“The Eternal Memory,” Chilean documentarian Maite Alberdi’s follow-up to the Oscar-nominated “The Mole Agent,” is smashing box office records in Chile.
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Bowing Thursday Aug. 24 in 70 theaters and shooting straight to No. 1, “The Eternal Memory’s” first week 80,157 ticket sales gave the film the biggest bow of any doc feature in history in Chile and the best opening of any Chilean film of any kind since 2018.
As the film sold out at screenings, its screen count was hiked to a 105 screen count from Aug. 28, doubling theaters in some regions and adding ones in parts of Chile which doesn’t normally screen national films.
“The Eternal Memory’s” first 10-day 102,696 admissions converted it into the high-grossing doc feature in Chilean history.
Tracking at near to 200,000 admissions, “The Eternal Memory” has now begun to challenge live action features, such as “Papa al Rescate,” Chile’s big early year comedy.
“What’s most interesting is that we’re talking about a little-seen phenomenon: a film that wins Sundance and plays the Berlinale but yet is still an audience phenomenon in a country of origin,” said Alexandra Galvis, who distributes the film in Chile via Market Chile.
Rare examples of that double whammy are Pablo Larraín’s “No,” Andrés Wood’s “Violeta Went to Heaven” and Sebastián Lelio’s “Gloria.” “The Eternal Memory” is fast approaching those films’ box office, she noted.
“Normally, we have films of enormous quality and festival awards; and on the other hand, big commercial productions of good quality which are looking for mass audiences but don’t have festival runs. Maite is the first woman to achieve both: Multi-prized cinema at international events that also breaks box office records.”
An “affecting, low-key study of political journalist Augusto Góngora’s struggle with neurodegenerative disease,” it’s “the simple love story between Góngora and his devoted wife and carer, former Chilean culture minister Paulina Urrutia, that gives Alberdi’s film its spine and its heart,” Variety wrote in its review.
A Micromundo production in co-production with Pablo and Juan de Dios Larrain’s Fabula, in association with Inmatt Foundation, Chicken & Egg Pictures and The Denovo Initiative, at Sundance “The Eternal Memory” snagged both the top World Cinema Grand Jury Prize in its international doc competition and a global distribution deal with MTV Documentary Films.
Entering its third week in distribution, “The Eternal Memory” has maintained its screen count.
“This reaction is highly positive for cinemagoing in general, an injection of energy especially after such soft years during the pandemic,”Alberdi told Variety.
“It’s the first time that I’ve had such a wide-ranging and deep reaction to one of my films. If my previous titles have moved, here I’ve had the privilege to witness how the story of Augusto and Paulina prompts spectators to reflect and share their reflections, questioning their own relationships,” she added.
“This couple’s love is so real that it persists and reinvents itself in such a complex scenario as this illness,” she went on.
“As a director and producer of my films, this reaffirms my motivation to portray intimate worlds that resonate universally,” she continued, citing the film’s U.S. premiere where Augusto and Paulina, without being public figures abroad, “are the protagonists of a story which still moves the same. It also tumbles myths, because the story of such a powerful love told as a documentary resounds as well, or more, than a good fiction,” Alberdi concluded.
Calling the Chilean box office “historic,” Fabula producer Rocío Jadue noted that “The Eternal Memory” underscores how outside Chile a “powerful story, independent of its genre, awakens interests not only in Chile but abroad.”
“The Eternal Memory” has opened in 30 cities in the U.S., will bow in South Korea in mid-September and in Mexico in October, Jadue noted.
In all it will be released in over 65 countries including Japan, the U.K., Netherlands and Spain, with openings taking in theatrical bows, which is “unprecedented,” Jadue added.