By Indiewire | Indiewire June 30, 2008 at 12:12PM
Veteran French filmmaker Catherine Breillat enjoyed her strongest U.S. debut thanks to a lusty response from New York audiences to "The Last Mistress," a period drama featuring Asia Argento as a woman jealous of her younger lover's plans to marry. "Last Mistress" earned a sizzling $33,554 for IFC Films from two debut runs in New York. "Trumbo," director Peter Askin's documentary about blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, also debuted in the iWBOT top five, which ranks films by per-screen average. "Trumbo" earned $28,125 from three runs for Samuel Goldwyn Films. Picturehouse continued to rack up sky-high grosses for its family movie "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl;" earning $107,019 at five locations. Rounding out the iWBOT top five were "Encounters At The End Of The World," director Werner Herzog's Antarctica documentary for ThinkFilm and Zeitgeist Films' "Chris & Don: A Love Story," about the longstanding relationship between British writer Christopher Isherwood and American portraitist Don Bachardy.
The iWBOT is based on per-theater averages reported by Rentrak Theatrical, the complete indieWIRE BOT weekly chart is available Tuesday afternoon at indieWIRE.com.
Summer box office for foreign language fare continued to be robust with subtitled specialty films occupying five of the top eight spots on the weekend iWBOT. "The Last Mistress," director Catherine Breillat's period drama based on a French 19th century novel, led all world cinema fare and proved to be a successful debut for IFC Films. "Last Mistress," featuring Asia Argento as the titular character, La Vellini, a woman jealous of her young lover, a poor but handsome nobleman, and his plans for marriage to a wealthy aristocrat, averaged an impressive $16,777 at its two New York locations. "Last Mistress" far exceeded domestic, opening per-screen averages of previous Breillat films "Anatomy of Hell," "Sex Is Comedy" and "Fat Girl" and beat out the 59-year-old director's previous record holder, 1999's "Romance." "We are thrilled with the opening weekend numbers," said Mark Boxer, vice president, sales and distribution, IFC Films. "There were plenty of Asia Argento fans coming out this weekend for the film which also garnered rave reviews across the board. We will be fairly aggressive in the upcoming weeks as the film has had a tremendous amount of strong buzz from our promotional screenings throughout the country." Boxer confirmed a roll out for "Mistress" into the top twenty markets Friday.
Warner Bros. specialty shingle Picturehouse continued to enjoy a successful summer via strong holdover business with "Kit Kittredge," a family adventure set in Depression-era Cincinnati from indie filmmaker Patricia Rozema and starring Abigail Breslin. "Kittredge" earned $107,019 in sophomore weekend earnings from five holdover runs, a standout $21,404 per-screen average. After two weeks as an exclusive release, Picturehouse takes "Kittredge" wide on Wednesday.
"Trumbo," director Peter Askin's documentary Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, one of the "Hollywood Ten," film professionals blacklisted for refusing to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee, earned $28,125 from three debut runs for Samuel Goldwyn Films, a strong $9,375 per-screen average.
The career rebirth of veteran German filmmaker Werner Herzog picked up steam thanks to the successful expansion of his latest film, the documentary "Encounters At The End Of The World," about scientists at Antarctica's McMurdo Station. "Encounters" earned $49,101 for ThinkFilm and reached an impressive third weekend average of $6,138 from eight locations including Los Angeles' Nuart Theatre and total earnings of $127,035. "The success of "Encounters" has been the fruit of a very carefully planned release of the film, dating back to the moment we acquired it in late 2007," said Michael Tuckman, vice president, theatrical sales, ThinkFilm. "Each theater that has launched the film was handpicked and locked up months in advance to ensure the best possible venue in which to present the film in each market. Along with that went hand-in-hand publicity and marketing efforts with each theater to get the word out on this truly remarkable film that continues Herzog's renaissance. This past weekend - the film's third at the Film Forum and first week off its calendar - was its strongest yet with continued sold-out shows over the course of the weekend." Tuckman confirmed an active expansion schedule with "Encounters" opening Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, Washington DC and Minneapolis July 11. "The make up of the Nuart audience reflected that of the Film Forum audience; running the gamut from Herzog aficionados to a younger audience recently swept up by his latest releases," Tuckman went on to say. "The film is being embraced with the same enthusiasm in LA as in New York, indicating strong word of mouth for weeks to come."
While celebrating twenty years in film distribution with the launch of a month-long retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, Zeitgeist Films also returned to the iWBOT top five with "Chris & Don: A Love Story," co-directors Guido Santi and Tina Mascara's documentary about the love affair between British writer Christopher Isherwood and American painter Don Bachardy, some thirty years Isherwood's junior. "Chris & John" earned $5,096 at New York's Quad Cinema and reached $36,335 in total box office.
Debuting in the iWBOT top ten 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 $10,250 for Mitropoulos Films in debut earnings from two New York runs. "Full Grown Men," filmmaker David Munro's male friendship comedy for Emerging Pictures, also debuted in the top ten. Featuring Matt McGrath and Judah Friedlander as childhood playmates who reunite as adults for a road trip to their favorite amusement park, "Full Grown Men" earned $3,757 from its exclusive debut at New York's Cinema Village.
Debuting outside the iWBOT top ten was "Finding Amanda," writer/director Peter Tolan's comedy for Magnolia Pictures featuring Matthew Broderick as a TV writer with a gambling addiction who ends up in trouble while trying to find his niece in Las Vegas. "Finding Amanda" earned $31,340 in debut weekend earnings from 13 runs.
Picturehouse's "Mongol," Russian filmmaker Sergei Bodrov's epic drama about the boy, who rises up and becomes Mongol Empire founder Genghis Khan, remained the specialty earnings leader for films on 75 screens or more. "Mongol" earned $812,862 from 209 screens and reached $2.3 million in total box office. Close behind was Overture Films' "The Visitor," filmmaker Tom McCarthy's drama about a depressed professor whose life changes for the better after befriending a Syrian street musician. At its twelfth week, "The Visitor" earned $295,387 from 191 runs and hit $7.7 million in cumulative box office. Another top earner was the ThinkFilm melodrama "Then She Found Me," featuring Helen Hunt on both sides of the camera. "Then She Found Me" earned $95,424 from 85 engagements and reached $3.4 million in cumulative 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 firstname.lastname@example.org by the end of the day each Monday.