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by Peter Knegt
April 26, 2010 1:00 AM
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Box Office: Banksy & "Secret" Lead Weekend; Openers Struggle (UPDATED)

A scene from "Exit Through The Gift Shop."

Mirroring an unspectacular weekend for openers on the studio front, this weekend was all about the holdovers. According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier this afternoon, sophomore films "Exit Through The Gift Shop" and "The Secret In Their Eyes" dominated the specialty market, while only three non-Hollywood even reported numbers - Kim Ji-woon’s “The Good, The Bad, The Weird," Michele Mulroney & Kieran Mulroney's "Paper Man," and Allen Wolf's "In My Sleep."

"Sleep" - a thriller about a man with a rare sleep disorder which makes him do things in his sleep which he cannot remember the next day - actually found the highest per-theater average of the trio, grabbing $9,285 from its exclusive LA screen. That was more than double what "Weird" found on its sole NYC screen. Released through IFC Films, Korean Western "Weird" (the critic's pick of the weekend) managed a fair $4,700 this weekend.

Both films topped the per-theater-average of the inarguably more star-powered superhero-as-imaginary-friend “Paper Man," which stars Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Daniels. Released through MPI Media and Vitagraph Films, "Man" grossed only $8,613 from its 3 screens, averaging a weak $2,871.

The weekend's big news was really last weekend's big news: "Exit Through The Gift Shop," the mysterious is-it-a-documentary from the equally mysterious British street artist Banksy, and Argentine director Juan José Campanella's Oscar winner "The Secret In Their Eyes" both continued suggestions that they were turning into Spring specialty success stories.

"Gift Shop," which debuted to raves after a secret screening in Sundance earlier this year, went from 8 to 11 screens this weekend (expanding to Boston, Philadelphia and Seattle, each with exclusive engagements) and saw its per-theater-average drop a reasonable 40%. Grossing $149,000, the film averaged $13,545, which still gave it the top per-theater-average among any film this weekend - Hollywood or indie.

For a film being released through a uniquely upstart DIY distributor, and for one with little traditional means of marketing, these continue to be impressive numbers. As noted in last weekend's box office story, for "Gift Shop," Cinetic Media's John Sloss - who represented rights to the film at Sundance (and then Berlin) - co-founded a distribution entity called the Producers Distribution Agency with his Cinetic partner Bart Walker. With a team including Richard Abramowitz, Donna Daniels and Marc Schiller, the company decided that despite offers coming in the wake of "Exit"'s acclaimed screenings in Sundance and Berlin, it was a highly unlikely project for a traditional distributor. Sloss explained to indieWIRE that this was due to the fact that not only is Banksy very controlling, but you can't talk to him (Sloss himself never expects to meet the elusive man).

After 10 days, "Gift Shop"'s total stands at $391,671 as it continues plans for expansion.

Expanding more aggressively than "Gift Shop" was "The Secret In Their Eyes," Juan José Campanella's film that surprised many by taking the best foreign language film Oscar over "The White Ribbon" and "A Prophet" (oddly enough, all three films are being released through Sony Pictures Classics). "Eyes" went from 10 to 33 screens this weekend and grossed a potent $372,000, a 121% increase from last weekend. That made for $11,273 average, and brought the film's total to $605,000. That puts the film ahead of "A Prophet"'s February debut, which averaged $7,417 from 30 screens in its second weekend. That film's total stands at $1,905,000 after 9 weeks, a number that it would not be surprising if "Secret" topped.

The film that actually ended up topping all per-theater-averages last weekend did not fare as well in it second frame: James Ivory's "The City of Your Final Destination." Starring Anthony Hopkins, Laura Linney and Charlotte Gainsbourg, "City" had grossed an impressive $22,000 from its exclusive opening at the Paris in New York last weekend. But this weekend, the Screen Media Films-released feature grossed $68,000 from an expanded 22 screens, averaging $3,090. Not a disastrous number consider the expansion to metro NY, Connecticut and Los Angeles that included many smaller venues, but by no means a major success story. After 10 days, "City" stands at $102,930.

Other notable films this weekend included Roadside Attractions' release of Derrick Borte's Demi Moore-David Duchovny film "The Joneses." After a 193-screen debut, the film held steady this weekend, and dropped a respectable 41% - not bad for a release of its size, or for such a mildly buzzed about film. Taking in $294,000, "Joneses" averaged $1,523 and took its total to $989,000. That actually makes it Roadside Attractions' 7th highest grosser ever after only 10 days.

Finally, Anchor Bay's "City Island," which continued to be an under-the-radar success story. Going from 57 to 77 screens, the film grossed $285,000, and continued its now sixth week straight of frame-to-frame increases. "Island" averaged $3,701 - only a slight drop from last weekend - and took its total to an impressive $1,212,692 - that is six times greater than any other film in young Anchor Bay's history.

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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