“In Bruges,” writer/director Martin McDonagh‘s hit men in hiding comedy for Focus Features; skyrocketed past Oscar contenders with a debut per-screen average of $16,330 and a fantastic $457,227 in weekend box office. “The Band’s Visit,” Sony Pictures Classics‘ Israeli film about an Egyptian police band lost in a rural Israeli town, made plenty of noise with a $9,642 per-screen average from seven debut runs. The top documentary was “A Walk to Beautiful” from Engel Entertainment, directors Mary Olive and Any Bucher‘s documentary about Ethiopian women suffering from childbirth injuries. Rounding out the iWBOT Top Five, which ranks films by per-screen average, were “The Silence Before Bach,” Spanish film artist Pere Portabella‘s surrealist drama, and “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” filmmaker Cristian Mungiu‘s abortion drama for IFC Films.
The iWBOT is based on per-theater averages reported by Rentrak Theatrical, the complete indieWIRE BOT weekly chart is available at indieWIRE.com.
The Writers Guild calling for an end to its three-month-old strike was top weekend news outside theaters. On-screen, the big story was “In Bruges,” writer/director Martin McDonagh’s hit men comedy for Focus Features. Starring starring Colin Farrell, Brendon Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes as gangsters who meet up in the historical Belgium city of Bruges, “In Bruges” earned $457,227 from 28 runs for a strong per-screen debut of $16,330. “This film has got some really good momentum working for it and right away, which was what we were hoping for,” said Jack Foley, President Theatrical Distribution for Focus Features. “We always believed this film would enjoy positive word of mouth. It’s such a great movie in its own way and its own unique voice. It appears to be coming together.”
Strong matinee business paired with young crowds at late-evening shows led to a 63% average box office boost for “In Bruges” from Friday to Saturday. Its diverse audiences of boomers and young adults made Foley optimistic about expanding “In Bruges” to twenty markets Friday, in time for the added business of the President’s Day holiday weekend. “What do the boomers have to go to at this point in time?” Foley asked. “Basically, they have all seen the Academy nominated films for the most part and what’s new in the marketplace may not be their cup of tea when it comes down to ‘Fool’s Gold‘ or ‘Roscoe Jenkins.'”
Sony Pictures Classics’ “The Band’s Visit,” about an Egyptian band lost in rural Israel, failed to receive a Best Foreign Film Oscar nomination but debuted as the leading foreign film on the iWBOT with a $9,642 per-screen average from seven debut runs.
Strong holdovers included IFC’s “4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” director Cristian Mungiu’s drama about a young woman who seeks an underground abortion in 1987 Romania. “4 Months,” which like “Band’s Visit,” generated plenty of controversy over its lack of a Best Foreign Film Oscar nomination, earned $125,928 from 21 runs. After three weeks, “4 Months” has earned $373,317, already out-earning recent Romanian dramas “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” and “12:08 East of Bucharest.”
Playing exclusively at New York’s Film Forum, “The Silence Before Bach,” Spanish artist Pere Portabella’s surrealist drama, drew larger audiences in its second weekend, earning $8,814 for a total box office of $22,784.
“There Will Be Blood,” director Paul Thomas Anderson‘s adaptation of Upton Sinclair‘s novel about California oil men, remained the top-performer of all the Best Picture Oscar-nominated films with a modest 12% drop from its previous weekend box office with $3,978,322 in three-day earnings. The Paramount Vantage release and Paramount Vantage/Miramax co-production earned $4,073,080 and has out-earned all previous Anderson films with $26,687,605 in total box office.
Director Jason Reitman‘s teenage pregnancy comedy “Juno” introduced Fox Searchlight Pictures for the first time to small markets like Oelwein, IA and Cook, Minn. The comedy, boasting four Oscar nominations, earned $5,601,149 and has reached $117,506,107 in total box office.
Independent debuts included “Bab’Aziz,” Tunsian filmmaker and poet Nacer Khemir‘s drama about a grandfather and granddaughter traveling across the Iranian desert. “Bab’Aziz” earned $3,286 at New York’s Cinema Village for Typecast Releasing.
Outsider Pictures‘ “London to Brighton,” director/writer Paul Andrew’s acclaimed drama about a British prostitute trying to protect an 11-year-old girl, reached a $2,233 per-screen average from an exclusive engagement in New York and two runs in Montreal. Both “Bab’Aziz” and “London to Brighton” out-performed Picturehouse‘s “Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show,” which managed a paltry $483 per-screen average from 962 locations.
The top documentary on the iWBOT was “A Walk to Beautiful,” directors Mary Olive and Amy Bucher’s documentary about the mistreatment of Ethiopian women who suffer from childbirth injuries. “Walk” earned an impressive $7,718 from its debut weekend at New York’s Quad Cinema for Engel Entertainment. “Our film is an inspiring story about five Ethiopian women who suffer from a childbirth injury that afflicts millions of women in developing countries so we created a robust grassroots marketing campaign that included foundations related to global health care and women’s issues, hospital personnel, medical schools, women’s groups, Ethiopian organizations and restaurants,” said Allison Shigo, Director of Feature Projects at Engel Entertainment as well as a co-producer on the film. “Walk” continues at the Quad; opens in Los Angeles Feb. 29 and expands to additional cities before its TV broadcast premiere May 13.
As the first feature film for Engel Entertainment, a longtime producer of TV documentaries, “Walk” has proven to be a debut success. “Several theaters around the country have expressed interest in the film and with the success of New York, we now have the chance to roll the film out in more cities,” Shigo added. “Our staff appears at the Quad for almost every show and thanks people for attending. Having people love the film makes that job a little easier.”
Steve Ramos is a Cincinnati based writer.
indieWIRE:BOT tracks independent/specialty releases compiled from Rentrak Theatrical, which collects studio reported data as well as box-office figures from North American theatre locations. To be included in the indieWIRE Box Office Chart, distributors must submit information about their films to Rentrak at email@example.com by the end of the day each Monday.