By Indiewire | Indiewire June 10, 2008 at 1:40AM
"Mongol," Russian filmmaker Sergei Bodrov's epic drama about the boy, who rises up and becomes Mongol Empire founder Genghis Khan, stormed past all specialty releases with a sky-high $27,065 per-screen average from five runs. The Picturehouse release earned $135,326 in weekend box office, granting the soon-to-be-shuttered, Warner Bros. specialty shingle the first blockbuster specialty debut of the summer. "The Grocer's Son," French filmmaker Eric Guirado' drama about a son who returns to his Provence hometown to manage the family grocery store, also debuted in the iWBOT top five, which ranks films by per-screen average. "Grocer's Son" earned $10,587 for Film Movement from an exclusive debut at New York's Lincoln Plaza Cinemas. Rounding out the iWBOT top five were "Take Out," co-directors Sean Baker and Shih-Ching Tsou's immigrant drama for CAVU Pictures; "The Promotion," writer/director Steven Conrad's workplace comedy for Third Rail Releasing and Sony Pictures Classics' father/son drama "When Did You Last See Your Father?"
The iWBOT is based on per-theater averages reported by Rentrak Theatrical, the complete indieWIRE BOT weekly chart is available at indieWIRE.com.>
News of Paramount absorbing its specialty division Paramount Vantage; just weeks after Warner Bros. announced the closing of its specialty divisions Picturehouse and Warner Independent Pictures, accented the challenges specialty companies face attracting audiences to their independent fare. While the animated comedy "Kung Fu Panda" emerged as the rare, non-sequel, Hollywood hit, "Mongol" proved that alternative films also can still find great success in the summertime.
Veteran Russian filmmaker Sergei Bodrov brought some much-appreciated good news to soon-to-close specialty division Picturehouse thanks to "Mongol," the epic re-telling of the rise of Genghis Khan. "Mongol" earned a powerful $135,326 from five debut runs in New York and Los Angeles and a $27,065 per-screen average with the Landmark in Los Angeles attracting the largest crowds. "Mongol has the initial numbers and reviews to be able to expand in a significant way," said Picturehouse President Bob Berney. "The reviews mention the old school/old Hollywood style of the film meaning locations, thousands of extras, real sword fights and less CGI. I think this makes the film stand out. Sergei and his team really pushed it to get the realism on screen and this will help expand the audience beyond art houses. For all the amazing battle scenes, this is really "Ghengis Khan" the love story and features a strong female hero; so women are responding to the film positively." For Berney, "Mongol" proved that there is room in the summer for great, counter-programming specialty films. "I like early summer because if you get traction, a film will be able to platform and hold on, like what happened last year with "La Vie En Rose." You have to really believe a film can cross over enough to withstand the pressure and "Mongol" has that possibility."
"The Grocer's Son" French filmmaker Eric Guirado' drama about a son who takes over the family grocery story after his father becomes ill, earned $10,587 for Film Movement from an exclusive debut at New York's Lincoln Plaza Cinemas. Rebeca Conget, vice president acquisitions and distribution, Film Movement, confirmed an expansion for the light-hearted French drama into additional markets throughout the summer; hoping to capitalize on the film's strong word-of-mouth. "We always knew that this film had great potential and was going to be a big crowd pleaser," Conget said via e-mail. "We just needed to get at least two weeks in a theater to give the positive word of mouth time to build and prove that quality can still rule over budget!"
Filmmakers Sean Baker and Shih-Ching Tsou supported their New York immigrant drama "Take Out" with numerous on-site appearances, helping CAVU Pictures earn $10,505 from its exclusive debut at New York's Quad Cinema. "We are thrilled by "Take Out's" grosses this weekend and personally want to thank Quad owner Elliot Kanbar who championed this film from the start," said Isil Bagdadi, president, distribution and marketing, CAVU Pictures. "CAVU controlled the P&A costs by keeping everything in house, including the publicity outreach. Based on our grosses, I am extremely excited for the filmmakers who will now have the opportunity to have a meaningful theatrical release." CAVU President Michael Sergio confirmed a deliberately paced expansion plan for "Take Out" including suburban New York June 20, the broader Tri-State area on June 27 and Los Angeles in July. "It's always fun to find a terrific little indie gem like "Take Out," Sergio said. "We couldn't be happier because if you can make it in New York, you can make it in any city across America."
"The Promotion," writer/director Steven Conrad's workplace comedy for Third Rail Releasing, the fledgling genre division for The Weinstein Company, earned $30,493 from six debut runs. Featuring John C. Reilly and Seann William Scott as two working stiffs competing for a branch manager job at a Chicago supermarket, "Promotion," the first comedy released under the Third Rail banner, averaged $5,082 per- screen.
"When Did You Last See Your Father," director Anand Tucker's British drama starring Jim Broadbent and Colin Firth as an adult son caring a reconnecting with his terminally ill father, earned $39,210 for Sony Pictures Clssics in its debut weekend. "When Did You Last See Your Father?" reached a $4,901 in per-screen average from eight runs in New York and Los Angeles; performing far below the platform debuts for Tucker's previous features, "Hilary and Jackie" and "Shopgirl."
Debuting in the iWBOT top ten was "Operation Filmmaker," director Nina Davenport's documentary about the professional travails of Baghdad student filmmaker Muthana Mohmed working on the film "Everything Is Illuminated." "Operation Filmmaker" earned $2,968 for Icarus Films from an exclusive debut at New York's IFC Center and $4,311 since its Wednesday opening.
Also in the iWBOT top ten was "The Go-Getter," the debut feature from filmmaker Martin Hynes. "The Go-Getter," an entry at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, reached a $2,887 per-screen average from four runs in New York, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon for Peace Arch Entertainment and $11,547 in weekend box office. Featuring Lou Taylor Pucci as an Oregon teen who steals a car for an extensive road trip, while staying in contact with the car's sympathetic female owner, "Go- Getter" drew its largest audiences at New York's Quad Cinema.
"The Mother of Tears," Italian writer/director Dario Argento's highly anticipated finale to The Three Mothers trilogy, following the horror classics "Suspiria" and "Inferno," earned $19,417 for Myriad Pictures and The Weinstein Company from seven debut runs in New York, Boston, Los Angeles and Washington DC. Featuring daughter Asia Argento as a Rome museum worker battling an invasion of witches, "Mother of Tears" reached a $2,774 per-screen average, good enough for a spot in the iWBOT top ten with its largest crowds at New York's Sunshine Cinema.
Debuting outside the iWBOT top ten were "Dreams With Sharp Teeth," director Erik Nelson's documentary about acclaimed sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison. "Dreams" earned $2,263 in weekend grosses and $3,114 since its Wednesday opening for Creative Differences Productions and Kilimanjaro Corporation from its exclusive debut at New York's Film Forum.
First Run Features' "On the Rumba River," director Jacques Sarasin's Lingala-language documentary about Antoine "Wendo" Kolosoy, the first music star of Congolese Rumba and a man who suffered through oppression and poverty, earned $1,156 from its exclusive debut at New York's Village East Cinema.
Lagging far behind was First Look Studio's Heather Graham comedy "Miss Conception," featuring Graham as a London businesswoman desperate to get pregnant. "Conception" averaged only $447 from three debut locations.
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 email@example.com by the end of the day each Monday.