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Box Office: "Better World," "Super" Among Disappointing Field of Openers (UPDATED)

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire April 4, 2011 at 4:15AM

A crowded field of specialty films entered the market this weekend, and the end result seemed to be mostly a lose-lose situation, with holdovers (such as "Win Win" and "Jane Eyre") continuing to rule the market as only 1 of 6 reporting new limited releases receiving a per-theater-average of over $10,000. According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, the promising likes of "In a Better World," "Super," and "Trust" all faltered to varying degrees, while the one screen debut of critical favorite "Le Quattro Volte" was the sole true bright spot. There were also numerous other indie openers that didn't report yet ("Circo," "Rubber"), though early numbers had suggested they were similarly problematic (indieWIRE will update this story once their numbers come in.. and check out a top ten list of the weekend's best reported indie per-theater averages here).
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A crowded field of specialty films entered the market this weekend, and the end result seemed to be mostly a lose-lose situation, with holdovers (such as "Win Win" and "Jane Eyre") continuing to rule the market as only 1 of 6 reporting new limited releases receiving a per-theater-average of over $10,000. According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, the promising likes of "In a Better World," "Super," and "Trust" all faltered to varying degrees, while the one screen debut of critical favorite "Le Quattro Volte" was the sole true bright spot. There were also numerous other indie openers that didn't report yet ("Circo," "Rubber"), though early numbers had suggested they were similarly problematic (indieWIRE will update this story once their numbers come in.. and check out a top ten list of the weekend's best reported indie per-theater averages here).

Academy Award-winning Danish film "In a Better World" was by no means a disaster, taking in some of the better numbers among the debuts. Directed by Susanne Bier, the Sony Pictures Classics release grossed $35,379 for an $8,845 per-theater-average. That was a similar number to Bier's previous foreign-language effort, 2007 Oscar nominated "After The Wedding," which IFC opened to a $9,462 per-theater-average back in 2007. But last year's foreign language Oscar winner, "The Secret in Their Eyes" (which was also released by Sony Classics), debuted on 10 screens last April to a $16,787 average, en route to a fantastic $6,391,436 final gross. "World"'s true test will be as it expands in the coming weeks, which could still definitely see Sony Classics managing good numbers for the film. But an Oscar win almost always guarantees a much bigger debut than this, and it will be an uphill battle from hereonin to meet expectations.

Also disappointing was IFC Films' release of James Gunn's dark superhero comedy "Super." Starring Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler and Kevin Bacon, the film grossed only $52,800 from its 11 opening screens, averaging $4,800. IFC will expand "Super" to the top 25 markets next weekend, and could very well see strong numbers from VOD (those numbers are not yet available), both of which could still make their Toronto International Film Festival pick-up a profitable venture. But so far its theatrical numbers are far from super.

Another Toronto debut, David Schwimmer's Clive Owen-Catherine Keener starrer "Trust," managed even worse numbers, grossing only $60,019 from a 28-screen release. That made for an average of only $2,144 for the film, which is being self-released through producer Millennium Films after distributors failed to bite off its festival screenings.

Zeitgeist Films released Caroline Bottaro's French import "Queen To Play" on six screens. Starring Sandrine Bonnaire and Kevin Kline (in his first French-speaking role), the film managed $32,667, averaging $5,445 along the way. Considering "Queen" was definitely one of the least high-profile films out this weekend, that's a respectable number.

Worst of all the opener was Paladin's bizarrely wide 103-screen release of John Stockwell's "Cat Run," which stars Paz Vega, Janet McTeer and Christopher McDonald. The film managed only $30,000 despite its screen count, averaging a miserable $231.

The weekend's best number, on the other hand, somehow belonged to a dialogue-less Italian fable released exclusively at New York's Film Forum. indieWIRE's critic's pick of the week, Michelangelo Frammartino’s "Le Quattro Volte" grossed a fantastic $18,000 over the weekend, taking its total to $22,722 since opening last Wednesday. Released through the Lorber Films label of Kino Lorber, "Volte" - which debuted in Cannes last year - opens in LA on April 15th, and will expand around the country. It's unlikely to continue to do so strongly outside New York, but it's pleasant to see such great initial numbers for such a unique and unconventional foreign film.

Technically a "new film," of note this weekend was The Weinstein Company's re-cut PG-13 version of "The King's Speech," which was released on 1,007 screens after a family pandering ad campaign. The result didn't seem to make the re-cut appear worthwhile, as "Speech" fell 23% off its R-rated gross last weekend, taking in $1,193,506 for a $1,185 per-theater-average. That is an average on par with the 8th weekend of Adam Sandler-Jennifer Aniston romcom "Just Go With It."

And though not a limited release (this column tends to save wide release results for Thompson on Hollywood), it seemed imperative to note that Bob Berney-run FilmDistrict's first release since forming last fall, horror flick "Insidious," had a very strong debut. On 2,408 screens, the film took in $13,495,510 over the weekend, seeing a nice Saturday increase that's rare for horror films.

"We’re very proud of our first film at FilmDistrict," Berney told indieWIRE.  "Very strong numbers with a nice Saturday increase."

-for information about holdover releases, continue to the next page-

While the weekend's limited debuts seemed to generally struggle, holdovers continued to do quite the opposite. In its third weekend, Tom McCarthy's "Win Win" expanded from 23 to 149 screens and rocketed 153%. The high school wrestling dramedy, which stars Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan and Bobby Cannavale, grossed $1,176,225, averaging a stellar $7,894. The Fox Searchlight film is tracking ahead of McCarthy's previous efforts, 2008's "The Visitor" and 2003's "The Station Agent," and its cume rose to $1,985,305.

In its fourth frame, Cary Fukunaga's adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's "Jane Eyre" expanded from 90 to 180 theaters grossed a very strong $1,237,413. Distributor Focus Features should be quite pleased with the film's $6,875 per-theater-average and its new $3,505,366 total. Heading into further expansion, "Eyre," which stars Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell and Judi Dench, could be heading for the $10 million mark.

Richard Press's "Bill Cunningham New York" slowed down a bit after two extraordinary weekends in very limited release. On 15 screens (up from 3), the doc took in $69,867 (only 7% higher than last weekend). That suggests the Zeitgeist Films release isn't playing quite so well outside of New York, but its $4,658 average and $268,505 cume is still impressive.

In its sophomore frame, Music Box Films' release of Francois Ozon "Potiche" went from 7 to 24 screens. Starring Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu, the 1970s-set French import grossed $116,765, averaging $4,865 and taking its total to $239,660. That's a considerable step up from Ozon last film, "Hideaway" (Le Refuge), which opened last September and ended up totalling $34,525, a number "Potiche" has grossed 8 times over. "Potiche" has a long way to go, though, before topping Ozon best North American numbers. 2003's "Swimming Pool" grossed $10,130,108. Notable, though was that the lower per-theater-average was principally due to the wide release (12 screens) in the relatively lower grossing south Florida market. In San Francisco, where it also opened, the film did fantastic. At the Clay, it was the second best opening weekend in the last 52 weeks. Next week, "Potiche" opens in Boston, Dallas and expands in the NY, LA and SF metro areas.

Julian Schnabel's "Miral," which like "Potiche" made its debut at last year's Venice Film Festival, also made a second weekend expansion. Released by The Weinstein Company, the tepidly reviewed film managed a $74,330 gross from 15 screens. That made for a reasonable $4,955 per-theater-average, though it is a far cry from Schnabel's last narrative release, 2007 "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly." That film ended up grossing $6,003,227, "Miral," which depicts Hind Husseini and her quest to build an orphanage in Jerusalem in the wake of the establishment of Israel in 1948, is unlikely to come close to matching that number during its run.

Robin Hessman's doc "My Perestroika" held on very well in its second frame, taking the second best per-theater-average of the weekend. Distributor International Film Circuit estimated a weekend gross of $14,492 for "Perestroika," a critically acclaimed alum of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. That gave the film a new total of $51,265 - impressive from 10 days on a single screen.

Finally, continuing to do well were two French imports. Expanding from 49 to 55 theaters was Abbas Kiarostami's "Certified Copy," which IFC Films saw good third weekend numbers from. "Copy" - a pick up out of last year's Cannes Film Festival - grossed $165,000, averaging $3,000 and bringing its total to $650,00. Starring Williams Shimell and Juliette Binoche, the film will continue its expansion next weekend.

Xavier Beauvois' "Of Gods and Men," meanwhile, also held on very well. The Sony Pictures Classics' release, which won the Grand Prix at last year's Cannes Film Festival, grossed $261,848 from 98 screens (up from 94 last weekend), averaging $2,672. After 6 weekends, "Men" has made $2,509,504.

For a list of the 10 best per-theater-averages of those reporting indies, click here.

Peter Knegt is indieWIRE Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

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..

This article is related to: Le Quattro volte