The director is known for many things, but box office success in North America is probably not one of them. That said, von Trier has managed a few very respectable grosses over the years, most notably from 1996's "Breaking The Waves," 2000's "Dancer in the Dark," and 2011's "Melancholia," all of which performed exceptionally well considering their extraordinarily unmarketable subject matter.
Lars von Trier's "Nymphomaniac, Volume I" finally opened in US theaters this past weekend after months of anticipation (and a few weeks of what distributor Magnolia claims has been a "really great" run on VOD). In 25 theaters, the film -- which stars von Trier regular Charlotte Gainsbourg as the titular nymphomaniac alongside Stellan Skarsgård, Stacy Martin, Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Jamie Bell, Uma Thurman, and Willem Dafoe -- grossed $175,000 for a respectable (given its VOD release and screen count) $7,000 per-theater-average.
How does this stack up compared to von Trier's previous films? It's a bit too early to tell (and gets even more tricky because of VOD being involved in such a big way), but we figured -- for fun -- that we'd take a look back at von Trier's box office track record Stateside anyway.
The director is known for many things, but box office success in North America is probably not one of them. That said, von Trier has managed a few strong grosses over the years, most notably from 1996's "Breaking The Waves," 2000's "Dancer in the Dark," and 2011's "Melancholia," all of which performed exceptionally well considering their not so marketable subject matter.
Interest surrounding "Nymphomaniac, Volume I" has been very high since news broke it was simply happening, so it will be interesting to see how the film -- and its second half -- holds up against von Trier's 30+ year filmography, which is noted -- in order of North American box office grosses -- in the below gallery:
Lars von Trier at the Box Office
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1. "Dancer In The Dark"
Lars von Trier's Palme d'Or winning musical masterpiece is also his highest grossing film in North America. Fine Line release the Bjork-starring "Dancer in the Dark" on September 22, 2000, and it averaged an impressive $30,537 from its 3 debut screens. It would go on to gross $4,184,036 in America (and $40,031,879 worldwide).
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2. "Breaking The Waves"
Featuring an Academy Award nominated performance by then-newcomer Emily Watson (tragically still the only von Trier performance to earn an Oscar nod), "Breaking The Waves" grossed $3,803,298 when it was released on November 13, 1996 (almost exactly 15 years ago). That was one of the 10 highest grosses for distributor October Films, and when one adjusts for inflation, it's still von Trier's highest grossing film in America.
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Lars von Trier's predecessor to "Nymphomaniac" was one of his bigger hits in North America, riding critical acclaim (and perhaps Cannes-related controversy) to a $3,030,848 gross, his best since "Dancer In The Dark" (and one "Nymphomaniac" is unlikely to match theatrically). With another $12,915,473 made overseas, the film's overall box office was definitely not quite melancholic.
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The third film in von Trier's Europe trilogy (which was actually released in the U.S. as "Zentropa" to avoid confusion with "Europa, Europa") was also its highest grosser. It took in $1,007,001 when it was released by Miramax in May of 1992.
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Perhaps rivaling "Nymphomaniac" as von Trier's most controversial film, "Antichrist" grossed $404,122 in North America in October 2009. Though a somewhat disappointing number, distributor IFC Films did something also comparable to "Nymphomaniac" -- they released the film simultaneously on video-on-demand. Official numbers were not made available, but IFC did say it was one of its top performing films on VOD that year. It is also the highest grossing film to feature genital mutilation, so there's that as well...
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7. "The Five Obstructions"
Lars von Trier collaborated with Jørgen Leth on this 2004 documentary that incorporated lengthy sections of experimental films produced by the filmmakers. Not exactly the kind of thing that spells box office gold, with the film grossing $165,845 in North America.
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Bryce Dallas Howard replaced Nicole Kidman in the role of Grace Mulligan in this follow-up to "Dogville," which in January of 2006 grossed just $78,378 for IFC Films. The film ended up with a $674,918 worldwide gross, which was a tad problematic compared to its production budget of $14.2 million.
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9. "The Boss Of It All"
This 2007-released comedy (one of von Trier's lesser known films) follows the owner of an IT company who wishes to sell it. It only went as wide as 4 theaters in North America, which resulted in a gross of just $51,548.