Slowly But Surely: Precious Finds Success, Criticism

The strategy of rolling-out Precious slowly is working: BlackBook reports that the movie surged 225% at the box office this weekend. And here's what's amazing:

According to the Box Office Mojo charts, 2012 took first place at the box office with $65 million, but was in just over 3,000 theaters. Precious made $6 million and was only in 174 theaters — which means its average per theater — $35,000 — is higher than 2012's $19,000 average.

Kudos go not only to the cast of Precious and director Lee Daniels, but to Sarah Siegel-Magness and her husband, Gary Magness, novice film investors who put up about $12 million to finance the movie. "No way, no studio would make a film about an overweight black girl," Lee Daniels tells the Wall Street Journal. Ms. Siegel-Magness says: "When I began to get outside counseling from Hollywood about what we had done, people were mortified… They told us we should have instead invested in this or that fund to make 11 different movies, that we were crazy for financing an African-American movie about incest." Since Precious has already grossed almost $9 million and hasn't gone nationwide yet, these "angel" investors certainly made a smart choice.

But despite financial achievements, Precious still faces some obstacles:
Though the movie will expand to 800-1,200 screens this weekend, sparkly vampire juggernaut New Moon will be in theaters as well, and will most likely crush the indie film in ticket sales.

Plus, there are some who still have criticism for the film: In a piece for the Washington Post, Malika Saada Saar writes:

I cannot recall another opportunity raised by popular culture that invited us to thoughtfully address the largely hidden issues of incest, violence and girls at the margins. As the executive director of a national organization that works to raise awareness about and to reduce violence against vulnerable women and girls, I am moved and grateful that attention is finally being paid to our forgotten girls.

But this movie is in many ways a fairy tale. The character Precious gets to be saved by a caring caseworker and a loving teacher. In real life, poor, undereducated and sexually victimized girls are most likely to end up in the juvenile justice system.

Still, at least the movie has people talking about "precious girls," living in the margins. And Saar does find promise in the film: "I hope that Lee Daniels's movie will change how girls at the margins are treated. Maybe, at long last, they will be considered precious girls — who deserve love, safety and healing. I hope this because right now, these precious girls everywhere are denied the happy endings of Hollywood movies. "

Box Office Haul: ‘2012' Wins, ‘Precious' Surges 200%, ‘This Is It' Sinks [BlackBook]
Weekend Studio Estimates [Box Office Mojo]
'Precious' Girls Without A Happy Ending [WaPo]
Novice Film 'Angels' Took Leap of Faith With 'Precious' [WSJ]
‘2012' Opening Earns $65 Million [NY Times]