Film about distaff bird of prey trainer crosses half million dollar mark; Stephen Sondheim doc debuts in top five
Documentary moviegoers are falling for the charms of young Aisholpan, the engaging star of the film The Eagle Huntress.
The documentary -- about the Kazakh girl's attempt to become the first female in 12 generations of her family to achieve the status of eagle hunter -- finished the weekend as the top nonfiction film at the box office. It made $182,072, pushing its overall total to $542,113 after three weeks of theatrical release, according to audience measurement firm Rentrak.
Actress Daisy Ridley of Star Wars: The Force Awakens narrates the film and serves as an executive producer, along with Morgan Spurlock.
Otto Bell directed the film, which features extraordinary photography of the Mongolian landscape, to go with memorable characters and a stirring story. [For those concerned about the fate of the eagle Aisholpan must capture to achieve her goal, the bird is eventually returned to the wild].
Photos of Aisholpan from The Eagle Huntress. Courtesy Sony Pictures Classics
Coming in second place over the weekend was the IMAX space film A Beautiful Planet -- another doc narrated by a famous actress, in this case Jennifer Lawrence. It made $75,109 over the weekend and upped its box office total to $7,437,703, Rentrak reported.
A Beautiful Planet opened at IMAX locations last April and is the second most lucrative documentary of the year, behind Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party.
Third place went to Harry & Snowman, the story of an underdog horse, directed by Ron Davis. It should cross the half million dollar mark in total earnings next weekend.
Harry deLeyer -- the Harry of the film's title -- bought Snowman for $80 in 1956, saving him from the slaughterhouse. In time the pair would become champions of the show jumping circuit, winning the sport's triple crown.
Gimme Danger came in fourth among documentaries over the weekend, increasing its total returns to $370,798. Jim Jarmusch directed the film about the Stooges and frontman Iggy Pop.
Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened finished in fifth place in its opening weekend. The documentary explores the 1981 Stephen Sondheim musical Merrily We Roll Along -- a much-hyped show that closed after just 16 performances.
Lonny Price, a member of the original cast, directed the film. Making appearances in it are Sondheim, former New York Times theater critic Frank Rich, director Hal Prince, actors Jason Alexander and Mandy Patinkin.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and Documentary.org.