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Films about older characters dealing with aging don't have to mean box-office death, as proved by first-time director Sarah Polley's Away from Her, which has grossed $1-million in Canada since opening on May 4, according to its distributors.

The highly acclaimed film, which stars Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent as a couple coping with Alzheimer's and wayward love, and is based on Alice Munro's story The Bear Came Over the Mountain, is the first English-Canadian film to cross the $1-million mark this year, the film's Canadian distributors, Mongrel Media and Capri Releasing, said yesterday. It is currently screening in 38 theatres across Canada.

Hussain Amarshi, Mongrel's president, notes that the $1-million figure also includes box-office revenue from the Film Circuit, special screenings of the film in smaller cities and towns through a division of the Toronto International Film Festival Group.

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"Art-house films are primarily sold by word of mouth. You can have the greatest reviews. You can have the best campaign in the world. But at the end of the day, it's on very few screens, and it's the word of mouth that keeps the film going," Amarshi said.

In the U.S., Away from Her has grossed more than $2-million through its American distributor Lions Gate.

The film has also delivered Polley into world cinema's inner circle, as she took Away from Her from its premiere at the last Toronto International Film Festival to such key festivals as Sundance and Berlin, culminating in her recent stint on the jury in Cannes.

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