By Peter Knegt | Indiewire February 15, 2009 at 7:15AM
Matteo Garrone's Italian mob film "Gomorrah" found the highest per-theatre-average debut of 2009 this President's Day weekend, according to four-day estimates provided this afternoon by Rentrak. On 5 screens, the IFC release grossed $102,702 for a $20,540 average. That even topped overall box office leader "Friday The 13th"'s $14,56- PTA. It also set a record for the biggest opening weekend ever at the IFC Center in New York City, grossing an estimated $32,000. "Gomorrah" played to sold-out houses all weekend-long, with hundreds of would-be movie patrons turned away.
The strong numbers for Gomorrah helped lead the IFC Center complex to its highest grossing weekend of all-time with an estimated take of $53,870, beating the previous record weekend by nearly $10,000. The previous highest grossing weekend for the IFC Center was $43,337 from January 25-27, 2008 in conjunction with the opening of "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days." On Sunday, February 15th, the IFC Center broke the record for its biggest one-day gross, taking in more than $20,167 in a single day.
"We couldn't be happier audiences are turning out for Gomorrah in such huge numbers," said IFC Entertainment President Jonathan Sehring in a statement. "We knew going into the weekend that awareness for the film was high, but to set an IFC Center record exceeded our expectations. The box office numbers show that U.S. audiences have a real hunger for quality foreign films, and as we make the film available across the country we hope arthouse movies lovers as well as fans of the mafia genre will soon discover this extraordinary film."
On Friday, Gomorrah out-grossed all other films at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas in New York including nominees "The Wrestler," "Slumdog Millionaire" and "The Class."
"We are thrilled with the results and the response to the film," said Mark Boxer, IFC VP of Distribution, in a statement. "The film appealed to a wide-range of filmgoers in New York and Los Angeles, along with avid art house patrons in all key age groups."
Including its unjustifiably failed Academy qualifying week back in December, "Gomorrah" has now grossed $113,107 (for more on the film, check out iW's recent interview and exclusive clip, which also includes a "Gomorrah"-themed giveaway contest).
"Gomorrah" will open in additional theatrical markets across the county in the coming weeks and will be available nationwide via movies-on-demand beginning February 18th.
Also debuting to promising numbers was James Gray's "Two Lovers," starring actor-turned-infamous-talk-show-guest Joaquin Phoenix. Magnolia Pictures reported the film grossed about $120,000 on 7 screens for a $17,490 average.
The remainder of the specialty box office consisted primarily of Oscar contenders. Sony Pictures Classics' foreign language duo of "The Class" and "Waltz With Bashir" were once again among the most notable. Laurent Cantet's "Class" added 8 screens and saw its grossed rise 23.5% to $222,637 over the comparative three-day weekend, and took in $283,780 including Monday. Its $8,108 four-day per-theatre-average (on a total of 35 screens) helped bring the film's total gross to an impressive $930,206 going into Oscar weekend. Ari Folman's "Waltz," which seems like the favorite to win the prize, continued to do decent business as well, grossing $165,026 from 46 screens. That gave the animated documentary a $3,588 average and a $1,441,801 total after 8 weekends out.
In its 14th weekend, Danny Boyle's Oscar frontrunner "Slumdog Millionaire" inched closer to the century mark. The Fox Searchlight release grossed another $8,725,000 on 1,634 screens over the four day weekend, and fell just .4% from last weekend despite losing 90 screens when you comparing just the three-day numbers. "Slumdog" is now 88 times a millionaire. Its likely wins in a few major categories should certainly propel that number past 100 within two weeks time.
Other Oscar contenders continued to find less spectacular results. Stephen Daldry's "The Reader" found a bit of momentum, losing just 10% of its gross over the three day weekend despite dropping 120 screens. Its four-day $3,380 average and $19,455,876 total remain merely half-decent, though.
Gus Van Sant's "Milk" also found a bump in its per-theatre-average in the final weekend before the awards, though this is likely due to its 214 screen reduction to just 387. Nonetheless, its $987,118 gross and $2,551 average are commendable considering it's in its 12th weekend. But its $26,652,037 total, while higher than best picture competitors "The Reader" and Ron Howard's struggling "Frost/Nixon," still makes it one of ten lowest grossing best picture nominees of the past decade.
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.