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Box Office: "Cyrus" Soars To Summer Highs As Marketplace Heats Up

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire June 20, 2010 at 4:41AM

It looks like summer 2010 might have its first full-on specialty film breakout (it also seems to have quite the studio blockbuster in "Toy Story 3"). According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier this afternoon, Fox Searchlight release "Cyrus" soared to a $180,289 gross from just 4 theaters. That gave it a $45,072 average - just a few hundred dollars less than 2010's current per-theater-average record holder, Roman Polanski's "The Ghost Writer" (which averaged $45,752 from 4 theaters back in February).
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It looks like summer 2010 might have its first full-on specialty film breakout (it also seems to have quite the studio blockbuster in "Toy Story 3"). According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier this afternoon, Fox Searchlight release "Cyrus" soared to a $180,289 gross from just 4 theaters. That gave it a $45,072 average - just a few hundred dollars less than 2010's current per-theater-average record holder, Roman Polanski's "The Ghost Writer" (which averaged $45,752 from 4 theaters back in February).

"Cyrus" is a largely improvised dark comedy that follows John (John C. Reilly), a down-on-his luck film editor whose life takes a significant and strange turn when he becomes romantically involved with Molly (Marisa Tomei), a woman with an unusually close bond with her 21-year old son Cyrus (Jonah Hill). It marks a significant expansion into the mainstream for brothers Mark and Jay Duplass, whose previously work included ultra low budget films "The Puffy Chair" and "Baghead."

"Were thrilled to have made this films with the Duplass Brothers," Stephen Gilula, Co-President of Fox Searchlight, told indieWIRE this afternoon. "To give them a platform to bring their aesthetics and vision to the broader world is very exciting. It's very gratifying for us at Fox Searchlight to take new or rising talet and give them the opportunity to expand their horizons."

Gilula said the film played exceptionally across the board, with the Arclight Hollywood in Los Angeles the film's standout engagement. The audience skewed slightly more male than female (though not by much), and was generally made up of folks aged 30+. "Cyrus" will expand to six new markets next Friday - Boston, Chicago, Austin, San Francisco, Toronto and Washington, D.C. - and Gilula said the goal is to have the film at 300-400 theaters by its fifth week. Though Searchlight is prepared to go wider than that if the momentum and audience response dictates it. So far, these numbers (and a healthy 34% Friday to Saturday increase) suggest that could very well be the case.

Fox Searchlight is no stranger to summer indie breakouts. Last year, it had the season's major specialty winner in "(500) Days of Summer," which debuted to a $30,907 average on 27 theaters and finished off with a $32,391,374 gross.

Other openers included Luca Guadagnino's critical darling "I Am Love," which debuted on 8 screens for Magnolia Pictures. The film - which richly details the refined world of a wealthy Italian family (led by Tilda Swinton, who learned to speak Italian for the role) - grossed a lovely $125,000, giving it a $15,625 average. That also allowed it to nearly double the entire gross of last year's criminally underseen Tilda Swinton-via-Magnolia Pictures entry, "Julia," which earned only $65,108.

Not fairing quite as well as Red Flag Releasing's debut of Prop 8 doc "8: The Mormon Proposition." On a relatively broad 16 screens, the film - directed by Reed Cowan and narrated by Dustin Lance Black - grossed $48,181, averaging a fair $3,011. Upstart company Red Flag's first release, the film had additionally been released on VOD this weekend, where its numbers have not been yet made available.

IFC Films saw two debuts this weekend. Michael Winterbottom's "The Killer Inside Me" - the controversially violent film that stars Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson, and revolves around a small town Texas sheriff and a series of murders - grossed a decent $12,000 from its sole engagement at New York's IFC Center. Agnès Jaoui's French import "Let It Rain," meanwhile, opened on two screens, averaging $8,000 for a $16,000 combined gross.

Last weekend's top debut, Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg's doc "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" (also an IFC Films release), went from 7 to 29 screens in its second frame. That allowed it to find a $229,100 gross - averaging $7,900 and taking its total to $475,100. Certain to hit the rare-for-a-documentary-these-days $1 million mark in the next week or two, IFC Films plans to expand the doc - which chronicles the private dramas of iconic comedian Joan Rivers - to 50 markets by July 4th weekend.

"Joan"'s big competition last weekend, Debra Granik's Sundance prize winner "Winter's Bone," also had much to celebrate in its sophomore weekend. The film - which follows a young woman living in the Ozark Mountains - went from 4 to 38 screens, grossing $338,800 and averaging a very strong $8,910. What makes that average particularly notable is that distributor Roadside Attractions took a serious chance by - in addition to expansions to other major markets - opening "Bone" in a bunch of markets near where the film takes place: St. Louis, Louisville, Kansas City, Springfield, MO and Fayetteville, AR. That risked a considerable drop of per-theater-averages, but Roadside was happy to report that didn't end up becoming the case. Its screening in Overland Park, Kansas, for example, was the #2 theater out of their 38.

"From our very first discussions with Debra and her team in Sundance, it’s always been a top priority for them to get 'Winter’s Bone' to the people of Missouri and other spots in the Midwest as quickly as possible," Dustin Smith, Head of Acquisitions and Business Affairs at Roadside Attractions told indieWIRE earlier today. "And although none of us really knew how the numbers would shake out, it seems to have paid off. Besides having good openings in traditional art house markets like San Francisco, Boston and Philadelphia this weekend, we also saw excellent numbers from places like St. Louis, Louisville, Springfield, Missouri and Overland Park, Kansas.”

"Bone"'s total now stands at $461,812 as it continues to expand in the coming weeks.

Other holdovers included Alejandro Amenabar's "Agora" - released by Newmarket Films - went from 5 to 7 screens this weekend in its continued, slow expansion. The result was a $21,049 haul and a $3,007 average (roughly half of what it averaged last weekend). That brought the Rachel Weisz-starring historical epic a four week total of $171,583.

More impressive was the fifth weekend of Brian Koppelman and David Levien's "Solitary Man," which went from 53 to 107 screens and grossed a fantastic $420,000. That gave the film - which stars Michael Douglas, Susan Sarandon, Danny deVito, Mary-Louise Parker and Jesse Eisenberg - a great $3,925 average and brought it past the $1 million mark with a new total of $1,418,066. That made it distributor Anchor Bay's second million dollar grosser ever (its first - "City Island" - hit $5,933,790 this weekend).

Three Sony Pictures Classics films also continued their expansions this weekend. Jan Kounen's "Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky" went from 3 to 12 screens in its second frame, managing a respectable $72,999 gross - averaging $6,083 and taking its cume to $247,405. Jean-Pierre Jeunet's "Micmacs," meanwhile, went to 37 U.S. locations (up from 23), and found a $79,946 gross and a $2,161 average. In Canada, where the film was released by Entertainment One, the film dropped from 23 to 14 screens, and performed weaker. It grossed $23,229 and averaged only $1,659. In total, "Micmacs" grossed $103,175, averaging $2,203 and taking its North American gross total to $576,576 after four weekends. The film will struggle to come anywhere close to Jeunet recent efforts "Amelie" and "A Very Long Engagement," which found North American totals of $33,225,499 and $6,524,389, respectively (though SPC did pay only $1 million to distribute "Micmacs").

Finally, SPC got aggressive with its eight-week-old "Please Give" this weekend. Nicole Holofcener's film - which stars Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Amanda Peet and Rebecca Hall - went from 103 to 272 screen and found a 83% increase in grosses, taking in a sizeable $520,729 and averaging $1,914. The film's total now stands at $2,703,269 - and it should soon easily become one of 2010's top ten specialty grossers.

Peter Knegt is indieWIRE's 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..

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