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'Marley' has respectable start in limited release

Kevin Macdonald's documentary about singer Bob Marley collects an estimated $260,000 in 42 theaters.

April 23, 2012
  • Taylor Schilling and Zac Efron in "The Lucky One."
Taylor Schilling and Zac Efron in "The Lucky One." (Patti Perret, Warner Bros. )

More than three decades after his death, Bob Marley continues to fascinate legions of fans, as evidenced by the solid debut of a documentary about the reggae musician at the box office this past weekend.

"Marley," directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Kevin Macdonald, played in 42 theaters and collected a respectable $260,000, according to an estimate from distributor Magnolia Pictures.

Because the Rastafarian singer embraced marijuana, Magnolia decided to open the film April 20, an unofficial holiday when many cannabis lovers often gather to smoke. The film also was made available to screen for $6.99 via Facebook that day, and fans could also rent it on video-on-demand platforms. On Sunday, the documentary was the No. 6 movie rental on iTunes, behind far more commercial films such as "We Bought a Zoo" and "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."

Neal Block, Magnolia's head of distribution, said he was hopeful that strong word of mouth and positive reviews would help the film "transcend being considered only a music documentary."

Indeed, music documentaries have had mixed success at the box office in recent years. In 2011, "Beats, Rhymes & Life," about the group A Tribe Called Quest, started with a strong $111,982 in only four theaters but eventually grossed only a moderate $1.2 million. "Tupac: Resurrection," a documentary about the late rapper Tupac Shakur, had broader appeal in 2003, when it ended up collecting $7.7 million.

— Amy Kaufman

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