French thriller "Tell No One" a word-of-mouth hit

Fri Aug 1, 2008 4:14am EDT
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By Steven Zeitchik

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Its title notwithstanding, "Tell No One" has become a word-of-mouth hit.

With almost no advertising, Guillaume Canet's layered French-language mystery about a doctor wrongly suspected of killing his wife has grossed nearly $1.7 million since opening July 2 in New York and Los Angeles.

The film, currently playing in about 77 theaters, made those inroads with Music Box Films, a distributor that grew out of a Chicago art house just last year.

Lawyer and real estate entrepreneur William Schopf, the label's founder, came to the movie business almost by chance. He owned the building housing the Music Box art house theater in Chicago that he took over when the theater's previous operator moved out.

Then last year, Schopf decided to become a distributor. In part, he said it was a smarter way to expand than by just opening more theaters, and he also wanted to do something for his employees.

"It seemed like it would give some of the people who worked for us more career options," he said. One of his first moves was to hire Palm Pictures veteran Ed Arentz, who now works for Music Box full time from New York.

After two microreleases, the company picked up "Tell No One," based on Harlan Coben's best-selling novel. It had been passed over by some of the specialty divisions, but it still took more than six months for Music Box to close a deal with sales agent Europa Corp.

So what's driving box office? Strong reviews from the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and New Yorker certainly helped, particularly with the film's older demo. Press days for Canet -- unusual for a small foreign film -- were held in New York and Los Angeles. And the film belongs to a familiar genre of conspiracy-minded mystery movies.   Continued...

<p>Guillaume Canet arrives for a gala screening of the film "Chacun son Cinema" at the 60th Cannes Film Festival May 20, 2007. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier</p>