By Peter Knegt | Indiewire April 5, 2009 at 11:45AM
In an update from weekend estimates posted earlier today, it appears that the New York City premiere of yoga doc "Enlighten Up!" had the highest per-theater-average of any limited release this weekend. At the IFC Center, the film - directed by Kate Churchill - grossed $16,273. "We’re extremely pleased with the numbers for the New York City premiere of "Enlighten Up!," and we know that the audience didn’t just come out of thin air," said Balcony Releasing's Connie White. :The filmmakers deserve a ton of credit for identifying and courting the natural audience for this film. We are also fortunate to have worked with a very compatible team of sponsors, publicists, and the cinema itself." "Enlighten" had received a small run last fall, where it grossed $39,566.
If estimates hold, the film should overtake another doc, Matt Tyrnauer’s “Valentino: The Last Emperor,", which led the PTA race for the past two weeks. Expanding to 4 screens (from 2 last weekend), the film, released independently through Truly Indie, grossed $57,625. Its $14,406 per-theater-average was just a slight dip from last weekend's $15,017, and its total now stands at $177,022, making it the highest grossing specialty documentary of 2009 (and second overall, behind the Jonas Brothers 3-D concert film, arguably a documentary).
Four new limited release films - Matt Aselton's "Gigantic," Christophe Barratier’s “Paris 36,” Majid Majidi’s “The Song of Sparrows," and Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck's "Sugar" - reported generally unspectacular estimates.Sony Pictures Classics release of "Paris 36" is perhaps the most promising of the non-"Enlighten!" freshmen. The "homage to a milieu and cinema of the past" opened on 7 screens and managed $72,174. Its $10,311 PTA is slightly behind fellow opener "Gigantic," but that film opened on one NYC screen. Including its release in Canada, "Paris"'s domestic haul is $321,879.
"Gigantic," certainly helped by the presence of Zooey Deschanel and Paul Dano though likely hindered by its poor reviews, found a decent $10,500 from its opening screen. "All in all, we were quite pleased with this number," Gary Rubin, President of "Gigantic" distributor First Independent Pictures told indieWIRE, noting the film's rollout this upcoming Friday, which will be the true test of the film's appeal.
Another one screen opener was Regent Releasing's "Song of Sparrows," which grossed $9,287 from an exclusive engagement on one screen at Lincoln Plaza. Director Majid Majidi has proven financially successful in previous outings with Sony Pictures Classics and Miramax, and "Sparrows" seems to be tracking better than those 1999's "Children of Heaven" averaged $6,700 in its opening weekend and ended up grossing $933,933, while 2000's "The Color of Paradise" opened to a $5,948 average en route to an impressive $1,817,216 total. “The Song of Sparrows” opens in Los Angeles on April 10 and in other markets around the country in April, May and June.
Rather disappointing was Sony Classics' "Sugar," coming to theaters 14 months after it debuted to warm notices at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. The baseball drama, Fleck and Boden's follow-up to "Half Nelson," grossed $71,187 from 11 screens, averaging $6,472. While certainly not a horrible number, "Sugar" may face an uphill battle as it expands through April (SPC can take solace in the continued success of their "The Class," though - despite its Oscar loss the film is still taking in $1,000+ PTAs and has now grossed $3,279,874 and is among the 100 highest grossing foreign language films of all time).
Also of note is another acclaimed Sundance alum that opened in wide release this weekend - Greg Mottola's "Adventureland." Suggestively hurt by the insane numbers pulled in by Universal's "Fast & Furious" (its $72,507,950 was the highest Spring opening of all time), the film grossed $6,010,000 from 1,862 screens. Its $3,228 average will need to improve or hold very steady from word-of-mouth in the next few weeks - both quite unlikely - if the Miramax release hopes to break $20 million. However, it is Miramax's highest opener since 2005 (beating "Doubt" and "No Counrty For Old Men").
Perhaps the biggest story of the weekend was Christian triller "C Me Dance," pegged as a potential "Fireproof"-y hit. FreeStyle released the film, which is about a terminally ill ballet dancer who battles the devil, on 151 screens, and it grossed only $28,700 for a ungodly average of $190. "Fireproof" averaged $8,148 on 839 screens last fall, on its way to grossing a staggering $33 million.
Films expanding this weekend included Cary Joji Fukunaga's "Sin Nombre," which went from 6 to 24 theaters and continued to find strength in expansion. The Focus Features release (also a Sundance alum), grossed $194,057 for a $8,086 average. That's only a 27% drop in PTA despite quadrupling its theaters, suggesting "Nombre" is gaining the word of mouth films like "Sugar" and "Adventureland" will need to find in the coming weeks. Its total now stands at $408,659.
Roadside Attractions' "Goodbye Solo" came off a strong opening to expand from 2 to 5 NY/Chicago screens this weekend, and had a bit more trouble maintaining its business. Ramin Bahrani's film - one of the year's most acclaimed - saw its average cut in half to a still hopeful $6,557. The film grossed $32,785, bringing its total to $83,258.
Finally, the likely indie hit of the Spring, Overture Films' "Sunshine Cleaning," climbed into the overall top 10 in its fourth weekend out. On 479 screens the film grossed $1,879,000, with its total now at $4,774,000.
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.