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by Peter Knegt
December 27, 2011 1:25 PM
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Here's The Top Grossing Documentaries of 2011, Led By 'Justin Bieber'

"Justin Bieber: Never Say Never"
Over the next few days, Indiewire will be offering a series of charts reflecting the big winners at the box office this year. Today's chart takes on documentaries, which were collectively led by none other than Justin Bieber.

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:

The Top Grossing Docs of 2011

  • Paramount
    1 of 10

    1. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never

    Domestic Gross: $73,013,910
  • BV
    2 of 10

    2. African Cats

    Domestic Gross: $15,428,747
  • Warner Brothers
    3 of 10

    3. Born To Be Wild

    Domestic Gross: $14,844,138
  • Sundance Selects
    4 of 10

    4. Cave of Forgotten Dreams

    Domestic Gross: $5,256,974
  • Sundance Selects
    5 of 10

    5. Buck

    Domestic Gross: $4,038,912
  • PDA
    6 of 10

    6. Senna

    Domestic Gross: $1,612,430
  • Paladin
    7 of 10

    7. I Am

    Domestic Gross: $1,591,034
  • Zeitgeist
    8 of 10

    8. Bill Cunningham New York

    Domestic Gross: $1,510,026
  • Sony Classics
    9 of 10

    9. Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest

    Domestic Gross: $1,200,326
  • Magnolia
    10 of 10

    10. Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times

    Domestic Gross: $1,067,028

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4 Comments

  • Barry | December 28, 2011 1:24 PMReply

    I hate to pile on, but frankly when you are interested in a topic, a gallery is such a slow way to get the info. I'd prefer an article for discussion and a table for info. The GAllery does not serve the reader.

  • jonk | December 28, 2011 1:23 PMReply

    hate 'em, too. but more irritating is the bad data here. if you count Bieber and Cats, why not Glee and Wild?

    probably other films missing :p

  • HerbyN | December 27, 2011 2:44 PMReply

    am i the only person that hates "galleries"? the proliferation of these things on the internet is beginning to grate. I know it is a great revenue generator b/c of all of the ads that can be bannered on each page, but really... can't we just have a good old fashioned article with a table/list of the top grossing docs?

  • Steven Flores | December 27, 2011 7:30 PM

    I agree. Especially anything that involves that little shit.