"Paranoid Park," writer/director Gus Van Sant's acclaimed youth drama for IFC Films, far out-performed all specialty releases, including recent Oscar winners, with weekend earnings of $29,828 at New York's IFC Center and Angelika Film Center. "Snow Angels," filmmaker David Gordon Green's couple-in-crisis drama for Warner Independent Pictures, led remaining art-house debuts with a per-screen average of $7,123. Rounding out the iWBOT Top Five, which ranks films by per- screen average, were "Married Life," director Ira Sachs' period drama for Sony Pictures Classics, "The Counterfeiters," Austrian filmmaker Stefan Ruzowitzky's Best Foreign Film Oscar winner for Sony Pictures Classics, and "Chop Shop," director Ramin Bahrani's drama about a twelve-year-old Latino boy for Koch Lorber Films.
The iWBOT is based on per-theater averages reported by Rentrak Theatrical, the complete indieWIRE BOT weekly chart is available at indieWIRE.com.
Eleven specialty debuts helped brush aside recent Oscar winners and usher in a new era of increasingly aggressive release strategies for the art-house theatrical circuit. Still, the weekend leader was a traditional platform release, IFC Films' "Paranoid Park," director Gus Van Sant's highly praised drama about young skateboarders in Portland, Oregon. "Paranoid Park" earned $29,828 at New York's IFC Center and Angelika Film Center for a $14,914 per-screen average. "We are very excited about the debut numbers for "Paranoid Park," said Mark Boxer, VP Sales and Distribution for IFC Films. "The audience for the film consisted of Gus Van Sant fans and a strong turnout from the youthful/skateboarding community. The reviews for the film have been very strong from New York and the film will roll out to the top fifteen markets within the next two weeks."
Directly behind was Koch Lorber Films' "Chop Shop," director Ramin Bahrani's drama about a twelve-year-old Latino boy living in Queen's industrial wasteland of scrap yards and auto body shops. "Chop Shop" earned $7,944 from its exclusive engagement at New York's Film Forum, a scant 5% drop from its debut weekend. Its cume has reached $24,371. Sony Pictures Classics' World War II film "The Counterfeiters" remained the per-screen leader of all Oscar and Independent Spirit Award winners. The Best Foreign Film Oscar winner stayed in the iWBOT Top Five with weekend earnings of $279,604,279 from 41 screens and a per-screen average of $6,820. "Married Life," director Ira Sachs' infidelity drama set in post-war America, outperformed Sachs' previous drama "Forty Shades of Blue." "Married Life," starring Pierce Brosnan, Chris Cooper, Patricia Clarkson and Rachel McAdams, earned $55,851 from 9 runs for Sony Pictures Classics.
Other specialty debuts included "Blindsight," director Lucy Walker's documentary about six Tibetan teenagers who overcome their blindness and climb Mount Everest. "Blindsight" earned $5,279 for Spark Entertainment from its exclusive engagement at New York's IFC Center. "Fighting for Life," director Terry Sanders' documentary about military doctors and nurses serving in Iraq, earned $3,423 for Truly Indie from an exclusive run at New York's Cinema Village. "Body of War," directors Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro's documentary about Thomas Young, a young soldier who becomes an anti-war activist after a disabling combat injury, earned $3,321 for Film Sales Corp. from its debut at Kansas City's Tivoli Cinemas. "Girls Rock!" directors Shane King and Arne Johnson's documentary about a Rock 'n' Roll camp for teenage girls, earned $29,918 for Shadow Distribution from exclusive runs in seven cities. "Frownland," director Ronald Bronstein's self-released, experimental horror movie earned $2,725 from its debut weekend at the IFC Center. Brooklyn-based distributor Film Desk made its debut with the theatrical debut of director Philippe Garrel's French-language drama "I Don't Hear The Guitar Anymore." After an earlier, one-time screening at Lincoln Center, "I Don't Hear The Guitar" earned $1,912 at the Cinema Village.
Just behind the iWBOT Top Five was "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day," director Bharat Nalluri's screwball comedy featuring Frances McDormand as a homely governess and Amy Adams as her dizzy employer, reached a $4,656 per-screen average from a far-reaching 535 runs. "This was an aggressive release and it paid off," said Jack Foley, President Theatrical Distribution for Focus Features. ""Miss Pettigrew" was a serious choice for moviegoers over the weekend."
On a smaller scale, "Snow Angels," filmmaker David Gordon Green's adult drama starring Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale as a separated couple trying to piece their life, reached a per-screen average of $7,123 from exclusive engagements at New York's Sunshine Cinema and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, besting the per-screen debuts of his previous films "George Washington," "All The Real Girls" and "Undertow." "A movie like this one doesn't always go by its director, it also goes by the nature of the film," said Steven Friedlander, Executive Vice President for Warner Independent Pictures. "This film is not going to have a lot of first-day, want-to-see business based on its subject matter being so despressing. It needs to have great reviews and great word of mouth. So I need to have people tell other people. If you blow it out too fast, by the time the word-of-mouth catches up and people hear what a great film it is, it's not on the screen any more."
The steady release strategy planned for "Snow Angels" -- the film opens on two Los Angeles theaters Friday and slowly across the country throughout March and April -- contrasted sharply with plans for Warner Independent's next release, Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke's scene-by-scene, English-language remake of his 1997 thriller "Funny Games." In the case of "Funny Games," agreed Friedlander, an aggressive debut in 285 theaters made more sense. "Because of the nature of the film and because it's going to play to a college audience and because there's been so much heat on the web, we figured if we rolled it out slowly we wouldn't be able to take advantage of all that heat and all that web reaction," said Friedlander. "This is the best starting point. It hits all the major markets, hits crossover situations and hits the college markets. We can build from there."
It's also a sign of the new, aggressive times in the specialty film biz.
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.