By Peter Knegt | Indiewire May 10, 2009 at 5:2AM
It seems like this weekend was too much of a good thing. In the shadow of "Star Trek"'s $76 million haul, six new specialty films opened in theatres - including high profile entries like Kirby Dick's exposure of closeted gay politicians, "Outrage," and Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna's reunion, "Rudo y Cursi" - and not one found a per-theater-average above $10,000.
The highest average was actually from the lowest profile film, with "Helvetica" director Gary Hustwit's new doc "Objectified" taking an estimated $9,400 from its sole screen at New York's IFC Center. That makes it the eighth time in the past nine weeks that a documentary led the iW BOT, which ranks by per-theater average.
"We had an amazing run with 'Helvetica' in 2007 at IFC Center, so we're psyched to have a strong opening with 'Objectified' there," Hustwit told indieWIRE today. "In the current distribution climate, I think these numbers show that there are great opportunities for self-distributed films to find their audiences. It's gratifying that there's a demand for documentaries about design and that audiences are curious about the manufactured objects in their lives and the process of the designers that make them."
Beyond "Objectified," the best numbers came care of Kirby Dick's "Outrage." On 5 very appropriate screens - in West Hollywood in LA, Chelsea in NY, San Francisco, Washington and Philadelphia's Ritz at the Bourse - the doc grossed only $35,000, averaging $7,000. Considering the huge amount of press that surrounded the film - which outs a number of high profile politicians - that's a disappointing number for distributor Magnolia Pictures. Dick's previous work - 2006's "This Film Is Not Yet Rated" - averaged over twice that in its opening frame ($15,332).
Gay audiences weren't overenthusiastic about another film targeted toward them either, though Robert Pattinson undoubtedly helped Regent Releasing and Here Media's "Little Ashes" find the numbers it did. On 12 screens, the film - which stars Pattinson as Salvador Dali and features much-publicized gay love scenes - grossed an estimated $77,000, averaging a decent, but certainly not great, $6,416. Currently screening in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and San Francisco, "Ashes" expands to other major markets throughout the month of May including Seattle, Tampa, Boston, Portland, Washington, D.C., Ft. Lauderdale and St. Louis. The film is currently set to open in more than 30 markets.
Carlos Cuarón's "Rudo y Cursi" was the widest new specialty release, and perhaps also the most disappointing. On 70 screens, the Gael Garcia Bernal-Diego Luna soccer rivalry reunion grossed $210,647 for a weak $3,009 average. This disappointment is most clear when you look to recent examples of films that successfully catered to Hispanic audiences. Last Spring's "Under The Same Moon" opened on a much more aggressive 266 screens, and managed a $2,769,655 gross and a $10,412 average. And then of course there's "Y Tu Mama Tambien," Bernal and Luna's previous co-starring work, which grossed $408,091 on 40 screens back in March, 2002 - averaging $10,202.
"Rudo" was released through Sony Pictures Classics, which made the curious decision to open two notable films on the same day. Atom Egoyan's "Adoration" also hit theaters this weekend, and didn't fare much better. On 10 screens the film grossed $43,734, averaging $4,373. That's certainly not a disastrous number, particularly by most recent Egoyan's standards. His last film, 2005's "Where The Truth Lies," averaged $2,468 on 95 theaters in its opening frame. However, in 2002 his "Ararat" - opening on a more comparable 6 screens - averaged a whopping $35,188.
Sony Classics should probably be most pleased this weekend with the fourth weekend performance of "A Chorus Line" doc "Every Little Step." On 24 screens the film actually beat out "Rudo"'s average with $3,649. That takes its cume to $343,078, and makes it one of 2009's highest grossing docs thus far.
Magnolia Pictures also man an unfortunate double-dip this weekend. In addition to "Outrage," the distrib released Erick Zonca's "Julia," which stars Tilda Swinton as an alcoholic kidnapper. On 3 screens, "Julia" grossed only $12,524. Its $4,175 average failed in comparison to Zonca's 1999 "Dreamlife of Angels," which didn't even have the star-power of Swinton (but did have more glowing reviews). "Angels" grossed $59,333 on 6 screens in its opening frame, for an average of $9,888.
Among holdovers, a trio of documentaries joined aforementioned "Every Little Step" as examples of decent continued business. Truly Indie's "Valentino: The Last Emperor moved to 37 screens in its 8th week and found another $93,000 gross and a $2,514 average. Its $830,000 cume continues to climb, and impress. Abramorama's "Anvil! The Story of Anvil" rose to 17 screens in its fifth weekend, gorssing another $36,400 (for a $2,141 average) and taking its total to $280,000. And the little yoga doc that could - Balcony Releasing's "Enlighten Up!" added 5 screens this weekend, bringing its total to 8, and helping it find another $16,300. Its $130,000 gross from 6 weekends out is impressive considering how minimal its screen count has been (this is the first weekend it's been over 3).
Finally, last weekend's iW BOT leader, Jim Jarmusch's "The Limits of Control," went from 3 to 11 screens and saw its average fall over 75%. The Focus Features release grossed $47,243 for a $4,295 PTA, which considering the performances of this weekend's openers, is not bad at all.
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.