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September 24, 2007 12:48 PM
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iW BOT | The Great Indoors: Audiences Stuff Cinemas For Sean Penn's Wilderness Drama "Into the Wild"

A scene from Sean Penn's "Into The Wild." Courtesy of Paramount Vantage.

"Into the Wild," actor-filmmaker Sean Penn's adaptation of the Jon Krakauer novel, earned $212,000 for Paramount Vantage. Its $53,000 per-screen average was tops on the iWBOT and Paramount Vantage's best debut since its 2006 global warming documentary "An Inconvenient Truth." "Helvetica," a look at global design culture, earned $8,599 from its exclusive, sophomore run at New York's IFC Center. Rounding out the iWBOT Top Five were director John Turturro's musical "Romance & Cigarettes," Sony Picture Classics' female ensemble drama "The Jane Austen Book Club" and IFC First Take's Arctic-set horror "The Last Winter."

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

With "Into the Wild," director Sean Penn's epic adaptation of Jon Krakauer's true tale of a young man seeking peace in the Alaskan wilderness, Paramount Vantage experienced their best opening since "An Inconvenient Truth." The drama earned a stellar $212,440 from just four screens, said Rob Schulze, Executive V.P., Distribution at Paramount Vantage. "I think the enthusiastic box-office reception points to a number of factors," he said. "There is great awareness for the Christopher McCandless story thanks to the success of Jon Krakauer's amazing novel. We have a great cast and Sean Penn brings the film additional prestige as its director. It's a crowded marketplace but 'Into the Wild' looks to be a film that resonates with audiences." "Wild," featuring Emile Hirsch in the lead and Catherine Keener and Marcia Gay Harden in supporting roles, reached a iWBOT topping $53,000 per- screen average. "We're expanding the film to the top twelve markets Friday and will reach the top 35 markets by Oct. 19," Schulze said. "Our release strategy is similar to other recent films that play between 300 and 1,000 screens. But I don't want to limit us by giving out a top print count at this time. There's no catchall release model for a film like 'Into the Wild.'"

"Helvetica," a self-released documentary about global design culture and the Helvetica typeface, earned $8,599 at New York's IFC Center. Without the additional draw of on-site appearances by director Gary Hustwit, "Helvetica" dropped a steep 55% from its debut weekend but remained the top documentary on the iWBOT with a cumulative box office of $30,323 after two weeks. "Imagine if during the past 50 years of Rock and Roll no one had ever made a music documentary," Hustwit said. "I think that's how this film feels for graphic designers. While 'Helvetica' might seem like a very niche subject, in a sense, we're all graphic designers now. Everyone who uses a computer knows what fonts are and they're expressing themselves through typography. Whether we're using them or reading them, fonts are part of our daily lives." "Helvetica" continues at the IFC Center with extended runs in other major cities planned prior to its Nov. 6 DVD release.

"The Jane Austen Book Club," writer-director Robin Swicord's female ensemble drama, opened modestly for Sony Pictures Classics. "Jane Austen Book Club" earned just $148,549 from 25 screens. While its $5,942 per-screen average was good enough for the fourth spot on the iWBOT, it ranked 30% below the debut average of another Jane Austen drama, Miramax's "Becoming Jane," an indicator of its niche appeal. Its planned expansion over the next few weeks will be telling.

Screen Media Films' "Adrift in Manhattan," director Alfredo de Villa's interlocking stories of New Yorkers, featuring Heather Graham and Dominic Chianese, also opened poorly, earning $2,099 at New York's Village East Cinemas despite its local connections. "Adrift"'s poor box-office performance guaranteed its quick exit from the Village East and eliminated any chance of a successful platform outside of New York. The weekend box office also dimmed the release prospects for "Antonia," Brazilian director Tata Amaral's look at four young black women from Sao Paulo who form a Rap group to escape their poverty. Anywhere Road and Netflix's Red Envelope Entertainment, the film's co- distributors, reported $3,100 from New York's Quad Cinema and the Music Hall in Los Angeles. And "The Man of My Life," from Strand Releasing, earned just $2,991 from its exclusive run at New York's Quad Cinemas. "The Man of My Life" is director Zabou Breitman's story of a French couple whose lives change after a gay man moves next door to their rural summerhouse.

In its second weekend, director Larry Fessenden's horror "The Last Winter" earned $8,090 from two screens for a $4,045 per-screen average; good enough for the fifth spot on the iWBOT. But the strongest hold over continued to be the self-released "Romance & Cigarettes," actor-turned-filmmaker John Turturro's working-class musical starring James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon and Kate Winslet as singing and dancing Queens neighbors. "Romance & Cigarattes," earned $10,332 from its third weekend at New York's Film Forum; a modest 33% drop for the self-released musical. Its cumulative box office has reached $62,070 from the Film Forum; a bold theatrical debut for a film dropped by its distributor.

Warner Independent Pictures' "In the Valley of Elah," filmmaker Paul Haggis' drama about a missing Iraq War soldier featuring Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron, jumped to 317 screens and $1,275,000 in weekend box office. Its $4,022, while a steep 70% drop from its debut weekend, was good enough for the sixth spot on the iWBOT. In just its sophomore frame, cumulative box office has reached $1.5 million with further expansion Friday. After hitting a $36,472-per-screen average in its debut weekend on fifteen screens, "Eastern Promises," David Cronenberg's Russian Mafia drama from Focus Features, dropped to a $4,093 per-screen average with its second frame expansion to 1,404 screens. More noteworthy, its $5.7 million weekend box office was 30% below the wide weekend take of Cronenberg's 2005 release "A History of Violence." Another platform, studio release was Sony's Beatles-inspired musical "Across The Universe," from director Julie Taymor. "Universe" lost 75% in per-screen average, flattening to $7,427 after expanding to 276 screens. Its cumulative box office has reached $2,996,000.

Of all the limited studio debuts, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," a Brad Pitt western by Warner Bros., reached a solid $28,800 per-screen average from five locations. Warner Bros. plans to expand "Jesse James" steadily throughout October.

THINKFilm's "In the Shadow of the Moon," a documentary about the Apollo Astronauts, leaped to 67 venues for its third weekend, an increase of 44 screens and earned $178,150. Its $2,660 per-screen average was a 33% drop from last week. "Shadow of the Moon's" cumulative tally of $341,666 failed to keep up Picturehouse's more youthful entry, the arcade game documentary "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters," and its $589,342 cumulative total. THINK expands "Shadow of the Moon" to the top 35 markets this weekend; still looking to confirm its appeal with mainstream audiences. "The Bubble," director Eytan Fox's latest drama, a Tel Aviv-set love triangle between Jews and Arabs, from Strand Releasing, earned $9,791 from four screens for a $2,448 per-screen average. Its cumulative box office has pushed beyond $100,000. "Live-In Maid," Argentine filmmaker Jorge Gaggero's class drama about a Buenos Aires divorcee struggling to retain her luxurious lifestyle, returned to the iWBOT Top 20 with weekend earnings of $14,207 from six locations. With cumulative box office of $171,522 "Live-In Maid" remained the summer's top Spanish-language film and a strong debut release for the five-year-old sales outfit, Film Sales Company.

Also notable was the reissue of Hal Ashby's 1970 race comedy "The Landlord," featuring Beau Bridges as a trust fund kid who moves to a tenement in the yet-to-be-gentrified Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope. "The Landlord" earned $9916 at the Film Forum. "The Landlord" placed third on the iWBOT and was a reminder that seldom-seen re-issues have the best commercial potential. At the IFC Center, director Werner Herzog's larger-than-life, 1982 drama "Fitzcarraldo," earned $5,286; proof that Herzog's notorious collaboration with actor Klaus Kinski has been a revival house mainstay for years.

New releases this week include Mitropoulos Films' "The Price of Sugar," director Bill Haney's documentary about a Spanish priest's attempts to organize poor Haitians who harvest Sugar Cane for Dominican Republic farms. From Shadowcatcher, director John Jeffcoat's timely comedy "Outsourced," about a young salesman sent to Mumbai to train Indian call center workers, opens Friday at New York's Quad Cinema. Director Marco Kreuzpainter follows up his coming of age drama "Summer Storm" is the sex slave drama "Trade," for Roadside Attractions. On Saturday, Fox Searchlight opens the Wes Anderson film "The Darjeeling Limited," the opening night film of the New York Film Festival, on two New York screens. "Lust, Caution," director Ang Lee's spy drama set in World War II-era Shanghai for Focus Features, opens exclusively at New York's Lincoln Plaza Cinemas. What remains to be seen is whether its NC-17 Rating for sexual content will boost audiences or serve as an obstacle for the film's release.

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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