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by Peter Knegt
November 2, 2009 2:51 AM
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Box Office: "Devil," "Saints" and "Broncos" In Hallowe'en Opener Battle (UPDATED)

Jocelin Donahue in a scene from Ti West's "The House of the Devil." Image courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

While "Michael Jackson's This Is It" topped off at $101 million worldwide (though this weekend only a somewhat disappointing $21.3 million of that came from North America), three specialty openers attempted to get folks into cinemas in the midst of their Hallowe'en festivities. According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier this afternoon, Ti West's "The House of the Devil," Troy Duffy's "The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day," and Jared Hess's "Gentlemen Broncos" found varying degrees of success.

"Devil," released by Magnolia Pictures's Magnet label, found the highest per-theater-average, grossing $27,000 from 3 screens for $9,000 per. Though "Saints," the sequel to the massive 1999 cult favorite (which exploded on DVD after a nearly non-existent theatrical release), was perhaps the most impressive. The third release from Apparition (after "Bright Star" and "Black Dynamite"), "Saints" opened on 68 screens this weekend and took in a decent $461,614. That gave it a $6,788 average, which considering the competition of both Hallowe'en events, the World Series and films like "This Is It" and "Paranormal Activity," is not at all a bad start.

"Eight years after the first film achieved cult status and extraordinary results on DVD, the sequel delivered the fans to theatres this weekend even with World Series and Halloween competition," Apparition head Bob Berney told indieWIRE. "A viral campaign has fans 'demanding' the film in other cities and we'll expand in more markets on November 13th."

Fox Searchlight has much less to be pleased about with the two-screen debut of "Napoleon Dynamite" director Jared Hess' critically-destroyed "Gentlemen Broncos." Starring Jemaine Clement of "Flight of the Conchords" fame, the film grossed $10,006 from 2 screens for a fair $5,003 average. It's a number that does not bode well for the film's expansion in coming weeks.

Impressively, the best per-theater-average of any film this weekend - indie, studio, Michael Jackson included - came from the fourth weekend of Lone Scherfig's "An Education." Featuring Carey Mulligan's star-making performance, Sony Pictures Classics' "Education" went from 31 to 48 screens as it continued its slow expansion, and grossed $504,831. That resulted in a tiny per-theater-average drop to $10,517 - about $4,000 more than the weekend's top wide release PTA, microbudgeted horror breakout "Paranormal Activity" (which continued to become the box office story of year, taking its total to $84,780,045). "An Education"'s total now stands at $1,575,457.

Other holdovers included the second weekend of Lars von Trier's "Antichrist." IFC Films' release of controversial and gory film took advantage of the Hallowe'en spirit and expanded from 6 to 14 screens, but saw less than spectacular results. Though its difficult to place any financial expectations on a film like "Antichrist" - its unrated and most certainly not for everyone - it's $50,400 gross and $3,600 average this weekend seemed to suggest curiosity in the film is not as high as some expected. Its total stands at $157,606, which on a bright side has already grossed nearly twice that of von Trier's 2006 "Manderlay," and three times 2007's "The Boss of it All, both of which were released by IFC.

Mira Nair's "Amelia" went up 250 theaters this weekend to 1,070. It managed to rise from 11 to 9 in overall box office chart, despite a 23% drop in grosses to $3,000,000. The Fox Searchlight biopic's total stands at $8,306,000, and should end up finishing its run below $20 million, far below its estimated $40 million budget.

Focus is having better luck with the slow and steady expansion of Joel and Ethan Coen's "A Serious Man." The film added another 62 screens to its now 238 screen total and suffered its first drop in grosses, 11% to $970,000. The film - in its fifth weekend - still managed a $4,076 average, and has a total standing at $4,530,000. Impressive considering the Coens themselves were the only real stars of the film, which features an ensemble cast of mostly unknowns. Still, the average Coen brother film has grossed $25,009,055, a number "A Serious Man" might struggle to find without some awards love.

Finally, an under-the-radar doc hit $1 million after chugging along for nearly four months. Aviva Kempner's "Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg" - released by International Film Circuit - grossed $34,694 from 24 screens in its 17th weekend out, taking its total to $1,030,779. "Goldberg" looks at television pioneer Gertrude Berg. She was the creator, principal writer, and star of "The Goldbergs," a popular radio show for 17 years, which became television's very first character-driven domestic sitcom in 1949.

"After four months of traveling around with the film all over America I am thrilled that Berg is no longer 'the most famous woman in America that you've never heard of' thanks to InFC's fine handling of the film", Aviva Kempner said in a statement. "It also proves that docs that appeal to older audiences like The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg can be commercial successes. Never underestimate the interests of senior citizens, even though they pay less for a movie!!!"

The release used a mere 25 prints which moved across the country over the entire summer. The film received a vigorous grassroots outreach campaign and co-promotions with Jewish Film Festivals across the country to reach the target audience without breaking the bank.

"We took advantage of new technology networking without abandoning the tried and true methods that specialty film distributors have always used," said International Film Circuit's President Wendy Lidell in a statement.

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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