By Peter Knegt | Indiewire May 3, 2009 at 5:1AM
Jim Jarmusch's "The Limits of Control" led the specialty box office this weekend, according to estimates provided by Rentrak. The Focus Features release - described by indieWIRE's Michael Koresky as "as a series of discrete, uncannily repeated sit-down encounters between a mysterious loner on some sort of criminal assignment and a succession of enigmatic oddball contacts throughout sunny Spain" - grossed $54,233 in three theaters. It's $18,087 average topped all other reporting limited releases, and its set to become the first narrative film to top the iW BOT (which is measured by per-theater-averages) since "Sunshine Cleaning" seven weeks ago.
Compared to Jarmusch's recent work, "Control" seemed a bit limited by its relatively challenging content. In August 2005, the considerably more marketable "Broken Flowers" (which, like "Control" featured Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton - albeit with much more screen time) opened on 27 theaters to a whopping $28,904 average, en route to a $13,744,960 total. However, in 2004, "Coffee & Cigarettes" had a much more comparable opening. On 5 screens the film grossed $99,162 for a $19,832 average - and ended up with $2,198,924.
"Control"'s grosses were largely driven by its showing at New York's Angelika, where its likely to take in around $32,000. Much lighter grosses came out of showings at the Arclight and Landmark in Los Angeles. The film expands to six new markets next Friday - Washington, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, and Seattle, which Focus told indieWIRE are "core Jarmusch markets similar to New York."
Other reporting openers included Roadside Attractions' animated "Terra," which battled "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" for family audiences and failed miserably. On 1,162 screens, the film - voiced by Evan Rachel Wood, Brian Cox and David Cross, among others - grossed just $1,064,200 for a $916 average.
A few more limited openings fared a little better. Götz Spielmann's "Revanche," released by Janus Films, opened on 3 screens and grossed $16,950. Though the film's $5,650 average is nothing special, it did pick up a decent $10,000 gross from New York's IFC Center (its other venues were Boston's Coolidge Center and Seattle's SIFF Cinema). Meanwhile, Michael Keaton's (yes, that Michael Keaton) "The Merry Gentleman" opened on 24 screens care of IDP/Samuel Goldwyn Films and grossed $72,240. Its $3,010 average suggests "Gentleman" does not have a very merry future at the box office.
Notable holdovers included a pair of very different Sony Pictures Classics' docs. In its second weekend, James Toback's "Tyson" added 2 screens (bringing its count to 13), and grossed $70,900. Though considering its high-profile content, "Tyson" is underperforming, this weekend was off a reasonable 17% from last, and it hung on to a somewhat decent $5,454 average. The film's total now stands at $201,000.
Performing quite nicely was the third weekend of SPC's "Chorus Line" doc, "Every Little Step," which added 4 screens to its count (which now stands at 12), and grossed $58,100, up 23% from last weekend. Its $4,842 per-theater-average helped take "Step"'s total to $234,000.
Other docs taking in good numbers included "Valentino: The Last Emperor" and "Anvil! The Story of Anvil." "Valentino" grossed $78,500 in its seventh weekend. The film dropped one screen (to 28), but actually saw a 7% increase in grosses, taking its total to a fantastic $697,000 (for a $2,804 average). Meanwhile, "Canadian demi-gods of metal" doc "Anvil!" expanded from 12 to 16 screens in its fourth weekend and also saw a 7% increase, grossing $49,500 (for a $3,094 average). The film has now grossed $217,000.
Last weekend's iW BOT leader did not fare quite as well. Marc H. Simon and Matthew Makar's "Nursery University" saw its grosses fall 63% this weekend, despite adding a second screen. Variance Film's "University" - about the oddly competitive process of nursery school admissions - grossed $4,200, averaging just $2,100 and taking its total to $19,100.
Looking ahead, next weekend should be a very interesting one for the indie box office. At least seven films - ranging from a Gael Garcia Bernal-Diego Luna reunion to a Tilda Swinton kidnapping drama to a documentary that uncovers closeted Republicans - are all being released, many of which carry a lot of box office potential. Among them: Magnolia's "Julia" and "Outrage," Sony Classics' "Rudo y Cursi" and "Adoration," Regent's "Little Ashes," and Plexifilm's "Objectified." Be sure to check back here a week from now to find out what goes down.
indieWIRE:BOT 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 email@example.com by the end of the day each Monday.