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‘Citizen’ a winner for indie companies

Foxx-Butler thriller is Overture's biggest opening yet

The opening of Jamie Foxx-Gerard Butler starrer “Law Abiding Citizen” is a victory for independent companies — in this case, Overture Films and the Film Department — seeking mainstream success in a brutal environment for the indie film biz.

While arthouse titles are fueled by word of mouth campaigns, a commercial title like “Citizen” needed broad, mainstream marketing. Many in Hollywood say Overture’s campaign sealed the deal in attracting a male-driven audience evenly divided among blacks, Latinos and Caucasians.

“Citizen” launched to $21 million at the domestic box office last weekend and has seen strong weekday biz, with a cume of $26.1 million through Wednesday.

The vigilante thriller was No. 1 on Tuesday, beating Paramount’s “Paranormal Activity.” “Paranormal” pulled ahead on Wednesday, however.

“Law Abiding Citizen” marked Overture’s biggest bow to date, besting its previous top opener, “Righteous Kill” ($16.3 million). Overture, formed three years ago by Chris McGurk and Danny Rosett and backed by John Malone’s Liberty Media, has drawn attention with arthouse fare, most notably “The Visitor,” but until now hadn’t enjoyed big commercial success on the level of Summit Entertainment, which struck gold with “Twilight.”

While Overture put up the print and marketing spend, and also distributes the movie, Mark Gill and Neil Sacker’s Film Department fully financed and produced “Citizen.” The project had its ups and downs, including one director walking away and nervousness among Film Department investors (“Citizen” cost $53 million to produce).

Overture and the Film Department credit the film’s producers, who include Butler, Alan Siegel, Robert Katz, Lucas Foster, Kurt Wimmer and Gill, with bringing the project to fruition.

Foxx, who has a loyal following, was tireless in promoting the film, even playing a trailer for the pic during his concert tour for his third studio album, “Intuition.”

Overture prexy of worldwide theatrical marketing Peter Adee said the company targeted the male action crowd with a campaign that included media buys on baseball playoffs, football and other sports.

The strong bow of “Citizen,” directed by F. Gary Gray and written by Kurt Wimmer, was a surprise because of the crowded playing field, including other wide entries (Warner Bros.’ “Where the Wild Things Are” and Sony’s “The Stepfather”) and the expansion of “Paranormal Activity.”

However, the marketplace expanded by 38%, delivering the highest domestic box office grosses on record for an October weekend. Overture and other distribs are hoping the appetite for film continues this weekend as five nationwide releases debut.

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