By Peter Knegt | Indiewire May 10, 2010 at 8:46AM
While "Iron Man 2" dominated the overall box office, kicking off the summer to the tune of $128.1 million, a few specialty films attempted to provide a worthy "Iron" alternative, particularly for those out there taking their mothers to the movies.
Focus Features' went semi-wide with their release of Thomas Balmes' documentary "Babies," which follows four babies from four different continents during the first year of their lives. Obviously trying to capitalize on Mother's Day, the film debuted in 534 theaters, and initial estimates had it grossing $1,575,594. That was enough to just crack the top ten, edging out the third weekend of another wide doc, "Oceans." But Monday morning, Focus Features awoke to some rather staggering news: There estimates had been off nearly $500,000. Mother's Day ended up bringing a whopping 50% of the film's weekend gross - taking in $1,067,704 and rocketing it to the top five films overall that day. No film has ever found a Mother's Day boost this significant.
"Babies" new final weekend gross is $2,157,309, for a $4,040 average. Focus Features' Jack Foley was beside himself regarding the new numbers.
"This is a profound measure confirming the strategy we took worked," he told indieWIRE. "It was so clear how much this was on people's radar and became part of their Mother's Day agenda to see this film. And it really came out of nowhere, without any real big brand."
Foley said the film's trailer was a huge part of this success, calling it a "growth event" in itself.
Another Mother's Day-related debut aiming to cash in on the hoilday is Rodrigo Garcia's "Mother and Child." Released through Sony Pictures Classics, the Annette Bening-Naomi Watts-Kerry Washington omnibus drama grossed $43,040 from 4 screens, averaging $10,760. Last weekend, female-driven audiences helped give Sony Classics a $23,625 PTA for the five-screen debut of Nicole Holofcener's "Please Give." "Mother" managed less than half that. Still, "Mother" had made for the highest per-theater-average this side of "Iron Man 2," and its debut remains one of promise for coming weeks of expansion. It also far outpaced Garcia's last film - 2005's "Nine Lives," also a female-oriented omnibus film - which averaged $4,055 from 7 screens.
As for "Please Give"'s second weekend, Sony Classics has nothing to be disappointed about. Expanding from 5 to 26 screens, "Give" shot up 105%, maintaining a potent $9,275 average as it grossed $241,158. Starring Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Amanda Peet and Rebecca Hall, "Give" is tracking behind the much more aggressive release of Holofcener's 2006 film "Friends With Money," which averaged a very impressive $17,610 on 42 screens in weekend two (en route to grossing $13,368,437). However, "Money" also benefited from the star power of Jennifer Aniston, while "Please Give" is likely achieving its success largely due to strong reviews and Holofcener's growing fan base. Its ten day $403,514 total after 10 days on its screen count bodes well for its continuing roll out.
Another debut this weekend - and one definitely not tied to Mother's Day - was Laura Poitras's doc "The Oath" (which also won an award at Hot Docs this weekend). Released by Zeitgeist Films, the feature - a complex portrait of an Al Qaeda insider and a Guantanamo Bay detainee - debuted exclusively at NYC's IFC Center, taking in a respectable $5,760.
"Oath"'s fellow Sundance doc debut - Alex Gibney's "Casino Jack and the United States of Money" - started out on 9 screens, grossing $28,234 and averaging $3,137.
Perhaps the most impressive non-"Babies" specialty debut this weekend, though, wasn't really a debut at all. Kino International released the newly restored 1927 Fritz Lang silent classic "Metropolis" on two screens - New York's Film Forum and the suburban Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, Long Island, NY - and grossed $19,978. While results in Huntington were simply adequate (just under $2,000), "Metropolis" brought in over $18,000 from Film Forum. That resulted in an $9,989 average, just under "Mother and Child"'s for the third best overall. The film was restored to virtually full length by Germany's F. W. Murnau Stiftung incorporating footage discovered two years ago in a Buenos Aires film archive. This reissue expands to Los Angeles next weekend, and many other major markets in the coming weeks.
"We're now well into our fourth decade at Kino of releasing various incarnations of Metropolis," Kino president Donald Krim said. "From the many young people we observed at Friday night's sold out shows, it looks like Lang's masterwork is casting its spell on yet another generation of moviegoers."
Meanwhile, a few holdovers continued to do good business. The mysterious is-it-a-documentary from the equally mysterious British street artist Banksy "Exit Through The Gift Shop," which this column had been focusing on in previous weeks, expanded from 20 to 31 screens this weekend. The result was a $191,989 gross and a $6,193 average - both good numbers for the film's fourth weekend of release. The DIY-oriented Producers Distribution Agency-released film has now grossed $932,497.
Also in its fourth weekend, Argentine director Juan José Campanella's Oscar winner "The Secret In Their Eyes" continued to do great business, hitting the $1.5 million mark. The Sony Pictures Classics release went from 45 to 81 screens this weekend and grossed $384,191, averaging an excellent $4,734 and topping out at $1,573,019.
Samuel Goldwyn and Destination films released Michael Caine-starrer "Harry Brown" went from 19 to 43 screens in its second weekend of release. A 2009 Toronto Film Festival alum, "Brown" managed to gross $144,548 averaging a respectable $3,362. Samuel Goldwyn will expand the film to 14 new markets next weekend. "Brown"'s total stands at $385,868.
IFC Films expanded the "most disgusting horror film ever," "The Human Centipede," to 18 screens this weekend. The film had numerous sold out midnight screenings and managed to overall take in $37,478 - averaging a fair $2,205 and taking its total to $56,879.
Finally, Music Box Films release of Swedish import "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" continued to be a massive success story. Despite losing 12 screens, the film managed to hold steady at #20 on the overall chart, grossing $411,256 from 187 screens and taking its total to $5,253,002. That makes it the second best specialty release of 2010 behind "The Ghost Writer."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org by the end of the day each Monday..