Winner: "Searching For Sugar Man"
Aside from "Samsara," one of the few documentaries to gross over $2 million so far this year was Malik Bendjelloul's "Searching For Sugar Man." Sony Pictures Classics released the film back on July 27th, but it wasn't until September when the distributor's slow-and-steady release strategy began to pay off considerably. It actually didn't have its best weekend until October 19-21, when it took in $197,188 from 137 screens (impressively up from the weekend prior, despite a screen loss), and has totalled $2,214,000 as of this past weekend, its whopping fourteenth.
Losers: A lot of really excellent documentaries.
Many documentaries really struggled this fall, including several that truly deserved audiences' movie-going dollars. Acclaimed docs out of Sundance like "The House I Live In," "How To Survive a Plague," and "Escape Fire" have underwhelmed (of the three, only "Plague" has crossed over $100,000 -- and barely), but here's hoping they end up having unexpected legs and find the audiences they deserve.
Winner: "Sleepwalk With Me"
"Sleepwalk With Me -- starring, directed and co-written by comedian Mike Birbiglia -- turned into quite little hit this fall. Helped by personal appearances by Birbiglia (and co-writer Ira Glass) at screening, the film saw a huge $68,801 gross from a single screen in its first weekend in late August, en route to a $2,200,262 gross as of October 21st. That made it IFC Films' highest grossing film so far in 2012.
Loser: "The Paperboy"
One would think the combined star wattage of Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey and John Cusack would be enough to top Mike Birbiglia and Ira Glass, but no: Lee Daniels' "The Paperboy" -- in which they all star -- pretty much crashed and burned. The Millennium Entertainment release has grossed just $551,000 as of last weekend, averaging just $1,342 from 76 screens in its most recent frame. Its likely to struggle to even cross the $1 million mark, less than Daniels' "Precious" grossed in its first two days (on just 18 screens).