According to estimates, two exclusive New York City docs – Marc H. Simon and Matthew Makar’s “Nursery University” and Sascha Paladino’s “Throw Down Your Heart” – found the weekend’s highest per-theatre averages this weekend, despite competition from the Tribeca Film Festival. Variance Films’ “University” – about the oddly competitive process of nursery school admissions – grossed $13,100 at the Phoenix Adlabs ImaginAsian Theatre, while Argot Pictures’ “Heart – which follows American banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck on his journey to Africa – took in $12,493 at the IFC Center. “Heart” had previously screened last month in San Francisco, which brings its total to $24,402.
“While we were up against Tribeca, an ad budget that wouldn’t pay for opening day bagels for most distributors, and what is arguably the nicest April weekend in the history of the planet, we couldn’t be happier with the results,” Variance’s Dylan Marchetti told indieWIRE regarding “Nursery.” ” Variance worked this one hard, but the credit has to go to the filmmakers- not only did they make a delightful, fun, and engaging documentary, but (along with a great team of interns and the subjects of the film) they spent the last eight weeks working tirelessly to get the word out about it in some very smart and inventive ways. I think the results prove the power of grassroots marketing, and what can happen when filmmakers stay engaged and involved throughout a release.”
Sony Pictures Classics’ released James Toback “Tyson” on 11 screens this weekend, and the film managed $85,982, averaging $7,817. Those numbers are somewhat disappointing considering the high-profile nature of the film, which screened at Cannes and Sundance and has received very positive reviews, but the film’s expansion in the next few weeks should be the true test. “Tyson”‘s per-theater-average did beat out Academy Award-nominated doc “The Garden.” Scott Hamilton Kennedy’s film, released through Oscilloscope, grossed only $5,000 from its sole screen at Landmark’s Nuart Theater in Los Angeles.
“The Garden”‘s distributor-sibling “Treeless Mountain,” the second narrative film released by Oscilloscope, also debuted. So Yong Kim’s film grossed $6,000 over the weekend, adding to to $2,630 it had grossed since opening Wednesday at the Film Forum. “Treeless” will slowly expand into the summer (Oscilloscope’s tendency to move very slowly in its expansions found so-so results with “Wendy & Lucy,” which in its 20th weekend is still in 10 theatres, but its cume is only $855,776 – which is certainly on the high end for both Oscilloscope and director Kelly Reichardt, but on the low end considering the attention the film received, and the presence of Michelle Williams).
Other openers included Paolo Sorrentino’s “Il Divo,” which on 2 screens grossed a decent $14,000 for Music Box Films, and Senator Entertainment’s “The Informers,” which found grosses that were anything but decent. The Bret Easton Ellis adaptation – which features a not-quite-all-star cast of Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Mickey Rourke, and Winona Ryder, grossed $300,000 – on 482 screens. Though not unexpected, its average was a sad $622, in line with the 15th weekend of “Hotel For Dogs.”
And though its a studio film and thus not eligible for the iW BOT (which charts platform, specialty releases), the performance of Disney’s “Earth” is notable. The film debuted to stellar numbers last Wednesday (Earth Day), but dropped off a bit over the weekend. Grossing $8,554,000 on 1,804 screens, the film managed a fourth place finish – down from opening in the top slot, but still one of the best doc openings of all time, and its $14,201,000 cume since Wednesday already makes it 7th highest grossing doc on record, and tops 2008’s top doc – “Religulous.”
It’s been a good few weeks for documentaries all together. This marks the sixth weekend in a row that one led the iW BOT, and some of the former toppers continue to do decent business. Abramorama’s “Anvil! The Story of Anvil” expanded to 12 screens this weekend and grossed $47,189, taking its total to $146,884 after 3 weekends; Truly Indie’s “Valentino: The Last Emperor” went to 28 screens and grossed $74,000, taking it to $573,000, and last weekend’s topper – Sony Pictures Classics’ “Every Little Step” held steady at 8 screens and fell just 26%, grossing another $50,000 and bringing its cume to $154,000.
Other holdovers included Focus’ “Sin Nombre,” which brought its screen count to 83 in its sixth week, and grossed $205,000, bringing its total to $1,497,000; Story Island’s “Is Anybody There,” which grossed $121,000 from 54 screens in its second weekend, taking its cume to $183,000; and Maya Releasing’s “Sleep Dealer,” which sadly fell 81% in its second weekend, grossing just $6,550 from 7 screens.
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.