By Peter Knegt | Indiewire March 6, 2011 at 6:4AM
Though it's not scheduled to open in official theatrical release until October, Kevin Smith's "Red State" kicked off its sneak preview tour of the United States this weekend to an impressive number. At a single show at New York's Radio City Music Hall, the film - a satirical horror film that takes on a Westboro Baptist Church-type organization - took in $161,590, which is technically the tenth best per-theater average of all-time. Radio City can seat 6,000, though roughly 3,800 seats were filled, Smith said at the show, in which the filmmaker did an extensive Q&A. With ticket prices set from $54 to well over $100, it hardly makes the film comparable to most releases (it's more a concert than a movie). But it's still a promising start for Smith and his SModcast Pictures' take on self-distribution. The tour's next stops includes Boston (March 6), Chicago (March 8), and Minneapolis (March 9). For a complete list of dates, click here. indieWIRE will be tracking the film's performance in our weekly box office columns.
As for more traditional releases, Anchor Bay's release of Josh Radnor's Sundance 2010 alum "happythankyoumoreplease" found a very respectable debut. The young adult dramedy, which won the audience award at Sundance, debuted on 2 screens and grossed $30,000 for a $15,000 average.
Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Palme d'Or winner "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" opened on 3 screens for Strand Releasing, totalling $24,110 over the weekend and $28,400 since opening Wednesday. Its weekend per-theater-average $8,036. Compared to Weerasethakul's last U.S. release - 2007's "Syndromes and a Century," the hardly marketable "Boonmee" is off to an excellent start, already exceeding that film's final $16,675 gross. "Boonmee" should also easily top the $46,750 final gross of his 2005 film "Tropical Malady."
Last weekend's top debut, Xavier Beauvois' "Of Gods and Men," held on nicely in a slight expansion. The Sony Pictures Classics' release, which also won the Grand Prix at last year's Cannes Film Festival, grossed $71,906 on 7 U.S. screens (up from 3) over the weekend, averaging $10,272. That gave the film a 10-day total of $155,692 in the U.S. only, and an additional $659,541 from Canada (where it's being released much more aggressively through Mongrel Media).
Speaking of Canada, IFC Films' release of another French alum from last year's Cannes Film Festival, Xavier Dolan's "Heartbeats," entered its second frame as well, expanding to LA. The second film from the young Quebecois filmmaker (though his acclaimed debut "I Killed My Mother" has yet to be released in the U.S.), the film grossed $7,000 from screens in both New York and LA, averaging $3,500 and bringing its total to $17,000.
In its third weekend, Dereck Joubert's nature doc "The Last Lions" went from 4 to 14 screens. The National Geographic-distributed film, which follows a journey of a lioness as she battles to protect her cubs, grossed $56,225 for a decent $4,016 per-theater average. The film's cume is now $181,196 as it continues to expand in the coming weeks.
Paladin received good numbers from the third weekend of the Tom Shadyac "I Am," a doc in which Shadyac speaks with intellectual and spiritual leaders about what's wrong with the world and how it can be improved. Shadyac, known best for directing studio films like "Bruce Almighty" and "The Nutty Professor," saw his "I Am" gross $32,950 from six theaters in Seattle, Portland and the San Francisco Bay area, averaging $6,590. The film's geographically unique platform strategy seems to be paying off, with the film selling out many of its engagements (which in San Francisco, Berkeley and San Rafael included Q&As with Shadyac himself), and its three-week total hitting $71,350 despite a very limited release. "I Am" opens in Los Angeles next weekend.
In its fifth weekend, Fox Searchlight's "Cedar Rapids" continued to hold up nicely. The Miguel Arteta, Ed Helms, John C. Reilly comedy went from 136 to 235 theaters and found a $815,000 gross, averaging $3,468 as it took its new total to $3,384,911. That makes it the first specialty release of 2011 to gross over $3 million in a year that has been dominated by 2010 Oscar-related holdovers.
Speaking of which, Oscar's big winners had a good post-awards weekend. Best picture winner "The King's Speech" saw a slight 11% drop over the weekend (despite losing 145 screens), with the Tom Hooper directed film grossing $6,501,000 from 2,240 theaters. That made for a $2,902 average and a grand new total of $123,816,877. The $15 million budgeted film has now taken in well over $250 million worldwide, and domestically has a shot at the $150 million mark.
Best actress winner Natalie Portman saw her "Black Swan" gross another $1,000,000 from its 681 screens this weekend. A $13 million production, Darren Aronofsky's "Swan" has now totaled $105,106,540.
Finally, though it didn't win either of its nominated awards, Alejandro González Iñárritu "Biutiful" held up very well in its sixth weekend out (though it had an Oscar qualifying run in December). The Javier Bardem-starrer went form 180 to 142 screens and grossed a strong $257,500. That took its total to $4,217,062 - no small feat for a bleak foreign language film. Clearly aided by the perfect timing of its somewhat surprising best actor Oscar nomination, "Biutiful" has become a sizable success story for distributor Roadside Attractions.
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 email@example.com by the end of the day each Monday..