By Peter Knegt | Indiewire October 26, 2009 at 1:0AM
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 email@example.com by the end of the day each Monday.