After the very disappointing performance from foreign language Oscar winner "In a Better World," Sony Pictures Classics is getting a second chance this Easter weekend from Denis Villeneuve's foreign language nominee "Incendies." The Quebec import follows a twin brother and sister who head to the Middle East to seek out information to unravel the mystery surrounding their recently deceased mother, and debuted on 3 screens in New York and Los Angeles Friday. It managed a potent $54,582 gross as a result, averaging $18,194. That's Sony Classics' best limited debut of the year, topping "Barney's Version" (which is also Canadian produced, oddly enough), which averaged $16,310 from 4 screens back in January. And it was certainly well above "In a Better World," which averaged only $8,265 from 4 theaters earlier this month.
For a list of the 10 best per-theater-averages of those reporting indies, click here.
Sony Classics also received good news via the debut of Morgan Spurlock's "POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold," which opened on a much more aggressive 18 screens. The doc - which takes on American brand marketing - managed a decent $135,139 gross, averaging $7,508. That's certainly no "Super Size Me." In 2004, that film grossed $516,641 from 41 theaters in its opening weekend, en route to a $11,536,423 final gross. But no one was expecting "Greatest Movie" to take on the phenom-status of "Super Size Me," and its numbers are at least well above the disappointing performance of Spurlock's 2008 "Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden?," which grossed only $384,955 by the end of its run.
"We are thrilled with the strength of both of our openings this weekend," Sony Classics head Michael Barker told indieWIRE today. "We couldn't have hoped for a better response to Morgan Spurlock's movie. Not only is it a great start, but the word of mouth is just spectacular and the picture is destined to be a major financial success. 'Incendies'' gross not only shows there is a substantial audience for a serious film but also validates the birth of a major filmmaker with both the critics, and now, a substantial American ticket buying public."
Also debuting this weekend was Jim Mickle’s vampire thriller “Stake Land,” which IFC Films released on a sole NYC screen. The result was a $6,900 gross.
"Beautiful Darling: The Life and Times of Candy Darling, Andy Warhol Superstar", a doc released by Corinth Films, also opened. At the IFC Center in New York for a one week run before going out to theaters in other cities, the opening weekend box office was $13,400.
The weekend's other big story was the expansion of Rocky Mountain Pictures's Ayn Rand adaptation "Atlas Shrugged, Part I," which last weekend found respectable numbers from its first frame. This weekend, it went from 299 screens to 465 in an aggressive expansion, but failed to connect to audiences. It dropped 48% despite the expansion, grossing $879,000 and averaging only $1,890. The film's total now stands at $3,094,000.
"Atlas" details a dystopian United States that collapses as government asserts control. It has received significant backing by Tea Party groups, with FreedomWorks, the Tea Party-allied group headed by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, among the groups supporting the film. Last weekend, the film's producer Harmon Kaslow told indieWIRE that he was very optimistic about the expansion of the film and hoped it would play on "as many as 1,000 screens."
Robert Redford's "The Conspirator" went from 707 to 849 screens and dropped a respectable 35%, taking in $2,288,800 for a $2,690. The film takes on the the assassination trial of Abraham Lincoln and stars Robin Wright, James McAvoy, Tom Wilkinson and Stephen Root. Its total now stands at $6,991,000, making it the second highest grossing film in Roadside Attractions' seven year history, after 2007's "Bella" (which "Conspirator" should surpass by next weekend).
Kelly Reichardt epic indie Western "Meek's Cutoff" expanded ever-so-slightly in its third weekend, going from 2 to 6 screens. The film - which is distributed by Oscilloscope - dropped saw a 179% surge in grosses as a result, taking in $39,362 and averaging $6,560. "Cutoff"'s total now stands at at $91,416 as it continues to expand.
In its fifth weekend, Tom McCarthy's "Win Win" went to 388 screens (up only 4) and saw a slight 12% decrease in grosses. The high school wrestling dramedy, starring Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan and Bobby Cannavale, has been holding up very well, and took in another $1,125,000 this weekend. That made for a $2,899 average and a new total of $6,647,434 for the Fox Searchlight title.
In its seventh frame, Cary Fukunaga's adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's "Jane Eyre" also held up nicely. It expanded from 273 to 319 theaters and took in $782,372, averaging $2,453. Distributor Focus Features should be quite pleased with the film's $2,453 per-theater-average and its new $7,902,371 total. "Eyre," which stars Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell and Judi Dench, should easily be heading for the $10 million mark, as should "Win Win." Together the two films are certainly the MVPs of the 2011 specialty market thus far.
Finally, its whopping 10th weekend of release, Paladin's unique release of Tom Shadyac's "I Am" went to its widest count yet - 23 screens - and saw fantastic results. The doc - in which Shadyac speaks with intellectual and spiritual leaders about what's wrong with the world and how it can be improved - grossed $141,215 for an average of $6,140.
This weekend saw new markets open in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Minneapolis and Austin, while Shadyac's two personal appearances drew the film's highest single day numbers since opening on February 18: Friday night at the River East in Chicago and Saturday at the Uptown in Minneapolis each grossed over $11,000.
The boost is likely a result Shadyac's appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" last Wednesday. Immediately after the Oprah appearance, with Thursday's gross were four times that of Tuesday. Holdover theaters saw an increase of over 200% from last weekend, many of these screens in their fifth, sixth and seventh weeks. Altogether, it gives the film a new total of $567,385, which is a stellar number for such a limited release. indieWIRE profiled the film's unique release strategy last month.
"It's very gratifying that the strategy we set in motion months ago is paying off," Paladin's Mark Urman told indieWIRE today. "Even more satisfying is the fact that Tom's wonderful film continues to connect to an ever-growing and appreciative audience."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org by the end of the day each Monday..