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by Indiewire
July 7, 2008 12:57 PM
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iW BOT | Audiences High on Sony Classics' 'Wackness'

Filmmaker Jonathan Levine enjoyed sophomore success thanks to a sky-high response to his '90s nostalgia tale "The Wackness." Featuring Josh Peck as a high school grad and Ben Kingsley as his crazy Manhattan psychiatrist, "Wackness" earned $172,179 for Sony Pictures Classics from six debut runs since opening July 3. "Tell No One," French director Guillaume Canet's thriller about a grieving husband who believes his murdered wife may be alive, debuted in the second spot on the iWBOT top five, which ranks films by per-screen average. "Tell No One" earned $169,707 from eight runs for Music Box Films and $220,679 since July 2. Rounding out the iWBOT top five were "Elsa & Fred," Argentine director Marcos Carnevale's seniors romance for Mitropoulos Films; "Kabluey," actor/director Scott Prendergast's screwball family comedy for Regent Releasing and Magnolia Pictures' "Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson," director Alex Gibney's documentary about the larger-than-life journalist.

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

The first breakout, specialty comedy of the summer box office arrived via "The Wackness," director Jonathan Levine's high-energy, coming-of-age tale for Sony Pictures Classics. Featuring former Nickelodeon star Josh Peck as a high school grad who sells pot in order to help his cash-strapped family and Ben Kingsley as his nutty psychiatrist, "Wackness" shot towards a sky-high $28,697 per-screen average over its four-day debut. "Every year, there is an alternative film that breaks out and this is the perfect alternative film for summer," said Michael Barker, co-president and co-founder, Sony Pictures Classics. ""The Wackness" is in the same genre as "Garden State." It has a young protagonist and young audiences love the film. This is the kind of movie that plays both mainstream theaters and so-called specialty theaters." Barker confirmed an extensive expansion for "Wackness," something Levine did not have with his first film, the 2007 horror comedy "All the Boys Love Mandy Lane." "We're going to roll this out aggressively in the next four weeks and be in 600 hundred theaters by August, Barker continued to say.

Director Guillaume Canet's French mystery "Tell No One," featuring Francois Cluzet as a grieving husband who believes his murdered wife may be alive, earned $169,707 over five days from eight runs for Chicago-based Music Box Films; the best debut yet for the fledgling distributor and a debut, per-screen average comparable to recent art-house hits "La Vie en Rose" and "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly." "We're not sure yet if 'Tell No One' is in this class but we're prepared to be surprised," said Ed Arentz, managing director and co-founder, Music Box Films. "We recognized early on that the summer, which in recent years, particularly from mid-summer on, has been short on strong, galvanizing titles. For whatever reason, the studio boutiques were laying low so we saw this as a huge opportunity for our film and hopefully this will continue to play out this way." Arentz confirmed additional markets for "Tell No One" of Chicago, Seattle, Philadelphia and San Francisco on Friday and Detroit, Minneapolis, Washington DC, San Diego and Denver on July 18.

Entering the iWBOT top five in its second week of release was the drama "Elsa & Fred," Argentine director Marcos Carnevale's romance between two seniors who meet over a minor car accident. "Elsa and Fred" earned an estimated $9,551 for Mitropoulos Films from New York's Paris Theatre.

The screwball comedy "Kabluey," featuring Lisa Kudrow and Scott Prendergast (who is on both sides of the camera), earned $7,373 from an exclusive debut at New York's Cinema Village for Regent Releasing.

"Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, director Alex Gibney's documentary about the larger-than-life journalist," earned $191,942 in three-day box office from 25 debut runs for Magnolia Pictures, a strong $7,678 per-screen average; good enough for the top documentary on the iWBOT. "As we all know, it's been rough lately for theatrical docs," said Eamonn Bowles, president, Magnolia Pictures. "But we did a lot of grass roots work targeting various groups that were interested in Hunter's work and lifestyle, everything from literary groups to gun shops. Plus, it didn't hurt to have a current academy award director at the helm of something that seemed more fun than what he won the prize for."

Debuting in the iWBOT top ten was "Holding Trevor," director Rosser Goodman's drama for Regent Releasing. Featuring Brent Gorski as Trevor, a young man desperate for a loving relationship, "Holding Trevor" earned $7,829 in debut weekend earnings from exclusive runs in New York and Los Angeles.

Picturehouse's "Mongol," Russian filmmaker Sergei Bodrov's epic drama about the boy, who becomes Mongol Empire founder Genghis Khan, remained the overall specialty earnings leader. "Mongol" earned $765,120 from 253 screens and reached $3.5 million in total box office.

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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