By Indiewire | Indiewire March 24, 2008 at 12:38PM
"Planet B-Boy," director Benson Lee's break dancing documentary for Elephant Eye Films, jumped past all art-house releases with a debut, per-screen average of $13,889. "Under the Same Moon," director Patricia Riggen's immigration drama, a co-release for Fox Searchlight and the Weinstein Company, broke opening-weekend records for a Spanish-language film with three-day earnings of $2.8 million from 266 screens. "Love Songs," French filmmaker Christophe Honore's Paris- set musical for IFC Films and Red Envelope Entertainment, averaged $10,244 from two New York runs. Rounding out the iWBOT Top Five, which ranks films by per-screen average, were "Boarding Gate," French filmmaker Olivier Assayas' thriller featuring Asia Argento and Michael Madsen, and "Praying with Lior," director Ilana Trachtman's documentary for First Run Features about a Jewish boy with Down's Syndrome preparing for his Bar Mitzvah.
The iWBOT is based on per-theater averages reported by Rentrak Theatrical, the complete indieWIRE BOT weekly chart is available at indieWIRE.com.
"Planet B-Boy" director Benson Lee's documentary about b-boy culture and the break dancing Battle of the Year contest in Braunschweig, Germany earned $27,778 from exclusive runs at the Landmark Sunshine in New York and the Landmark Nuart in Los Angeles. Just the second release for fledgling New York-based distributor Elephant Eye Films, "Planet B-Boy" proved to be a successful follow up to their recent debut release "Billy the Kid."
"We were pleasantly surprised at the Friday evening screenings in New York," said Vicky Wight, co-president at Elephant Eye Films. "There were ten-year-olds and grannies who were sixty-five and seventy. There was this huge spectrum and we were delighted. We always thought this film had cross-over potential and that's what's starting to happen with it." Wight, along with Elephant Eye co-president Bridget Stokes, confirmed "Planet B-Boy" holding over in New York and Los Angeles, expanding to San Francisco, San Diego and Washington DC Friday and adding more than twenty-five cities throughout April. "This will be a wider release than "Billy the Kid," Wight said. "We always saw "Planet B-Boy" as the big film at Elephant Eye. We love the film and everyone who sees it loves the film. We knew there would be potential and we are prepared to support it very well if the exhibitors allow us."
"Under the Same Moon" director Patricia Riggen's drama about a female illegal worker trying to reunite with her nine-year-old son, shattered the opening-weekend record for Spanish-language films with a three-day, per-screen average of $10,412 from 266 screens and weekend cume of $2,769,655. "Moon," a co-release of Fox Searchlight and the Weinstein Company, reached $3.5 million in total earnings since its Wednesday opening and debuted in the overall Top Ten box office.
"After we acquired "Moon" along with Fox Searchlight out of the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, we screened it in Manhattan, LA, Texas and Florida to different Hispanic audiences as well as art film audiences and we got great reactions everywhere we went," said Steve Bunnell, chairman of distribution for the Weinstein Company. "Traditionally it had been a challenge if you had a Mexican- oriented film to get it to translate to other Hispanic cultures across the country. But this was a movie that transcended all of those specific ethnic groups and appealed to everyone. We decided to release the movie in 266 theaters where there are large Hispanic populations no matter what background as well as core art house theaters in those markets. We decided to go Easter weekend because that historically is a strong time for Hispanic audiences to go to the movies."
Venues in the suburban Hispanic markets of Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago performed exceptionally strong along with traditional art- house venues like the Arclight in Los Angeles and Landmark's Bethesda Row Cinema in Bethesda Maryland. Bunnell confirmed aggressive expansion pans for "Moon," culminating with approximately 600 runs on April 18. "I think "Moon" is another step in the right direction for Spanish- oriented films," said Bunnell. "The Spanish marketplace is gigantic and this is a special movie that speaks to audiences and is a crowd pleaser. I think it's a stepping off point for future Spanish movies."
"Love Songs," French filmmaker Christophe Honore's Paris-set musical starring Louis Garrel, Ludivine Sagnier and Clotilde Hesme, earned $20,488 for IFC Films and Red Envelope Entertainment; drawing different audiences to New York's Paris Theatre and IFC Center. "There was a very distinct split for "Love Songs" with the traditional art house moviegoer uptown and a younger demographic attending the IFC Center showings," said Mark Boxer, vice president, sales and distribution for IFC Films. "The film is off to a good start and will platform slowly throughout the country."
"Boarding Gate," French filmmaker Olivier Assayas' thriller featuring alt-rocker Kim Gordon as well as Asia Argento and Michael Madsen, earned $11,440 for Magnolia Pictures from its exclusive debut at New York's Cinema Village. "Assayas has a steady and dedicated audience and everyone loves Asia Argento," said Neal Block, director of distribution for Magnolia Pictures. "The strength of his recent films and some great reviews out of New York got us to a very satisfying holiday weekend tally. Despite a marketplace cluttered with options, people found this film. We're taking it out slowly over the next month to the rest of the top 10 markets."
Remaining in the iWBOT top five was "Praying with Lior," director Ilana Trachtman's documentary about Lior, a devout teenage boy with Down's syndrome about to experience his Bar Mitzvah. "Lior" continued to attract hometown fans at Philadelphia's Bala Theatre. "Lior" earned 6,443 in weekend earnings for First Run Features and reached $35,712 in total box office.
Louisville, KY-based production company The Group Entertainment also attracted hometown support for its documentary "FLOW: For Love of Water." Boosted by appearances by "FLOW" director Irena Salina, the documentary about global water shortage earned $3,644 from a special engagement at Louisville's Baxter Avenue Theaters.
Other specialty debuts included Kino International's "Poisoned By Polonium: The Litvinenko File," director Andrei Nekrasov's documentary the cover ups and corruption involving the murder of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko. "Poisoned" earned $2,402 in weekend grosses from its exclusive premiere at New York's Quad Cinema. "The Hammer," director Charles Herman-Wurmfeld's boxing comedy for International Film Circuit, reached a $4,857 per-screen average from twenty runs. "Irina Palm" director Sam Garbarski's drama featuring longtime singer Marianne Faithfull as a middle-aged sex club worker trying to earn money for her grandson's surgery, earned $3,474 for Strand Releasing at the Quad.
The strongest holdover continued to be Sony Pictures Classics' "The Counterfeiters," Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky's drama about concentration camp inmates who form an uneasy alliance with their Nazi captors printing counterfeit money. The Best Foreign Film Oscar led all specialty holdovers with a per-screen average of $5,387 from weekend earnings of $495,625 from 72 runs.
The biggest weekend benchmark belonged to "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," filmmaker Cristian Mungiu's drama about a young woman who undergoes an underground abortion in 1987 Romania. The IFC release reached $1,012,533 in total box office, bold proof that challenging foreign-language fare can find an audience.
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.