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by Peter Knegt
June 26, 2011 5:17 AM
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Box Office: "Conan O'Brien" Underwhelms; "Paris" Becomes Woody's Top Film Since 1986

Conan O'Brien on the red carpet at the SXSW premiere of "Conan O'Brien Can't Stop." Photo by Eric Kohn.

"Conan O'Brien Can't Stop" couldn't quite connect with audiences this weekend. The very very well reviewed doc hit 24 screens in its debut frame, and the results were somewhat underwhelming.

The film is being released via a unique multi-platform distribution deal between AT&T, Abramorama and Magnolia Home Entertainment. In the deal, AT&T has come onboard as a P&A and multi-platform distribution and marketing partner, while Abramorama is handling theatrical distribution, and Magnolia Home Entertainment has acquired the remaining Video-on-Demand (VOD) and home entertainment rights. According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, the film grossed $104,833, averaging a mild $4,193. By no means disastrous numbers, they also were probably under what the folks behind "Conan" were hoping for. That said, the film could very well end up making up for that on VOD and other home entertainment platforms, which might be better suited to the film's demographic.

Also debuting via Abramorama was John Tuturro's ode to the legacy of Neapolitan music, "Passione." On a sole screen, the film found the best per-theater-average of the weekend, grossing $17,294. Including its Wednesday and Thursday grosses (it debuted mid-week), "Passione" has now taken in $24,615.

Chris Weitz's "A Better Life" also found respectable numbers in a limited debut. On four screens, "Life" managed a $60,000 gross, averaging $15,000. Distributor Summit Entertainment noted that 92% of the audience rated the movie in the "Top 2 boxes" -- "Excellent" or "Very Good" - which perhaps bodes well as the film continues its platform release pattern over the coming weeks (including an expansion into 11 theaters on July 1).

Marshall Curry's Sundance premiering doc "If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front" hit two theaters care of Oscilloscope. A rare behind-the-curtain look at the Earth Liberation Front, the radical environmental group that the FBI calls America's 'number one domestic terrorist threat,' the film grossed $14,100 in its first five days (it opened in New York on June 22nd and Eugene, Oregon on June 23rd), averaging $7,050 (3-day numbers were not made available). Those certainly aren't huge numbers, though of note is the fact that New York's IFC Center sold out the primetime shows Wednesday to Saturday, and the ticket prices in Eugene were $7 and below.

Among holdovers, another Sundance doc - Cindy Meehl's "Buck" - held on very nicely in an aggressive second weekend expansion care of Sundance Selects. The film, which takes on a living legend in the horse world, Buck Brannaman, who was the inspiration for "The Horse Whisperer," went from 4 to 54 screens and grossed $297,000. That made for a $5,500 average and a new total of $395,000, and suggested "Buck" will become one of the few $1 million grossing docs so far this year, and perhaps has breakout potential beyond that. Sundance Selects will expand to over 50 markets for the holiday weekend.

Meanwhile, Woody Allen's "Midnight In Paris" continued its endlessly impressive run, dropping from last weekend's peak screen count of 1,038 (the highest count ever for an Allen film) to 951. Despite the loss of screens, it dropped just 8% in grosses, taking in another $4,480,768. That made for a stellar $4,712 average and a new total of $28,580,358 with plenty more to come. indieWIRE profiled the success of the film a few weeks back, and since has become Allen's highest grossing film since 1986's "Hannah and Her Sisters."

"The thing important to know," Sony Classics' Michael Barker said in the profile, "is that part of our strategy to keep it on the screen as long as possible. We feel it's going to play throughout the summer. We think this is a film that has a very long life in theaters."

Allen's #1 grosser is "Sisters," which took in $40,084,041, followed by 1979's "Manhattan," which took in $39,946,780. At this point its quite possible that "Paris" could surpass both.

Another specialty success story out of Cannes 2011 - Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" - went to its biggest screen count yet this weekend, with distributor Fox Searchlight bringing it from 115 to 215 theaters. As a result, the Palme d'Or winner grossed another $1,360,000, averaging a strong $6,326 and taking its cume to $5,875,264. For a highly divisive and occasionally downright experimental film, that's not too shabby.

Quite shabby, however, is the results coming in from Searchlight's "The Art of Getting By" (formerly "Homework"), which opened on an ambitious 610 screens last weekend and bombed. The Freddie Highmore-Emma Roberts starrer dropped to 307 screens this weekend and lost a crippling 81% of its grosses, taking in just $128,000 for a per-theater-average of $417. To put that in perspective, the 17th weekend of "Rango" averaged a considerably higher $679.

Other holdovers this weekend included Focus Features release of Mike Mills' "Beginners." Expanding from 44 to 72 venues, the romantic drama starring Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer and Melanie Laurent grossed $460,118. That made for a very respectable $6,391 average and a new total of $1,539,192. Focus noted the films impressive 61% increase from Friday to Saturday. Focus will continue to expand the film next weekend, but so far it has a strong holder on its hands.

Michael Winterbottom's "The Trip," also managed a decent expansion. The film, which follows fictionalized versions of actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as they stop at some of the best restaurants and inns in the north of England, expanded from 30 to 39 theaters in its third weekend and grossed $183,000, averaging $4,700. That amounted to strong new total of $558,300.

Things were not so promising for The Weinstein Company's "Submarine." The British coming-of-age comedy dropped from 28 to 26 screens in its fourth weekend, taking in $42,000 for a weak average of $1,615. That's a 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 film's total now stands at $288,839.

Also in its fourth frame 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 dismal $6,400 from 4 screens, averaging just $1,600. Its total now stands at $64,722.

Finally, Sundance Selects continued to find good news with Werner Herzog's "Cave of Forgotten Dreams," which dropped from 119 to 79 screens in its ninth frame but still managed to take in $158,000 and slightly increasing its per-theater-average. The doc, screening in both 2-D and 3-D versions, averaged $2,000 over the weekend. That amounted to a new total of $4,437,000. "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, and the 26th highest grossing documentary of all time. It has also surpassed Herzog's "Grizzly Man" to become his highest grossing documentary ever. indieWIRE profiled the success of the film two weeks ago.

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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8 Comments

  • bob hawk | June 27, 2011 7:05 AMReply

    Extrapolating on JoeS's comments on inflation adjusted dollars: all such lists, whether Woody Allen's top grossers or (as in yesterday's Lost Boy blog) the 25 top grossing documentaries of all time -- everything is relative. Just take a look at the following two lists from Box Office Mojo:

    ALL-TIME TOP DOMESTIC GROSSERS
    1. Avatar/2009 ($760,507,625)
    2. Titanic/1997 ($600,788,188)
    3. The Dark Knight/2008 ($533,345,358)
    4. Star Wars/1977 ($460,998,007)
    5. Shrek 2/2004 ($441,226,247)
    6. E.T./1982 ($435,110,554)
    7. Star Wars: Phantom Menace/1999 ($431,088,301)
    8. Pirates: Dead Man's Chest/2006 ($423,315,812)
    9. Toy Story 3/2010 ($415,004,880)
    10. Spider-Man/2002 ($403,706,375)

    ADJUSTED FOR INFLATION
    1. Gone with the Wind/1939 ($1,588,070,800)
    2. Star Wars/1977 ($1,400,020,000)
    3. The Sound of Music/1965 ($1,119,384,900)
    4. E.T./1982 ($1,114,975,100)
    5. The Ten Commandments/1956 ($1,029,660,000)
    6. Titanic/1977 ($1,008,798,700)
    7. Jaws/1975 ($1,006,699,500)
    8. Doctor Zhivago/1965 ($975,704,700)
    9. The Exorcist/1973 ($869,069,700)
    10. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs/1937 ($856,740,000)

    Interesting to note is that GONE WITH THE WIND, still #1 when adjusted for inflation, has dropped to #113 on the first list, while AVATAR, #1 on the first list is just a tad below the top ten, at #14, on the second list.

    Admittedly, many of the older titles existed before home television, let alone the many different ways you can view a film today. But even with some adjusting for those variables (which I imagine would be impossible to calculate), I'm pretty sure that dollar amounts increase at a much higher rate than the number of butts in theater seats.

    P.S. In the old days, when Variety was a big, fat pulpy publication (that cost around 25¢ when I started reading it at age 14), they always preceded the All-Time Top Grosser list with a caveat re BIRTH OF A NATION -- that records were so poorly kept or non-existent during that era that, even though BIRTH might be the all-time topper in paid admissions, there was no way of verifying that.

  • Carson From Beyond The Grave | June 27, 2011 5:27 AMReply

    The Conan Special is merely that.. a TV Special masquerading as a film. Not sure if its HBO-rated, Comedy Central-rated, or TBS-rated material, but sure it should have been on TV instead. My choice would be to run it every night on NBC after the local news, but that's just me.

  • JoeS | June 26, 2011 12:25 PMReply

    Doh, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS!

  • JoeS | June 26, 2011 12:24 PMReply

    "Allen’s #1 grosser is “Sisters,” which took in $40,084,041, followed by 1979’s “Manhattan,” which took in $39,946,780. At this point its quite possible that “Paris” could surpass both."

    -- In terms of real inflation adjusted dollars, ANNIE HALL and MANHATTEN are actually Woody Allen's most successful films, followed by HANNAH. According to The Numbers (http://www.the-numbers.com/movies/records/inflation.php), HALL's gross would be adjusted to north of $135M with HANNAH at around $75M (MANHATTEN's grosses are just above HALL's - unadjusted).

    So, bottom line - NIGHT FALLS IN PARIS has a looooooooong way to go before being proclaimed Allen's most financially successful film.

  • bob hawk | June 26, 2011 11:50 AMReply

    It's not at all surprising that CONAN's theatrical take was under what might have ordinarily been expected. I'd imagine the film's primary demographic would be especially tuned in to the VOD option, and that factor could have seriously cut into its theatrical launch -- more so than for many other titles. It will be interesting to see what Magnolia's VOD figures turn out to be.

  • Bill | June 26, 2011 9:24 AMReply

    How did Double Take do? I liked it

  • mary | June 26, 2011 6:16 AMReply

    Sorry... here is the opening box office result of "The Names of Love".
    http://www.boxofficemojo.com/weekend/chart/

  • mary | June 26, 2011 6:12 AMReply

    Woody Allen's #1 grosser in US is "Hannah and Her Sisters", which took $40,084,041.
    http://www.boxofficemojo.com/people/chart/?view=Director&id=woodallen.htm

    “The Tree of Life” is doing well for Fox Searchlight, which didn't pay any money to acquire the film's distribution rights.
    http://articles.latimes.com/2011/may/27/entertainment/la-et-word-20110527

    I'm little disappointed with the opening box office result of "The Names Of Love" (which was a surprise box office hit in France). Despite of the strong reviews from NY Times and LA Times, this erotic comedy only opens little better than "Tamara Drewe". Maybe it is because the film couldn't get enough press coverages? (It looks like Music Box didn't send this film's director and cast members to do a press tour in US? If so, it would be a big mistake.)