While most certainly not an indie, the Bieb's Paramount-released concert film "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never" was indeed the year's top grossing documentary. Taking in $73 million, "Never Say Never" is the third highest grossing doc of all-time, behind only "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "March of the Penguins."
"Bieber" is followed by two other studio-released doc, Disney's annual nature flick "African Cats" and Warner Brothers' chimpanzee-centered IMAX film "Born To Be Wild." "Cats" lagged behind its predecessors "Earth" and "Oceans" with a $15.4 million gross ("Earth" grossed $32 million and "Oceans" took in $19 million).
Then comes the indies. Led by the extraordinary success of the Sundance Selects duo "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" and "Buck" (more on them here), the independent film world had a few notable success stories this year. Many of them were via unique distribution strategies, like Producers Distribution Agency's "Senna" (more on that here) Paladin's "I Am" (more on that story here) and Zeitgeist's "Bill Cunningham New York" (more here).
But for every success story, there were multiple disappointments ("Project Nim" certainly stands out among them). These charts will lead up to more significant analysis of the year's winners and losers next week (including extensive takes on the docs), so check back. But in the meantime here are the top 10 grossing documentaries of 2011: