By Indiewire | Indiewire May 27, 2008 at 12:37PM
With the 61st Cannes Film Festival coming to a close and the French drama "The Class," set during a year in a junior high classroom, winning the Palme d'Or, the political comedy "War Inc." shot to the number one spot on the specialty charts with debut earnings of $45,714 for First Look Studio from exclusive runs in New York and Los Angeles. "The Edge of Heaven," filmmaker Fatih Akin's drama about parents and their children set against Germany and Turkey, followed close behind with $18,593 in weekend box office for Strand Releasing at New York's Film Forum. The First Run Features documentary "A Jihad For Love" and Sony Pictures Classics' China-set period drama "The Children of Huang Shi" also debuted in iWBOT top five, which ranks films by per-screen average, Returning to the iWBOT top five was "Reprise," Norwegian director Joachim Trier's young artists drama for Miramax Films.
The iWBOT is based on per-theater averages reported by Rentrak Theatrical, the complete indieWIRE BOT weekly chart will available Wednesday afternoon at indieWIRE.com.>
The box office success of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" and veteran director and actor Sydney Pollack's death from cancer were the top Memorial Weekend stories for specialty companies looking to provide an alternative niche in the crowded summer marketplace. Filmmaker Joshua Seftel wowed New York and Los Angeles audiences with his feature film directorial debut, the political comedy "War Inc." Featuring John Cusack as a hit man hired to kill a Middle Eastern oil minister in an Iraq-like national dubbed "Turaqistan," "War Inc." earned $45,714 in debut weekend earnings at New York's Angelika Film Center and The Landmark in Los Angeles. With a sky-high $22,857 debut per-screen average, "War Inc." looked to become the first specialty film with Iraq War themes to connect successfully with audiences.
"The Edge of Heaven" Turkish-German director Fatih Akin's melodrama about the intersecting lives between Turkey and Germany of a pair of parents and their children, earned $18,593 over the four-day weekend for Strand Releasing from an exclusive debut at New York's Film Forum. "The Edge of Heaven," Akin's fourth feature film, easily bested the per-screen U.S. debuts of his previous two movies, "Head-On" (2005) and "Crossing the Bridge: The Sound of Istanbul." "In this marketplace, with so many films opening, trying to find a place for "EOH" was a challenge," said Marcus Hu, co-founder and co-president, Strand Releasing. "Our additional challenge was to appeal to the various potential markets for the film, the foreign audience, the Turkish and German audiences, the gay/lesbian market and the following built from Fatih's success with "Head-On." I hope the audience broadens out from the great reviews, features and word of mouth." Hu confirmed a deliberately paced platform plan for "Edge of Heaven" including opening Los Angeles Friday as well as exclusive openings in Chicago, Boston and Washington DC in June.
"A Jihad For Love" Muslim gay filmmaker Parvez Sharma's controversial documentary about gay and lesbian Muslims striving to reconcile their faith and their homosexuality, earned $13,418 in four-day earnings for First Run Features from an exclusive debut at New York's IFC Center. "Jihad For Love," Sharma's debut feature film featuring people from twelve countries including India, Egypt and Iran, became the year's number three documentary debut, just behind "Up the Yangtze" and "Planet B-Boy." "It was a great mixture of the audiences that the film directly addresses - Muslim and gay - but also people who won't fit into those two categories, for instance, a nice turnout of women and Jewish people," said Marc Mauceri, vice president, First Run Features. "The energy in the theater was tremendous and the filmmaker panels were very successful." Mauceri confirmed a deliberately paced platform plan for "Jihad For Love" throughout the summer and fall. "With a six day total of $20,183, we have a bona fide hit on our hands. Our plan all along has been a slow rollout to accommodate the filmmakers' wish to travel as much as possible with the film and to have the time to put as much work as possible into every opening."
"Reprise" Norwegian director Joachim Trier's drama about two friends, both aspiring writers awaiting publication of their first books, earned $107,885 for Miramax Films and a stellar $7,706 per-screen average from 14 runs in its second week. "Reprise," the best-performing holdover on the iWBOT, also continued to be the top performer of recent Norwegian productions.
"The Children of Huang Shi," veteran director Roger Spottiswoode's political drama about a foreign journalist (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and nurse (Radha Mitchell) transporting sixty orphans to safety in war-ravaged 1930s China, earned $55,760 for Sony Pictures Classics in its debut frame. "Children of Huang Shi reached a $7,966 per-screen average from seven runs.
Debuting outside the iWBOT top ten was "Insidious," director Jerry Schram's New York drama about a filmmaker who becomes entangled with a shady Little Italy cafe owner. "Insidious" earned $3,270 for Romantic Troubadour Entertainment from an exclusive debut at New York's Quad Cinema.
"The Visitor," filmmaker Tom McCarthy's drama featuring veteran character actor Richard Jenkins as a lonely professor who befriends a Syrian street musician and his family, remained in the top ten box office charts with a $3,482 per-screen average from 270 engagements. The Overture Films release has compiled $940,037 in total box office after seven weeks and continued to out-perform other specialty film wide releases playing on 150 or more runs, the ThinkFilm melodrama "Then She Found Me," directed by Helen Hunt, and the Fox Searchlight documentary "Young@Heart."
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.