By Peter Knegt | Indiewire May 25, 2009 at 2:59AM
While Ben Stiller and the Terminator battled it out in Hollywood (with Ben Stiller the surprise champion), Indiewood's Memorial Day weekend had a clear box office winner in Stephan Elliott's "Easy Virtue." According to estimates, the Noel Coward adaptation grossed a classy $146,140 on 10 screens. Released by Sony Pictures Classics, "Virtue" - which stars Ben Barnes, Jessica Biel and Kristen Scott Thomas - averaged $14,614 over the four-day weekend, easily the highest among all specialty releases.
Steven Soderbergh's "The Girlfriend Experience" didn't have such an easy time. The Magnolia Pictures release - perhaps hindered by the fact that it's been available on Video-On-Demand for weeks now, grossed a so-so $200,000 from 30 screens, averaging $6,667. But while that's a far cry from the $30,535 Soderbergh's "Che" opened to this past winter, it's impressive in comparison to the much more similar release of "Bubble" in 2006. That film - also released by Magnolia, and on simultaneous platforms - averaged only $2,208 in its first weekend. Though it certainly didn't have the sex appeal that is Sasha Grey (or the rather genius tagline of "See It With Someone You F**k).
Other openers included Sony Classics' Cannes 2008 pickup "O'Horten," which grossed $32,937 on 8 screens over the 4 days, averaging a mild $4,117. And Oscilloscope Laboratories' release of "Burma VJ" found reasonable numbers. The doc, which tells the story of the 2007 protests in Burma by thousands of monks, grossed $7,554 at the Film Forum in New York over the four-day weekend, and $9,886 since opening Wednesday.
Meanwhile, two holdovers held up very nicely - both seeming poised to become summer breakouts for their distributors. Summit Entertainment's release of "The Brothers Bloom" went from 4 to 52 screens this weekend and grossed a stellar $527,000, placing it 15th overall. Its $10,154 average - a reasonable 50% drop from last weekend, and the second highest of any limited release after "Virtue" - helped bring the Rian Johnson total to $651,388 as it heads into a month of expansion.
Holding up just as well was IFC Films' release of Olivier Assayas' "Summer Hours." The French import expanded from 2 to 27 screens and grossed a very promising $252,450 - placing it in the overall top twenty. Its $9,350 average and $327,187 standing gross both suggest IFC might have a considerable foreign-language hit on its hands this summer.
Also notable is that James D. Stern had a whopping three movies place among the top specialty films this weekend - the aforementioned "Virtue" and "Bloom," both of which he produced, and "Every Little Step," which he also directed. "Step," which was co-directed by Adam Del Deo and details a revival of a "A Chorus Line," continued to prove itself as a breakout documentary at the box office. In its sixth frame, the film grossed another $210,566 over the four-day weekend, averaging $3,569 and taking its cume to $738,458 as it continues to expand. Congratulations to Mr. Stern.
Meanwhile, another breakout doc - Truly Indie's "Valentino: The Last Emperor" - past the $1,000,000 mark this weekend after 10 frames. The film stayed steady at 33 screens and saw its grosses still rise 3% over the 3-day weekend (four-day numbers were not yet available). The film's remarkable staying power has led it to open next weekend at the Angelika in New York City this upcoming weekend. It's essentially unprecedented for a film to open at the Angelika 11 weeks after opening elsewhere in New York City.
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 email@example.com by the end of the day each Monday.