By Peter Knegt | Indiewire April 12, 2009 at 5:47AM
The U.S. debut of Sacha Gervasi's "Anvil! The Story of Anvil," a doc following the "demigods of Canadian metal," was the top Easter weekend newcomer at the specialty box office, according to estimates. The film - which debuted to great numbers in Canada last weekend - grossed $34,800 from 3 screens this weekend. The Abramorama release's $11,600 was the best per-theater-average of any reporting release - even overall box office champ "Hanna Montana: The Movie."
"Anvil!" beat out the debut of "Lymelife," which grossed $29,000 from one more theater than "Anvil!" The Screen Media Films release, which stars Rory Culkin, Alec Baldwin, Timothy Hutton and Cynthia Nixon, averaged $7,250, which is perhaps not suggestive of much success as the film expands in the coming weeks. Though it is far and away from the meager numbers pulled in by the debut of the long delayed "Mysteries of Pittsburgh," which managed just $34,500 from an overambitious 18 screens. The Peace Arch release - an adaptation of Michael Chabon's celebrated novel - averaged just under $2,000 a theater.
Hopeful news was found among many of the holdovers. Yoga doc "Enlighten Up!" managed the second best per-theater-average of all specialty releases. From its exclusive engagement at the IFC Center in New York, it fell 36% from last weekend, grossing $10,200. The Balcony Releasing pic expands to three California theaters this upcoming Friday.
Roadside Attractions' "Goodbye Solo" showed great signs of staying power in its second round of expansion. Ramin Bahrani's film - one of the year's most acclaimed - went from 5 to 11 screens and saw its average actually rise from $6,079 to $6,136. The film grossed $67,500, taking its three-week total to $161,695, which already surpasses the entire gross of Bahrani's last film "Chop Shop" by over $30,000.
Further along in its expansion is Cary Joji Fukunaga's "Sin Nombre," which went from 24 to 65 theaters this Friday and also showed some serious strength. The Focus Features release grossed $324,279, putting it in the overall box office top 20. Its $4,989 average is a fantastic number for a film four weeks into its expansion, and suggests the film has been gaining some good word-of-mouth. "Sin Nombre"'s total now stands at $797,741, with further expansion coming in the next few weeks.
Matt Tyrnauer’s “Valentino: The Last Emperor," continued its much less aggressive expansion with similar promise. Expanding to 12 screens (from 4 last weekend), the film, released independently through Truly Indie, grossed $92,000. After 4 weeks, the doc on the fashion legend has grossed a fantastic $305,000 despite such a small screen count, and is officially the year's first doc success story.
Perhaps reaching its peak this weekend was the top grossing limited release of 2009, Overture Films' "Sunshine Cleaning." Christine Jeffs' family dramedy added another 119 screens (taking its screen count to 598), but dropped 0.2% in grosses. Its $1,804,000 gross and $3,017 average remain stellar - as does its $7,223,257 total - and the film should easily surpass Overture's 2008 hit "The Visitor"'s total gross ($9.4 million) in the next week.
Finally, after an disappointing debut last weekend, Sony Pictures Classics' saw some surprising potential in Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck's baseball drama "Sugar" this weekend. The film went from 11 to 18 screens and grossed $115,000, which if estimates hold, is a 91% rise in grosses. What's more, its $6,389 average was up near $1,000 from last weekend.
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.