By Peter Knegt | Indiewire May 15, 2011 at 3:57AM
As most of the industry was busy at the Cannes Film Festival, a slew of indie films hit theaters Stateside this weekend. The widest release among them, Roadside Attractions got mild results from the first weekend of Dan Rush's "Everything Must Go." The film - which had premiered at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival - stars Will Ferrell in a largely dramatic role of a man who simultaneously loses his wife and his job. The film grossed $825,100 from 218 screens according to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, averaging $3,784 per theater. Considering the star power of Ferrell, it's a weak number. To put that into perspective, Ferrell's last attempt at a relatively dramatic lead role, 2006's "Stranger than Fiction," averaged $5,923 in its first weekend of release. Except that film had debuted on over 2,000 screens, making it comparably much more impressive.
For a list of the 10 best per-theater-averages of those reporting indies, click here.
Spencer Susser's "Hesher" - released through Wrekin Hill Entertainment - didn't fare any better. Despite the presence of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Natalie Portman, the 2010 Sundance Film Festival alum grossed only $126,811 from 42 screens. That amounted to a $3,019 average. By no means disastrous, but certainly not promising as it expands.
The best per-theater-average came care of Sundance Selects' release of Yves Saint Laurent doc "L'Amour Fou." On 2 New York screens, the film grossed $36,000 - which amounted in a strong $18,000 average.
National Geographic released Justin Chadwick's "The First Grader" on 7 screens. The film - based on the true story of an 84 year-old Kenyan villager and ex Mau Mau freedom fighter who fights for his right to go to school for the first time - grossed $22,568 gross for a so-so $7,523 per-theater average.
The lowest per-theater-average among reporting openers came care of Anthony Burns's "Skateland," which Freestyle releasing debuted on 2 screens. The film - set in a skating rink in 1980s Texas -
grossed $5,165 and averaged just $2,583.
Check back with indieWIRE for updates on openers that have yet to report estimates, including "City of Life and Death," "Neds," and "Cameraman: The Work and Life of Jack Cardiff."
As far as holdovers went, Jodie Foster's "The Beaver" continued to perform poorly as it expanded from 22 to 105 screens in its second weekend. Starring PR nightmare Mel Gibson as a clinically depressed toy company CEO who finds solace through a beaver hand puppet, the film grossed an estimated $158,000 over the weekend, averaging just $1,505. With a budget of $21 million, "The Beaver" was not a costly endeavour and will break even with foreign sales. However, these numbers are still very poor and suggests North American audiences are not up for seeing Gibson back on the big screen. After 10 days, "The Beaver" has now taken in $308,357.
Much better news came with regard to Werner Herzog's "Cave of Forgotten Dreams," which expanded from 50 to 83 screens in its third frame, crossing the $1 million mark along the way. The doc, which screened in both 2-D and 3-D versions, grossed an estimated $477,900 for distributor Sundance Selects. That amounted to a strong $5,900 per-theater-average and a new total of $1,322,100 "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 will expand the film to the top 50 markets by the end of May.
Sony Pictures Classics saw mixed results from the continued expansion of Denis Villeneuve's "Incendies" and Morgan Spurlock's "POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold." Academy Award-nominated Quebec import "Incendies" expanded from 11 to 33 U.S. screens in its fourth frame and took in a $140,337 gross. That made for a strong $4,253 per-theater-average. "Incendies" has now totaled $385,877 in addition to the $3 million-plus it grossed in Canada since opening last fall.
"Greatest Movie," meanwhile, went from 46 to 57 screens in its fourth weekend. The doc, which takes on American brand marketing, grossed $57,657 and averaged ony $1,012. That's not promising news as the film continues to expand. So far, Spurlock's latest has totalled $421,385.
In its fifth frame, IDP/Samuel Goldwyn's release of Giuseppe Capotondi's Italian thriller "The Double Hour" expanded to 27 screens and continued to do decent business. It grossed $108,00 for a per-theater-average of $4,000. The film's total now stands at $382,941.
Kelly Reichardt's epic indie Western, "Meek's Cutoff" made its biggest expansion yet in its sixth weekend, going from 19 to 30 screens. The film, distributed by Oscilloscope, jumped 43% in grosses as a result, taking in $87,550 and averaging $2,918 (which is impressively a higher per-theater-average than last weekend). The total for "Cutoff" now stands at at $335,113 as it continues to expand.
Finally, two specialty films hit considerable milestones. In its fifth weekend, Robert Redford's "The Conspirator" crossed the $10 million mark as it grossed another $475,000 from 365 screens. It's now the highest grossing film released solely through Roadside Attractions (its co-release of "Amazing Grace" with Samuel Goldwyn grossed $21 million).
In its whopping 13th weekend, meanwhile, Paladin's unique release of Tom Shadyac's "I Am" went to its widest count yet -- 67 screens -- and finally crossed $1 million mark. The doc, in which Shadyac speaks with intellectual and spiritual leaders about what's wrong with the world and how it can be improved, grossed $118,020 for an average of $1,761. That gives the film a new total of $1,116,280, a stellar number for such a slow-and-steady limited release.
"What began on February 18 with Paladin taking the film and Mr. Shadyac to each market one week at a time - from Portland, to Seattle, San Francsico, Los Angeles, New York Washington and Boston, built a foundation for the film to be on nearly 70 screens in its second weekend in a row," Paladin told indieWIRE today. "It is now playing markets across the country while still holding in several of its initial markets, with many more cities still to come."
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..