While J.J. Abrams "Super 8" exceeded expectations at the studio box office, Michael Winterbottom's "The Trip" led debuts in the specialty market, taking in decent numbers for distributor IFC Films.
The film, which follows fictionalized versions of actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as they stop at some of the best restaurants and inns in the north of England, grossed a respectable $84,600 from 6 theaters in New York and Los Angeles, according to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today. That amounted to a $14,100 per-theater-average, which was the second highest average reported today. It topped Winterbottom's last release, the vastly different "The Killer Inside Me," which IFC Films release almost exactly a year ago to a $11,083 average. IFC will roll out "The Trip" to the top twenty markets on Friday, which will be a much bigger test to the film's appeal.
For a list of the 10 best per-theater-averages of those reporting indies, click here.
Two other debuts came care of Music Box Films, which released both Ben Sombogaart's "Bride Flight" and Djo Munga's "Viva Riva!" this weekend. On 18 screens, "Flight" took in a reasonable $54,500, averaging $3,030, while "Riva!" took in $10,338 from three theaters, averaging $3,446.
The weekend's top per-theater-average belonged - for the third weekend in a row - to Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life." After a strong sophomore frame on 20 screens last weekend, Cannes Palme d'Or winner "Tree" expanded to 47 theaters this time around. The result was a $875,126 gross and an $18,620 average, taking its 17 day total to $2,409,772. Not bad for a very conventional film that is 2 ½ hours long, giving it significantly fewer shows than its average competitor ("Midnight in Paris" is only 94 minutes, for example). Further expansion beyond the major markets could be the film's most major roadblock, but for now "Tree" is still full of box office life.
"All of the 12 new markets opened very strong, and the picture is holding extremely well," Fox Searchlight's Sheila DeLoach told indieWIRE today. "On Friday we are expanding to 22 additional markets. The print count will be approximately 114 theatres. The national release date is June 24th, and we will in be approximately 200 theaters."
Meanwhile, "The Tree of Life"'s fellow Cannes 2011 alum Woody Allen's "Midnight In Paris," had its wide expansion this weekend. After 3 incredibly strong weekends in limited release, distributor Sony Classics pushed "Paris" to 944 screens, the second widest count ever for a Woody Allen film. The result continued to suggest "Paris" is en route to becoming a significant mainstream breakout for both Allen and Sony Classics, taking in $6,146,165 and averaging a stellar $6,511. That took the film's total to $14,224,638, which plenty more to come. indieWIRE profiled the success of the film last week, suggesting it could become Allen's highest grossing film since 1986's "Hannah and Her Sisters."
"The thing important to know," Sony Classics Michael Barker said, "is that part of our strategy to keep it on the screen as long as possible. We feel it's going to play throughout the summer. We think this is a film that has a very long life in theaters."
Other holdovers this weekend included last weekend's top debut, Mike Mills' "Beginners." After a strong debut on five screens, Focus Features expanded the romantic drama starring Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer and Melanie Laurent to 19 venues. The result was a 80% uptick, with the film taking in $254,587 and averaging a decent $13,399. The film's total now stands at $464,857, a nice start for a warmly reviewed film that could have some strong legs in expansion.
Things were not so promising for The Weinstein Company's "Submarine." The British coming-of-age comedy expanded from 4 to 17 theaters in its second weekend, taking in $60,208 for a weak average of $3,542. That's a disappointing number for the well-reviewed film, which the Weinsteins picked up out of the Toronto International Film Festival last year. Directed by Richard Ayoade, the film stars newcomer Craig Roberts as Oliver Tate, a boy on a mission to save his parents (Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor) from the dissolution of their marriage and to lose his virginity before he turns 16. The film's total now stands at $122,127.
Also in its second frame was another Toronto Film Festival pick-up, Shawn Ku's school shooting drama "Beautiful Boy," which is being released through Anchor Bay Films. The film grossed a dismal $5,500 from 4 screens, averaging just $1,375. Its total now stands at $29,724.
IFC's Sundance Selects label continued to find good news with regard to Werner Herzog's "Cave of Forgotten Dreams," which went from 123 to 122 screens in its seventh frame. The doc, which is screening in both 2-D and 3-D versions, grossed an estimated $256,200 over the weekend. That amounted to a $2,100 per-theater-average and a new total of $3,721,000. "Dreams" follows an exclusive expedition into the nearly inaccessible Chauvet Cave in France, home to the most ancient visual art known to have been created by man. Sundance Selects picked up the film out of the Toronto Film Festival last fall and has now seen it become by far the highest grossing documentary of 2011. It has also surpassed Herzog's "Grizzly Man" to become his highest grossing documentary ever, and is one of the 40 highest grossing documentaries of all time (and it could easily reach the top 25 in the coming weeks).
Finally, two other films passed milestones this weekend. Tom McCarthy's "Win Win," which in its 13th weekend out took in another $78,000 (from 100 screens, an impressive count for a film that's been out for over 3 months), found a new total of $10,003,833 - joining "Jane Eyre," "The Conspirator" and "Midnight in Paris" as one of the few 2011 specialty releases to cross the $10 million mark. It also became McCarthy's highest grossing film, topping the $9,427,089 "The Visitor" took in in 2008.
IDP/Samuel Goldwyn's release of Giuseppe Capotondi's Italian thriller "The Double Hour," meanwhile, crossed the $1 million mark in its 9th weekend of release, making it only the 5th Italian film since 2000 to reach that box office level. This weekend the film managed $97,625 from 55 screens for a cume of $1,092,059
Peter Knegt is indieWIRE's Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog.
indieWIRE 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..