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Specialty Box Office: 'The Paperboy' Tops Slew of Modest Indie Openers

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire October 7, 2012 at 1:27PM

A number of high profile indies opened this weekend, including Lee Daniels' "The Paperboy," Eugene Jarecki's Sundance winning doc "The House I Live In," Andrea Arnold's adaptation of "Wuthering Heights," and the much-buzzed horror anthology "V/H/S."
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Nicole Kidman in "The Paperboy"

A number of high profile indies opened this weekend, including Lee Daniels' "The Paperboy," Eugene Jarecki's Sundance winning doc "The House I Live In," Andrea Arnold's adaptation of "Wuthering Heights," and the much-buzzed horror anthology "V/H/S."

But only "The Paperboy" ended up with a per-theater-average of over $10,000 (and barely), suggesting it was perhaps a bit too crowded this weekend, indie wise.

Full rundown below.

The Debuts:

"The Paperboy" (Millennium)
Lee Daniels' Southern gothic flick opened on 11 screens this weekend care of Millennium Entertainment.  The result was a respectable $110,033 gross and $10,033 per-theater-average, not bad considering overall the film has taken a bit of a lashing from critics. Though considering its starry cast (Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, John Cusack and Nicole Kidman), one might have thought it would do a bit better. And it's certainly a far cry from the whopping $104,025 Daniel's previous film "Precious" averaged from 18 screens back in 2009.

READ MORE: REVIEW: Is Lee Daniels' 'The Paperboy' So Bad Its Good? Only If That's What You Want From It.

"The House I Live In" (Abramorama)
Eugene Jarecki's highly acclaimed doc "The House I Live In" nearly took best-in-show honors for its per-theater-average of $9,827. On 2 screens, the film -- which looks at the profound human rights implications of U.S. drug policy -- grossed a decent $19,654. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for a U.S. doc at Sundance, the film will expand further next weekend.

"Wuthering Heights" (Oscilloscope)
Oscilloscope released Andrea Arnold's adaptation of "Wuthering Heights" on a single screen this weekend to a so-so $8,785. That's slightly lower number than the $12,927 Arnold's previous film "Fish Tank" averaged from two screens back in 2010.

"V/H/S" (Magnolia)
On 15 screens, horror anthology "V/H/S" managed just $40,000 for a $2,667 per-theater-average. The found footage flick from the perspective of some of America's top genre filmmakers (it was collectively directed by David Bruckner, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Ti West and the online filmmaking collective known as Radio Silencehad) had a lot of buzz coming out of Sundance, though its also available on VOD so perhaps it is doing much better on that format (though numbers are not available).

READ MORE: REVIEW: "V/H/S" Breathes New Life (And Death) Into Found-Footage Horror

"The Oranges" (IDP/ATO Pictures)
Julian Farino's "The Oranges" also found weak numbers in the widest release of all indie openers. On 110 screens, the film -- which stars Hugh Laurie, Catherine Keener, Allison Janney and Oliver Platt, among others -- grossed just $180,000 for a per-theater-average of $1,636.

"Decoding Deepak" (Snag Films-Paladin)
Coming with lower expectations than the aforementioned films as its probably the "smallest" release of the weekend, "Decoding Deepak" -- a documentary directed by Gotham Chopra about his father Deepak Chopra -- grossed a respectable $9,050 this weekend from 3 screens, averaging $3,017. The film -- currently available on VOD and other digital formats -- will open exclusive engagements in another 8 top markets next weekend, including San Francisco and Portland, before expanding to additional markets in the weeks to follow.
 

Check back for a full report more than a dozen holdover releases shortly -- including "The Master" and "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" -- continue to the next page.

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower."
The Holdovers:

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" (Summit)
Stephen Chbosky's "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" -- adapted from Chboksy's own 1999 novel -- had a very healthy third weekend.

Starring Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller as a trio of teenage misfits in 1990s Pittsburgh, Summit Entertainment expanded the film aggressively from 102 to 221 screens and jumped 38%. That resulted in a $1,525,000 gross, which made for a very strong $6,900 per-theater-average.

Summit plans to expand the film significantly again next weekend. Its total so far stands at $3,307,339.

READ MORE: Ezra Miller On His New Role, Queer Representation in Cinema and the 'Perks' of Being Honest About Your Sexuality

"Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel" (Samuel Goldwyn/EPIX)
Also in its third weekend was Lisa Immordino Vreeland's doc "Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel," which looks at the life and work of the influential fashion editor of Harpers Bazaar, Diana Vreeland.

The film expanded from 14 to 18 theaters and earned a very respectable $84,600, or $4,700 per location. Its total now stands at an impressive $330,231.

"How To Survive a Plague" (Sundance Selects)
Another doc in its third weekend was David France's intensely acclaimed look at AIDS activism on New York, "How To Survive a Plague." On 7 screens (down from 8), the film struggled to find audiences, taking in $16,100 for a $2,300 average. The film's total now stands at $81,700.

"The Master" (The Weinstein Company)
Paul Thomas Anderson's veiled take on Scientology -- which stars  Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams -- expanded from 856 to 864 theaters in its fourth weekend and took a bit of a hit. This after the huge potential that came with its stunning $147,262 first weekend per-theater-average (a record).

READ MORE: 'The Master' Shatters Per-Theater-Average Record; 'Arbitrage' Also Very Strong

Falling 31% in grosses, "The Master" took in $1,840,000. Its $2,130 average was respectable, though overall it seems clear "The Master" has peaked, box office wise. Its total gross so far -- $12,315,329 -- makes competing with the $40.2 million Anderson's "There Will Be Blood" grossed seem unlikely.

"Arbitrage" (Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate)
Also in its fourth weekend was "Arbitrage," which was coming off the biggest opening ever for a film opening in both movie theaters and On Demand three weeks ago and has turned into quite the little hit since then. Going from 256 down to 245 screens across North America, the film -- which stars Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon -- grossed $626,645.  Like "The Master," that's a drop-off from last weekend (28%), though overall nothing to be disappointed by (particularly given expectations for "Arbitrage" were much less than "The Master"). It made for a $2,557 average, and helped its total grow to $6,038,000.

"Detropia" (Loki Films Release)
"Detropia" -- a doc directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady -- held steady with an 11 screen count in its fifth weekend.

The film -- self-released by Ewing and Grady -- grossed $30,800 over the weekend, which made for a $2,800 average and a new total of $219,913 (and was impressively up a notch from last weekend despite the static screen count).

READ MORE: 'Detropia' Filmmakers Explain DIY Distribution and How the Sundance Institute Artist Services Program Works

"Sleepwalk With Me" (IFC Films)
Mike Birbiglia's semi-autiobiographical "Sleepwalk With Me" continued to find success in its seventh frame, crossing the $2 million mark in the process. Dropping from 127 to 100 theaters, the film scored a $110,000 gross, giving it a $11300 per-theater-average and a new total of $2,039,599.

"Samsara" (Oscilloscope)
Also in its seventh weekend was "Samsara," the non-narrative film created by Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson. The film is a sort of sequel or continuation of the acclaimed 1993 film "Baraka," which also was directed by Fricke and produced by Magidson. "Samsara" was shot in about 100 locations in 25 countries and took four years to make. As described on the film's website, it "explores the wonders of our world from the mundane to the miraculous, looking into the unfathomable reaches of man’s spirituality and the human experience. Neither a traditional documentary nor a travelogue, 'Samsara' takes the form of a nonverbal, guided meditation."  

While that synopsis definitely doesn't scream "blockbuster," it has clearly appealed to many folks. Going from 60 to 52 screens, "Samsara" lost just 22% to gross $116,443 and average $2,239. The film's total now stands at $1,593,884. Back in 1993, "Baraka" grossed $1,254,237. "Samsara" should end up doubling that.

"Searching For Sugar Man" (Sony Pictures Classics)
Finally, Sony Pictures Classics dropped Malik Bendjelloul's doc "Searching For Sugar Man" from 37 to 38 screens in its 11th weekend. The film -- which won the Audience Award at Sundance earlier this year  -- follows two South Africans who set out to discover what happened to their unlikely musical hero, the mysterious 1970s rock'n'roller Rodriguez. It took in $89,104 over the weekend, down just 7% and averaging a strong $2,345 (eleven consecutive weekends averaging over $2,000 is not too shabby). Its total now stands at  $ $1,437,775.

Peter Knegt is Indiewire's Senior Editor and box office analyst. 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.

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