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February 20, 2008 12:20 AM
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iW BOT | Academy Countdown: Oscar Snub 'Band's Visit' Finds Fans; 'Dead' Debuts Strong; 'Juno' Tops

Saleh Bakri and Ronit Elkabetz in a scene from "The Band's Visit." Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

"The Band's Visit," filmmaker Eran Kolirin's comedy for Sony Pictures Classics, was ruled ineligible for a foreign-language Oscar nomination but the Israeli film about an Egyptian police band lost in rural Israel leapt past Oscar contenders with a leading per-screen average of $11,267 from thirteen runs. "In Bruges," writer/director Martin McDonagh's hit men-in-trouble comedy for Focus Features was close behind with a sophomore week per-screen average of $10,420 from 112 runs. "George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead," the premiere release from Weinstein Company banner Third Rail Releasing, made a strong debut with $230,000 in Presidents Day weekend box office from 42 locations. Rounding out the iWBOT Top Five, which ranks films by per-screen average, were City Lights Pictures' Brazilian drama "The Year My Parents Went On Vacation," and "The Business of Being Born," director Abby Epstein's documentary about hospital maternity policies and her own pregnancy. Leading up to the Academy Awards, Fox Searchlight's "Juno," climbed to the top four box office spot of all-time for specialty film Best Picture nominees.

The iWBOT is based on per-theater averages reported by Rentrak Theatrical, the complete indieWIRE BOT weekly chart is available at indieWIRE.com.

Sony Pictures Classics' Israeli comedy "The Band's Visit," director Eran Kolirin's story of an Egyptian band lost in rural Israel, failed to receive a Best Foreign Film Oscar nomination due to its scenes of English dialogue but led all specialty releases with a $11,267 per-screen average. "We always believed this was an audience movie first and foremost and that's proving to be the case," said Michael Barker, Co-President of Sony Pictures Classics. "It's really important that we get these great reviews from the critics to get the audience in the there but it also helps that the word of mouth is terrific." After expanding to 13 runs in its sophomore frame, "Band's Visit" per-screen average bumped up 30%, resulting in Presidents Weekend box office of $146,475 and total box office to date of $288,102. Sony Classics expands "Band's Visit" Friday to four additional markets including Boston, Miami and Philadelphia.

"In Bruges," writer/director Martin McDonagh's hit men comedy for Focus Features, earned $1,167,013 in Presidents Day weekend box office from 112 runs, up 84 locales from its debut. While its per-screen average dropped some 40% to $10,420, the Colin Farrell/Brenden Gleeson-led comedy has reached $1,778,549 in cume-to-date. Third Rail Releasing, the new distribution banner from the Weinstein Company, enjoyed what Weinstein COO Lee Solomon called "a great first weekend" via "George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead." The latest zombie thriller from Romero reached a $6,549 per-screen average, earning $275,061 in four-day weekend box office from 42 runs with Los Angeles' Landmark Nuart as the top performer. Expansion plans for "Dead" include ten new markets Feb. 29 with additional markets heading into the sophomore Third Rail release, the Asian genre film "Slash Point," opening March. 14.

City Lights Pictures' "The Year My Parents Went on Vacation," director Cao Hamburger's drama about a 12-year-old boy left in the care of his grandfather's neighbor, debuted with a $5,430 per-screen average from 18 debut runs. "This movie is going to be a sleeper and although the reviews have been terrific and we've had some great publicity breaks so far, we believe that it's been the word of mouth that has been driving the numbers on this film," said Marcus Lansdell, Director, Development and Acquisitions for City Lights Pictures. "So much of the credit goes to the charming, crowd-pleasing nature of the film itself." The widest release to date for City Lights Pictures, "Year" earned $97,748 in weekend box office.

Reclaiming its rank as top documentary on the iWBOT was the Red Envelope Entertainment/International Film Circuit release "The Business of Being Born," director Abby Epstein's look at American hospitals' maternity policies and the story of her own pregnancy. "Born" earned $9,574 in holiday weekend box office at Chicago's Music Box Theatre and $65,260 in cume since its Jan. 9 opening. Magnolia Pictures' 2007 Academy Award Nominated Short Films Tour earned $22,803 in weekend box office at New York's IFC Center, its top performer out of 65 locations. "2007 Academy Short Films" reached a per-screen average of $3,605 from $234,337 in Presidents Weekend earnings. "David & Layla," director Jay Jonroy's Muslim woman/Jewish guy romance for David & Layla, LLC, earned $5,007 at New York's Quad Cinema, just behind the iWBOT Top Five. IFC's "4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days," director Cristian Mungiu's drama about a young woman who seeks an underground abortion in 1987 Romania, remained a top performer. "4 Months" earned $153,863 from 32 runs. After four weeks, "4 Months" has earned $565,830.

Of all the specialty Best Picture contenders, Director Jason Reitman's teenage pregnancy comedy "Juno" began Oscars Week with the strongest box office momentum. The comedy, with four Oscar nominations, earned $4,612,741 in holiday weekend box office, good enough for the seventh spot in the overall box office and moving past 2000 Best Picture nominee "Traffic." Only specialty Best Picture contenders "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," "Good Will Hunting" and "Chicago" have out-earned "Juno," which has reached $124 million in cume-to-date. Right behind in per-screen average was Best Picture nominee "There Will Be Blood,' director Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of Upton Sinclair's novel about California oil men. The Paramount Vantage release and Paramount Vantage/Miramax co-production earned $3,674,271 in holiday weekend earnings and $31,619,154 in total box office. "Atonement," director Joe Wright's adaptation of Ian McEwan's World Way II love story and a Best Picture nominee, entered Oscar Week with Presidents Weekend earnings of $1,758,291 from 784 runs for Focus Features. Its total box office tally has reached $47,757,414. "No Country for Old Men," the Best Picture nominee from Ethan and Joel Coen, earned $2,294,041 from 925 runs for a 15th week per-screen average of $2,480. The Miramax Films release and Paramount Vantage/Miramax co-production has earned $61,280,000 in total box office.

Sunday's Oscars ceremony will reveal which specialty contender will receive the biggest Oscar bounce and enjoy the best chance at attracting new audiences.

Steve Ramos is a Cincinnati based writer.

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 studiogrosses@rentrak.com by the end of the day each Monday.

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