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by Peter Knegt
July 25, 2010 3:59 AM
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Box Office: "Wartime" Has Big NYC Debut; "Kids" Stays Strong

A scene from Todd Solondz's "Life During Wartime." Image courtesy of IFC.

While "Inception" and "Salt" battled it out for the overall box office crown, Todd Solondz's "Happiness" quasi-sequel "Life During Wartime" found very promising returns in its exclusive New York City debut to lead all per-theater-averages this weekend. According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, "Wartime" grossed $30,750 from its sole engagement at NYC's IFC Center.

Featuring a cast including Ciaran Hinds, Allison Janney, Paul Reubens, Charlotte Rampling, Ally Sheedy, Michael Lerner, Shirley Henderson and Michael Kenneth Williams, the film revisits the characters of "Happiness" ten years later (with the aforementioned actors each playing roles originated by others in "Happiness"). indieWIRE marked the release with both an interview with Solondz, and a look back at the filmmaker's career.

"Wartime" distributor IFC Films' SVP of Sales and Distribution Mark Boxer said the film "played to sold out shows" all weekend, and noted that it will head to Los Angeles next weekend and expand to the top twenty markets within the next three weeks. How the film does as it expands is hard to predict at this point, as exclusive NYC debuts are not necessarily conducive to success outside that market. But it is notable that the film's sole screen PTA was the highest of any IFC Films release this year, topping last month's "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work."

Also debuting quite nicely on a single New York screen was Tamra Davis's doc "Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child." Screening at the Film Forum, the Arthouse Films-distributed "Child" grossed a strong $18,137, taking its total to $27,233 since opening at New York's Film Forum this past Wednesday.

“We’re psyched the film is performing so well and that people are really connecting with it," Erin Owens and David Koh of Arthouse Films said in a joint statement. "It’s great that younger audiences are getting a chance to know Basquiat’s work and life.”

On a relatively wide three screens, another doc debuted perhaps even more impressively. Lucy Walker's nuclear arms race examination, "Countdown To Zero," grossed $48,000 from New York and Washington, D.C. screens to find a promising $16,000 per-theater-average for distributor Magnolia Pictures. Though like "Wartime" and "Child," the film's real test will come as it expands in the coming weeks.

While not quite a debut, Sony Pictures Classics re-released Sally Potter's 1993 Virginia Woolf adaptation "Orlando" on 2 screens. Starring Tilda Swinton as the gender-bending titular character, the film grossed $11,448, averaging $5,724. Added on to its very respectable original gross, "Orlando" has now cumed $5,330,893.

Speaking of Tilda Swinton, Luca Guadagnino's "I Am Love" continued to impress in its sixth weekend. Magnolia Pictures expanded the film to 165 screens (up from 140 last weekend), and saw it cross the $3 million mark (a rare feat for a foreign language import). "Love" - which details the refined world of a wealthy Italian family led by Swinton, who learned to speak Italian for the role - grossed $346,500, which amounted to a $2,100 average and a lovely new cume of $3,226,209.

Meanwhile, Focus Features also continued to have much to celebrate with their expansion of Lisa Cholodenko's "The Kids are All Right." After two weekends of fantastic grosses first on 7 screens and and then 38 screens respectively, the film - starring Annette Bening, Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo - was seriously tested as Focus expanded to 201 engagements. The result was a very respectable $2,647,863 gross and a $13,173 average.

These are great numbers for a film with this screen count, and suggests the film is still on the path to a considerable mainstream breakout. A good comparison is 2006's "Little Miss Sunshine," which like "Kids," is a summer-released family dramedy that came out of Sundance. That film followed a similar release strategy, and in its third weekend had expanded to 153 screens to find a $17,014 average and a $5,642,853 total. "Kids" total now stands just behind at $4,951,644. "Little Miss Sunshine" ended up grossing $59,891,098 and got nominated for an Academy Award for best picture, both achievements Focus would be very happy to see "Kids" match.

Another summer success story expanded in Music Box Films' release of Daniel Alfredson's "The Girl Who Played With Fire." On 165 screens in the U.S. and Canada (up from 141, and note that Music Box is not the film's Canadian distributor), the film grossed $521,164, averaging $3,158 and taking its 17-day cume to $2,902,265.

The second film adapted from the popular book series, "Fire" was released just 4 months afters its intensely successful predecessor, "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo." "Tattoo" had taken in $1,438,838 at the end of its third weekend, though at that point it had only hit 87 screens. Either way, Music Box (which had only had one $1 million grosser - "Tell No One" - before "Tattoo") is having a very good year thanks to the series, and should continue to do so when the third and final film in the trilogy is released this Fall.

Debra Granik's Sundance prize winner "Winter's Bone" also continued a potent summer. The film, which follows a young woman living in the Ozark Mountains played by Jennifer Lawrence, went from 121 to 130 screens and grossed a strong $336,925. That gave the Roadside Attractions release a $2,592 average and took its total to a stellar $3,570,911. The film suffered only a 3% drop from last weekend despite only increasing by 9 screens.

Another big Sundance winner, Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington's Sundance Grand Jury Prize winning doc "Restrepo," went from 31 to 28 screens and grossed $71,331 for distributor National Geographic. That gave the film a decent average of $2,547 and a cume of $535,097.

Finally, two releases hit notable milestones. In its 7th weekend, Jan Kounen's "Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky," became Sony Classics second $1 million grossing Coco Chanel-related film in the past year, taking in $106,694 from 66 screens and bringing its total to $1,104,264. And in its 15th weekend, the mysterious is-it-a-documentary from the equally mysterious British street artist Banksy "Exit Through The Gift Shop" celebrated crossing the $3 million mark. On 14 screens, the DIY-oriented Producers Distribution Agency-released film took in $25,048, averaging $1,789 and taking its total to $3,017,629.

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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3 Comments

  • amyt@mindspring.com | July 27, 2010 7:38 AMReply

    Hi Eugene, Your reply was a bit .literal. I was using Searchlight generically - I could as well have used Focus or Sony Classics. What I was saying is that, like most institutions supposed devoted to Indie film, Indiewire now favors the big money establishment "indies" rather than doing the investigation and outreach necessary to finding out about the non-mainstream. There's more to journalism that rewriting press releases. Obviously, the distributors of Victor Nunez's movie are so naive that they waited until they had the figures for Sunday to file the week-end grosses. If they read Ann Thjompson they might know better, but then, what is a story about Box Office battle between "Inception" and "Salt' doing on Indiewire anyway. Your purist colleague, amy taubin

  • Eugene Hernandez | July 27, 2010 1:01 AMReply

    Hi Amy,

    I'm not sure which Searchlight release you are referring to, I don't see one referred to in Peter's story.

    I just checked on the grosses for "Spoken Word." The came in this afternoon, 24 hours after this article was published.

    For the record, the numbers are:

    Weekend 1: $2,343
    Screens: 1
    Per-Screen: $2,343
    Cume: $2,343

    I've been a Victor Nunez fan for a long time. I'm personally looking forward to seeing this film, thanks for the tip.

    eugene

  • amyt@mindspring.com | July 25, 2010 5:47 AMReply

    I guess that Indiewire, like this writer, was left out of the loop re the NYC opening this weekend of Victor Nunez's terrific "Spoken Word." No excuse for such incompetent press and release strategies, even if the target audience is the Latino southwest. Currently at BIG Cinemas (east 59th, run, don't walk); opens LA, July 30. Maybe you could keep you eye on this one, rather than grovelling before the numbers of the latest Searchlight hokum. Amy Taubin