Helmer Ron Fricke’s documentary “Samsara” scored Oscilloscope Laboratories highest opening per-screen average of $38,111 during the Aug. 17-19 frame.
The film, which Fricke co-wrote with Mark Magidson, the pair behind “Baraka” and “Chronos,” launched at two locations in New York and Seattle, earning a total $76,222. Pic’s debut per-screen average also marks the year’s highest per for a documentary and the sixth-best overall, behind “Beasts of the Southern Wild” ($42,426 per screen).
“Samsara” — a Sanskrit word meaning “the ever-turning wheel of life” — was shot on 70mm cinematography over a period of more than five years period in 25 countries. The docu screened in 4K projection at both locations: N.Y.’s Landmark Sunshine and the Cinerama in Seattle.
Oscilloscope, the New York-based company co-founded by the late Adam Yauch and David Fenkel, acquired U.S. distribution rights to the docu in March; “Samsara” had its preem at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival.
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Though “Samsara” predecessor, “Baraka,” struggled at the domestic box office in 1992, earning just $1.3 million, the docu became noteworthy for its visually stunning presentation, being the first film in more than 20 years to be shot in 70 mm. Vitagraph re-released the 10th anniversary version of “Baraka” in 2002, at two locations, where it grossed almost $78,000.
“Samsara” expanded to L.A. on Aug. 31 and will go to the top 10 U.S. markets the following weekend.