Auds lining up for ‘Evil’

Re-tooled Welles pic packs arthouses

While moviegoers nationwide lined up to see Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in “Rush Hour,” big-city arthouse auds flocked to another film about the clash between two cops from diverse cultures.

October Films’ newly restored version of Orson Welles’ “Touch of Evil,” which broke house records at Gotham’s Film Forum last week, continued to sell out shows in exclusive runs over the weekend.

The film, which stars Charlton Heston as a Mexican narcotics investigator and Welles as a redneck police chief, grossed $178,000 in 12 theaters in eight markets, for a $14,833 per screen average.

“We’re selling out shows three hours in advance,” said October distribution exec Michael Silberman. “It’s particularly impressive since this is a film that audiences have been able to see in recent years.” Universal included “Evil” as part of a recent package of film noir titles. The current reissue has been re-edited based on a memo Welles wrote after he saw a studio cut of the film, which was the version Universal released in 1958.

Critical interest in the new cut generated a great deal of press attention, which has apparently translated into ticket sales. October originally made 30 prints of the black-and-white film but is now considering striking an additional 50, said Silberman.

The big question, though, is how well the film will fare outside of the nation’s most sophisticated urban markets. A run in suburban Orange County grossed less than one-fifth of what a concurrent engagement on L.A.’s Westside did.

“Evil” has grossed $312,000 to date, according to October’s projections. Silberman predicts the picture will do at least $2.5 million domestically.

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