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by Peter Knegt
October 3, 2010 4:18 AM
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Box Office: "Superman," "Catfish" Continue Their Surge; "Freakonomics" Disappoints

A scene from Arial Schulman and Henry Joost's "Catfish." Image courtesy of Rogue.

With few new specialty films reporting estimates, the big story this weekend was definitely the impressive holdover performances of docs "Waiting For 'Superman'" and "Catfish," which in their second and third frames, respectively, showed serious strength. According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, "Superman" managed the best per-theater-average in the overall marketplace (beating "The Social Network," which had a decent debut to lead studio numbers), and "Catfish" easily crossed the $1 million mark after just 15 days of release.

"Superman" - Guggenheim's acclaimed doc on the U.S. public school system - found one of the year's best debuts on 4 screens last week, and this weekend headed to 34 locations to find a 193% surge in grosses. It took in $407,000, averaging $11,971 and taking its cume to $599,734. Released by Paramount Vantage and Participant Media in association with Walden Media, "Superman" should soar well beyond $1 million in no time.

Meanwhile, "Catfish," which debuted at Sundance earlier this year to considerable buzz and follows filmmaker Ariel Schulman's brother, Nev, who develops a relationship with an eight year old painter via Facebook leading to a bizarre series of events that suggests deception on the part of Abby's identity, aggressively expanded from 57 to 136 screens this weekend. It took in $607,000, a 34% rise from last weekend. That gave it a $4,463 average and a new total of $1,638,172. The film had divided Sundance over whether or not the film itself was deceitful. So far, this controversy hasn't seemed to be a disadvantage. Along with "Superman," "Catfish" is giving documentaries some heft this fall season.

Unfortunately, one doc that's likely not going to contribute to that heft is "Freakonomics." Debuting on 17 screens for distributor Magnolia, the doc adaptation of Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner’s intensely bestselling 2005 book, took in only $33,000, averaging $1,941. The movie had brought together a "doc dream team" including Seth Gordon ("The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters"), Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady ("Jesus Camp," "12th & Delaware"), Morgan Spurlock ("Super Size Me"), Alex Gibney ("Enron," "Taxi To The Dark Side"), and Eugene Jarecki ("Why We Fight") to each direct portions of the "anthology film."

In other debuts, IFC Films released French import "Leaving," directed by Catherine Corsini and starring Kristin Scott Thomas, taking in $13,400 on 2 screens for a $6,700 average; Mpi Media and Vitagraph's "Hatchet II," Adam Green's horror film, which managed only $62,000 from 68 screens, averaging $912; and restored 1948 documentary “Nuremberg," which played exclusively at New York’s Film Forum and grossed a decent $11,000, making the cumulative gross after five days amounting to $15,196. “Nuremberg” will open in Washington, DC Friday followed by staggered openings in other key cities.

Holdover news beyond "Catfish" and "Superman" included Woody Allen's "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger," which went from 6 to 29 screens and jumped 45%. Taking in $232,424, London-set "Stranger," starring Naomi Watts, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Brolin, Antonio Banderas and Lucy Punch, averaged a respectable (though not spectacular) $8,015 and found a new total of $518,909. "Stranger" is tracking slightly below Allen's 2009 film "Whatever Works," which averaged $10,280 from 35 screens in its second week and had totalled $738,969.

Two other sophomore releases struggled a bit more. Rodrigo Cortés's "Buried," released through Lionsgate, went from 11 to 33 screens and actually fell a tiny bit in grosses from last weekend, taking in $100,000 for a $3,030 average and a new total of $239,000. Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's "HOWL," meanwhile, went from 6 to 17 screens and found a 4% rise in grosses, taking in $53,000 for a $3,118 average and a total of $124,747.

IFC Films expanded Gasper Noe's "Enter The Void" in its second frame as well, going from 3 to 6 screens to find a $25,200 gross and an average of $25,200.

And finally, "Never Let Me Go"'s third weekend saw it expand from 26 to 43 screens and lose 22% of its gross, taking in $188,497.. That gave the Fox Searchlight film, starring Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield in an adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's award-winning novel, a disappointing new total of $725,816. In the end, "Go" shouldn't see a gross much beyond a million or two dollars.

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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