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Holiday Box Office: "Detective Dee" Leads Summer's Final Specialty Frame (UPDATED)

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire September 5, 2011 at 12:19PM

The summer box office season came to a close with some lackluster numbers on the studio end and a few brightspots on the specialty side. According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, Alain Corneau's "Love Crime" and Joann Sfar's "Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life" both made respectable debuts for distributors IFC Films and Music Box Films, respectively, while Hark Tsui's "Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame" did even better for Indomina Media.
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The summer box office season came to a close with some lackluster numbers on the studio end and a few brightspots on the specialty side. According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, Alain Corneau's "Love Crime" and Joann Sfar's "Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life" both made respectable debuts for distributors IFC Films and Music Box Films, respectively, while Hark Tsui's "Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame" did even better for Indomina Media.

Over the 4-day holiday weekend, "Gainsbourg" grossed $32,889 from 3 theaters, averaging a decent $10,963. The film is a glimpse at the life of French singer Serge Gainsbourg, from growing up in 1940s Nazi-occupied Paris through his successful song-writing years in the 1960s to his death in 1991 at the age of 62.

"Love Crime," meanwhile, stars Ludivine Sagnier and Kristin Scott Thomas, the latter of which is already in specialty theaters with late summer hit "Sarah's Key." "Crime" would obviously love to follow in "Sarah's" footsteps, and so far it's off to a reasonable start. On 5 screens, the film grossed $52,500 over the holiday, averaging $10,500. IFC plans to expand the film to 25 markets throughout the month of September.

Neither could top Hark Tsui's "Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame," however. The film debuted on 3 screens this weekend for Indomina Media, and though only 3-day weekend numbers were reported, so far the film is doing excellent business. It grossed $52,617 through Sunday, making for a $17,539 average - already above and beyond both "Crime" and "Gainsbourg" and the highest average of any film in release. Check back with indieWIRE for its full holiday weekend numbers.

Other openers included Samuel Goldwyn Film’s release of "A Good Old Fashioned Orgy." The film, featuring SNL vets Jason Sudeikis and Will Forte, earned an estimated $152,724 during the 4 day holiday weekend on 143 screens, for a per screen average of $1,068.

Focus Features opted to go wide with their release of John Madden's "The Debt," which stars Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, Tom Wilkinson and Jessica Chastain. On 1,826 screens, the film ended up #2 at the overall box office, trailing only "The Help." It grossed $12,551,142 over the 4-day weekend, averaging a quite strong $6,874. Since opening last Wednesday, the film's total stands at $14,452,556.

Vera Farmiga's directorial debut "Higher Ground" faired the better of the two. Expanding from 3 to 17 theaters, the film grossed $125,181 over Labor Day weekend for a $7,364 per-theater-average. The Sony Pictures Classics-released film has grossed $168,765 in its first 10 days.

Roadside Attractions expanded Maryam Keshavarz's Iran-set drama "Circumstance" from 7 to 11 screens. As a result, the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award winner (released in partnership with Participant Media) took in in $45,200 for a $4,198 average. The film has now totalled $112,512.

In its fourth weekend, Asif Kapadia's acclaimed documentary "Senna" went from 28 to 47 screens for the Producers Distribution Agency (the company's second release after forming for "Exit Through the Gift Shop"). The feature took in $236,563 for a strong average of $5,033. This helped take "Senna"'s total to $884,556.

Gilles Paquet-Brenner's aforementioned "Sarah's Key" also continued an impressive run. In its seventh weekend, The Weinstein Company expanded the film up 47 theaters to a new high of 319. As a result, the French-language film starring Kristin Scott Thomas grossed another $788,000 over the holiday weekend for a per-theater-average of $2,470. The total for "Key" now stands at $5,210,164. The film has truly become a sizable late-summer hit for the Weinsteins and one of the highest-grossing foreign-language films of the year.

Also doing well was Sony Pictures Classics' release of John Michael McDonagh's "The Guard." The Irish black comedy starring Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle expanded from 108 to 178 theaters in its sixth frame and took in $756,300 for a four-day per-theater-average of $4,249. The film's total is now an admirable $2,698,515.

Lionsgate's release of Lee Tamahori's "The Devil's Double," which dropped from 78 to 49 screens in its sixth weekend and managed a $53,000 4-day gross, averaging $1,081. The film's total now stands at $1,278,973.

Samuel Goldwyn's release of political thriller "The Whistleblower" expanded from 68 to 70 screens in its fifth weekend. As as result, the film, which stars Rachel Weisz, pulled in $126,000 for a $1,800 per-theater-average over the holiday. Its total now stands at $792,525.

In its 16th weekend, Woody Allen's "Midnight In Paris" continued to impress, dropping from 652 to 402 theaters but still managing a weekend-to-weekend 18% increase with the holiday included. The film took in $876,549 over the 4-day weekend, averaging $2,180. That gave the SPC release a stunning new total of $52,926,198. In the end, "Paris" should wind up with a domestic gross around the $60 million mark. It's the second-highest grossing film in distributor SPC's history, behind only "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

Finally, a few wide releases from specialty distributors continued to struggle. Film District's "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" dropped the most of any film in the top 10 (28% despite the extra day of grosses), taking in only $6,144,000 as it took its total to $17,585,000. The Weinstein Company's "Our Idiot Brother," meanwhile, held on a bit better, rising 1% in grosses as it grossed $7,045,000 over the holiday weekend, bringing its total to $17,280,000.

Peter Knegt is indieWIRE's Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

indieWIRE 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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