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by Peter Knegt
May 23, 2010 8:22 AM
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Box Office: Bollywood's "Kites" Doesn't Quite Soar; "Solitary," "Rollers" Strong (UPDATED)

An image from Anurag Basu's "Kites." [Image courtesy of Reliance]

While Hollywood continued to roll out its summer big guns ("Shrek Forever After" opened to the tune of $71,250,000), the specialty market found good showings from its two most high-profile debuts: Brian Koppelman and David Levien's "Solitary Man" and Kevin Asch's "Holy Rollers" (which, incidentally, both star Jesse Eisenberg), and a decent - but still somewhat disappointing - showing from Anurag Basu's Bollywood film "Kites."

"Kites" - profiled by indieWIRE's Bryce Renninger earlier this week - debuted on 208 screens in North America care of Reliance Big Media. The result was a $1,035,000 gross, averaging $4,976. That's definitely a respectable number, but fails in comparison to recent efforts to bring Hindi films to America.

Earlier this year, Bollywood film "My Name Is Khan" debuted on 120 screens in the U.S. care of Fox Searchlight. It grossed $1,944,027, averaging a somewhat stunning $16,200. While in December 2009, "3 Idiots," which was also released by Reliance Big Pictures, debuted on 119 screens and grossed $1,645,502, averaging $13,828.

"Kites" tells the story of Jay (Bollywood heartthrob Hrithik Roshan), a US citizen who marries immigrants in Las Vegas sham marriages so they can gain citizenship. It had the largest worldwide release for a Hindi film, screening on 2300 screens in total, 500 of them outside of the Indian subcontinent.

The version released this weekend was the original cut. However, as Renninger notes in the aforementioned story, a second, English version will be released next weekend care of Hollywood director Brett Ratner, who "recognized its potential for mass U.S. appeal. " Ratner, keeping "U.S. sensibilities" in mind, made a 90 minute cut, the "remix," which will be released next week. Check with indieWIRE this time next weekend to see if this interesting strategy pays off for "Kites."

Meanwhile, Anchor Bay - coming off the potent performance of "City Island" (which hit the $4 million mark this weekend) - released "Solitary Man," which was far and away the weekend's top new performer. Grossing $89,000 from 4 screens, it averaged a strong $22,250. Starring Michael Douglas, Susan Sarandon, Danny deVito, Mary-Louise Parker and Eisenberg, "Solitary Man" was acquired by Anchor Bay out of the Toronto International Film Festival. It will continue to expand in the coming weeks.

Not fairing quite as well was First Independent Pictures release of its Sundance pickup "Holy Rollers." "Rollers" - which stars Eisenberg as a Hasidic Jew smuggling Ecstasy between Amsterdam and New York in the late ’90s - managed $39,008 from 3 screens over the weekend. That made for a promising $13,003 per-theater-average as the film (directed by Kevin Asch) expands in the coming weeks.

"I think we surprised a few people and couldn't be more pleased," First Independent's Gary Rubin told indieWIRE this morning. "We expand in NY and LA next weekend and then begin our national rollout June 4th."

"Two in the Wave," the French documentary examining Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard's creative and personal partnerships, opened exclusively at New York's Film Forum. The Korber Films release tallied a decent $6,000 over the weekend, bringing its total since opening Wednesday to $8,424.

Christopher Browne's "After The Cup: Sons of Sakhnin United" also debuted on a sole NYC screen. A documentary about a soccer team in Israel composed of Jews, Arabs, and foreigners, the Variance Films-released "Cup" grossed an estimated $3,300 for the weekend. The film expands to Los Angeles next Friday.

Another sports-oriented doc, go kart focused-"Racing Dreams," attempted to open much more aggressively, with Hannover House placing the film (which won the Audience Award at last year's Tribeca Film Festival) in 33 screens. The result was pretty disastrous, with the film grossing only $21,559 for a $653 per-theater-average.

Among holdovers, Thomas Balmes' documentary "Babies" held on quite nicely despite fropping from 543 to 395 screens in its third weekend. The Focus Feature release - which follows four babies from four different continents during the first year of their lives - grossed $ $707,813 over the weekend, only a 29% drop from last weekend. The film has now totalled an impressive $5,095,036.

Also in its third weekend, Rodrigo Garcia's "Mother and Child" is having a tougher go at it. The Annette Bening-Naomi Watts-Kerry Washington omnibus drama expanded from 24 to 43 screens (6 of which were in Canada, where the film is being released through TVA Films). In total, that resulted in a $98,661 gross - and a fair average of $2,294. "Child"'s total stands at $236,469.

SPC had a much better news from the fourth weekend of Nicole Holofcener's "Please Give" and sixth weekend of Juan José Campanella's Oscar winner "The Secret In Their Eyes." "Give" expanded from 49 to 53 screens in its third weekend and managed a strong $266,032 gross, averaging $5,019. Starring Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Amanda Peet and Rebecca Hall, "Give" has now totalled $1,091,053. "Secret," meanwhile, went from 103 to 141 screens and grossed a healthy $483,766. That made for a $3,431 average and a total of $2,730,177 (which is a higher number than the final tallies of Sony Classics' recent foreign releases "The White Ribbon" and "A Prophet," both of which "Secret" beat out for the foreign language film Oscar).

In its sixth weekend, the mysterious is-it-a-documentary from the equally mysterious British street artist Banksy "Exit Through The Gift Shop" continued to do good business. After five consecutive weekends of expanding, it dropped off two screens (from 45 to 43) this weekend, but still managed a $203,132 gross and a $4,724 averafe. The DIY-oriented Producers Distribution Agency-released film has now totalled $1,609,031.

Another DIY-released doc, "Best Worst Movie," took in $12,027 from two screens this weekend. Directed by Michael Paul Stephenson, the film takes on the undisputed worst movie in cinematic history, "Troll 2," and has proved very popular in festival and special screenings over the past year or so. Now in official theatrical release, the film has tallied $32,573.

Serbian import "Here and There," directed by Darko Lungulov, expanded from 1 to 3 screens in its second weekend, though it still managed to drop off 43%. Grossing $3,610, the Cinema Purgatorio-released film averaged $1,203 - taking its total to $13,012.

Finally, Kino International's reissue of Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" crossed the $100,000 gross mark in its third weekend - no small feat for a re-issue. The film grossed $16,500 this weekend from 3 screens, averaging $5,500, bringing its total to $107,343. The reissue expands to Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, San Diego and other markets in early June.

Peter Knegt is indieWIRE's Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

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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