By Peter Knegt | Indiewire September 25, 2011 at 4:57AM
While "The Lion King 3-D" fended off the likes of Brad Pitt and a dolphin in a heated race for the top grossing studio release, the specialty box office had a clear winner in "Weekend," Andrew Haigh's drama about a gay romance that takes place over the titular timeframe. According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, the Sundance Selects release scored a $25,200 gross from its lone engagement at the IFC Center in New York. Sundance Selects said they're "thrilled" with the opening numbers and will expand through the major markets in the next two weeks.
Beyond "Weekend," numerous other specialty titles made their debuts this weekend. Marc Forster's "Machine Gun Preacher" opened on 4 screens in New York and LA for distributor Relativity Media. The film, which stars Gerard Butler as the founder of the Angels of East Africa rescue organization, took in $44,000 for a very respectable $11,000 per-theater-average. Relativity had acquired North American rights from Lionsgate, which will continue to oversee International distribution for the film. Next Friday, the company will expand the film into 15 new markets including Toronto, Boston, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Phoenix, Seattle, Portland, San Diego and San Francisco.
Also debuting on 4 screens was Millennium Entertainment's release of Adam and Mark Kassen's "Puncture." Starring Chris Evans as a drug-addicted lawyer who takes on a health supply corporation, the film took in $35,714 for a $8,929 average.
On a sole New York City screen, "Limelight" - Billy Corben's documentary on former New York City club owner Peter Gatien - grossed $9,000.
Roadside Attractions released Mark Landsman's doc "Thunder Soul" on 35 screens this weekend. It grossed $55,800 for a $1,594 average. The film follows alumni from Houston's storied Kashmere High School Stage Band who return home after 35 years to play a tribute concert for their beloved band leader who turned the struggling jazz band into a world-class funk powerhouse in the early 1970s.
And after an impressive one-night-only screening last Tuesday on 60 screens across North America (where it took in $280,343), Cameron Crowe's "Pearl Jam Twenty" continued to find good numbers in the 9 screens that held it over for an additional week of release. The film took in $89,514 for a per-theater-average of $9,946. Including Tuesday's numbers the Abramorama-distributed film has grossed a very strong $369,857.
Among holdovers, Gus Van Sant's "Restless" continued its disappointing run. The teenage romance, starring Mia Wasikowska and Henry Hopper, expanded from 5 to 17 screens but only rose 12% in grosses, taking in $17,357 for a weak $1,021 per-theater-average. The Sony Pictures Classics release now stands with a total of $41,338.
Faring a bit better was Lech Majewski's "The Mill & The Cross," which went to 5 screens in its second frame. The film took in an estimated $17,000, averaging $3,400 and taking its total to $39,157. The film is being distributed through Kino Lorber.
Also in its sophomore frame was Cohen Media Group's release of Jean Becker's "My Afternoons With Margueritte," which stars recent newsmaker Gérard Depardieu as an illiterate and lonely man who bonds with an older and well-read woman. The film went from 2 to 29 screens and took in $77,697, averaging $2,679. The film has now grossed $109,397.
Meanwhile, Paladin's release of Webby founder Tiffany Shlain’s documentary “Connected" struggled as it expanded to 7 screens, grossing $7,250 for a $1,036 average. It's now totalled $22,918. The film opens in Los Angeles 9/30, and Seattle on 10/7 before hitting New York on 10/14.
In its third weekend, comedian Kevin Hart continued to find fantastic numbers at the box office with his "Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain," an independently released movie version of his 2011 comedy tour. The film expanded from 230 to 287 screens and grossed another $1,183,683. That's a slight 1% drop from last weekend and made for a $4,124 average and a stellar new total of $5,214,166.
The film was produced for only $750,000 by Jeff Clanagan, chief executive of independent production company Codeblack Entertainment, which distributed the movie domestically in AMC Theaters.
Vera Farmiga's directorial debut "Higher Ground" dropped from 81 to 64 screens in its fifth weekend, grossing $74,132 as a result for distributor Sony Pictures Classics. With a $1,158 average, the film saw its cume climb to $581,353.
In its seventh weekend, Asif Kapadia's acclaimed documentary "Senna" went from 37 to 31 screens for the Producers Distribution Agency and took in another $40,067, averaging $1,292 and taking its total to $1,188,507.
Gilles Paquet-Brenner's aforementioned "Sarah's Key" also continued an impressive run. In its tenth weekend, The Weinstein Company title went from 266 to 151 theaters. As a result, the French-language film starring Kristin Scott Thomas grossed another $131,000 for a per-theater-average of $868. The total for "Key" now stands at $6,581,183. As it nears the end of its theatrical run, the film has truly become a sizable hit for the Weinsteins and the highest-grossing foreign-language films of the year.
Finally, Sony Pictures Classics' release of John Michael McDonagh's "The Guard" passed another milestone. The Irish black comedy starring Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle dropped from 202 to 167 theaters in its ninth frame and took in $276,409 for an average of $1,655. That also put it passed the $4 million mark as it found new total of $4,192,238.
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 email@example.com by the end of the day each Monday..