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by Peter Knegt
October 18, 2009 4:15 AM
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Box Office: "Maid" Tops Indie Openers; "Paranormal" Continues To Amaze

A scene from Sebastián Silva's "The Maid." Image courtesy of Elephant Eye Films.

Sebastián Silva’s Chilean import "The Maid" led all reporting newcomers at the indie box office this weekend, according to estimates provided by Rentrak. On a sole New York screen, the very dark comedy - which won the World Narrative Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival - grossed a potent $18,418, the highest per-theater-average of any film save "Paranormal Activity" (though mind you, its lone screen obviously gave it a privilege). Notable as well was that the film's numbers raised exponentially from Friday's $4,367 to Saturday's $7,551. Released through Elephant Eye, the film will expand in the coming weekends.

Not faring quite as well were two more ambitious released openers. Distributor Apparition's second release after "Bright Star," Scott Sander's "Black Dynamite," debuted on 70 screens and grossed $140,986, averaging only $2,014. While Vivendi's release of omnibus film "New York, I Love You" faired a bit better on 119 screens. The film - with segments directed by Allen Hughes, Natalie Portman, Mira Nair, Joshua Marston, Shekhar Kapur, Fatih Akin, Brett Ratner, and many others - took in a mild $372,000, averaging $3,126.

Though hardly what most would consider an independent film, another notable opener this weekend was Overture Film's release of F. Gary Gray's "Law Abiding Citizen." The first film fully financed and produced by Neil Sacker and Mark Gill's The Film Department, the Jamie Foxx-Gerald Butler starrer surprised many by taking in a very respectable $21,250,000 from its 2,890 screens.

That was enough to top the year's indie success story (even if it is a Paramount Pictures release), Oren Peil's micro-budgeted horror film "Paranormal Activity," in its first weekend of semi-wide release. Technically an independent film, "Activity" screened at the 2008 Slamdance Film Festival and was acquired by Dreamworks and Paramount in a truly rare series of events (Steven Spielberg plays a pivotal role).

The film opened initially three weeks ago on 12 college town screens to a $6,489 average. Then it lept 587% on an expanded 33 screens, averaging $16,212, and then managed a massive $7,066,000 from 159 screens the following weekend. This weekend, Paramount brought the film to 760 screens nationwide, and it did not disappoint. Grossing $20,163,000, the film averaged a somewhat expectedly stunning $26,530, taking its cume to $33,717,000 - or 2,247 times its $15,000 budget.

Though in contrast less exciting, two indie holdovers also continued to impress. The second weekend of Sony Pictures Classics' release of Lone Scherfig's "An Education" managed promising numbers after its potent debut. Carey Mulligan's leading lady entrance expanded from 4 to 19 screens this time around, and hung on to a $14,002 average, grossing $266,044 and bringing its total to $504,974 as it continues to expand in coming weekends.

In its third weekend out, Focus Features' release of Joel and Ethan Coen's "A Serious Man" also showed some serious strength. Going from 21 to 82 screens, the film managed to crack the overall top 15, grossing $860,257 and averaging $10,491. That bodes very well for the film's continued expansion, and brings its cume to $1,861,053.

Other holdovers included the sophomore frame of Chris Rock-featured doc "Good Hair," which tumbled 60% from 179 screens (down 7 from last weekend), grossing $437,000. That brought the Roadside Attractions distributed film's cume to $1,766,000.

And finally, the fourth weekend of Sony Pictures Classics' release of "Coco Before Chanel" held on very nicely. The Anne Fontaine-directed, Audrey Tatuou-starring film added 9 screens to its now 54 screen total and took in $312,000. Its $5,778 average help bring its total to $1,560,000 - which puts it behind only "Sin Nombre," "Rudo Y Cursi" and "Summer Hours" as 2009's top grossing foreign-language flicks.

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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