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Box Office: "Gym" Top Opener In Slow Specialty Market (UPDATED)

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire October 25, 2010 at 6:8AM

While the studios continued to see overwhelmingly strong October openings with the huge debut of "Paranormal Activity 2", the specialty market had a relatively slow weekend. According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, Zipporah Films' release of Frederick Wiseman's acclaimed doc "Boxing Gym" led new releases. The film - a portrait of an Austin gym run by former professional boxer Richard Lord - debuted at the IFC Center in New York and grossed a respectable $7,500. It expands to Los Angeles and Washington DC on November 5th before expanding across the country through the end of the year.
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While the studios continued to see overwhelmingly strong October openings with the huge debut of "Paranormal Activity 2", the specialty market had a relatively slow weekend. According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, Zipporah Films' release of Frederick Wiseman's acclaimed doc "Boxing Gym" led new releases. The film - a portrait of an Austin gym run by former professional boxer Richard Lord - debuted at the IFC Center in New York and grossed a respectable $7,500. It expands to Los Angeles and Washington DC on November 5th before expanding across the country through the end of the year.

Other debuts - all on one screen as well - included TLA Releasing's "Bear City," which raked in $5,980; Strand Releasing's "The Taqwacores," which took in $3,532; and IFC Films' "Inhale," which grossed $3,030.

That made for most of the weekend's specialty box office news to come care of holdovers, most notably two films that continue to exemplify this fall's surge of documentary successes. "Inside Job" - the Sony Pictures Classics released economic crisis doc - entered its third weekend, by expanding from 10 to 24 screens. The expansion brought its per-theater-average down by only $2,000 as the Charles Ferguson-directed doc saw a 99% increase in grosses, taking in $170,449 and averaging a strong $7,102. "Job" will continue to expand in the coming weeks, adding to its now $356,262-strong cume. While its sure to cross the $1 million mark in the process, it is unlikely to find the numbers of Davis Guggenheim's "Waiting For 'Superman,'" which is quickly turning into a significant hit for Paramount Vantage.

In its fifth weekend, "Superman" crossed the $3 million mark and make it to the number 12 spot on the overall box office chart. The film, which takes on the U.S. public school system, expanded to 108 more screens in its fifth weekend, topping off at 290. Its grosses held steady, taking in another $750,000 and averaging $2,586. That gave "Superman" a new cume of $3,679,778, passing "Exit Through The Gift Shop" to become the year's third highest grossing doc behind "Oceans" and "Babies." When all is said and done, the film should easily see a gross north of $5 million and a place among the top 25 grossing documentaries of all time.

On the narrative side of the spectrum, real-life inspired drama "Conviction" expanded from 11 to 55 screens for Fox Searchlight and saw a more hopeful performance than its disappointing debut. The true story of Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank), a woman who puts herself through high school, college and, finally, law school to attempt to free her brother (Sam Rockwell) from prison, the film grossed $300,000 this weekend. That included an increase by 81% Friday to Saturday, and resulted in a fair $5,455 average. Though still unspectacular, it suggests the film is in reasonable shape for next weekend's 500+ screen expansion, which will be the true tale of its financial potential.

Searchlight could use good news from "Conviction"'s expansion after the continued disappointment of Mark Romanek's "Never Let Me Go," which dropped 54 screens to 178 in its sixth frame this weekend and lost 43% of its gross. Taking in $185,000, the Carey Mulligan-Keira Knightley-Andrew Garfield starring film brought its new total to $1,998,033, and shouldn't see its cume stretch much beyond that.

"Never Let Me Go"'s numbers - as disappointing as they are for a film of that pedigree - would be a dream come true for Stephen Frears' "Tamara Drewe " at this point. Though after two weekends of serious struggling, the Sony Classics release actually did get mildly better news this time around. "Drewe" - a take on the newspaper comic strip of the same name (and re-published as a graphic novel) written by Posy Simmonds - went from 10 to 20 screens this weekend and actually saw a per-theater-average increase from $1,963 to $2,534. But the film still grossed just $50,680 and took its cume to a unfortunate $111,577 after 17 days.

Sony Classics saw its release of Woody Allen's "You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger" enter its fifth frame this weekend and it resulted in somewhat better news than was the case with "Drewe." The film - starring Naomi Watts, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Brolin and Antonio Banderas - made a huge expansion from 118 to 402 screens and saw a 67% increase in grosses, taking in $461,155. That resulted in a fair $1,147 average and brought its cume to $1,868,151. In the end, "Stranger" is unlikely to match "Whatever Works"'s $5,306,706 gross last year, and should be on the lower end of Allen's financial filmography.

Also in its fifth weekend was Lionsgate's Ryan Reynolds thriller "Buried," which has turned out to be a huge letdown. Taking in $53,000 from 88 screens, the film averaged just $602 and took its total to $880,963. The film should struggle getting past the $1 million mark.

Finally, IFC Films saw the expanded second weekend of Olivier Assayas' highly acclaimed "Carlos" take in high numbers in New York and Los Angeles engagements, but struggle elsewhere. A portrait of the renowned international terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal (played by Édgar Ramírez), the film took in an estimated $14,000 from its two holdover theaters in New York, and $15,000 from its Los Angeles debut at the Egyptian. But overall the film grossed $32,012 from its 7 screens, averaging $4,573 and suggesting the vast majority of its gross came from New York and LA.

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..

This article is related to: Inside Job