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February 26, 2008 1:40 AM
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iW BOT | Oscar Payday: Foreign Film Winner 'Counterfeiters' Top Debut; Other Winners Ready For Payou

A scene from Stefan Ruzowitzky's "The Counterfeiters." Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

"The Counterfeiters," Austrian filmmaker Stefan Ruzowitzky's Best Foreign Film Oscar winner for Sony Pictures Classics, soared past fellow Oscar victors with a debut per-screen average of $$12,559 from eight runs. "The Duchess of Langeais," veteran French director Jacques Rivette's period drama for IFC Films, was close behind with debut earnings of $22,251 from two New York theaters. Rounding out the iWBOT Top Five, which ranks films by per-screen average were Sony Pictures Classics' "The Band's Visit," an Israeli film about an Egyptian police band lost in rural Israel; "In Bruges," writer/director Martin McDonagh's hit men comedy for Focus Features and "George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead," the debut release from Weinstein Company banner Third Rail Releasing. Paramount Vantage's "There Will Be Blood" and Miramax's "No Country for Old Men" gained Oscar wins; now await box office bounce.

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

The Oscars and Independent Spirit Awards were the top weekend stories for specialty films looking to convert critical success into significant box office boosts. Sony Pictures Classics' World War II film "The Counterfeiters," Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky's drama about concentration camp inmates who form an uneasy alliance with their Nazi captors printing counterfeit money, won the Best Foreign Film Oscar and led all specialty releases with a $12,559 per- screen average. Opening in eight runs, "Counterfeiters'" weekend box office was $87,514. IFC Films' "The Duchess of Langeais," veteran French director Jacques Rivette's adaptation of a Honore de Balzac novel, earned $22,251 at New York's IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas; close behind "Counterfeiters" on the iWBOT. "The Lincoln Plaza and the IFC Center both opened the film to a bit over eleven thousand dollars for the weekend," said Mark Boxer, VP Sales and Distribution for IFC Films. "It was a nice combination of new Rivette fans and the long time art house patrons. What makes the numbers so impressive is the film performed in a very crowded Oscar period and endured tough weather conditions on Friday." IFC plans to expand "Duchess" to top ten markets throughout March.

While "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, filmmaker Eran Kolirin's audience-friendly comedy continued to attract sizable crowds. While its per-screen average dipped approximately 45% to $4,908, its third- weekend earnings were $127,609 from 26 runs, reaching a cume-to-date of $433,723. "In Bruges," writer/director Martin McDonagh's hit men comedy for Focus Features, earned $738,318 in its third weekend from 163 runs. While its per-screen average dropped some 40% to $4,530, the Colin Farrell/Brenden Gleeson-led comedy has reached $2,744,872 in total box office.

In its sophomore weekend, "George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead" continued to do solid business for Third Rail Releasing, the new distribution banner from the Weinstein Company. While Romero zombie thriller dipped in per-screen average approximately 55% to $2,540; its weekend box office from 48 runs reached $121,895. "Dead's" total box office hit $451,215 for Third Rail Releasing. Strong specialty holdovers also included City Lights Pictures' "The Year My Parents Went on Vacation," director Cao Hamburger's film about a 12-year-old boy left in the care of his grandfather's neighbor. The Brazilian drama earned $54,671 in sophomore weekend box office; good enough for a $2,485 per-screen average from 22 runs and total cume of $174,423. IFC's "4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days," director Cristian Mungiu's drama about a young woman who seeks an underground abortion in 1987 Romania, earned $82,060 from 35 runs. After five weeks, "4 Months" reached a per-screen average of $2,345 and has earned $680,220 in total box office.

The best chances for a post-Oscar bounce went to "No Country for Old Men," which exited Oscar weekend with four awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor for Javier Bardem. The Miramax Films release and Paramount Vantage/Miramax co-production earned $2,404,682 in weekend box office from 1,101 theaters with huge Saturday jumps. Its total box office has reached $64,291,179.

Right behind with two key Oscars including Best Actor was "There Will Be Blood,' director Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of Upton Sinclair's novel about California oil men. The Paramount Vantage release and Paramount Vantage/Miramax co-production earned $2,687,229 in weekend earnings for a $1,917 per-screen average, a slight 15% drop. While 'Blood's" Best Actor award for Daniel Day-Lewis does not match the publicity impact of "No Country's" Best Picture win, Rob Schulze, Execuitve V.P., Distribution at Paramount Vantage, expects the picture's business to grow.

"We're looking to build awareness from last night's Oscar show and hoping for a twenty percent boost in the marketplace for the next five to six weeks," said Schulze. "Often the best boosts go to the Best Picture winners but when you look at past Best Actor winners like 'The Last King of Scotland' and 'Capote,' we're hopeful for twenty percent." Paramount Vantage plans to hold 'Blood" in 1,000 or more theaters.

Of all major Oscar and Independent Spirit winners, director Jason Reitman's teenage pregnancy comedy "Juno" went into the awards weekend with the highest totals, $130,431,948 in box office cume from $4,154,502 in three-day earnings. 'I don't know how much more we can do at this point," said Sheila Deloach, Senior Vice President for Fox Searchlight Pictures. "But we've been looking at films that initially opened in platform release and "Juno" has moved past 'American Beauty' and 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.'"

The Oscar winner with the largest room for box office improvement remained "Taxi to the Dark Side," director Alex Gibney's documentary about the U.S. policy of detention and its negative impact on human rights. The ThinkFilm release managed a slight $737 per-screen average from 13 runs. With a total cume of $105,677 after six weeks, "Taxi's" Best Documentary Feature Oscar can do a lot of good.

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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