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IW BOT | Women of the Year: Romanian Abortion Drama '4 Months' Debuts Big in NYC; "Juno" Passes $100

By Indiewire | Indiewire January 29, 2008 at 3:04AM

"4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days," filmmaker Cristian Mungiu's drama about a young woman who undergoes an underground abortion in 1987 Romania, enjoyed a golden debut with a weekend total of $51,712 from two New York theaters. Joining "4 Months" in the first iWBOT Top Five since the Jan. 22 Oscar announcements were the documentary "Doc," about New York author Harold "Doc" Humes; Best Picture Oscar contender "There Will Be Blood," Sony Pictures Classics' feature animation "Persepolis" and Palm Picture's Chinese-language drama "Summer Palace." Meanwhile, Fox Searchlight's teen pregnancy drama "Juno" passed $100 million in domestic ticket sales and the Brazilian melodrama "Alice's House," the debut release from the LA-based distributor FiGa Films, hit a debut, per-screen average of $3,181 from six venues.
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"4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days," filmmaker Cristian Mungiu's drama about a young woman who undergoes an underground abortion in 1987 Romania, enjoyed a golden debut with a weekend total of $51,712 from two New York theaters. Joining "4 Months" in the first iWBOT Top Five since the Jan. 22 Oscar announcements were the documentary "Doc," about New York author Harold "Doc" Humes; Best Picture Oscar contender "There Will Be Blood," Sony Pictures Classics' feature animation "Persepolis" and Palm Picture's Chinese-language drama "Summer Palace." Meanwhile, Fox Searchlight's teen pregnancy drama "Juno" passed $100 million in domestic ticket sales and the Brazilian melodrama "Alice's House," the debut release from the LA-based distributor FiGa Films, hit a debut, per-screen average of $3,181 from six venues.

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

Debuting at New York's Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and IFC Center, IFC's "4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days," reached a per-screen average of $25,856 and a weekend total of $51,712. About a young woman who undergoes an underground abortion in 1987 Romania, the 2007 Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or winner overcame its lack of a Best Foreign Film Oscar nomination to sell out shows at both New York theaters.

"We picked this time of year to open the film based on a hopeful nomination, but there has also been so much press (debating its lack of a nomination) and praise for the film, it seems to have worked out well for the opening in New York," said Mark Boxer, VP Sales and Distribution for IFC Films. "We're thrilled that a foreign language film can get noticed without a nomination at this time of year, and are excited for the rest of the country to experience this very special film." IFC plans to expand "4 Months," which debuted to a higher per-screen average than the 2007 French-language hit "La Vie en Rose," to the top fifteen markets in the next two weeks.

The top documentaries on the iWBOT were "Doc," daughter Immy Humes' self-released documentary about her father Harold L "Doc" Humes, who stopped writing after two acclaimed novels in the late fifties. "Doc" earned $8,789 at New York's Film Forum, helping to put the spotlight back on a forgotten novelist and counter-culture figurehead. Oxbow Lake Films' "Orthodox Stance," about boxer Dmitriy Salita, a 24 year-old Russian immigrant and Orthodox Jew, earned $4,545 at New York's Cinema Village.

Sony Pictures Classics' animated drama "Persepolis" expanded to 58 screens and reached a per-screen average of $5,907, an approximate 30% drop from the previous weekend. After six weeks, "Persepolis," based on Marjane Satrapi's four graphic novels about growing up in pre-revolutionary Tehran and co-directed by Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, has earned $1,344,334 in cumulative box office, passing Sony Classics' previous animated feature "Paprika" as well as the anime cult favorite "Cowboy Bebop."

"There Will Be Blood," a Paramount Vantage release and Paramount Vantage/Miramax co-production, earned four Oscar nominations including Best Picture and a $5,502 per-screen average from 885 runs. In its fifth week, "Blood," director Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of Upton Sinclair's novel about California oil men, reached the eighth spot in the overall top ten box office and a cumulative gross of $14,746,644.

Other new releases included Palm Pictures' "Summer Palace," director Lou Ye's romance between two students set against the political backdrop of 1989 Beijing. "Summer Palace" earned $4,476 at New York's Cinema Village. Joining "Summer Palace" at the Cinema Village was "Lost in Beijing," Chinese filmmaker Yu Li's drama set in the growing middle class of Beijing. "Lost in Beijing" earned $3,728 for New Yorker Films.

Fox Searchlight Pictures surpassed $100 million in domestic box office with director Jason Reitman's teenage pregnancy comedy 'Juno." Boosted by four Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Actress for lead Ellen Page, "Juno" earned $10,151,100 in weekend gross from 2,426 runs. "Our boss at Fox came to the Searchlight offices to congratulate us and that's what he asked us, where do you go from here?" said Sheila Deloach, Senior Vice President Fox Searchlight Pictures. "We're going to keep plugging and hope to keep "Juno" in theaters a long time.

Alex Garcia, VP Distribution for FiGa Films, the Los Angeles-based distributor of Latin cinema, was well aware how a phenomenal success like "Juno" has made the marketplace more competitive. But Garcia went ahead and released the debut FiGa feature "Alice's House" at six venues in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Written and directed by Chico Teixeira, "Alice's House," about a middle-aged manicurist living in Sao Paulo, reached a per-screen average of $3,181 for a weekend total of $19,083. "It is a difficult, uphill struggle to, not only find an audience, but to keep the film in theaters, even after receiving respectable box office numbers and 85% critical praise," Garcia said. The runaway success of "Juno" not withstanding, Garcia's plan for FiGa has remained the same, to showcase up-and-coming Latin filmmakers and educate American audiences about new Latin cinema. "It is very competitive and we are not afraid of it. We want to show the real side of Latin peoples' lives and how they actually live. We're trying to get a slice of that 1% of the box office that is the art-house, foreign market. It may take time but we are passionate and will march forward."


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.