The opening of “Fruitvale Station” on the same weekend as the Trayvon Martin trial concluded was certainly not planned. But the similarity of the two high-profile shootings was a potent reminder for the Weinstein Co. pickup, which scored the weekend’s highest per-screen average of nearly $54,000 from seven locations, including the sold-out Grand Lake theater in Oakland, Calif.
“Obviously, we had no idea of what would be going on at the time we dated the movie, but it’s very topical,” said Weinstein distribution topper Erik Lomis, referring to Saturday’s acquittal of Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watchman, in Sanford, Fla.
“It’s hard to watch this film and not be moved,” Lomis added.
“Fruitvale” is based on the true story of Oscar Grant, a young African-American man in Oakland, who was shot and killed by a BART police officer in 2009.
The film, which stars Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer, sold out Friday night and Saturday evening screenings at the Oakland location, as well as at the Arclight Hollywood and the Angelika in New York.
Many supporters of “Fruitvale” found the timing of the opening particularly resonated with the news of George Zimmerman’s acquittal.
Spike Lee quoted his wife Tonya Lewis Lee’s support of the film on Twitter.
The Sundance dramatic grand jury award-winning pic has been mentioned as an early Oscar contender. Opening weekend skewed mostly toward white audiences, with African-Americans contributing 29%.
The Zimmerman case also touched the biz last summer when Fox was faced with the decision of whether or not to change the title of its comedy “Neighborhood Watch” to just “The Watch.” The studio ultimately did, though the film — which was released six months after the Martin shooting in February 2012 — struggled to find an audience, grossing just $35 million domestically.
Weinstein plans to expand “Fruitvale” to six more cities on Friday, including Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, Atlanta, Washington D.C. and Houston, before breaking out the film nationwide the following weekend.