One film focuses on speedster Dream Alliance, the other on Snowman the show jumper
After weeks of music documentaries dominating the box office, this past weekend became a tale of two horses.
Harry and Snowman -- the story of a steed destined for the glue factory before a Dutch immigrant came to his rescue -- finished number one among all nonfiction films in theatrical release, according to audience measurement firm Rentrak.
Moviegoers ponied up $47,567 to see Ron Davis' film over the weekend, lifting its four week total to $224,881. The film enjoys a 90-percent approval rating among critics sampled by rottentomatoes.com.
The titular Harry deLeyer 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.
Among Harry and Snowman's chief competition over the weekend was another equine-themed documentary, Dark Horse, the story of a Welsh barmaid who bred a champion racehorse named Dream Alliance.
The film directed by Louise Osmond came in fifth for the weekend, crossing the $1 million mark in earnings in its 25th week of release, Rentrak reported. Dream Alliance's career was capped by victory in the Welsh Grand National race at Aintree in 2010. That was an unlikely result for an animal often referred to as a "working class horse," because it was ordinary people in a downtrodden mining town who paid for his food and training.
Coming in second behind Harry and Snowman was the latest documentary from director Stephen Kijak, We Are X. The film, which debuted last January at the Sundance Film Festival, tells the story of the immensely popular Japanese rock band X Japan and its enigmatic front man, Yoshiki.
Third place went to Cameraperson, Kirsten Johnson's highly-regarded documentary which is now in its seventh week of release. It is approaching the $100,000 mark in total box office receipts.
Fourth place went to The Uncondemned in its debut weekend. The film directed by Michele Mitchell and Nick Louvel tells the story of a group of international lawyers who fought to have rape in the context of war declared a crime against humanity. Before their groundbreaking work, such crimes went unpunished.
The documentary played at a single location in New York. It opens in Los Angeles this Friday (October 28) and in Washington, DC and Atlanta on November 4.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and Documentary.org.