By Peter Knegt | Indiewire June 1, 2010 at 4:07AM
While Hollywood suffered one of its weakest Memorial Day weekends in recent memory with both "Prince of Persia" and "Sex and the City 2" posting underwhelming debuts, the specialty front got a fair boost from a batch of newcomers. Alejandro Amenabar's "Agora," Jean-Pierre Jeunet's "Micmacs," Stephane Brize's "Mademoiselle Chambon," and a restoration of Jean-Luc Godard's "Breathless" all found four-day weekend per-theater-averages of over $12,000, while holdover "Solitary Man" managed nearly $18,000. That's a boost from last year's Memorial Day weekend, when only one film ("Easy Virtue") managed to average over $10,000.
According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier this afternoon, Amenabar's "Agora" scored the highest per-theater-average of any film in the marketplace, "Sex and the City 2" included. On 2 screens, the Newmarket Films-released historical epic grossed $43,262 from the four-day frame, averaging $21,631. It's definitely a promising start for the Rachel Weisz-starrer (which debuted at last year's Cannes Film Festival), though how it performs in the next few weekends of expansion will be much more telling as to how well the reportedly $70 million budgeted Spanish import (which has already grossed over $30 million overseas) can perform Stateside.
"Micmacs" marks Pierre-Jeunet's first release since 2004's "A Very Long Engagement," and considering the director's generally potent box office record in the U.S., it has some high expectations coming with it. The Sony Pictures Classics-released film grossed $41,621 from its 2 U.S. screens, averaging $20,811. In Canada, where it was released by Entertainment One, interest did not seem as high (though notably it was not a holiday weekend in that country), as "Micmacs" grossed only $15,130 from 2 screens, averaging $7,565. Its North American total for the 4-day weekend was $56,751, for an average of $14,188.
Keeping in mind the Canadian non-holiday, that's a very good start for the French import, though it does fall slightly short of Pierre-Jeunet's past efforts. "A Very Long Engagement" averaged $25,437 from 4 theaters in November, 2004, en route to a $6,524,389 North American gross, while 2001's "Amelie" (which, mind you, is one of the highest grossing foreign language films of all-time in the U.S.), debuted a whopping $45,490 average in November of that year, eventually grossing $33,225,499. That all said, those films had the added benefit of late fall release dates (where foreign films - especially Oscar baity ones - tend to excel). For a French-language comic satire on the arms race opening in late May, "Micmacs" is definitely performing more than respectably thus far.
Though not exactly a debut, the 50th anniversary restoration of Jean-Luc Godard's "Breathless" was released on three screens this weekend via Rialto. The result was a $41,000 gross - giving "Breathless" a $13,667 average - the fourth highest of any film this weekend and notably higher than anything in wide release.
indieWIRE's Eric Kohn discussed the film late last week in this article, noting: "The radicalism of both 'Breathless' and its maker haven’t changed. When the 79-year-old director recently premiered 'Film Socialism' at Cannes (and mysteriously ditched out on the festival at the last minute), critical reactions were all across the map: Angry, frustrated, fascinated. 'Breathless' did that upon its release in 1960, and still does it to this day."
Of note in relation to "Breathless"'s performance are two holdover releases: Kino Internationals re-release of another film history classic, Fritz Lang's "Metropolis," and Lorber Films' release of "Two in the Wave," a doc on the relationship between Godard and his French New Wave colleague Francois Truffaut. "Metropolis," screening at both NYC's Film Forum and LA's Laemmle Sunset, grossed $11,000 in its third weekend out, averaging $5,500 and bringing the re-issue's total to $138,549. It expands to Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis and San Diego this Friday. "Two In The Wave," meanwhile, grossed $6,800 from its lone Film Forum screen this weekend, bringing its total to $20,228.
Another French import, Stephane Brize's "Mademoiselle Chambon," also got off to a good start - especially considering how many other French films were in the New York marketplace it debuted in. The Vincent Lindon-Sandrine Kiberlain-starrer grossed a solid $25,500 from two NYC screens over the weekend, averaging $12,750. Its engagement at the Lincoln Plaza was particularly impressive, where it managed $18,000 there alone. The film is being released in the US by Lorber Films.
A newcomer that struggled over the weekend was "George A. Romero's Survival of the Dead," which Magnolia release in 20 screens. The film grossed $54,605 through the holiday, averaging $2,730. Romero's last film in the series - "Diary of the Dead" - averaged $5,538 from 42 screens over just three days.
Holdovers of note this weekend included Brian Koppelman and David Levien's "Solitary Man," which topped the specialty market last weekend and nearly managed the same this time around. Grossing $107,000 from 6 screens, the sophomore release averaged $17,833 for the four-day weekend, bringing its total to a commendable $239,556 so far. Starring Michael Douglas, Susan Sarandon, Danny deVito, Mary-Louise Parker and Jesse Eisenberg, the film looks like it could become Anchor Bay's second consecutive million dollar grosser. The distributor - which had never even had a film gross over $300,000 a few months ago, recently saw Tribeca pickup "City Island" cross the $4.5 million mark (it grossed another $524,000 this weekend, and could very well end up being one of the biggest surprise specialty success story of the year).
Not fairing quite as well was the second weekend of First Independent Pictures 'release of its Sundance pickup "Holy Rollers." "Rollers" - which stars Jesse Eisenberg as a Hasidic Jew smuggling Ecstasy between Amsterdam and New York in the late ’90s - managed only $71,289 from an expanded 20 screens over the holiday weekend. That made for a $3,564 per-theater-average as the film totalled $125,419.
Finally, four releases that have been in the marketplace since April continued to prove themselves. The fifth weekends of both Daniel Barber's "Harry Brown" and Nicole Holofcener's "Please Give," and the seventh weekends of both Juan José Campanella's Oscar winner "The Secret In Their Eyes" and Banksy's" "Exit Through The Gift Shop" all saw great numbers.
"Brown" managed $160,747 from 53 screens over the 4-day weekend, averaging a decent $3,033 and crossing a milestone which only 17 indies have so far this year: $1 million ($1,057,645 to be exact in "Brown"'s case). "Brown" has the added achievement of doing so without going over 100 screens, which only four others have done ("A Prophet, "Exit Through the Gift Shop," the Oscar Shorts and "Please Give").
Speaking of, "Please Give" dipped a bit from 53 to 50 screens this weekend, but still managed to drop off ever so slightly (when comparing 3 day weekends at least... for the holiday frame it actually rose 14%). The film - starring Catherine Leener, Oliver Platt, Amanda Peet and Rebecca Hall - grossed $266,669 over the 4-day frame, averaging $5,333 and bringing its total to $1,406,133.
"Secret," meanwhile, went from 141 to 155 screens and grossed a very healthy seventh weekend gross of $608,877 (placing it in the overall top 15). That made for a $3,928 average and a total of a very impressive $3,483,981.
Also in its seventh weekend, DIY-oriented Producers Distribution Agency-released "Exit Through The Gift Shop" hit 46 screens (up from 43 last weekend), and grossed $240,054 - averaging $5,219 and taking its total to $1,949,231. Though its been debated whether the film is actually a documentary, there's no debate that if it is classified as one, "Gift Shop" marks one of the genre's very few 2010 success stories.
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..