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iW BOT | "Mongol" Continues Its Summer Invasion

Indiewire By Indiewire | Indiewire June 16, 2008 at 12:32PM

Sophomore-week moviegoers continued to storm the five venues showing "Mongol," Russian filmmaker Sergei Bodrov's blockbuster adventure about the boy who grows up to become Mongol Empire founder Genghis Khan. For the second week, "Mongol" led the iWBOT, which ranks films by per-screen average; with a $22,442 per-screen average for the Warner Bros. specialty shingle Picturehouse. "Encounters At The End Of The World," German director Werner Herzog's Antarctica documentary, debuted in the iWBOT top five with $17,730 for ThinkFilm from an exclusive debut at New York's Film Forum. Rounding out the iWBOT top five were "My Winnipeg," avant-garde filmmaker Guy Maddin's autobiographical documentary for IFC Films; Zeitgeist Films' "Chris & Don: A Love Story," about the longstanding relationship between British writer Christopher Isherwood and American portraitist Don Bachardy; and "The Grocer's Son," French filmmaker Eric Guirado's family drama for Film Movement.
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Sophomore-week moviegoers continued to storm the five venues showing "Mongol," Russian filmmaker Sergei Bodrov's blockbuster adventure about the boy who grows up to become Mongol Empire founder Genghis Khan. For the second week, "Mongol" led the iWBOT, which ranks films by per-screen average; with a $22,442 per-screen average for the Warner Bros. specialty shingle Picturehouse. "Encounters At The End Of The World," German director Werner Herzog's Antarctica documentary, debuted in the iWBOT top five with $17,730 for ThinkFilm from an exclusive debut at New York's Film Forum. Rounding out the iWBOT top five were "My Winnipeg," avant-garde filmmaker Guy Maddin's autobiographical documentary for IFC Films; Zeitgeist Films' "Chris & Don: A Love Story," about the longstanding relationship between British writer Christopher Isherwood and American portraitist Don Bachardy; and "The Grocer's Son," French filmmaker Eric Guirado's family drama for Film Movement.

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

The box office news continued to be fantastic for veteran Russian filmmaker Sergei Bodrov and Picturehouse with "Mongol," an epic scale drama about the rise of Genghis Khan, earning $112,212 from five holdover runs in New York and Los Angeles; a slight dip of 20% from its debut weekend grosses. "The audience has begun to expand to a younger crowd as word-of-mouth continues to grow," said Bob Berney, president, Picturehouse. "I don't believe that the sub-titles are as much of an issue on this film as they can be on a typical foreign language film." The Landmark in Los Angeles continued to be "Mongol's" top performer, helping it reach $312,051 in total box office, although Berney confirmed an aggressive expansion into mainstream houses with 100 new venues Friday and an additional 100 June 27. "The opening weekend numbers on "Mongol" were welcome relief for the art/specialized screens but also impressive to the bigger circuits that have some room in their theatres for high-performing films like this one."

Veteran German filmmaker Werner Herzog dazzled New York audiences with his latest documentary "Encounters At The End Of The World," a visit to the scientists at Antarctica's McMurdo Station and the beautiful landscape surrounding them. "Encounters" earned $17,730 for ThinkFilm from its exclusive debut at New York's Film Forum; out-performing the opening per-screen averages of "Up the Yangtze," "Planet B-Boy" and "Young@Heart" to be become 2008's top documentary debut. "This was a very strong opening, stronger than any we've had for any of our non-fiction releases in ages and I don't see why this can't be replicated in every major market in the country," said Mark Urman, president, ThinkFilm, via e-mail. Urman confirmed exclusive engagements for "Encounters" in Los Angeles and San Francisco on June 27 with expansion to the top ten markets July 11 and top twenty markets July 18. "The audience represented a very broad spectrum," he said.

Obviously, Film Forum has its own constituency, especially for a highly praised, high profile documentary. Also, there is a built-in Herzog fan base and it is multigenerational. There are people who have been following his work since the late seventies and who are thrilled by his recent revival and a new, young, hip audience who have only recently discovered him with "Grizzly Man" and "Rescue Dawn" and they too have embraced "Encounters."

"My Winnipeg," avant-garde filmmaker Guy Maddin's docu-fantasy for IFC Films, earned $14,309 from debut engagements at New York's IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas. Featuring re-creations from Maddin's Winnepeg childhood and significant moments in the Canadian city's history, all shot in beautiful black and white, "My Winnipeg" failed to equal the per-screen debuts for "The Saddest Music in the World" and last year's film/live performance extravaganza "Brand Upon The Brain!" but did outperform his 2004 film "Cowards Bend the Knee."

"Chris & Don: A Love Story," co-directors Guido Santi and Tina Mascara's documentary about the unlikely love affair between British writer Christopher Isherwood and American painter Don Bachardy, some thirty years Isherwood's junior, earned $10,337 for Zeitgeist Films from New York's Quad Cinema and Long Island's Cinema Arts Center. Nancy Gerstman, co-president, Zeitgeist Films, confirmed a steady expansion for the audience friendly documentary through early fall; hopeful that Bachardy's promotional work for the film will sustain its strong word-of-mouth. "There was more crossover than I imagined that there would be but a lot of women love this movie," Gerstman said. "It's something that speaks to not only gay men but women and couples everybody loves love. It's a really beautiful love story."

"Baghead," filmmaker brothers Mark and Jay Duplass' horror/comedy hybrid about a group of actor friends attempting to write a screenplay at a remote cabin, earned $8,640 from two debut runs in Austin, TX; good enough for a spot in the iWBOT top ten. "Baghead's" Austin debut was part of a non-traditional release strategy by Sony Pictures Classics to reach the Duplass brothers' young fan base. While "Baghead's" $4,320 per-screen debut outperformed the opening average of the Duplass brothers' 2006 comedy "The Puffy Chair," it failed to match the summertime, New York debut of another youthful, independent comedy, "Hannah Takes The Stairs."

The top reissue was "Monsieur Verdoux," Charles Chaplin's 1947 black comedy where he played a murderous ladies man. Released in a new 35mm print by Film Desk, "Monsieur Verdoux" earned $6,125 at New York's Film Forum.

Debuting outside the iWBOT top ten was "Quid Pro Quo," director Carlos Brooks' drama about a paraplegic reporter who meets a woman obsessed with being disabled. Starring Nick Stahl and Vera Farmiga, "Quid Pro Quo" earned $7,395 for Magnolia Pictures from seven runs for a per-screen average of $1,849. "To The Limit," the second documentary by a German filmmaker to debut on U.S. screens this past weekend, failed to keep pace with Herzog's "Encounters." A look at Thomas and Alexander Huber, mountain-climbing brothers out to break the record in speed climbing, director Pepe Danquart's "To The Limit" managed only $742 from two debut runs for First Run Features.

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.