By Indiewire | Indiewire March 4, 2008 at 2:14AM
"Chop Shop," director Ramin Bahrani's coming-of-age drama for Koch Lorber Films, out-performed all specialty debuts with weekend earnings of $8,475 at New York's Film Forum. "The Counterfeiters," Austrian filmmaker Stefan Ruzowitzky's Best Foreign Film Oscar winner for Sony Pictures Classics, led all Oscar victors, including Miramax's Best Picture winner "No Country for Old Men," with a sophomore week per-screen average of $10,295. Rounding out the iWBOT Top Five, which ranks films by per-screen average were "The Duchess of Langeais," veteran French director Jacques Rivette's period drama for IFC Films, Sony Classics' "The Band's Visit," an Israeli film about an Egyptian police band lost in rural Israel; and "In Bruges," writer/director Martin McDonagh's hit men comedy for Focus Features.
The iWBOT is based on per-theater averages reported by Rentrak Theatrical, the complete indieWIRE BOT weekly chart is available at indieWIRE.com.
The debut of Festival Direct, IFC's new straight-to-VOD banner and news of the planned absorption of longtime independent New Line Cinema into Warner Bros. were top stories that highlighted the increasingly competitive nature of the specialty film biz. The boldest weekend bright spot was an old-fashioned art-house release, Koch Lorber Films' "Chop Shop," director Ramin Bahrani's drama about a twelve-year-old Latino boy fending for himself amidst Queen's scrap metal dealers and auto junkyards. "Chop Shop" earned $8,475 from its exclusive engagement at New York's Film Forum, $11,730 since its Wednesday opening.
While "Chop Shop's" New York setting made an impact on local audiences, Koch Lorber Films President Richard Lorber credited the acclaim surrounding Bahrani as the film's greatest draw. "The buzz about the talented Ramin Bahrani has made cinephiles flock to the theater to witness the birthing, as it were, the rare emergence of a true auteur," Lorber said. "The terrific word of mouth has also been advanced by the words out of Ramin's mouth. He's been extremely generous with his time, doing interviews and question and answer sessions at the theater. The night I was there with him, as we left, the ticket taker jokingly asked if he was coming back the next night and without missing a beat he asked what was the best screening to show up for, 'I'll be there,' he told the ticket taker." Koch Lorber plans to gradually expand "Chop Shop" through the next few months. "As we gradually move to markets around the country, we think New Yorkers' interest in hometown locale will flip around with widening appeal of what almost seems exotic. Take "Chop Shop" out of New York and what's neo-realist becomes almost surreal. But most importantly, we think audiences around the country will respond to Ramin's unique vision and talent."
Less successful debuts included Cinema Guild's acclaimed documentary "The Unforeseen," director Laura Dunn's film about a Texas community struggling to protect a natural spring from suburban development. "The Unforeseen" earned $2,496 from its exclusive engagement at New York's Cinema Village. "Beyond Belief," director Beth Murphy's documentary about two Boston widows who begin new lives after losing their husbands on 9/11 helping widowed Afghan women in Kabul, earned $666 for the Film Sales Company from an exclusive run at the Cinema Village. "Vivere," director Angelina Maccarone's drama about three women whose lives intersect while traveling to Rotterdam, reached a $1,059 per- screen average from two runs for Regent Releasing.
Just behind the iWBOT Top Five was "Chicago 10," director Brett Morgen's animated drama about the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. "Chicago 10" earned $42,724 for Roadside Attractions from 14 engagements. "City of Men," producer Fernando Meirelles and director Paulo Morelli's Portuguese-language drama set in the Brazilian favelas, failed to match the debut numbers of Meirelles' 2003 Brazilian film "City of God." "Men" earned $130,579 from 75 runs for Miramax Films.
Of all the Oscar and Independent Spirit Award winners, Sony Pictures Classics' World War II film "The Counterfeiters," the Best Foreign Film Oscar winner, held the top spot on the IWBOT with a $10,295 sophomore per-screen average, an impressive 10% increase from 18 runs. Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky's drama about concentration camp inmates who print counterfeit money for their Nazi captors reached $330,137 in total box office, already out-earning the total domestic gross for the 2005 Austrian film "The Edukators."
Less successful in converting Oscar success into significant box office boosts was "No Country for Old Men," winner of four Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor for Javier Bardem. The Miramax Films release and Paramount Vantage/ Miramax co-production more than doubled its runs to 2,037 theaters but dropped 20% in per-screen average to $2,020. Its total box office grew to $69,680,625.
Winner of two key Oscars, including Best Actor for Daniel Day Lewis, "There Will Be Blood,' director Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of Upton Sinclair's novel about a California oil man, fared no better. The Paramount Vantage release and Paramount Vantage/Miramax co-production earned $1,547,177 in weekend earnings for a $1,239 per-screen average, an approximate 40% drop. Director Jason Reitman's teenage pregnancy comedy "Juno" continued to be the Oscar leader in terms of box office totals. The Fox Searchlight comedy earned $3,264,570 in three-day earnings and has reached $135,049,108 in total box office, just below "Good Will Hunting."
"Taxi to the Dark Side," director Alex Gibney's Best Documentary Feature winner for ThinkFilm, increased its per-screen average 33% to $950. An examination of the U.S. policy of detention and its negative impact on human rights, 'Taxi" has earned $130,288 in total cume.
Strong specialty holdovers included IFC Films' "The Duchess of Langeais," veteran French director Jacques Rivette's adaptation of a Honore de Balzac novel, earned $21,176 from three runs for a $7,059 per-screen average. "Duchess'" cume has reached $54,427.
"In Bruges," writer/director Martin McDonagh's hit men comedy for Focus Features, earned $775,255 in its fourth weekend from 232 runs. Its per-screen average dropped some 25% to $3,342, the Colin Farrell/ Brenden Gleeson-led comedy has reached $3,763,918 in total box office.
"The Band's Visit," Sony Pictures Classics' Israeli comedy was ruled ineligible for a foreign-language Oscar nomination due to its frequent scenes of English dialogue. But its fourth weekend earnings were $291,414 from 64 runs. Its per-screen average dipped a modest 10% to $4,553 and its cume has reached $899,405. While some Oscar winners failed to generate substantial box office boosts, filmmaker Eran Kolirin's audience-friendly comedy didn't need the allure of an Oscar win to attract sizable crowds.
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.