By Peter Knegt | Indiewire June 22, 2009 at 12:32PM
Woody Allen's "Whatever Works" found itself working out just fine with audiences this weekend, pulling in a fantastic $280,720 from 9 screens according to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier this afternoon. That gave the Sony Pictures Classics' release a $31,191 per-theater-average, falling just slightly behind "Away We Go"'s $32,603 average two weeks ago and thus making it 2009's third best limited opener (both "Whatever" and "Away" failed to match the unchallenged $54,798 "Sunshine Cleaning" averaged this past March).
As far as Allen's now 40-title long resume goes, "Works" falls behind his recent single digit screen openers 2005's "Match Point" and 2004's "Melinda and Melinda," which found higher averages of $49,824 (on 8 screens) and $74,238 (on 1), respectively. For reference's sake, last year "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" incomparably averaged $5,427 from 692 screens, en route to $23,216,709, Allen's highest gross in over 20 years. Oddly enough, "Whatever"'s opening is almost exactly on par with Allen's last only other collaboration with Sony Pictures Classics, 1999's "Sweet and Lowdown." That film averaged $31,562 on 3 screens.
Sony Classics head Michael Barker was certainly happy with the numbers, telling indieWIRE this afternoon: "There's a lot of laughter and enjoyment coming out of the theaters playing 'Whatever Works' this weekend. We couldn't be more pleased. This is a great sign for the national break which occurs on July 3 and the life of the picture overall. The comic invention of Woody Allen, Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, and Patricia Clarkson is working big time."
Barker also has to be pleased with the second weekend of Duncan Jones' "Moon," which found the weekend's highest average for a specialty release not directed by Woody Allen. Last weekend, "Moon" opened behind competitors "Food, Inc." and "Tetro." This weekend, that order reversed, with the Sam Rockwell starrer expanding from 8 to 21 screens and grossing $186,465 for a $8,879 average. The sci-fi drama's total now stands at $400,076 as it continues to expand.
"Food, Inc."'s much more aggressive expansion this weekend wasn't without its merits. The Magnolia Pictures-released food industry expose grossed $280,000 from 51 screens, which shot it into the overall top twenty, and kept it's average at a promising $5,490. Its $377,726 total already makes it one of the year's top ten grossing documentaries, and it should soon join "Valentino: The Last Emperor" and "Every Little Step" in that exceedingly rare $1 million doc box office club.
""Tetro," Francis Ford Coppola's family saga released through his American Zoetrope, expanded the most mildly of three - from 2 to 8 screens - and grossed $55,423, averaging $6,928 and taking its total to $106,870. Though it could potentially outgross Coppola's last film, "Youth Without Youth," by next weekend, its unlikely the film can recoup even a fraction of its $15 million budget.
Besides "Whatever Works," other reporting openers this weekend included Andy Abrahams Wilson’s dramatic tale of microbes, medicine and money, "Under Our Skin," which managed a decent $7,100 from one screen, while Tommy Wirkola’s Norwegian horror flick “Dead Snow," similarly took in $6,037 for IFC from one engagement. Tatia Rosenthal’s stop motion animated feature “$9.99," grossed $11,027 on two screens for Regent Releasing, averaging $5,513, while Alexander Olch’s doc "The Windmill Movie" grossed $3,731 over the weekend at the Film Forum, bringing its cume to $9,123 since opening the previous Wednesday.
Among holdovers, two foreign films had notable weekends. Here Media and Regent Releasing's surprise Oscar winner "Departures" continued to pull in good numbers in its, grossing another $108,204 from 27 screens. Its $4,007 average is an enviable for a fourth weekend foreign language release, showing limited signs of slow down as the film's total pushes to $481,491. Meanwhile, French import "Summer Hours" dropped 2 screens and only 2% of its gross as it swept past the $1 million mark. IFC's Olivier Assayas drama grossed another $120,000 to bring its total to $1,141,000.
Finally, the third weekend of aforementioned "Away We Go" continued to suggest the film is becoming the summer's first major specialty breakthrough. On 132 theaters, the Sam Mendes road trip dramedy grossed $903,936, averaging $6,848 and placing 13th overall. With a total cume of $1,969,825, the film is tracking just slightly behind "Sunshine Cleaning," really the year's only major specialty breakthrough thus far, which had grossed $2,477,704 after three weekends with a very similar expansion.
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.