By Peter Knegt | Indiewire June 2, 2009 at 12:55PM
While "Up" was grossing a near-Pixar record of $68.1 million ("Finding Nemo" and "The Incredibles" each grossed around $70), the specialty market showed some decent (if unspectacular) strength with the openings of "Departures" and "Pressure Cooker" and the bevy of strong holdovers that is "Easy Virtue," "The Brothers Bloom," "Summer Hours," and "Every Little Step."
An Oscar helped Yojiro Takita’s "Departures" lead the iW BOT chart this weekend. The story of a cellist-turned-funeral professional grossed $74,945 on 8 screens, averaging $8,327. It's a decent number for Japan's first Foreign Language Oscar, smack dab in the middle of the two films it upset in that category: "Waltz With Bashir" averaged $10,004 on 5 screens in its opening frame, while "The Class" took $6,208 on 25 screens. Though it's probably unlikely, if "Departures"' can hang on to meet the stellar final tallies of those films ($2.3 million for "Waltz," and an even better $3.7 million for "The Class"), distributor Regent Releasing/Here Media should be more than pleased. "Departures” expands to other markets throughout the month of June.
Other openers included Mark Becker and Jennifer Grausman's doc "Pressure Cooker" - a look at a North Philadelphia high-school culinary program - managed a decent $8,151 from a sole NYC screen. The first film from BEV Pictures - Emily Woodburne, Bridget Stokes and Vicky Wight's new company - has grossed $10,776 since opening Wednesday. While two other openers we'rent so lucky: IFC Films' release of Bruce McDonald's minimalist horror flick "Pontypool" was likely hurt by NYC filmgoers flocking to the debut of Sam Raimi's "Drag Me To Hell" - grossing only $1,541 over the weekend; Film Movemnent's release of Lee Isaac Chung's "Munyurangabo" faired only slightly better - taking in $1,703 from one screen.
More hopeful was the strong batch of blossoming early summer success stories this weekend. Producer James D. Stern's seemingly magical trio of "The Brothers Bloom," "Easy Virtue" and "Every Little Step" (which Stern also co-directed) continued to make Stern one envied man. Summit Entertainment's "Bloom" just missed the overall top ten as it added 96 screens (bringing its total to 148). Rian Johnson's caper comedy grossed $627,071, a 63% increase from last weekend, and took its cume to $1,360,130.
"Bloom"'s $4,243 average was not the highest among holdovers, though. That distinction belonged to another Stern production, Stephan Elliott's "Easy Virtue." According to estimates, the Noel Coward adaptation grossed $165,964 on 26 screens (a 16 screen increase from last week). Released by Sony Pictures Classics, "Virtue" - which stars Ben Barnes, Jessica Biel and Kristen Scott Thomas - averaged $6,383, and took its total to $339,881 as it heads into further expansion.
Nine weeks into its expansion but still among the highest per-theater-averages out there, "Every Little Step," directed by Stern and Adam Del Deo, continued its slow-but-steady journey into considerable success. The doc - which details a revival of a "A Chorus Line" - grossed another $125,475 this weekend, dropping only 21% despite losing 2 screens. It's $2,201 PTA was off just slightly from its holiday weekend average, and the film's total - $915,028 - should grow a seventh figure by next weekend.
Though not associated with Stern, two other holdovers do deserve mention. IFC Films' release of Olivier Assayas' "Summer Hours" went from 27 to 38 screens this weekend, and added another $183,197 to its now $554,165 cume, averaging $4,821 along the way. While Gary Hustwit's "Objectified" held steady in its fourth week at the IFC Center, grossing another $2,641, and taking its cume to $129,854 before it expands to the Siskel Film Center in Chicago this Friday.
And finally, Matt Tyrnauer’s doc “Valentino: The Last Emperor” - a do-it-yourself success story profiled in great detail on indieWIRE this past Friday, grossed $68,343 in its 11th weekend of release, averaging a leggy $1,935 and taking its total to $1,193,635. That makes it the highest grossing specialty doc of the year (and the third highest overall, behind Disney's duo of "Earth," and, if you want to get technical, "The Jonas Brothers 3-D Experience"). Though if "Every Little Step" keeps up, "Valentino" might soon be dethroned as 2009's indie doc "emperor."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org by the end of the day each Monday.