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Box Office: Big Weekend For 'Bully' As Unrated Doc Scores 2012's Best Non-Fiction Debut

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire April 1, 2012 at 1:30PM

After weeks of controversy surrounding the MPAA's decision to give the film a 'R' rating -- and the subsequent decision to release it unrated -- The Weinstein Company's "Bully" was released on 5 screens in New York and LA this weekend. According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, the results were quite promising.
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TWC "Bully"

After weeks of controversy surrounding the MPAA's decision to give the film a 'R' rating -- and the subsequent decision to release it unrated -- The Weinstein Company's "Bully" was released on 5 screens in New York and LA this weekend. According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, the results were quite promising.

Here's the rundown for "Bully" and a dozen or so other specialty films in release:

The Debuts:

"Bully" (The Weinstein Company)
Lee Hirsch's doc "Bully" took in a very strong $115,000 this weekend, averaging $23,000. That made it the best documentary debut of 2012 so far (in terms of per-theater-average), and the second best limited debut overall (after the $23,764 "Footnote" averaged four weekends ago).

"We werent sure what to expect," Eric Lomis, President of Distribution at The Weinstein Company, told Indiewire today. "We were certainly hopeful, but you never know what you're gonna get with a documentary.  Whether it's gonna be good, fair, poor numbers... It's hard to call. There's no tracking service. But certainly we got a lot of publicity so we were hopeful. And we're pleased with the numbers so far."

As far as historical comparisons go, two notable unrrated documentaries that went on to find strong final grosses include 2003's "Capturing The Friedmans," which averaged $21,718 from 3 theaters in its debut, en route to a $3,119,113 final gross, and 2005's "The Aristocrats," which averaged a whopping $60,949 from 4 theaters and then went on to take in $6,377,461.

From exit polling, the film was "definitely recommended" by 82% of teenagers that saw the film, which is hopeful as the film expands. The Weinstein Company will broaden the film on April 13th, taking it to 50 markets and 125-150 theaters

"Our goal is to get out there as broad as we can," Lomis said.

"The Island President" (IDP/Samuel Goldwyn)
Another doc debut this weekend, Jon Shenk's take on Maldives' ex-President Mohamed Nasheed and his attempt to  tackle climate change was released on 2 screens care of IDP/Samuel Goldwyn this weekend. The result was a $15,600 gross and a decent $7,800 per-theater-average. Since opening last Wednesday, the film has taken in $19,504.

The film -- which won the audience award for documentaries at last year's Toronto International Film Festival -- is being released following a surge of press after Nasheed was forced to leave office following a coup d'etat by loyalists to his predecessor, dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom For more on that, check out Indiewire's interview with director Shenk here.

"Turn Me On, Dammit" (New Yorker Films)
Also opening on 2 screens was Jannicke Systad Jacobsen's Norwegian import "Turn Me On, Dammit." The film took in $11,515 for a $5,758 per-theater-average.

Check out analysis on a dozen holdover releases on the next page.

"October Baby"

The Holdovers:

"October Baby" (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
One of last week's most notable debuts, Samuel Goldwyn saw Andrew and Jon Erwin's "October Baby" drop considerably in its sophomore frame. The film -- about a college freshman who learns she is the "adopted survivor of an attempted abortion" (so says the film's official description) -- went fro 390 to 387 screens and dropped 54%. That made for a $778,642 gross and a $2,012 average -- still respectable numbers to be sure.  The film has now totalled $3,101,393, which is more than three times its $1 million budget.

Samuel Goldwyn explained that the film "was marketed to the faith audience and a significant group sales effort helped drive the box office." They'll expand the film to new markets on April 13th.

"The Raid: Redemption" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Finding the best per-theater-average of any holdover was Gareth Evans' much-anticipated Indonesian action flick "The Raid: Redemption." Released by Sony Pictures Classics after acclaimed festival screenings at Toronto and Sundance, the film expanded from 14 to 46 screens and jumped 33% in grosses, taking in $284,250 and averaging $6,179. Its total after 10 days now stands at $596,196.

"The Deep Blue Sea" (Music Box Films)
Also in its second weekend, Terence Davies' acclaimed Rachel Weisz-starrer went from 29 to 49 screens care of Music Box Films and found respectable numbers as a result. "The Deep Blue Sea" grossed $167,888, averaging $3,426. Notably, its per-theater average declined only 14%, which was helped by strong openings in San Francisco (7 theaters) and Chicago (3 theaters). The film's total now stands at $341,495.

"Casa de mi Padre" (Lionsgate)
"Hunger Games" distributor Lionsgate dropped Matt Piedmont's Spanish-language comedy -- starring Ferrell, Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna -- from 475 to 439 screens in its third weekend weekend. As a result, the film saw a 49% slip in grosses, taking in $602,000 and averaging a mild $1,371. After 3 weekends, the film has managed a respectable $5,023,599 -- which makes the second highest grossing 2012-released specialty film, after "Friends With Kids." But it also makes it one of the lowest grossing films to feature Will Ferrell in a starring role.

"Jeff Who Lives at Home" (Paramount Vantage)
Also in its third weekend was Mark & Jay Duplass' "Jeff Who Lives at Home," which Paramount Vantage expanded from 254 to 513 screens. Starring Jason Segel and Ed Helms, the film jumped 15% from last weekend, taking in $675,000 for a rather weak $1,316 average. The Duplass brothers' last effort, 2010's "Cyrus," went to 446 screens in its fifth weekend and averaged $2,451. Clearly, interest is much lower for "Jeff,' which has now totalled $2,689,078.

"The Kid With a Bike" (Sundance Selects)
Another brotherly filmmaking duo, Belgium's Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, saw their "Kid With a Bike" expand from 24 to 37 screens in its third weekend care of Sundance Selects. The result was a respctable $148,000 gross, averaging $4,000 (an average down only slightly from last weekend). The 2011 Cannes Film Festival alum has already outgrossed the Dardennes' last film -- 2009's "Lorna's Silence" -- which ended up with a $338,795 North American gross. "Kid" will quickly surpass that as Sundance Selects will expand the film to the top 25 markets next weekend. Its total currently stands at  $361,811.

"Footnote"
"Footnote" (Sony Pictures Classics)
The film that "Bully" nearly beat for  the title of best limited debut of 2012 continued along its way in its fourth weekend. Sony Classics expanded Joseph Cedar's Academy Award nominated Israeli film from 23 to 60 screens this weekend, and saw a 62% jump in grosses. That made for a $4,213 per-theater-average and a $252,767 gross, amounting to a new total of $618,091. The $1 million mark is all but assured at this point.

"Salmon Fishing In Yemen" (CBS Films)
Also doing very well in its fourth weekend was Lasse Hallstrom's "Salmon Fishing In Yemen," which went from 124 to 359 screens this weekend and jumped into the overal top 10. Starring Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor, the film grossed $1,274,000 -- a 81% uptick from last weekend. That gave it a stong $2,638 average and a new total of $3,170,979.

"Friends With Kids" (Roadside Attractions)
In its fourth weekend, Jennifer Westfeldt's romantic comedy "Friends With Kids," dropped from 556 to 306 screens. Starring a large portion of the "Bridesmaids" cast (Jon Hamm, Kristin Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Chris O'Dowd), as well as Adam Scott, Megan Fox, Ed Burns and Westfeldt herself, the film dropped 43% as it took in another $472,500 -- averaging $1,544 (almost on par with last weekend's average). The film has now totalled $6,338,375, making it the highest grossing specialty film released in 2012.

"A Separation" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Asghar Farhadi's Oscar-winning "A Separation" continued to impress beyond expectation in its 14th weekend. Dropping from 261 to 199 screens, the Iranian import grossed another $240,807 -- dropping off just 27% from last weekend. That made for a $1,210 average and a stunning new total of $6,465,749. At this rate, the film should end up with a final gross around $8 million, making it the highest-grossing foreign-language Oscar winner since 2007's "The Lives of Others" (also a Sony Classics release).

"Undefeated" (The Weinstein Company)
Another Oscar winner (and like "Bully," a Weinstein-released doc), best documentary feature "Undefeated" went into its seventh frame this weekend. It dropped from 17 to 16 screens in its seventh weekend and saw a nice 15% jump in grosses. This is one of the first hopeful occurances in the film's rather disappointing box office run.   Taking in $31,563, the high school football doc averaged $1,973. Its total now stands at a unimpressive $424,111.

Peter Knegt is Indiewire's Senior Editor. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

Indiewire 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 studiogrosses@rentrak.com  by the end of the day each Monday.

This article is related to: Box Office, Box Office