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September 17, 2007 9:00 AM
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iW BOT | John Turturro's "Romance and Cigarettes" Still Burning At Number One; "In the Valley of Ela

A scene from Paul Haggis' "In the Valley of Elah." Image courtesy of Warner Independent.

"In the Valley of Elah," filmmaker Paul Haggis' drama about a missing Iraq War soldier, earned $133,557 from nine venues. As the top new release, "In the Valley of Elah" placed second on the iWBOT with a per-screen average of $14,839 and was Warner Independent's best per-screen debut since its fall 2006 comedy "The Science of Sleep." Burning just as brightly in its sophomore week, "Romance & Cigarettes," actor-turned-filmmaker John Turturro's Queens-set, working-class musical earned $15,893 at New York's Film Forum, good enough for the number one spot on the iWBOT for two weeks in a row. Both "Romance and Cigarettes" and "In the Valley of Elah" outperformed Magnolia Pictures' music biz comedy "Great World of Sound," which failed to make the iWBOT Top Ten with weekend earnings of $6,129 from two New York locations. Rounding out the iWBOT Top Five were two newcomers, Magnolia Pictures' romantic comedy "Ira & Abby" and First Look's Michael Douglas-as-elderly-eccentric comedy "King of California" and the French-language holdover "Blame It On Fidel," returning to the iWBOT Top Five.

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

Warner Independent Pictures enjoyed an enthusiastic reception at the box office for "In the Valley of Elah," filmmaker Paul Haggis' follow-up to "Crash," featuring Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron in a drama about a missing Iraq War soldier. "Elah" earned $133,557 from nine screens for a $14,839 per-screen average, good enough for the third spot on the iWBOT. "We had a very good weekend," said Steven Friedlander, Executive Vice President for Warner Independent Pictures. "There are solid performances in the film. Exit polls are very positive. Good word of mouth. The reviews are solid. I also think we are hitting the zeitgeist with talk of drawbacks of the troops in Iraq. Plus Paul Haggis is coming off "Crash" and that's helping us. Even in this crowded marketplace, we are expanding rapidly to 300 screens Friday."

A big part of the crowded marketplace was "Eastern Promises," David Cronenberg's Russian Mafia drama from Focus Features, with robust weekend earnings of $547,092. Its $36,472 per-screen average matched the per-screen debut of Cronenberg's 2005 release "A History of Violence." Another successful platform release was Sony's Beatles-inspired musical "Across The Universe," from director Julie Taymor. "Across the Universe" earned $667,784 from 23 locations. Focus, with "Eastern Promises," and Sony, with "Across The Universe," plan aggressive expansions throughout September.

Without the benefit of extensive marketing or promotion, "Romance & Cigarettes," actor-turned-filmmaker John Turturro's working-class musical starring "Sopranos" boss James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon and Kate Winslet as singing and dancing Queens neighbors, earned $15,893 at New York's Film Forum, a slight 15% drop from its debut weekend. "Romance and Cigarettes" was the top-performing self-released title at number one on the iWBOT for the second week. It also received an open engagement from the longstanding New York art house.

First Look's Michael Douglas comedy "King of California" grossed $35,814 from five locations for a per-screen average of $7,162.

Slightly less successful was "Blame It On Fidel," a Paris-set coming-of-age drama from Koch Lorber. 'Blame It on Fidel" earned $11,405 from two locations; returning to the iWBOT Top Five with a per-screen average of $5,702.

Magnolia Pictures' romantic comedy "Ira &Abby" earned $36,938 from seven locations. Its debut, per-screen average of $5,276 earned the indie comedy the fifth spot on the iWBOT.

THINKFilm's "In the Shadow of the Moon," a documentary about the Apollo Astronauts, leaped to 23 venues for its sophomore weekend, earning $93,4000 in box office. With $4.060 in per-screen average, "In the Shadow of the Moon" experienced a 55% drop from its debut and dropped to the 12th spot on the iWBOT. THINK expands "Shadow of the Moon" to more than 70 locations Friday, bringing the film to all top ten markets. The Arclight in Los Angeles continues to be "Shadow of the Moon's" top performer. However, suburban venues in New York and Los Angeles are close behind, indicating strong box office potential once the film enters suburban markets nationwide.

The strongest holdover continued to be French actress-turned-filmmaker Julie Delpy's relationship comedy "2 Days in Paris," which bumped up screens to 144 and retained a steady per-screen average at $2,857. "2 Days in Paris" has surpassed $3 million mark in cumulative box office.

The top documentary debut was "Forever," Dutch filmmaker Heddy Honigmann's beautiful portrait of visitors to a Paris cemetery who remember and pay honor their favorite artists. "Forever" earned $5,202 at New York's Film Forum. Cinema Libre's documentary "Angels In the Dust," about an AIDS orphanage sheltering 550 South African children, earned $5,043 from an exclusive run at New York's Village East. Appearances by director Louise Hogarth and Terri Ford of AIDS Healthcare helped boost crowds. "Angels in the Dust" continues at the Village East and expands Sept. 28 to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland.

Both documentaries out-performed Magnolia Pictures' music biz comedy "Great World of Sound," which failed to make the iWBOT Top Ten with weekend earnings of $6,129 from two New York locations. Further behind in rank was the British coming-of-age drama "December Boys," featuring "Harry Potter" star Daniel Radcliffe. Also released by Warner Independent, "December Boys" earned $15,810 from four locations, failing to crack the iWBOT Top Ten.

New releases joining the crowded fall market include Sean Penn's adaptation of the Jon Krakauer novel "Into The Wild" for Paramount Vantage, director Larry Fessenden's Arctic-set horror "The Last Winter" for IFC First Take; director An Hu's Chinese period drama "Beauty Remains," for Emerging Pictures; and "The Jane Austen Book Club," writer/director Robin Swicord's female ensemble drama for Sony Pictures Classics.

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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