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Specialty Box Office: 'Marigold Hotel' Opens To Big Business; 'Bernie' Holds Strong

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire May 6, 2012 at 12:39PM

In a great feat of counter-programming to the insanity that was the $200 million opening weekend of "The Avengers," Fox Searchlight found fantastic numbers from the first weekend of "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," nearly topping the 2012 limited debut record set by "Bernie" last weekend.  And while the news for "Bernie" continued to be very good as well, its fellow Millennium Entertainment release "A Little Bit of Heaven" -- starring Kate Hudson and Gael Garcia Bernal -- opened to some of the year's worst numbers.
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"Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"

In a great feat of counter-programming to the insanity that was the $200 million opening weekend of "The Avengers," Fox Searchlight found fantastic numbers from the first weekend of "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," nearly topping the 2012 limited debut record set by "Bernie" last weekend.  And while the news for "Bernie" continued to be very good as well, its fellow Millennium Entertainment release "A Little Bit of Heaven" -- starring Kate Hudson and Gael Garcia Bernal -- opened to some of the year's worst numbers.

Check out the full rundown below, including notable holdover releases "Headhunters," "Sound of My Voice," "Marley," "Darling Companion," "Bully," and "Monsieur Lazhar."

The Debuts:

"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" (Fox Searchlight)
Coming off a stunning $70 million (and counting) gross overseas, John Madden's older audience skewing film is off to an excellent start, joining "Bernie" as the first two potential indie breakouts from summer 2012.

On 27 screens, the film -- which stars Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson as a group of seniors retiring in India -- grossed $750,301.  That gave it a glowing $27,789 per-theater-average, the second best indie debut of the year (after last weekend's "Bernie," which notably was released on much fewer screens).       

"The 'baby boomers' came back to the theatres this weekend," Fox Searchlight's Sheila DeLoach --
EVP Distribution -- told Indiewire.  "The film had many sold out matinees, twilight hours, and prime shows as the adult audience showed they were happy to see a movie with a good story and good performances that made them laugh out loud."
 
This Friday, the film will expand to 24 markets and be in 140 – 150 theatres.  By Memorial Day weekend, Fox Searchlight expects the film to be screening in approximately 800 theatres.

"A Little Bit of Heaven" (Millennium Entertainment)
While Millennium Entertainment has reason to celebrate due to the continuing success of "Bernie," things were not so sunny regarding Nicole Kassell's cancer-themed romantic comedy "A Little Bit of Heaven." Starring Kate Hudson, Gael Garcia Bernal, Kathy Bates, Rosemarie DeWitt and Whoopi Goldberg, the film -- which received some of the worst reviews of the year -- opened on 11 screens to a dismal $9,830 gross.  That gave it an average of only $894 as it will likely become one of the biggest duds of the year.

"First Position" (Sundance Selects)
Much better news came care of Bess Kargman's ballet documentary "First Position." On 5 screens in New York and Los Angeles, the film played to sold out shows and grossed $51,000 -- averaging a very respectable $10,200. Sundance Selects will expand the film to the top 15 markets next weekend.

For a report on over a dozen holdover releases, including "Bernie," "Sound of My Voice," "Marley," "Monsieur Lazhar," and "Bully," continue to the next page.

Richard Linklater's "Bernie."
The Holdovers:

"Bernie" (Millennium Entertainment)
Starring Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey, Richard Linklater's dark comedy did great business in its second weekend out. After a stellar debut on 3 screens (which resulted in the year's best per-theater-average for a limted release), the film expanded to 8 locations and jumped 64% in grosses. It took in $140,450, averaging a fantastic $17,566.

"'Bernie' held fantastic," Millennium Entertainment's Andy Gruenberg told Indiewire today. "It's selling out everywhere. Sleeper of the year."

Gruenberg said the film will make significant expansions on May 18th and June 1st. Its total currently stands at $261,749.

"Sound of My Voice" (Fox Searchlight)
Despite very strong reviews and an innovative marketing campaign, Zal Batmanglij's "Sound of My Voice" continued to stumble in its second weekend. Expanding from 5 to 28 screens, the film -- which stars Brit Marling as the leader of a cult -- grossed a so-so $52,656 averaging only $1,881. Distributor Fox Searchlight will continue to expand the film in coming weeks, but so far it seems "Sound" will be another underperformer for both Searchlight and Marling, after the release of "Another Earth" last year. That film actually did considerably better in its second weekend, averaging $5,461 from 20 screens en route to a $1.3 million final gross.

"Elles" (Kino Lorber)
Kino Lorber expanded the Juliette Binoche-starring "Elles" from 6 to 13 screens this weekend. The NC-17 rated French import took in $30,000 as a result for a so-so average of $2,307. Its total now stands at $67,385.

"Headhunters" (Magnolia)
On 16 screens (up from 4), Norwegian import "Headhunters" outperformed both "Sound" and "Elles" in its second weekend with a strong $87,000 gross, averaging $5,438. Directed by Morten Tyldum, the film was a huge hit in its native Norway, having the second best opening weekend in Norwegian history. Magnolia will expand the film in the next few weeks. Its total stands at $148,242 so far.

"Marley" (Magnolia Pictures)
Kevin Macdonald's Bob Marley doc expanded from 50 to 55 screens in its third weekend and saw its grosses drop off for the second weekend in a row. But even though it grossed roughly $60,000 less than last weekend, "Marley" still took in a very respectable $100,000 for a $1,818 average. That gave it a new total of $752,525, and it's likely the film will hit the $1 million mark despite its presence on VOD (where it also debuted two weekends ago).

"Darling Companion" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Sony Classics expanded Lawrence Kasdan's first film since 2003 -- "Darling Companion" -- from 17 to 46 locations in its third weekend. "Companion" -- starring Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, Dianne Weist and Richard Jenkins -- grossed $67,673 as a result -- only a 5% uptick from last weekend despite more than doubling its screens. That made for a $1,471 average and a disappointing new total of $211,714.

"Monsieur Lazhar" (Music Box Films)
The last release among the Academy Award nominees for best foreign language film, Music Box Films took Quebec's "Monsieur Lazhar" from 66 to 81 screens in its fourth weekend and saw strong results. Grossing $220,814, the film -- which follows an Algerian immigrant who takes over the elementary school classroom of a teacher who has committed suicide --- averaged a solid $2,726 and took its total to $912,554.

Music Box will expand the film more in the coming weeks, which should easily see "Lazhar" join "A Separation" and "Footnote" as the third foreign film nominee to cross the $1 million mark (in addition to non-nominees "Pina" and "The Kid With a Bike," both of whch have also done excellent business). "Lazhar" has already grossed over $3 million at the Canadian box office.

"Damsels in Distress" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Whit Stillman's first film in almost 15 years, "Damsels in Distress" had a big expansion this weekend, going from 57 to 205 screens care of Sony Pictures Classics.   Taking in $159,428, the film jumped 92% in grosses, but averaged only $778 and took its total to $630,144 after five weekends.

Stillman has only directed four films over the course of his 22-year career, the last being 1998's "The Last Days of Disco."  "Disco" eventually totalled $3 million, a number "Damsels" is very unlikely to achieve.

"Bully" (The Weinstein Company)
Lee Hirsch's much-discussed doc "Bully" held steady on 263 screens in its  fourth weekend with a "PG-13" rating.  The film dropped 49% in grosses and took in $168,000 as a result. That made for a weak $639 average as it took its gross so far to $2,534,877. Considering it has clearly peaked, the film should end up with a still impressive final gross around $3 million. Notably, it's already the highest grossing doc of 2012, just ahead of "Jiro Dreams of Sushi."

"Jiro Dreams of Sushi" (Magnolia)
Speaking of "Sushi"... A look at 85-year-old sushi master Jiro Ono, the film went from 75 to 61 screens in its ninth weekend and took in $92,900. That made for a $1,508 average and took the film's total to $1,987,177. A year after it made its North American debut at the Tribeca Film Festival, "Sushi" has turned into a considerable success story.

"The Deep Blue Sea" (Music Box Films)
In its seventh weekend, Terence Davies' acclaimed Rachel Weisz-starrer went from 51 to 36 screens care of Music Box Films and found respectable numbers as a result. "The Deep Blue Sea" grossed $46,845, averaging $1,301. The film has held on very nicely over its run, with a new total of $956,533. Along with the aforementioned "Monsieur Lazhar," the film should give Music Box two $1 million grossers so far this year. A notable feat as the distributor has only seen 5 films do that in its history.

"The Kid With a Bike" (Sundance Selects)
Belgium's Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne continued to get great numbers from their "Kid With a Bike." Going from 85 to 70 screens in its eighth weekend care of Sundance Selects, the film grossed  $70,000 -- averaging $1,000. "Kid" has now grossed $1,270,000. It has well surpassed the $651,941 that "L'Enfant" grossed back in 2006 to become the highest grossing film ever for the Dardenne brothers.

"Footnote" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Another Cannes 2011 alum, Israeli import "Footnote" went from 101 to 82 screens in its ninth weekend.  Sony Classics saw Joseph Cedar's film drop 34% as a result, taking in $96,684 and averaging $1,179  The film has now totalled an impressive $1,696,548.

"Salmon Fishing In The Yemen" (CBS Films)
Lasse Hallstrom's "Salmon Fishing In The Yemen" went from 335 to 247 screens in weekend #9 and dropped off a reasonable 37% in grosses. It also managed something no indie release has done so far this year: It crossed the $8 million mark. Starring Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor, the film grossed $270,000 enough to take its total to $8,228,992  That makes "Salmon" the top grossing specialty release of 2012 so far.
 

Peter Knegt is Indiewire's Senior Editor. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

Indiewire 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.

This article is related to: Bernie, Box Office, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel