‘Benji Off the Leash’ Runs Wild!

Over the weekend, Benji Off the Leash, distributed independently by Mulberry Square Releasing, had the highest first-week increase in box office gross from Friday to Saturday of all movies currently in release, signaling amazing word of mouth and growing excitement for the latest Benji movie. With an advertising budget one-sixth the size of Warner Brothers’ Yu-Gi-Oh, and a mere fraction of Princess Diaries 2, the little dog that could will gross more than $1.5 million over the weekend in 872 theaters… and is on the rise.
A flurry of positive reviews from major national sources out Friday, including Roger Ebert, Leonard Maltin, Michael Medved, Ted Baehr, and Dave Kehr of the New York Times, spurred results.
The producers chose to turn down studio money to stay independent so they could keep the content of the film safe for all members of the family. Margaret Loesch, producer of the film, said “The opening gross would probably be higher if there were twenty or thirty million dollars of studio advertising money behind it, but the content would have also been more gross.”
Joe Camp, director of the film said, “While most films are declining, Benji is going up. That’s exciting and says a lot about how folks are responding to the movie.”
In testament to ‘word of mouth’ on the new movie, Saturday’s box-office gross went up 65% over Friday. This was the highest first week percentage of all pictures currently in release, second highest of all pictures this weekend, and way above average. Sunday’s results were expected to be nearly as strong as Saturday – another unusual phenomenon spurred by talk about Benji.
While Benji Off the Leash was sixteenth overall, it was “top dog” in several large markets, coming in as one of the top five performers for many theaters in Dallas, New York, Atlanta and Boston. Per screen average across the board is better than I, Robot; Yu-gi-oh!; The Village; and Little Black Book; and is on par with Spiderman 2.
Benji Off The Leash opened nationwide on August 20. This is the fourth Benji movie since Camp’s creation of the character in 1971, and also the fourth dog to play the role. This Benji was adopted from a shelter in Gulfport, Mississippi, after a search in shelters all across the nation. American Humane says the original Benji being adopted from a shelter resulted in more than one million pet adoptions across the country, a trend which Camp hopes to see continue.


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