This was the scene outside The Belcourt in Hillsboro Village last Friday night. A capacity crowd gathered to see the new documentary Food, Inc. and discuss the movie with a heavyweight panel of food producers, farmers and experts (moderated by our own Carrington Fox).
Now here's the funny thing: People haven't stopped coming. In just three days at The Belcourt, Food, Inc. took in more than $11,000--an astonishing sum for a documentary in limited release, and the second-best opening weekend in Belcourt history (behind Pan's Labyrinth in 2007).
Food, Inc. is currently playing on 75 screens around the country, and only one topped The Belcourt's take: New York's venerable Film Forum, where the movie's been racking up huge numbers for three weeks. (We even kicked Atlanta's ass, for those who keep track of such things.) The national per-screen average, by comparison, was less than $4,000.
"We hit the jackpot in community involvement," says Toby Leonard, The Belcourt's programmer. Leonard credits Brittany Conner at Whole Foods with putting together an immensely effective promotional effort on the film's behalf, along with word-of-mouth campaigns and Twitter feeds on the part of other participants (including Food Security Partners and the Tennessee Organic Growers Association).
Since then, attendance has rarely dipped below 200 people per screening. I was standing in the theater's lobby Monday night--kick yourself if you missed the awesome double feature of Budd Boetticher Westerns--and I couldn't believe the line snaking down Belcourt Avenue on a weeknight. It was a beautiful sight, much as I wish one-sixth of that audience had turned out for Olivier Assayas' Summer Hours in the theater's other hall. It's the best movie I've seen so far in 2009, and you've got one more day to see it before it leaves.
So if you're among the foodies encountering The Belcourt this week for the first time, check out some of the amazing programming the theater has scheduled for coming weeks: Michelle Pfeiffer in the saucy costume drama Cheri, opening Friday; the sci-fi thriller Moon with Sam Rockwell and the disembodied voice of Kevin Spacey (July 10); the Dali/Garcia Lorca drama Little Ashes, demanded for months by fans of Twilight heartthrob Robert Pattinson (July 17); Francis Ford Coppola's Tetro, boasting the coolest preview in months (July 24); Atom Egoyan's twisty Adoration (July 31); and one of the summer's likely sleepers, the indie comedy Humpday (July 31). And top that off with revival screenings of The Wild Bunch and McCabe and Mrs. Miller, a month of Sergio Leone, and the flabbergasting Japanese whatsit House at midnight. Your eyes need feeding too.