The 2014 summer indie box office ended off... much like the 2013 summer indie box office did. With a seemingly out-of-nowhere Mexican import from Pantelion and Lionsgate winning over audiences and giving us one of the most impressive limited debuts of the season. A full report (and note that the numbers for "The Last of Robin Hood" were initially reported incorrectly and have since been corrected):
Debut Winner of the Weekend: "Cantinflas"
Exactly a year after "Instructions Not Included" began its impressive journey to a $44 million gross, proving what the remarkably underserved market for Spanish language films in America, the same folks behind that film have released "Cantinflas," a bio-drama about the late (and hugely popular) Mexican actor. Did lightning strike again? Not quite in the same tall order, but "Cantinflas" definitely impressed this weekend, taking in $2.6 million from 382 theaters to average $6,872 just miss the overall top 10 (despite playing on a fraction of the screens of its competitors).
The story of Mexico's "greatest and most beloved comedy film star of all time," "Cantinflas" follows him from "his humble origins on the small stage to the bright lights of Hollywood."
Pantelion is a partnership between Lionsgate and Videocine, aiming to provide the very underserved market of Hispanic moviegoers with "a steady source of exciting and original films, which include top-rated Latino actors, directors and writers." Clearly the strategy has been paying off. "Instructions not Included" is the highest-grossing Spanish-language film ever in the U.S., "Pulling Strings" grossed $5.9 million later last year, and "Cantinflas" is poised to at least match that. Though we'll see next weekend if it has what it takes to go beyond it.
This Weekend's Debuts: (ranked in order of per-theater-average)
Holdover Winners of the Weekend:
"The Trip To Italy." Back in 2011, IFC Films found very nice numbers from "The Trip," a collaboration of Michael Winterbottom, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. That film grossed $2 million, making it one of the year's biggest hits for the distributor. Three years later, and hot off the major success story that is "Boyhood," the distributor is keeping the good news coming with the film's sequel, "The Trip To Italy." With strong reviews and a considerable fanbase for the original, the film made its way to a $510,000 in its third weekend, averaging $9,807 (just slightly down from last weekend despite adding 42 theaters). That gave it a very healthy total of $771,000.
"Love Is Strange." Ira Sachs' late-in-life gay love story "Love Is Strange" continued to find very strong numbers this weekend. Sony Classics picked up the film at Sundance after it premiered to glowing reviews, and Sachs and his cast -- which includes John Lithgow, Alfred Molina and Marisa Tomei -- aggressively made the media rounds and the result was a $261,670 weekend gross from 27 theaters (up from 5), averaging $9,704 (the second highest of any film in release). Controversy surrounding the MPAA's decision to give the film an "R" rating (despite no sex or violence in the film) perhaps helped raise awareness as well. Sony Classics will further expand the film next weekend, though its already outgrossed Sachs' last film -- 2012's "Keep The Lights On," which had a final total of $246,112. As of Sunday, "Love" has taken in $424,761.
- "Chef" became only the second 2014 indie -- after "The Grand Budapest Hotel" -- to gross over $30 million this weekend after a Labor Day weekend expansion gave it another $665K.
- "Boyhood" hit $18 million, impressively seeing its per-theater-average rise week-to-week.
- "Begin Again" also got a holiday push, adding 296 theaters to help push it past the $16 million mark.
- "Magic in the Moonlight" hit $8 million mark in its sixth weekend. Though relative to Woody Allen's recent releases, its headed for a somewhat disappointing final tally.
- "Calvary" managed to hit the $2 million mark in its fifth weekend.
The Holdover Top 12: (ranked in order of per-theater-average)
4. Begin Again (The Weinstein Company)
Weekend Gross: $784,000
Theaters: 335 (up from 39)
Total Gross: $16,325,000
Criticwire Average: B
5. Magic In The Moonlight (Sony Pictures Classics)
Weekend Gross: $824,618
Theaters: 438 (down from 787)
Total Gross: $8,014,163
Criticwire Average: B
Peter Knegt is a contributing editor at Indiewire and our box office columnist. Follow him on Twitter.