Specialty filmgoers certainly had a varied selection of options hitting arthouses this weekend. On the one end, there was Nicole Holofcener's "Please Give," a light-hearted morality tale about a bunch of inter-connected New Yorkers negotiating the guilt in their lives. And the other, well, there was "The Human Centipede" - Tom Six's much-buzzed about horror film about crazy man named Heiter who's not up for negotiating - and certainly feels no guilt - as he attempts to literally connect three very unlucky people via their gastric system. In the end, it seems Holofcener's slice of humanity trumped the human centipede when it came to the box office.
On just five screens, Sony Pictures Classics-released "Please Give" grossed a potent $118,123. That allowed for it to find one of 2010's best per-theater-averages at $23,625, and suggested a nice road ahead as the film expands across the country.
Starring Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Amanda Peet and Rebecca Hall, "Please Give" also managed to give Holofcener her best per-theater-average ever, topping 2006's "Friends With Money," which would go on to gross an impressive $13,368,437. That said, "Money" (which averaged $21,047), opened on a significantly wider 28 screens, which is arguably a more impressive feat. But "Money" also benefited from the star power of Jennifer Aniston, while "Please Give" likely achieved its success largely due to strong reviews and Holofcener's growing fan base.
"The Human Centipede," meanwhile, debuted on a sole screen at New York's IFC Center, and grossed roughly half of what "Please Give" averaged on its five screens: $12,424. While not a stunning gross, it's certainly not a bad one either. No one was quite sure what to expect of something of its "most disgusting film ever" nature, and distributor IFC Films did say that the film played to sold out shows throughout the weekend. It also had to contend with gorgeous NYC weather, and itself on IFC on Demand VOD, a medium perhaps better suited for watching something audiences are frankly uncertain whether they can handle.
Next weekend will be "Centipede"'s big test, as it expands into the top ten markets.
It was definitely not a two horse race this weekend, either. Samuel Goldwyn and Destination films released Michael Caine-starrer "Harry Brown" on 19 screens in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago and saw very promising results. A 2009 Toronto Film Festival alum, "Brown" managed to gross $173,353, averging $9,124. Samuel Goldwyn said that the film - starring Caine as a pensioner pushed to the breaking point by gang violence - "played well to audiences comprised of long time Michael Caine fans as well as to younger males and females seeking edgy entertainment." "Harry" heads to the top ten markets on May 14th.
On three San Francisco screens, Logan and Noah Miller's "Touching Home" seemingly came out of nowhere to find some very impressive grosses as well. The film - starring Ed Harris - took in $47,300, averaging an excellent $15,767. The film is a tribute to the Millers' homeless father, who after he died alone in a jail cell, his sons vowed to make a film about him. The Millers - who had never made a film and had no acting experience - co-star in the film as well, playing fictional versions of themselves. "Touching Home" expands to New York City's Village East Theater on May 14th.
There was also much news among holdover releases, including Bansky's "Exit Through The Gift Shop," which this column had been focusing on in previous weeks. Expanding from 11 to 20 screens, the mysterious is-it-a-documentary from the equally mysterious British street artist Banksy grossed $186,262 and jumped into the overall top 25. That marked a 24% increase from last weekend, and only a small drop in its per-theater-average, which this weekend topped out at $9,313.
After 3 weeks, "Gift Shop" has grossed $651,870. For a film being released through a uniquely upstart DIY distributor (Cinetic Media's John Sloss - who represented rights to the film at Sundance - co-founded a distribution entity called the Producers Distribution Agency with his Cinetic partner Bart Walker just to release this film), and for one with little traditional means of marketing, this is an impressive number.
Also in its third weekend, Argentine director Juan José Campanella's Oscar winner "The Secret In Their Eyes" continued to do great business, and topped the $1 million mark in the process. The Sony Pictures Classics release went from 33 to 45 screens this weekend and grossed $337,164, averaging $7,493 and topping out at $1,065,074. The film is tracking well ahead of the films it beat out for the best foreign language film Oscar - fellow SPC releases "The White Ribbon" and "A Prophet" - and is looking to become a considerable foreign language import success story.
Finally, another success story continued with Anchor Bay's "City Island," which expanded considerably this weekend to good results. Adding 192 screens, "Island" hit a 269 screen count, entering the overall top 20 as it grossed $733,338 and took its grand total to $2,086,876 after 7 weeks. Its Anchor Bay's first $2 million grosser, just as it was its first $500,000 and $1 million grosser in weeks past.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org by the end of the day each Monday..