Mike Mills' "Beginners" was off to a good start in its first weekend of release. According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, the Focus Features-released romantic drama - starring Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer and Melanie Laurent - is estimated to have taken in $135,190 from 5 screens, averaging $27,038. Those aren't overwhelmingly strong numbers (last summer, Focus's "The Kids Are All Right" averaged $70,282 from 7 theaters in its first frame), but it's still a very nice start for a warmly reviewed film that could have some strong legs in expansion.
"Beginners" found by far the best per-theater-average among opening films, nearly tripling its closest competitor, The Weinstein Company's "Submarine." The British coming-of-age comedy grossed $40,754 from 4 theaters, averaging $10,189. That's a rather disappointing number for the well-reviewed film, which the Weinsteins picked up out of the Toronto International Film Festival last year. Directed by Richard Ayoade, the film stars newcomer Craig Roberts as Oliver Tate, a boy on a mission to save his parents (Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor) from the dissolution of their marriage and to lose his virginity before he turns 16. The Weinstein Company will expand the film next weekend.
Also debuting was another Toronto Film Festival pick-up, Shawn Ku's school shooting drama "Beautiful Boy," which is being released through Anchor Bay Films. The film grossed a weak $16,100 from 4 screens, averaging just $4,025.
Dada Films faired better with Bill Haney's doc "The Last Mountain," which grossed $17,298 form two theaters. That resulted in a respectable $8,649 gross for the film, which depicts a coal mining corporation and a tiny community that are vying for the last great mountain in Appalachia.
Another doc, Lynn Hershman-Leeson's "!Women, Art, Revolution," was released on two screens through Zeitgeist Films. Depicting how the Feminist Art Revolution radically transformed art and culture, the film managed $6,361 for a $3,181 per-theater-average.
Rounding out the very busy list of openers was Jean-Luc Godard himself, who saw his "Film Socialisme" released in the U.S. exclusively at the IFC Center in New York via Lorber Films. The film took in $4,500, and will expand to Chicago, Miami and Seattle in the coming weeks. Godard's last Stateside release, 2004's "Notre musique," grossed $8,210 from a sole screen in its first weekend out (en route to a $139,922 final gross).
Meanwhile, two major stories of the specialty market continued with the second and third weekends of Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" and Woody Allen's "Midnight In Paris." Both alums of the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, the very different films expanded this weekend to generally promising results. After a massive debut in 4 theaters last weekend (distributor Fox Searchlight's best limited debut ever), "Life" expanded to 20 theaters this weekend. The result was $620,772 gross and a $31,039 average (the best of any film in release), taking its 10 day total to $1,252,707. Not bad for a highly divisive film that is 2 ½ hours long, giving it significantly fewer shows than its average competitor ("Midnight in Paris" is only 94 minutes, for example). Expansion beyond the major markets will still be the film's most major roadblock, but for now "Tree" is full of box office life.
Sony Classics' release of "Midnight in Paris," meanwhile, went from 58 to 147 theaters and suggested it's having little trouble expanding into smaller markets. The film grossed $2,916,224, coming in 8th in the overall box office and averaging a glowing $19,838. Its total now stands at $6,942,963, nearly doubling last year's "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger"'s entire gross. The film will hit 750-1,000 on June 10th - more than any other Woody Allen film - and is well on its way to being one of Allen's top grossing films ever.
Finally, Sundance Selects continued to find good news with regard to Werner Herzog's "Cave of Forgotten Dreams," which went from 136 to 123 screens in its sixth frame and crossed the $3 million mark in the process. The doc, which screened in both 2-D and 3-D versions, grossed an estimated $393,600 over the weekend. That amounted to a $3,200 per-theater-average and a new total of $3,295,200. "Dreams" follows an exclusive expedition into the nearly inaccessible Chauvet Cave in France, home to the most ancient visual art known to have been created by man. Sundance Selects picked up the film out of the Toronto Film Festival last fall and has now seen it become by far the highest grossing documentary of 2011. It has also surpassed Herzog's "Grizzly Man" to become his highest grossing documentary ever.
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 email@example.com by the end of the day each Monday..