By Indiewire | Indiewire March 18, 2008 at 2:56AM
"Snow Angels," filmmaker David Gordon Green's estranged couples drama for Warner Independent Pictures, leapt past all art-house releases with a sophomore, per-screen average of $8,476; a twenty percent jump from its debut. "Sputnik Mania," director David Hoffman's Cold War documentary for Balcony Releasing, led all specialty premieres with $6,223 at New York's IFC Center. "Sputnik Mania" outperformed the high profile, wide-releases of "Funny Games," Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke's scene-by-scene, English-language remake of his 1997 thriller for Warner Independent, and "Sleepwalking," director William Maher's family drama for Overture Films. Rounding out the iWBOT Top Five, which ranks films by per-screen average, were "The Counterfeiters," Austrian filmmaker Stefan Ruzowitzky's Best Foreign Film Oscar winner for Sony Pictures Classics, "Praying with Lior," First Run Features' documentary about a devout teenage Jewish boy with Down's syndrome and Sony Classics' period drama "Married Life."
The iWBOT is based on per-theater averages reported by Rentrak Theatrical, the complete indieWIRE BOT weekly chart is available at indieWIRE.com.
"Sputnik Mania" director David Hoffman's documentary about America's response to the 1957 Sputnik space satellite and Cold War paranoia, earned $6,223 for Balcony Releasing from an exclusive debut at New York's IFC Center. "We wondered who the audience would be for this film," said Connie White, president for Balcony Releasing. "Of course, people who remember Sputnik but would there be interest from young people? Then, students from Bronx High School of Science came for a pre-screening. They met the director and they loved it. We discovered there is a high school audience; there is a college audience." White confirmed "Sputnik Mania" holding at the IFC before expanding to other markets throughout spring. "It's scary and kitschy, nostalgic and current," added Greg Kendall, Balcony's co-president. "In the movie, you see how past leaders, in this case Eisenhower and Khrushchev, dealt with each other as foreign aggressors but in a peaceful manner. The film is relevant as a comparison to the way our leaders deal with Iran and Iraq today."
Expanding to The Landmark Los Angeles, "Snow Angels," filmmaker David Gordon Green's drama featuring Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale as a couple in crisis, reached a sophomore per-screen average of $8,476 from three engagements. The Warner Independent Pictures release bested its debut weekend average by twenty percent.
"Snow Angels" and "Sputnik Mania," both traditional platform releases, dramatically out-performed two high profile, wide releases, Warner Independent's "Funny Games" and Overture Films' "Sleepwalking." "Sleepwalking," director William Maher's troubled family drama earned $47,762 from 30 runs for Overture Films. Featuring Charlize Theron, Woody Harrelson and AnnaSophie Robb, "Sleepwalking" failed to match the per-screen mark of Theron's previous specialty film, "In the Valley of Elah."
More aggressive with a debut release at 289 runs, "Funny Games," Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke's scene-by-scene, English-language remale of his 1997 film, achieved a lackluster $1,768 per-screen average, far below Haneke's 2005 French-language drama "Cache." Despite extensive online promotions and a stellar cast featuring Naomi Watts and Tim Roth, "Funny Games" earned $510,958 in weekend box office for Warner Independent.
Returning to the iWBOT top five, which ranks films by per-screen average, were Sony Pictures Classics' "The Counterfeiters," the leader of all Oscar and Independent Spirit Award winners with a per- screen average of $5,820. The World War II drama from Austrian filmmaker Stefan Ruzowitzky earned $419,049 in weekend box office and reached $1,214,974 in cume.
"Married Life," director Ira Sachs' infidelity drama set in post-war America, continued to outperform Sachs' previous drama "Forty Shades of Blue." "Married Life," starring Pierce Brosnan, Chris Cooper, Patricia Clarkson and Rachel McAdams, earned $97,915 from 22 runs for Sony Pictures Classics.
"Praying with Lior," director Ilana Trachtman's documentary about Lior, a devout teenage boy with Down's syndrome about to experience his Bar Mitzvah, earned $6,672 for First Run Features at Philadelphia's Bala Theatre. "We were helped by an appearance by the director and tremendous support from Jewish groups and great word-of-mouth," said Paul Marchant, director theatrical sales for First Run Features. "Favorable reviews didn't hurt and a home turf advantage contributed. Lior Liebling and company live in Philadelphia and audiences have been anticipating the release for some time."
Other specialty debuts included Kino International's "Blind Mountain," Chinese filmmaker Li Yang's drama about a young woman kidnapped in a remote village and sold into marriage. "Blind Mountain" earned $3,676 in weekend grosses from its exclusive premiere at New York's Film Forum and $5,210 in total earnings since its March 12 opening. "Wetlands Preserved" director Dean Budnick's documentary about Wetlands, the famous but short-lived New York rock club that hosted Phish, Blues Traveler and promoted social justice and pro- environmental causes, earned $1,736 for First Run Features from an exclusive debut at New York's Cinema Village.
"War Made Easy" directors Loretta Alper and Jeremy Earp's documentary featuring media critic Norman Solomon and his examination of pro-war propaganda from Vietnam to Iraq, earned $4300 for the self- distributed film from an exclusive debut at New York's Quad Cinemas. "People are responding to this little film because it's a film with big ideas," said Loretta Alper, "War's" co-director, co-writer and producer. "Even with Sean Penn as its narrator, it's been hard to generate a lot of attention. But we're approaching our sixth year in Iraq and the response to the film at the Quad was great." Alper confirmed additional markets for "War," including Bellingham, Washington and the Red Vic Playhouse in San Francisco. The French-language release "Heartbeat Detector," director Nicolas Klotz's corporate drama starring Mathieu Amalric ("The Diving Bell and the Butterfly") as a psychologist caught up in intrigue at the German corporation where he works, earned $5,309 for New Yorker Films from exclusive engagements at New York's Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and Cinema Village. "We have "Heartbeat" set to play some festivals, French, Jewish and international and are expecting to firm up some openings in conjunction with these dates," said Jonathan Howell, head of theatrical distribution, New Yorker Films. "We're also hoping the NY grosses will pick up but it can be a challenge to get people into theaters for a serious film like this with spring weather coming."
Every bit as serious, romantic and audacious as it was in 1963, the top reissue was French master Jean-Luc Godard's "Contempt," which earned $14,826 for Rialto Pictures at New York's Film Forum. "Contempt" returned to the Forum in a restored print but perhaps its edge over numerous specialty debuts was its reputation 45-years in the making.
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.