limited-release film fares well

Asian-Americans find `Better Luck' at more theaters over the weekend

April 22, 2003|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

Better Luck Tomorrow, the highly touted independent film featuring an all Asian-American cast, did brisk business in its second weekend, according to industry estimates.

The film, which opened in Baltimore last weekend after premiering in big cities like Los Angeles and New York on April 11, grossed an estimated $515,000, according to Paramount Classics, which is distributing the movie with MTV Films.

Some worried that the film, which centers on a group of Asian-Americans in Orange County, Calif., who begin selling cheat sheets and move onto dealing and doing drugs and killing, wouldn't fare well in places like Baltimore, which has a relatively small Asian population.

The film has been heavily marketed to Asian-Americans and did well in its first weekend, opening in 13 theaters and earning nearly $30,000 a screen. By contrast, most big-screen movies average less than $10,000 per screen.

The film expanded to 42 theaters last weekend and while the gross dropped to about $12,000 per screen, distributors still say the movie did well even though preliminary box-office figures do not rank it in the Top 20. So far, the film has earned nearly $1 million. It cost $250,000 to make.

"The first weekend was off the charts. A drop-off is to be expected but it's doing amazingly well," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations Inc., a box-office-tracking firm in Encino, Calif. "The snowball effect of the buzz around the movie is amazing."

The word of mouth was evident over the weekend as Asian-Americans packed the Charles Theatre, where the movie was being screened. Most of the crowd seemed to be college-age students, mainly from the Johns Hopkins University, where several Asian-American clubs organized trips to go see the film.

The dark material left many students feeling slightly unnerved but most said they appreciated the characters, who portray mainstream Asian-Americans without accents and who don't karate-chop their enemies.

"I'm glad I saw it," said Vivian Kim, a Hopkins senior who caught the late showing on Saturday night.

Better Luck Tomorrow' will move to more than 400 theaters this weekend, including ones in Gaithersburg, Bowie, White Marsh and Hanover.

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