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by Peter Knegt
October 26, 2009 1:00 AM
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Box Office: "Antichrist" Scares Up Mild Numbers; "Amelia" Doesn't Quite Crash

A scene from Lars von Trier's "Antichrist." Image courtesy of IFC Films.

Lars von Trier's "Antichrist" finally got a chance to disturb the American moviegoing audience this weekend, and while it managed consistent sell-outs in New York City (where it had taken in a fantastic $26,000 from one screen by Saturday night), its overall six-market debut fell somewhat below expectations. According to estimates provided by Rentrak today, the IFC Films release - starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as a disturbed couple (to put it mildly) working out some issues at a cabin in the woods - grossed $73,500 from its six screens, averaging $12,500. For a challenging and foreign-made film that's certainly not for everyone, that's not a bad number. However, ever since its Cannes debut this past May, the film has been the source of considerable debate and discussion, and one might have figured there would be more curiosity in its U.S. theatrical release.

As far as von Trier's box office history is concerned, "Antichrist" nearly doubled the per-theater-average of 2006's "Manderlay" (which averaged $7,558 from 2 theaters), and additionally topped 2004's "Dogville" and its $9,872 PTA. But the film fell far short of von Trier's biggest grosser - 2000's "Dancer In The Dark" - which averaged $30,537 from 3 screens en route to a $4.2 million cume.

IFC will expand the movie to the top ten markets for Hallowe'en weekend.

One of the reasons "Antichrist" might have fallen a bit softer than expected was the mass amount of competition from Hallowe'en spirit-seeking films in wide release (though obviously these films are on a completely different level, and perhaps even suggesting any involvement in "Hallowe'en spirit" and "Antichrist"'s performance is unjustified), from "Saw VI" and "The Stepfather," to "Paranormal Activity," which finally hit #1 this weekend. Oren Peil's micro-budgeted "Activity" added 1,185 screens this weekend (taking its total to 1,945) and saw its grosses raise 12%, taking in $22,000,000. That brings the $15,000 budgeted film's total to $62,477,000 with Hallowe'en weekend still ahead.

Non-"Antichrist" specialty openers this weekend included Fox Searchlight's semi-wide release of Mira Nair's $40 million budgeted "Amelia." The film managed a decent $4,025,000 - decent especially considering its mediocre reviews - averaging $4,921. That still shouldn't help bring the film anywhere near recouping its budget, especially since awards and critics don't look they are going to be on "Amelia"'s side.

Also opening was Katherine Dieckmann's Uma Thurman starring "Motherhood," released through Freestyle Releasing. On 48 screens, the film managed only $57,700, tanking with a $1,202 average.

News was much more hopeful in holdover-land. October's biggest shots at Oscar - Focus Features' "A Serious Man" and Sony Pictures Classics' "An Education" - both found places in the overall top 20. In its fourth weekend, "Man," directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, grossed $1,129,000 from 176 screens, averaging a strong $6,415 and taking its cume to $3,232,000. More impressive was Lone Scherfig's "An Education," which went from 19 to 31 screens and actually saw its average rise - going from $12,882 to $13,161, topping "Antichrist" as the top film in limited release. This helped take the film's total to $981,000 after three weekends, and should bode quite very well for "An Education"'s future.

Finally, last week's top debut, Sebastián Silva’s Chilean import "The Maid" went from 1 to 6 screens and managed to hold on to a decent $7,350 average. The Elephant Eye release's total is now $70,200 after 10 days.

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

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4 Comments

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  • galaxiefilm | October 26, 2009 8:35 AMReply

    There's an interesting story here that no one's talking about--at least, not that I've seen.

    I live in the Los Angeles area, and I must tell that, to my surprise, there has been absolutely NO display advertising in any of the newspapers here for what was the #1 film this weekend--PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. While the title was certainly listed in the theater chains' grid-ads, any actual artwork or display advertising for the film was non-existent--not in the LA TIMES and not in the LA WEEKLY.

    This represents a major shift in where distributors believe the advertising funds should go. While the Internet has certainly been a major factor in building this picture's buzz , the ad spend appears to have been mainly for cable television spots on MTV and some, I've noticed, on SyFy.

    It's pretty amazing to see a film go to #1 with no newspaper advertising at all, and that warrants attention--whether you like the film or not. (I honestly haven't caught it yet but intend to).

    It would be helpful to hear from people in other communities to know if newspaper display advertising was visible in their areas or if it was absent.

    While we know the film has this incredible buzz, what's happened here is rather historical from a marketing viewpoint.

  • filmhawk | October 26, 2009 6:01 AMReply

    I think the $12,500 PTA is amazing -- not "mild." Assuming that most of the potential audience for ANTICHRIST would read reviews/articles and thus be cognizant of its content -- well, I think a lot of people are not going to want to subject themselves to what is a brutalizing experience. I think I can sit through just about anything (I found Noe's IRREVERSIBLE to be a deeply disturbing but profoundly indelible experience that I'm still chewing on), but ANTICHRIST, for which I admire certain cinematic elements, was just about the bleakest downer imaginable (along with a few unintentional -- or unwanted? -- laughs). Of course, I was going to see it no matter what, but I think many will opt out on this one. I doubt that it will break a mill.

  • tim13 | October 25, 2009 9:44 AMReply

    Well...It's a great movie. Somewhere between Shelly Duvall's Fairy Tale Theater, Saw, and Hieronymus Bosch. I think this critique (http://timjacksonweb.com/?p=287) helps cut through (pardon the pun) accusations of Von Trier's exploitation and gives the film an interesting perspective. Von Trier and Hawthorne, hmmm...