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by Peter Knegt
November 15, 2009 5:09 AM
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Box Office: "Precious" Still Potent; "Mr. Fox" Leads (Mostly) Fantastic Openers

Lee Daniels' "Precious: Based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire" showed no signs of slowing down in its second weekend, according to weekend estimates. After last weekend's record breaking debut, the film went from 18 to 174 screens, expanding in its initial four markets of Atlanta, NYC, LA and Chicago and opening in Washington, San Francisco, Philadelphia Houston and Dallas. The result was a stunning $6,090,000 gross - placing it in the overall top four despite playing on only a small fraction of the screens of its competitors ("Michael Jackson's This Is It," for example, grossed a million dollars less on 3,037 screens).

The numbers were good enough to give the Lionsgate release a $35,000 per-theater-average, a massive number for a film playing on over 100 screens, and by far the highest second weekend PTA of the year (the previous best was the Coens' "A Serious Man" with $21,274, though that was only on 21 screens). It also showed promise in a considerable Friday to Saturday uptick, grossing $1,904,002 on the former day and $2,405,863 on the latter.

Though it would not be safe to bet against "Precious" at this point, next weekend will be the film's opportunity to to truly explode into the mainstream. It will expand into over 100 markets on roughly 600 screens, with expectations at this point quite high. As it stands, the film has grossed $8,914,552 after ten days - already just a little over a million short of its reported $10,000,000 budget.

Leading a hungry batch of openers was the limited debut of Wes Anderson's "Fantastic Mr. Fox," which was fantastic indeed with a $260,000 gross from just four screens. The film - a stop motion animated adaptation of the Roald Dahl novel - managed to average $65,000 from its New York and Los Angeles screens, the year's second best limited debut after "Precious." This bodes very well for the Fox Searchlight release, which will expand considerably in the coming weeks. It was also pretty much on par with Anderson's previous debut, "The Darjeeling Limited," which averaged $67,469 from 2 screens back in 2007.

Oscilloscope opened Oren Moverman's "The Messenger" on four screens this weekend as well. In New York and Washington, the critically acclaimed film - which stars Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson and Samantha Morton - managed a $50,000 gross, selling out many of its Saturday shows. That made for a $12,500 average, promising considering competition and the film's content, which has mostly proved financially challenged in the past.

"The success of 'The Messenger' proves that America is ready for a film that addresses the real issues soldiers face when returning from war," David Fenkel, co-founder of Oscilloscope Laboratories said. "Equally important is the critical response praising the powerful performances by Woody, Ben and Samantha and Oren's skill at blending such a sincere story with humor and hopefulness. At theaters, we saw attendance doubling from Friday to Saturday which shows word of mouth continues to build. Oren Moverman and the filmmaking team made an incredible film and we're so pleased with it's success this weekend."

The film will open November 20th nationwide in 15 cities, further expanding into Thanksgiving weekend.

Other openers this weekend included Cinema Libre's release of Philippe Diaz's doc "The End of Poverty?," which made an impressive debut at City Cinemas Village East Cinema in New York. The film - which looks at the root causes of poverty since colonial times - beat out seven other films at the same location, including Disney's "A Christmas Carol," by grossing an estimated $11,000. Also on a sole NYC screen was the debut of Scott McGehee and David Siegel's "Uncertainty." The IFC Films release - starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt - managed to top "Poverty?" with a $12,235 gross.

Less potent but still fair debuts came care of Adam Salky's "Dare," Emily and Sarah Kunstler's "William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe," and Sebastian Gutierrez's "Women In Trouble." "Dare" - care of Image Entertainment - grossed $12,036 from 2 screens, averaging $6,018; "Kunstler" - a Arthouse Films release - grossed $10,106 from 2 screens, averaging $5,053; and "Women" - through Screen Media Films, took in $14,000 from 3 screens, averaging $4,667. Considering the onslaught of competition, all three film's debuts are quite reasonable, though obviously quite short of spectacular.

The weekend's only major disappointment (though probably an expected one for most) was Focus Features' semi-wide release of Richard Curtis's "Pirate Radio," or the film formerly known as "The Boat That Rocked." A period comedy starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman that details an illegal radio station in the North Sea in the 1960's, the film grossed $2,869,377 from 882 screens, averaging only $3,253.

Finally, another considerable success story came out of a holdover that, while not quite "Precious," is almost just as impressive in its own right. Frederick Wiseman's doc "La Danse," which explores the Paris Opera Ballet, doubled its gross from last weekend after adding a second screen at New York's Film Forum. After setting a house capacity record at the Film Forum last week - selling out every single show during the entire week - "La Danse" added a second screen at the theater and took in $29,000 this weekend. The cume for the Zipporah Films release now stands at $67,000 since its November 4th opening in New York.

The film opens exclusive engagements in Los Angeles and Chicago next weekend, followed by openings in the majority of the top 20 markets in late November and December.

For more on "La Danse," check out indieWIRE's new "Box Office 2.0" column from last week.

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..

1 Comment

  • LucyA | November 16, 2009 8:38 AMReply

    People today are talking about box office movies. It’s pick the best one as all movies are truly astonishing. However, the best reviewed films typically are independents that nobody watches. It's up to you to figure out which films warrant to see, good movie reviews or not – bear in mind 90% of them are formulaic and insult the intelligence of a chicken. (Granted, they take intelligence to appreciate!) For instance, the new version of A Christmas Carol got the best of reviews and the worst of reviews – and dominated box office. The Men Who Stare at Goats wasn't a huge smash, and got about the same. However, The Box and the Fourth Kind both got a hiding from critics, and weren't huge ticket sellers.