By Indiewire | Indiewire June 23, 2008 at 12:15PM
The Warner Bros. specialty shingle Picturehouse continued to be on fire thanks to a strong expansion of its Genghis Khan epic "Mongol" and a rare excursion into the family movie biz, with its limited debut of "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl." In its third week and on 94 screens, "Mongol" averaged $8,287 as the top foreign-language drama on the iWBOT, which ranks films by per-screen average. "Kit Kittredge," directed by veteran indie filmmaker Patricia Rozema and starring Abigail Breslin, earned an impressive $220,297 from five runs; far ahead its competitors for the top of the specialty charts. Rounding out the iWBOT top five were "Encounters At The End Of The World," director Werner Herzog's Antarctica documentary for ThinkFilm; "Brick Lane," director Sarah Gavron's melodrama for Sony Pictures Classics and "The Grocer's Son," French filmmaker Eric Guirado's drama about a grown son returning to his rural hometown 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.
2008 continued to be a high drama year for Picturehouse, the boutique division for New Line/Warner Bros. Just two months after winning an Oscar for its Edith Piaf drama "La Vie en Rose," Warner Bros, announced it was closing Picturehouse in the fall, along with its second specialty division, Warner Independent Pictures. Yet, Picturehouse continued its summer winning streak as moviegoers flocked to the 94 screens showing "Mongol," Russian filmmaker Sergei Bodrov's blockbuster adventure about the boy who becomes Mongol Empire founder Genghis Khan. "Mongol" was the top foreign-language film on the iWBOT, with $778,963 in weekend box office and a third-week total of $1,149,760.
"Kit Kittredge: An American Girl," director Patricia Rozema's period drama based on the American Girl book series, proved to be a successful leap into family entertainment for Picturehouse. "Kit Kittredge," featuring Abigail Breslin as the titular heroine, averaged an impressive $44,059 at its five debut locations. "It was critical that me made the film an event to introduce it to the marketplace," said Bob Berney, president, Picturehouse. "We are keeping the screen count the same on Friday and expanding as planned on July 2. We had originally considered 1800 runs on the July 2 but will now increase the number to at least 2,000 and possibly more."
Veteran German filmmaker Werner Herzog continued to wow New York audiences with his latest documentary "Encounters At The End Of The World," a visit with the scientists at Antarctica's McMurdo Station. "Encounters" earned $18,519 for ThinkFilm; an impressive boost from its debut weekend at New York's Film Forum. Exclusive openings of "Encounters" are planned for Friday in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
"Brick Lane," director Sarah Gavron's adaptation of Monica Ali's popular novel about a young Muslim woman (Tannishtha Chatterjee) adjusting to her arranged marriage to an older man in London, earned $47,124 from seven debut runs in New York and Los Angeles for Sony Pictures Classics. "Brick Lane," Gavron's debut feature-length film after two documentary shorts, was the top-performing specialty debut with a per-screen average of $6,732.
Adding a second New York venue, "The Grocer's Son," French filmmaker Eric Guirado' drama about a son who takes over the family grocery story after his father becomes ill, earned $15,007 for Film Movement and reached $53,976 in total box office.
Debuting in the iWBOT top ten was "Expired," writer/director Cecilia Miniucchi's sorrowful romance about two, mismatched Santa Monica parking officers (Jason Patric and Samantha Morton). Boosted by opening-night appearances from Miniucchi, "Expired" earned $6,596 for Truly Indie and MCR Releasing from New York's Angelica Film Center.
Strong holders in the iWBOT top ten included "My Winnipeg," avant-garde filmmaker Guy Maddin's docu-fantasy for IFC Films, which earned $13,562 from its exclusive opening at the Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles and its hold-over engagement at New York's IFC Center; "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, earned $8,463 from two runs for Zeitgeist Films.
Returning to the iWBOT top ten was "The Singing Revolution," co-directors James Tusty and Maureen Caste Tusty's documentary about Estonia's struggle to end Soviet occupation via popular song festivals. "The Singing Revolution" earned $6,945 in weekend box office from two runs. The Abramorama release reached $238,040 in total box office since its debut in late 2007.
"Beauty in Trouble," Czech director Jan Hrebejk's Prague-set drama about a young mother torn by her love for two suitors, earned $9,156 for Menemsha Films from its sophomore weekend at New York's Angelika Film Center and exclusive debut in Washington DC. "Beauty In Trouble" has earned $19,300 in cumulative box office since its June 13 debut at the Angelika. Neil Friedman, founder and president of Menemsha Films, confirmed "Beauty in Trouble's" expansion into suburban New York Friday and openings in Boston and Philadelphia in July. "Since the inception of Menemsha Films in 1998, we have been very fortunate to have been the international sales agent for many of the best Czech films of the last few years," Friedman said via e-mail. "Our good fortune continues with "Beauty in Trouble," this time as the theatrical distributor as well as the international sales agent."
The eighth edition of New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) matched its media hype as "one of the city's most valuable events" with an opening weekend gross of $21,786 at New York's IFC Center; a 30% increase from last year thanks to numerous sell outs. Grady Hendrix, one of five co-directors at Subway Cinema, the programming outfit behind NYAFF, credited the festival's success with a simple rule of thumb -- put your money where your mouth is. "Foreign language film is as dead as disco," Hendrix said. "You have to do what we do, which is sell every ticket and sell them hard; make the festival fun; make it more than just screenings." Hendrix confirmed that taking NYAFF on a cross-country tour is a strong possibility. The fest's great opening has proven that an audience for Asian programming exists in North America. "There is a very ravenous, very underserved market of 16-25-year olds who grew up on anime and love manga. They read Mmanga from left to right and in black and white. They don't care about subtitles."
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.