Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Indies at the Memorial Day Box Office: Will "The Tree of Life" Be Another "Inconvenient Truth"?

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire May 26, 2011 at 6:40AM

Memorial Day weekend at movies has never exactly been associated with independent film. From this year's "Kung Fu Panda 2" and "The Hangover Part II" to various "Pirates," "Shreks" and superheroes, it's one of Hollywood's most reliable weekends for massive returns on tentpole releases. But the specialty market is not entirely immune to success over the holiday, and Fox Searchlight is clearly making an effort to bank on that with this weekend's release of Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life." On four screens in New York and Los Angeles, "Life" will begin its slow rollout across America. Though the divisive and challenging film might be a harder sell as it expands, its first weekend out could result in a significant per-theater-average thanks to its recent Palme d'Or win, the presence of Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, and the huge curiosity among cinephiles.
0

Memorial Day weekend at movies has never exactly been associated with independent film. From this year's "Kung Fu Panda 2" and "The Hangover Part II" to various "Pirates," "Shreks" and superheroes, it's one of Hollywood's most reliable weekends for massive returns on tentpole releases. But the specialty market is not entirely immune to success over the holiday, and Fox Searchlight is clearly making an effort to bank on that with this weekend's release of Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life." On four screens in New York and Los Angeles, "Life" will begin its slow rollout across America. Though the divisive and challenging film might be a harder sell as it expands, its first weekend out could result in a significant per-theater-average thanks to its recent Palme d'Or win, the presence of Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, and the huge curiosity among cinephiles.

The NY/LA specialty market already showed signs of a summer take off last weekend when Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" averaged nearly $100,000 from its six opening theaters. Can "Tree of Life" pull off a similar number? It's quite possible. Though working against it is a 138-minute running time and considerably less mainstream appeal in relation to "Paris." But "Paris" also didn't have anything close to the anticipation surrounding "The Tree of Life," so it will be very curious indeed to see what numbers distributor Fox Searchlight reports as the weekend comes to an end.

In respect to previous Memorial Day weekends, it would take a $91,828 per-theater-average for "Tree" to overtake 2004's "An Inconvenient Truth" as the highest specialty debut over the holiday. Also opening on four screens, "Truth" would end up grossing $24,146,161, one of the best documentary grosses of all time. Beyond it, specialty openers have historically proved pretty unmemorable over the past decade, with half of them failing to end up even crossing the $1 million mark.

Check out the below list for a decade of top specialty debuts at the Memorial Day box office, and check back with indieWIRE this weekend to see where "The Tree of Life" falls into this list.

Top Memorial Day Limited Debuts, 2001-2010

2010 - Agora (Newmarket)
Opening Average: $22,157/2 screens
Final Gross: $619,423

2009 - Easy Virtue (Sony Classics)
Opening Average: $14,304/10 screens
Final Gross: $2,656,784

2008 - War, Inc. (First Look)
Opening Average: $22,857/2 screens
Final Gross: $580,862

2007 - Paprika (Sony Classics)
Opening Average: $22,714/2 screens
Final Gross: $882,267

2006 - An Inconvenient Truth (Paramount Classics)
Opening Average: $91,827/4 screens
Final Gross: $24,146,161

2005 - Saving Face (Sony Classics)
Opening Average: $16,513/6 screens
Final Gross: $1,187,266

2004 - Saved! (United Artists)
Opening Average: $22,969/20 screens
Final Gross: $8,940,582

2003 - Respiro (Sony Classics)
Opening Average: $13,493/7 screens
Final Gross: $1,072,834

2002 - 13 Conversations About One Thing (Sony Classics)
Opening Average: $9,944 /9 screens
Final Gross: $3,288,164

2001 - The Man Who Cried (Focus Features)
Opening Average: $8,495/11 screens
Final Gross: $747,092

This article is related to: The Tree of Life





Win The Complete Twin Peaks on Blu-ray from Indiewire! in Indiewire's Hangs on LockerDome

Most Read



SnagFilms

Watch Over 10,000 Free Movies!

We the Economy: Supply and Dance, Man!

Why is the law of supply and demand so powerful? In this whimsical tale, our friendly narrator guides bored students Jonathan and Kristin through a microeconomic musical extravaganza.

More