`Penguins' continues its march to success


Film Column

August 12, 2005|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Never underestimate the power of a flightless bird.

Luc Jacquet's March of the Penguins, a film that suggests even the most dedicated human parents don't have anything on the emperor penguins that raise their babies on the frozen Antarctic tundra, has brought in more than $29 million at the American box office. Four weeks into its release, the film is the second-highest-grossing documentary of all time, sandwiched between two Michael Moore films, Bowling for Columbine ($21.6 million) and Fahrenheit 9/11 ($119.1 million).

And unlike Moore's efforts, March doesn't seem to be ticking anyone off. Everybody, it seems, loves those waddling, tuxedo-clad birds.

"I guess both red and blue states love penguins," Steve Friedlander, executive vice president for Warner Independent, the film's distributor, told the Dallas Morning News. "It's playing as a family film, as a date film, to older couples, to young girls."

In a summer that's seen myriad headlines about the decline in box-office revenue nationwide (year-to-date, it's down 7.2 percent compared with 2004), March of the Penguins has provided a needed bright spot.

"I think it's great," says Paul Dergarabedian, president of Los Angeles-based Exhibitor Relations, a box-office tracking firm. "In a sea of negativity related to the woes of the box office, you've got these penguins providing us with an incredibly successful situation at the theaters."

And, in the grand cinematic tradition, audiences are responding to a movie - pay attention, all you studios whose release schedules are crammed with remakes, sequels and TV adaptations - that takes them places they've never been.

"I think people are responding to this movie because it's so different," Dergarabedian says. "That's what the cinema is about, transporting people to a totally different world."

That's money in the studios' pocket, regardless of whether the heroes are men, women or fowl.

Bel Geddes featured

Barbara Bel Geddes, who died Monday of lung cancer, is featured at this weekend's edition of the Saturday revival series at the Charles. Blood On the Moon, Robert Wise's 1948 Western, stars Robert Mitchum as the dangerous-looking stranger who rides into town one day, with everyone assuming he's a hired gun out for blood. Bel Geddes is the woman who helps civilize him a bit.

Showtime at the Charles, 1711 N. Charles St., is noon tomorrow, with encores scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday and 9 p.m. Thursday. Admission is $5. Information: 410-727-FILM or www.thecharles.com.

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