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by Peter Knegt
July 13, 2009 12:55 PM
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Box Office: Magnolia Finds "Humpday" On Top, "Food" 2009's New Top Doc (UPDATED)

A scene from Lynn Shelton's "Humpday." Image courtesy of the Magnolia Pictures.

The debut of Lynn Shelton's "Humpday" led this weekend's specialty box office, according to final numbers. The Magnolia Pictures release -- starring Mark Duplass and Joshua Leonard as two straight men attempting to have sex on camera for "art's sake" -- grossed $28,737 from its two screens in New York and Shelton's hometown of Seattle. That number was good enough for a $14,369 average, tops among all films in release (including dissimilarly gay wide release "Bruno," which grossed a disappointing $30.6 million from 2,756 screens).

"Humpday" also had the second highest debut of Magnolia's 2009 slate thus far (beating out "Two Lovers" and "The Girlfriend Experience," among others), behind only Robert Kenner's doc "Food, Inc.," which passed a new milestone this weekend. The documentary -- an expose of the food industry -- grossed another $251,114 on 81 screens, dropping only 0.2% in grosses despite actually losing 2 screens. That gave it a new total of $1,708,941, beating out "Valentino: The Last Emperor" as 2009's new highest grossing specialty documentary (Disney's "Earth" is the overall doc box office champion).

As far as "Humpday"'s competition for the weekend went, the closest competition came from the second weekend of The Cinema Guild's "The Beaches of Agnes." Agnes Varda's autobiographical doc grossed a fantastic $13,584 from its sole location at New York's Film Forum. That's only $5,000 less than when the film was playing on three screens last weekend. "Beaches"' total now stands at $53,971, roughly $44,000 of which has come from the Film Forum.

Also impressive was the expansion of Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker," which went from 9 theaters to 60 as Summit Entertainment cautiously rolls out what seems like a rare Iraq War-themed hit. The film jumped into the overall top 20, grossing $641,168. About $20,000 of that came from its sole Canadian location in Toronto, where distribution rights are actually held by Maple, not Summit. Its overall average held at $10,686 - only 30% less than last weekend, when the film had a significantly more minimal screen count. After three weekends, "Locker"'s total now stands at $1,101,834, or roughly sixteen times was Brian de Palma's Iraq-themed "Redacted" grossed in its entire run. "Locker" will continue to expand over the coming weeks.

Sony Pictures Classics found themselves with a duo of expanded titles in the overall top 20. Woody Allen's "Whatever Works" grossed another $678,055 from its 320 screens. That made for a decent $2,119 average and a total of $3,099,917 after 4 weeks. Fairing even better, though, was the fifth weekend of Duncan Jones' "Moon." Expanded from 47 to 200 screens, "Moon" grossed $674,900 - averaging $2,732 and taking its total to $1,785,478. If the film holds steady in the coming weeks, it could end up grossing $4-5 million.

Besides "Humpday," other debuts this weekend included Aviva Kempner's doc "Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg," released by International Film Circuit. The film - which looks at television pioneer Gertrude Berg - grossed a promising $19,302 from 2 locations, averaging a good $9,651.

Notable is that the majority of tickets sold were at senior citzen discount rates. Another doc, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte's "Soul Power" opened on six screens and grossed $23,893. That gave the Sony Pictures Classics release - which looks at 1974's historic three-night R&B concert held in Zaire - a disappointing $3,982 average.

On 20 screens, Samuel Goldwyn and Destination Films' release of Japanese anima feature "Blood, The Last Vampire" managed a higher average. The film took in $110,029, or $5,501 per theater. The film opened in 12 markets including New York, LA, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, and Washington DC.

Other openers included Blayne Weaver's "Weather Girl," which grossed $5,772 from one screen, and Karen Shakhnazarov's "The Vanished Empire," which took $3,328 from its sole engagement.

Next weekend brings the potential of "(500) Days of Summer," which Fox Searchlight is surely hoping will become a late summer breakout. Check in with indieWIRE Sunday to see how things start out for "Summer."

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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