Three Sundance acquisitions made their way to theaters this weekend, but only two have much to be pleased about.
According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, Andrew Rossi's "Page One: A Year Inside The New York Times," and Cindy Meehl's "Buck" both posted respectable debuts on a handful of screens. Magnolia's "Page One" debuted on two New York screens - the Angelika and the new Elinor Bunim Munroe Film Center at Lincoln Center - and took in $33,000, averaging $16,500. Sundance Selects' "Buck," meanwhile, opened on four screens and grossed $64,400, which amounted to very similar $16,100 average.
The former works as a fly inside the walls of The New York Times, while the latter takes on a living legend in the horse world, Buck Brannaman, who was the inspiration for "The Horse Whisperer." "Buck''s grosses are probably more promising considering its higher screen count and the fact that it did not benefit from the buzz that has surrounded "Page One" ever since its Sundance debut. An average in the $20,000+ range seemed reasonable for "Page One" considering its two theaters were in major venues in the city of its subject. Either way, the film will expand to the New York suburbs Friday and then 40 new markets on July 1st. "Buck" will expand "aggressively" and by July 1st will open in the top 50 markets. Both films could find considerable summer legs, though at this point that seems more likely for "Buck."
Not much hope surrounds the third Sundance alum, however. What could be considered the first victim of the excessive buying spree at the festival, Fox Searchlight's "The Art of Getting By" (formerly "Homework") opened on an ambitious 610 screens and bombed. The Freddie Highmore-Emma Roberts starrer grossed $700,000, averaging just $1,148. That suggests "Art" should exit theaters pretty aggressively in the next few weeks.
Also debuting was Screen Media's "Jig," which opened on five screens in NY, LA, Chicago, Boston and Toronto. For the least high profile of debuts, it performed quite well, taking in $65,000 and averaging $13,000 (NY was the highest grosser at $20,000).
Among holdovers, Woody Allen's "Midnight In Paris" continued its endlessly impressive run, expanding from 944 to 1,038 screens (the highest count ever for an Allen film) and dropping just 10% in grosses from last weekend, taking in another $5,237,400. That made for a stellar $5,046 average and a new total of $21,799,214 with plenty more to come. indieWIRE profiled the success of the film last week, suggesting it could become Allen's highest grossing film since 1986's "Hannah and Her Sisters."
"The thing important to know," Sony Classics Michael Barker said, "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."
Last weekend's top debut, Michael Winterbottom's "The Trip," managed a decent second weekend. 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 six to 30 theaters and grossed $189,000, averaging $6,300. That amounted to strong new total of $302,000.
After three consecutive weekends of having the top per-theater-average, Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" finally fell under the $10,000+ PTA mark as it expanded from 47 to 114 theaters (in 22 new markets). As a result, the Cannes Palme d'Or winner grossed $1,115,000, averaging a strong $9,781 and taking its cume to $3,851,432. On Friday the film is expanding nationally to over 200 screens, and should hopefully continue to give distributor Fox Searchlight much better news than "The Art of Getting By" did this weekend.
Other holdovers this weekend included Focus Features release of Mike Mills' "Beginners." Expanding from 19 to 44 venues, the romantic drama starring Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer and Melanie Laurent grossed $354,698. That made for a very respectable $8,061 average and a new 17 day total of $908,874. Focus noted the films impressive 66% increase from Friday to Saturday and that several markets increased significantly more than that from Friday to Saturday (80-100 percent) including: D.C., Denver, San Jose, Atlanta, Portland, Seattle, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago and in many of the NY and SF expansion houses. Focus will continue to expand the film next weekend, but so far it looks like it has a strong little film on its hands.
Things were not so promising for The Weinstein Company's "Submarine." The British coming-of-age comedy expanded from 17 to 28 theaters in third weekend, taking in $60,007 for a weak average of $2,143. 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 $209,368.
Also in its third 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 $15,000 from 9 screens, averaging just $1,667. Its total now stands at $48,307.
Finally, Sundance Selects label continued to find good news with regard to Werner Herzog's "Cave of Forgotten Dreams," which went from 122 to 119 screens in its eight frame and crossed the $4 million mark in the process. The doc, which is screening in both 2-D and 3-D versions, grossed an estimated $226,100 over the weekend. That amounted to a $1,900 per-theater-average and a new total of $4,126,000. "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. It has also surpassed Herzog's "Grizzly Man" to become his highest grossing documentary ever. indieWIRE profiled the success of the film last week.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org by the end of the day each Monday..