By Indiewire | Indiewire November 20, 2007 at 3:08AM
Hometown fans came out in force for Brooklyn-born, Lower Manhattan-relocated filmmaker Noah Baumbach's sisters-at-odds comedy "Margot at the Wedding." The Paramount Vantage release earned $81,035 from two Manhattan locations, making it the top film on the iWBOT. "No Country for Old Men," filmmaker brothers Joel and Ethan Coen's Western thriller for Miramax Films, continued to attract sizable crowds, earning $3,075,722 in weekend box office from 148 runs. Other releases in the iWBOT Top Five, which ranks films by per-screen average, were the documentary "What Would Jesus Buy?," child prostitution drama "Holly" and the stoner comedy "Smiley Face." Despite positive reviews, "The Life of Reilly," based on the stage show of veteran actor Charles Nelson Reilly, failed to crack the iWBOT Top Five, proof that critical acclaim may no longer be enough to carry an independent movie.
The iWBOT is based on per-theater averages reported by Rentrak Theatrical, the complete indieWIRE BOT weekly chart is available at indieWIRE.com.
"Margot at the Wedding" was Paramount Vantage's best per-screen debut after current drama "Into the Wild" and its 2006 documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" as well as the top opener for New York filmmaker Noah Baumbach. "Margot" earned $81,035 from New York's Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and a per-screen average of $40,518 with the Angelika claiming slightly larger crowds. With high profile leads Nicole Kidman, Jack Black and Baumbach's spouse Jennifer Jason Leigh, "Margot," about a stressful reunion between two sisters at their sprawling Long Island family home, flashed strong potential for year-end awards and the accompanying boost in box office. "Noah Baumbach is a great filmmaker and the critics respond well to him," said Rob Schulze, Executive VP, Distribution, Paramount Vantage. "We'll be at 35 locations Wednesday and in the top twelve markets. We're anticipating that we'll see the same kind of response relative to those markets."
"No Country for Old Men" continued to be Miramax Film's best per-screen performer in years as well as a box office standout for filmmaking duo Joel and Ethan Coen with earnings of $3,075,722 from 148 runs for a sophomore week per-screen average of $20,781. Based on Cormac McCarthy's novel about stolen drug money and featuring Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem, "No Country" improved its Oscar chances by continuing to win over sizable audiences.
New York's Cinema Village made "What Would Jesus Buy?" director Rob Van Alkemade's documentary about Reverend Billy and his crusade against the commercialization of Christmas, the top documentary on the iWBOT. "What Would Jesus Buy?" earned $9,527 for Warrior Poets from its debut weekend at Cinema Village. "All I can say is that we are so excited about the film's opening in NYC," said Morgan Spurlock, producer of "What Would Jesus Buy?" and partner in Warrior Poets. "Hopefully this will inspire more theater owners across the country to give audiences the chance to see this very timely and important film." The comical "What Would Jesus Buy?" out-performed Warner Independent Picture's high profile, political documentary "Darfur Now," which averaged a paltry $363 from 22 screens. "What I love about Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping is that they use humor to make people think about a very serious issue," Spurlock said. "I am a firm believer that if you can get people to laugh, then you can get people to listen." First Look Studios released director Gregg Araki's stoner comedy "Smiley Face" in a sole Los Angeles venue and earned $5,993. Featuring comedienne Anna Faris in a starring role, "Smiley Face" flashed strong audience potential, although First Look plans to release the title on home video in early 2008. "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," veteran director Sidney Lumet's crime drama about two brothers involved in a jewelry store robbery, expanded to 177 runs and continued to attract sizable crowds in its fourth week in release. "Devil" earned $696,189 for distributor ThinkFilm; a $3,945 per-screen average. Its cume has reached $2,222,404. ThinkFilm continues to expand 'Devil" Wednesday with a planned engagement count over 200.
The standout reissue was French filmmaker Albert Lamorisse's 1956 classic "The Red Balloon" which earned $9,004 for Janus Films at New York's Film Forum. A restored print of "The Red Balloon" was paired with Lamorisse's rarely seen 1952 black and white short film "White Mane." Janus expands this classic children's feature Friday to additional markets including Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles.
Failing to crack the iWBOT Top Five was "Southland Tales," director Richard Kelly's follow up to "Donnie Darko," which earned $123,428 from 63 runs for IDP/Samuel Goldwyn. Close behind was "Redacted," director Brian De Palma's controversial Iraq War drama, which earned $25,628 from 15 runs for Magnolia Pictures. Besting "Southland Tales" and "Redacted" in the number of positive reviews was the documentary "The Life of Reilly," based on the stage show of veteran comedian Charles Nelson Reilly. "Reilly" earned $7,860 for Reel Diva Consultants from five locations for a disappointing $1,572 per-screen in its second week. For Dawn Altyn, a former spokeswoman for Reilly's one-man show and a partner in Reel Diva Consultants, future prospects for "Reilly" don't look much better due to a competitive marketplace for specialty films. "The manager at the Nuart went out his way to say that everyone who walked out of that theater was smiling and they loved it," Altyn said. "Everybody loved it. It had one so-so review in Los Angeles and it wasn't a bad review just so-so. A friend of mine told me it wasn't a good time but it's never the right time when you're an independent because there's always a major film or Paramount Vantage coming out with something. I'm not putting down these companies. They do amazing work but they get thrown into the independent world and they not independent. I had a distributor tell me she couldn't give me a particular week because one company supplied her with five films a year and that company was going to have a film opening that week. The days for truly independent films are long gone, I'm sorry to say." Ed Burns' new romantic comedy "Purple Violets" is scheduled to premiere on iTunes Nov. 20 but Altyn remains committed to getting "Reilly" into art-house theaters no matter how difficult. Its good reviews have not made her job easier but it has given her a fighting chance. "There are plenty of theater owners around the country who love this film and feel they can find an audience to support this film. If the film had bad reviews there is nothing you can do but thankfully it had great reviews. You have independent theater owners around the country who still want to play this movie."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org by the end of the day each Monday.