By Indiewire | Indiewire November 27, 2007 at 2:20AM
Strong reviews attracted sizable crowds to filmmaker Andrew Wagner's relationship drama about an elderly New York author and an inquisitive college student "Starting Out in the Evening." The Roadside Attractions release earned $76,214 from seven runs, making it the top film on the iWBOT. Critical praise also played a pivotal role in the more modest debut for the Bob Dylan drama "I'm Not There," filmmaker Todd Haynes' highly anticipated follow up his 2002 drama "Far From Heaven." "Not There" earned $730,819 from 130 runs in 61 markets for the Weinstein Company, specifically setting a new record at New York's Film Forum. Global warming-themed documentary "Everything's Cool" failed to crack the iWBOT Top Five, the latest in a string of environmentally themed movies that failed to attract audiences.
The iWBOT is based on per-theater averages reported by Rentrak Theatrical, the complete indieWIRE BOT weekly chart is available at indieWIRE.com.
The standout debut of all holiday weekend specialty releases was Roadside Attractions' "Starting Out in the Evening," which grossed $76,214 over three days from seven runs for a per-screen average of $10,887. Featuring Frank Langella as an elderly New York author and Lauren Ambrose as the grad student who befriends him, the Andrew Wagner-directed drama gained plenty of notice from its traditional, limited release. "I think the key to it was obviously the reviews because we got four-star reviews across the board especially the New York Times and LA Times," said Howard Cohen, Co-President of Roadside Attractions. "The other thing is I think we chose a good date because we only had one other significant specialty movie opening, which was 'I'm Not There.' Given the insanity of the fall, I think we were very lucky we didn't have all those pictures competing."
"Starting Out" nearly doubled the Friday-to-Sunday $5,621 per-screen average for "Not There" (though had "There" played on only 7 screens, it very likely would have doubled "Starting Out"'s average) and helped re-confirmed the validity of the traditional art house platform release. For Cohen, a slow release throughout December and January, with fifteen new markets Dec. 14 capitalizing on potential awards nominations for Langella, was the only way to open the 2007 Sundance drama. "I don't know how much 'I'm Not There" is representative of anything. I think what is more representative is 'Eastern Promises' opening in 11 markets and going to a thousand screens the next weekend or 'Gone Baby Gone' opening on over a thousand screens and films like 'Into the Wild.' That's the trend. 'I'm Not There' is an aberration. It's Harvey [Weinstein] and Harvey does crazy shit -- bottom line. These other movies are more representative of what's happening in the marketplace."
"I'm Not There," filmmaker Todd Haynes' highly anticipated follow-up to 2002's "Far From Heaven" earned $730,819 over the weekend for a per-screen average of $5,621. As late as September, the Weinstein Company planned to debut Haynes' Bob Dylan film exclusively at New York's Film Forum and expand it slowly but decided to debut the film with exclusive runs in 61 markets based on advanced praise for the film. "We found out we were getting stellar reviews, which fortunately came through," said Steve Bunnell, Chairman Domestic Distribution for the Weinstein Company. "Virtually without exception we got raves all across the country and that's what we started to realize. We booked the movie into the Film Forum and they sold $10,000 worth of tickets so that told us that we had a movie that was going to play. Everybody has heard of Bob Dylan and people in the art film community have all heard of Todd Haynes as well as beyond the art film community. We decided that the best course of action was to be everywhere that made sense the holiday weekend. That was the best strategy and from our standpopint we felt we were rewarded with that strategy by grossing a million dollars in the first five days." Featuring six different actors including Cate Blanchett, beautifully androgynous as '60s era Dylan taking London by storm, a shaggy-haired Richard Gere and young African American Marcus Carl Franklin playing characters inspired by Dylan at different stages of his life, "I'm Not There" out-earned his 2002 drama "Far From Heaven" ($211,279, though only from six runs so it had a much larger per screen average) and matched the total domestic take of his 1998 rock drama "Velvet Goldmine." "Not There" also set a new record for the Film Forum; a noteworthy achievement considering the film also played an uptown Manhattan venue and as well as suburban theaters. For Bunnell, the strong reviews and audience reactions to "Not There" hinted at a film capable of extended staying power. "We are very confident that the core audience, the Dylan fans and the Todd Haynes fans are going to enjoy the movie and give it a strong word of mouth. That's what our exit polls show. We have an older, educated audience. We believe that's going to translate to good word of mouth and we're going to keep the movie playing throughout the awards season. We have Cate Blanchett. We have Todd. We have multiple opportunities for awards on this movie and we're going to keep it in the marketplace."
"No Country for Old Men" continued to be a strong performer for Miramax Films and filmmaking duo Joel and Ethan Coen with weekend earnings of $7,776,773 from 860 runs and a third week per-screen average of $9,042. "No Country" broke into the overall top ten; the cinematic opposite of the holiday weekend's top release, parent company Disney's family comedy "Enchanted." Based on Cormac McCarthy's novel about stolen drug money and featuring Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem, "No Country" proved that its acclaim has quickly overshadowed its violent content for the majority of moviegoers.
Paramount Vantage expanded filmmaker Noah Baumbach's battling sisters comedy "Margot at the Wedding" beyond his New York home base and grossed $376,837 over the three-day weekend. At 35 theaters for its sophomore frame, "Margot" achieved a per-screen average of $10,766. Its cume has reached $565,352 after two frames.
"Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," veteran director Sidney Lumet's crime drama about two brothers robbing the family jewelry store, expanded to 260 runs and earned $930,080. In its fifth frame, "Devil" reached a per-screen average of $3,577 less than a 10% decline from its previous week. Its cume has reached $3,437,199.
Few moviegoers came to New York's Cinema Village or Laemmle's Grande 4-plex in Los Angeles to watch "Everything's Cool," directors Daniel B. Gold and Judith Helfand's documentary about global warming. The City Lights Pictures release earned $2,641 for a modest $1,320 per- screen average. "Cool" was the latest environmental documentary release to miss at the box office, following the poor performances of "The 11th Hour" and "Arctic Tale."
Faring better was "Who Is Norman Lloyd?" director Matthew Sussman's documentary about the seventy-year veteran actor of stage and screen. "Who Is Norman Lloyd?" earned $3,367 for Journeymen Films at the Film Forum.
Of all the new specialty releases hoping to draw moviegoers away from more conventional holiday fare, the biggest misstep belonged to the drama "He Was A Quiet Man." Featuring Christian Slater as a solitary office worker who fantasizes about killing his co-workers, "Quiet Man" earned a pitiful $653 for Mitropoulos Films at New York's Cinema Village, the mark of a true, box office turkey.
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.