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B.O. of the ’00s: The Top Grossing Independent Films of the 2000s

B.O. of the '00s: The Top Grossing Independent Films of the 2000s

The 2010s begin on Friday – and for the past two months, indieWIRE has been running a weekly Friday chart devoted to glancing back at the past ten years. With a current film as a starting point, iW has charted various sub-categories of this decade’s films, focusing on their North American box office performance. This week being the final edition of the chart, indieWIRE is opening it up to all “independent films.”

The term “independent film” is essentially impossible to define in this kind of situation. Does it refer to any non-traditional studio film? If so, “The Lord of the Rings,” “Twilight” and “Chicago” would all be near the top of this chart and arguing any constitute the definition of “independent film” is quite challenging. The lines between studio and indie began to blur in the 1990s, when through mergers and/or acquisitions, indie institutions like Miramax and New Line started to look more and more like studios. In the 2000s, if one were to include either distributor in a list of the top grossing “indies,” they would dominate 15 of the titles – few of them “indie-like.”

So, for the purposes of arguable fairness, unless a studio or “mini-studios” like Miramax, New Line, Lionsgate, and recent Summit Entertainment acquired a truly independent production (like Paramount did with noted “Paranormal Activity,” for example), it will not be included on this list. What will be included, again in arguable fairness, are studio specialty divisions. Fox Searchlight, Focus Features, Sony Pictures Classics, and now defunct Paramount Vantage and Warner Independent Films, have released some of the most notable independent films of the decade, even if they are associated with studios.

This is likely not going to be an agreeable formula for everyone, but let’s take a look at what it presents. Fox Searchlight and Focus Features dominated the overall list, having a combined 11 of 20 titles to make the chart. And while Searchlight’s “Juno” and “Slumdog” and Sony Pictures Classics’ “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” all managed the impressive feat of grossing over $125 million, it was two very different films that were far and away the indie success stories of the 2000s: Newmarket’s “The Passion of the Christ” and IFC Films’ “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

“The Passion” may seem like the farthest thing from an indie considering its big-name director and ultra-wide release, and while it definitely had Gibson-money behind it that most indies do not, it is still technically an independent film, and an astoundingly profitable one at that. The $30 million budgeted film grossed $370 million, remaining the 13th highest grossing film of all time.

“My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is in itself a phenomenon. Opening to a $5,531 per-theater-average on 108 screens in April 2002, it wasn’t until August 2nd that it was on over 1,000 screens. By that point, it entered the top ten for the first time, and had still only grossed $40 million. It stayed in the top ten for a whopping 17 weeks, finally closing its run almost an entire year – and $241 million – later. “Wedding” cost $5 million to produce, and is the closet thing this decade saw to “Titanic”-like longevity at the box office.

Top Grossing Independent Films of the 2000s

1. The Passion of the Christ, 2004 (Newmarket) $370,274,604
2. My Big Fat Greek Wedding, 2003 (IFC Films) $241,438,208
3. Juno, 2007 (Fox Searchlight) $143,395,265
4. Slumdog Millionaire, 2008 (Fox Searchlight) $141,319,928
5. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000 (Sony Pictures Classics) $128,078,872
6. Traffic, 2000 (USA) $124,115,725
7. Fahrenheit 9/11, 2004 (Lionsgate) $119,194,771
8. Paranormal Activity, 2009 (Paramount) $107,753,000
9. Brokeback Mountain, 2005 (Focus Features) $83,043,761
10. March of the Penguins, 2005 (Warner Independent) $77,437,223
11. Coraline, 2009 (Focus Features) $75,286,229
12. Sideways, 2004 (Fox Searchlight) $71,503,593
13. Burn After Reading, 2008 (Focus Features) $60,355,347
14. Little Miss Sunshine, 2006 (Fox Searchlight) $59,891,098
15. Crash, 2005 (Lionsgate) $54,580,300
16. Atonement, 2007 (Focus Features) $50,927,067
17. 28 Days Later, 2003 (Fox Searchlight) $45,064,915
18. Lost In Translation, 2003 (Focus Features) $44,585,453
19. Napoleon Dynamite, 2004 (Fox Searchlight) $44,540,956
20. Precious: Based on the novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire, 2009 (Lionsgate) $42,432,006

“B.O. of the ’00s” was a weekly feature from indieWIRE ran up to the end of the year. Check out the previous editions:

B.O. of the ’00s: The Top Grossing Palme d’Or Winners
B.O. of the ’00s: The Top Grossing LGBT-Related Films
B.O. of the ’00s: The Top Grossing Female Helmed Films
B.O. of the ’00s: The Top Grossing Foreign-Language Films
B.O. of the ’00s: The Top Grossing Documentaries
B.O. of the ’00s: The Top Grossing Sundance Winners

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