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by Peter Knegt
August 8, 2011 2:07 AM
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Box Office: "Gun Hill Road," "Bellflower" Top Debuts; "Sarah's Key" Continues To Impress (UPDATED)

Evan Glodell's "Bellflower." Oscilloscope Laboratories.

Two directorial debuts out of Sundance - Rashaad Ernesto Green's "Gun Hill Road" and Evan Glodell's "Bellflower" - led specialty box office debuts this weekend, each taking quite respectable numbers.

According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, "Road" - distributed by Motion Film Group - edged out "Bellflower," taking in $37,800 from 3 screens (Angelika Film Center and AMC Empire 25 in Manhattan and the AMC Bay Plaza Cinemas in the Bronx) for a $12,600 per-theater-average. The film, which follows a man released from prison who comes home to find that his teenage son has come out as a transgender woman, played several sold out shows and the numbers bode well for the film as it expands beyond New York City.

Oscilloscope Laboratories' release of "Bellflower," meanwhile, debuted on two screens in New York and LA and grossed $24,000, averaging $12,000. Oscilloscope noted that the film - an "apocalyptic love story for the 'Mad Max' generation" - sold out multiple shows and has already booked over 200 theaters. It will reportedly grow to over 500 theaters into September. That's an aggressive push for the low-budget indie. How "Bellflower" fares as it expands will be telling, but for now it's off to a good start.

Also opening was Samuel Goldwyn's release of political thriller "The Whistleblower," which stars Rachel Weisz. On seven screens in New York and Los Angeles, the film pulled in $58,100 for a reasonable $8,300 per-theater-average. Samuel Goldwyn said the audiences were primarily 35 years-plus and evenly split male and female. They plan to expand to the top 10 markets on August 12.

Raoul Ruiz's "Mysteries of Lisbon" found very respectable numbers considering its near five-hour running time. On two Manhattan screens (Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center and IFC Center), the film grossed $11,500 for a $5,750 average. Distributor Music Box Films said that it sold out its 90-seat Friday show at Elinor Bunin (with Joel and Ethan Coen reportedly catching the film). This resulted in it moving to the largest auditorium at 150 seats for the balance of the week.

Among holdovers, Gilles Paquet-Brenner's "Sarah's Key" had an excellent third weekend for distributor The Weinstein Company. Expanding from 33 to 64 theaters the French-language film starring Kristin Scott Thomas jumped 45% in grosses to take in $532,409 for a $7,946 average.

That was the best average of any film in release, and took "Sarah's" total to $1,264,417 after just 17 days. The film stars Scott Thomas as a journalist who finds her life becoming entwined with a young girl whose family was torn apart during the notorious Vel' d'Hiv Roundup in 1942. If grosses like this continue, it should end up a sizable late summer hit for the Weinsteins.

Also doing very well was Sony Pictures Classics' release of John Michael McDonagh "The Guard." The Irish black comedy starring Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle expanded from four to 19 theaters in its second frame and shot up 152% in grosses, taking in $193,971 for a potent $10,209 per-theater-average. The film's total now stands at $309,144.

Miranda July's "The Future" also expanded in its second weekend, going from one to 17 theaters. The result was a $85,068 gross and a so-so $5,004 average, taking "The Future"'s total to $129,623. By comparison, the anticipated second feature from July is not finding quite as impressive numbers as her 2005 debut, "Me and You and Everyone We Know." That film grossed $77,006 in its second weekend, but from only five theaters. The next few weeks should be telling as to how much success "The Future" holds.

Holding steady at eight screens in its second weekend was Joe Cornish's acclaimed British science fiction horror film "Attack The Block." The film, which follows a street gang which have to defend themselves from rowdy alien invaders, dropped 44% as it took in another $78,000, averaging $9,750. The film premiered at SXSW earlier this year and is being released through Screen Gems. Buzz going into the release was high, so perhaps it will pick up steam as it expands. So far, the film's total stands at $296,090.

Lionsgate found respectable numbers from the second weekend of Lee Tamahori's "The Devil's Double," which went from five to 33 screens and managed a $198,000 gross, averaging $6,000. The film's total now stands at $341,715.

"El Bulli: Cooking in Progress," released via Kino Lorber Alive Mind Cinema label, saw a strong second weekend hold at New York's Film Forum. It grossed an estimated $12,150 over its second weekend, dropping just 5%. The film's total now stands at $44,173. It will expand to select cities nationwide in the coming months.

Not doing so well was Kevin Macdonald's "Life in a Day." A documentary shot by filmmakers all over the world on the 24th of July 2010, the film expanded from 11 to 19 screens in its second frame and grossed just $35,441. That made for a weak average of $1,865 and a new total of $151,833 for distributor National Geographic.

Meanwhile, Mike Cahill's "Another Earth" expanded from 20 to 55 screens via distributor Fox Searchlight in its third weekend. This weekend, the film took in a $165,000 gross, averaging a mild $3,000 per theater for a new total of $447,221. The film was written by Cahill and Brit Marling, who is also the film's star and generally regarded as one of 2011's indie breakouts.

Also in its third weekend was David Robert Mitchell's "The Myth of the American Sleepover," which Sundance Selects expanded from two to three screens. The result was a $9,000 gross for the film, which follows four young people as they navigate the suburban wonderland of metro-Detroit on the last weekend of summer. That amounted to a $3,000 average and a new total of just $33,000 after 17 days.

Sundance Selects saw Errol Morris' "Tabloid' drop from 37 to 27 theaters in its fourth weekend. After considerable success stories from "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" and "Buck," the distributor seems to be having less luck with "Tabloid," though the film is still taking in quite respectable numbers. "Tabloid," which follows Joyce McKinney, the colorful Midwestern woman convicted of kidnapping her Mormon ex-lover in the U.K. in the late 1970s, grossed $45,900 this weekend, averaging $1,700. The film's total now stands at $479,000. While it's unlikely to hit "Buck" or "Cave"-style numbers, it should end up with a respectable final gross.

Speaking of "Buck" and "Cave of Forgotten Dreams," both films continued to find an audience in their 8th and 15th weekends, respectively. Cindy Meehl's "Buck" went from 113 to 130 screens and managed a strong $108,000 gross. The film, which takes on a living legend in the horse world, Buck Brannaman (inspiration for "The Horse Whisperer"), averaged $1,600 and found a new total gross of $3,326,653.

Werner Herzog's "Cave of Forgotten Dreams," meanwhile, took in $40,600 from 29 screens. The fact that the film can still manage a $1,000 per-theater-average in its 15th weekend of release ($1,400, to be exact) is a testament to how strong the film's holding power has been. The film's total now stands at $5,170,364.

Fox Searchlight's release of Wayne Wang's "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" aggressively went to 116 screens (from 91) in its fourth frame. As a result, the film took in $170,000 for a $1,466 average. Searchlight noted that the film "is appealing to an older audience." Either way, the film's new total stands at $1,007,539.

In its fifth weekend, Michael Rapaport's doc "Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest" went from 43 to 38 screens and held on to a decent gross. "Beats" took in $79,541 for a reasonable $2,093 average. That took "Beats," which documents the inner workings and behind the scenes drama of the Queens hip-hop collective A Tribe Called Quest, to a strong new total of $943,350. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.

Focus Features release of Mike Mills' "Beginners" dropped from 147 to 126 screens in its 10th weekend of release. The romantic drama, starring Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer and Melanie Laurent, grossed another $177,462 for a $1,408 average, bringing the total to an impressive $5,338,381.

Michael Winterbottom's "The Trip" went from 56 to 62 theaters in its ninth weekend. The film grossed another $136,400, averaging $2,200 and bringing its total to a very healthy $1,610,028 for IFC Films. That's quite the upgrade from the $217,277 Winterbottom's "The Killer Inside Me" took in last year for IFC. It also puts the film in line to match the $2,388,804 IFC scored with British comedy "In The Loop" two years ago.

Finally, Woody Allen's "Midnight In Paris" continued its momentous run, dropping from 471 to 399 theaters in its 12th weekend but losing just 14% of its grosses. Taking in $991,608, Allen's 42nd feature averaged a strong $2,485 and took its total to a stunning $48,496,282. The $50 million mark is all but assured for the Sony Classics release by the end of next weekend or so.

Peter Knegt is indieWIRE's Associate 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..

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12 Comments

  • dee | August 12, 2011 12:11 PMReply

    Pre-order your tickets to see Gun Hill Road here: http://bit.ly/GHRTickets_LA

  • Dana Harris | August 9, 2011 9:41 AMReply

    Hi, Colored. We really want to report on all indie films. And we're putting a lot of energy into expanding our BO reporting because we know readers want it. But when you cover the waterfront as we dowe wind up being incomplete. We're trying to correct this in a number of ways; a simple fix we're starting next week is adding a note at the end of the Sunday BO piece in which we list those companies and opening films that didn't report. That way, at least the readers have as much information as we do.

    Which reminds me: I owe Ava DuVernay a call.

    Keepin on,

    dh

  • Colored | August 9, 2011 8:12 AMReply

    Thanks to the editors for the response on GHR. But you ignored the past examples of black film box office oversights which has been a longtime problem with your site.There have been some nice box office receipts for independently distributed movies from Codeblack Entertainment, the largest distributor of AA film, that have never made it onto these reports. Yes their films suck but so what. They are independent and should be reported on a site that calls itself Indiewire. Mid week corrections or additions or what have you weren't made. I remember seeing a MOozlum post after weeks and weeks and weeks of their success with no real anaylsis. That sucked. Those people did a great thing. Or I Will Follow which never had so much as a review in let alone box office analysis after a big weekend by AFFIRM. If it wasn't for the blogs like ShadowandAct and the women's blog and Hope for Film, that movie would havent have had any love on this site and that sucks. I don't think you are bad people. Just bad reporters who are stuck in old ways that I think you are trying to break and I really hope you keep on keepin on.

  • calm down...seriously | August 8, 2011 7:44 AMReply

    "It will reportedly grow to over 500 theaters into September. That’s an aggressive push for the low-budget indie. How “Bellflower” fares as it expands will be telling, but for now it’s off to a good start."

    OK - maybe the author could have been a little more skeptical in his phrasing but it doesn't at all sound to me like he was fully endorsing Oscilloscope's dream prediction.

    Also, Bellflower was made for $17,000. Any gross over that is great. I think you guys are expecting way too much out of an indieWIRE box office report. If it's painful to read then don't read it. Trust me, most exhibitors don't, so it really doesn't have any impact on bookings.

    If you just want hard numbers than read Rentrak or Box Office Mojo and make your own predictions. A "respectable" average is different for every film and everything from advertising costs, venues, and exhibition formats all factor in to that.

    If you want to talk hard numbers need I remind you that Gun Hill Road opened up at 2 AMC Empires. Do you have any idea what the nut on those theaters is? Do you think indieWIRE needs to take that into account? Or the ad budgets for the film? I saw some pretty big ones for Gun Hill Road. In fact, after all of that I would bet Bellflower is far more successful in terms of costs vs. gross than Gun Hill Road. Sorry haters...

  • Peter Knegt | August 8, 2011 7:38 AMReply

    There are a ridiculous amount of factors in determining what seems like a great, good, mild, respectable, weak, poor, etc performance at the indie box office: Expectation, the film's advertising budget, how many screens it's on, who it's distributor is... And it is obviously somewhat objective. There is no official rule book on any of this, so clearly sometimes people are going to disagree regarding what is - or isn't - a good showing.

    More over, this article is written on a Sunday morning when only a limited amount of information is available (simply the estimates for the weekend gross and average) and on a considerable time restraint (we get the numbers around 11am EST, and the story is up and alerted between 12:30 and 1). As noted in @DanaHarris' comment, these articles are intended to get the information out as fast as possible, and with as much analysis as possible under those limitations. We additionally report final numbers on Tuesday afternoons, which will soon be accompanied by a supplementary article that can give more depth to the analysis because more information is available.

    Specifically to respond to some of the comments:

    @Movie Fan: Beats, Rhymes & Life is reasonable because it's been around for many more weeks than Another Earth (with each week expectations get lower) and is a much different entity with much less pressure for high performance placed on it. It's a documentary about a Tribe Called Quest. A $1 million final gross would be fantastic for it (which it will surpass within the next week). Another Earth, however, had considerably more buzz and expectation attached to it and a higher advertising budget. A $1 million final gross would be seen as a disappointment.

    @Just Wondering: Bellflower's gross is by no means amazing, but considering its budget and distributor, this is a good start, as noted. We did not have the specific #s you note when this article was written, nor did we have the time for the extensive analysis suggested with regard to its aggressive expansion plans. If the film indeed hits 500 screens (which was what the film's publicist suggested Sunday but may or may not end up being the case), we will definitely cover this rather rare - but not unheard of - strategy in columns to come.

    @Colored @bryan: Gun Hill Road's numbers were not available initially, and this oversight absolutely had nothing to do with racism! We are fans of GHR at indieWIRE and we added them as soon as we got them.

  • Movie Fan | August 8, 2011 7:10 AMReply

    To take Just Wondering's comments a step further, it seems like Indiewire has virtually no clue on a weekly basis about what truly constitutes respectable per screen averages, nor do they take into account any regional or site by site breakdowns that further skew the true performance of a picture and serve as better indicators of how it might expand. Using Bellflower as a case in point, one might infer from extracting only the underwhelming NYC 9k gross that it clearly underperformed for a film that received a rave NY TImes review and had all the makings of a natural downtown NYC cult film booking, which in turn will logically translate out to lousy expansion numbers and nowhere near a 500 print run. Their lack of really objective and sound metrics is also evident when they suggest that Another Earth's 3k per screen average on 55 screens is "mild," but a 2k per screen average for Beats, Rhymes and Life on 38 screens is reasonable. Really? Hmmm. Explain that one to me please. Frankly, if you ask any reasonable exhibitor or distributor, they'd both say these results are downright disappointing, and if you extracted out the top 5 - 10 locations by weekend gross, you'd be left with a majority of theatres doing less than 1k per screen for the weekend, which is a joke. Indiewire should probe a few layers deeper if and whenever possible before making their misleading deductions.

  • Just Wondering.... | August 8, 2011 6:29 AMReply

    Indiewire writers and editors, how often does a film go from a 2 theater per screen average of 12k to 500 screens several weeks later like you say Bellflower will do? I'd bet almost none. That seems like irresponsible regurgitation of a distributors rhetoric instead of doing the necessary research needed to more accurately describe the prospects of a films box office potential and reach. Further, taking a look at the films grossing pattern throughout the weekend seems to be completely neglected in these box office recaps. Bellflower went down 4k from Fridays gross to Sundays gross in LA suggesting that either word of mouth is bad or more likely that there were friends and family front loading the box office on Friday. I hate to use what I'm sure is a fine film as an example here, but it just illustrates how often these articles get it so wrong. If you're going to editorialize what you deem is successful and what isn't you should have your facts straight first. It's painful to read this stuff week in and week out.

  • Dana Harris | August 7, 2011 9:08 AMReply

    @ Colored, @bryan -- We've emailed Motion Film Group requesting their numbers. And @calm down is correct -- we report all the numbers we receive. And we make it clear how we can receive those numbers; it's in the boilerplate at the bottom of every Sunday's article.

    One of the challenges in reporting indie BO is that there are so many films distributed by companies that operate on shoestrings; gathering the information isn't automated for them and in turn, it isn't for us. It's not unusual for some companies to report their prior week's numbers by the following Tuesday, Wednesday or even Thursday. By comparison, collecting studio numbers is cake (baked and delivered by Rentrak).

    Meanwhile, we're faced with the challenge of getting the article out in a timely fashion (Sunday, by 1pm ET if not before) vs. getting an article out that's complete with numbers and analysis. We want to achieve all of the above and some weeks it's not possible.

    That's why we're expanding our box office coverage throughout the week, when we have more information and time to consider the facts. As the passion demonstrated by these comments suggests, there seems to be enough interest to support the additional articles.

    Finally: we don't purposely ignore any indie film, much less "Gun Hill Road." We've written about the film's acquisition, the star, the director, reviewed it and our own Bryce Renninger headed the selection committee for New Fest, where it was the closing night film. (Details: http://www.indiewire.com/search/?q=Gun+Hill+Road)

  • calm down | August 7, 2011 8:39 AMReply

    @bryan @Colored I believe the indieWIRE editors have stated several times that distributors need to report estimates in a timely fashion. Did Motion Film Group report? I'm guessing not. See they need to do their job, so indieWIRE can do theirs.

  • bryan | August 7, 2011 7:51 AMReply

    It is incredibly disappointing that you're a go to news site for the indie film scene and don't get your facts right. Present estimates have GUN HILL ROAD averaging more per screen than Bellflower. Those numbers have been available for view for quite some time. At minimum you should immediately change the article and picture the film GUN HILL ROAD.

  • Colored | August 7, 2011 6:37 AMReply

    what about gun hill road? why did you take two weeks to report on the success of moozlum? why when i will follow opened at $12000 opening weekend same as the beloved bellflower you didnt report it? do you report or just gather numbers from a machine? do you only report only friends of indiewire? do you purposely ignore black films? gun hill road sold out several shows in new york this weekend and it is not here.

  • Jeff | August 7, 2011 6:07 AMReply

    The Whistleblower $58,100, is that good?