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Highlights - 21/11/2014
THE SALT OF THE EARTH: the documentary has seen success in film theatres in several countries
The Salt of the Earth is a documentary co-produced by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado on the work of the photographer Sebastiao Salgado, Juliano’s father. It has been extremely successful in the three European countries in which it has been distributed to date. This is hardly surprising, given the way in which Wim Wenders delighted wide-ranging audiences with his previous documentaries – Pina, The Soul of a Man and, particularly, Buena Vista Social Club. That is not to say that the distributor was sure of turning a profit, especially for a documentary on the work of a photographer. Despite the film’s selection for Un Certain Regard at the Cannes Film Festival, caution on the part of distributors was evident in the fact that it was screened in relatively few cinemas: 77 film theatres for its release in France on 15 October (distributed by Le Pacte), 35 film theatres in Italy on 23 October (Officine UBU) and 28 film theatres in Germany on 30 October (NFP marketing & distribution).
The film has received selective MEDIA support for distribution in several European countries. This has not been the case in France, where it attracted 45,000 filmgoers in 77 cinemas during its first week of screening in mid-October. Over the next three weeks, the number of film theatres did increase slightly. But what was remarkable was the consistent increase in weekly admissions, with the film approaching 200,000 admissions in four weeks.
More than two hundred cinemas have now scheduled the film, demonstrating a real demand on their part as they access the film in its fifth week - after the distributor’s VPF payment period. Within a few days, the film will have achieved 250,000 admissions.
In its first week the film was screened “almost exclusively in arthouse film theatres” (particularly Europa Cinemas members), and in just five multiplexes, according to Xavier Hirigoyen for Le Pacte. At the time of writing, around 30 Europa Cinemas members are still screening the film.
By way of comparison, Pina had a more successful first week in France, in a similar selection of film theatres. However, weekly admissions reduced over its first ten weeks of exhibition, the film achieving a total of 300,000 admissions. Through word of mouth, the film continued to be screened, ultimately achieving 355,000 admissions, which suggests similar (or better) results for The Salt of the Earth.
Sandra Capitano of Officine UBU details the film’s trajectory in Italy: “Our strategy was to release the film in just 35 film theatres in the main cities and a few provincial towns. We didn’t place the film in multiplexes: only in arthouse film theatres. This has enabled us to achieve high screen average on the first weekend (fourth highest average for all films screened and second highest for new releases). In its second week, I expanded the release to 47 screens and to 53 the following week.”
“From today (fourth week of release) we will reach 70 screens. It means the film is keeping on the major cities and is also penetrating depth province of several Italian regions such as Puglia, Le Marche, Tuscany and Lazio. The film was not released in the biggest circuits such as The Space and UCI Cinemas, but only in a few plexes (up to 5 screens) near large cities or smaller places. To date, the film has seen almost 100,000 admissions.”
The release in Germany was also a measured one, in 28 film theatres in its first week. Over the next two weeks, however, screening was extended and, to date, the film has seen 54,000 admissions in three weeks.
These results reveal the enthusiasm for this film on the part of film theatres and filmgoers alike and this may be confirmed by releases in Belgium, The Netherlands and Portugal over the coming weeks.
Jb Selliez, November 2014