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Weekend Estimates: "Sunshine" Cleans Up Spec Box Office (UPDATED)

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire March 15, 2009 at 4:13AM

Overture Films delayed release of 2008 Sundance acquisition "Sunshine Cleaning" appears to have significantly paid off. The Christine Jeffs-directed film, which stars Amy Adams and Emily Blunt as sisters that take up crime scene clean-up in an effort to make extra cash, grossed a spectacular $214,000 in just 4 theaters. That made for a $53,500 average, which not only far and away ranks as the highest per-theater average for a 2009 release thus far (wide or limited), but also would rank among 2008's top spec PTAs, behind only "Defiance," "Revolutionary Road" and "Frost/Nixon" (which, in retrospect, is not exactly good company, but we'll wait to see if "Sunshine" bucks that trend).
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Overture Films delayed release of 2008 Sundance acquisition "Sunshine Cleaning" appears to have significantly paid off. The Christine Jeffs-directed film, which stars Amy Adams and Emily Blunt as sisters that take up crime scene clean-up in an effort to make extra cash, grossed a spectacular $214,000 in just 4 theaters. That made for a $53,500 average, which not only far and away ranks as the highest per-theater average for a 2009 release thus far (wide or limited), but also would rank among 2008's top spec PTAs, behind only "Defiance," "Revolutionary Road" and "Frost/Nixon" (which, in retrospect, is not exactly good company, but we'll wait to see if "Sunshine" bucks that trend).

Its numbers are also comparable to a group of actual hits, including "Sunshine"'s often compared (in both name, plot, and Alan Arkin), fellow Sundance alum "Little Miss Sunshine." In July, 2006, that film grossed $370,998 in 7 theaters for a nearly identical $52,999 average. Other films that found very similar numbers include "Sideways," "The Wrestler," and "About Schmidt." Mind you, one should note that "Sunshine Cleaning" is coming out after a serious post-December drought of specialty releases with mainstream appeal, and currently has little competition.

The film's day-to-day estimates saw $59,000 on Friday, $91,000 on Saturday and $64,000 on Sunday, from screenings at the Pacific Arclight 15 and The Landmark 12 in Los Angeles and the AMC Lincoln Square 12 and the Landmark Sunshine 5 in New York City.

"We are delighted that our aggressive word of mouth campaign, paired with favorable reactions from audiences and critics, have paid off in such a big way," said Overture's executive vice president of theatrical distribution, Kyle Davies, in a statement. "We now have great momentum as we expand into more markets next weekend."

In addition to greater expansion in the Los Angeles market, which includes Orange County and the New York City market, which includes all five boroughs, the film's release pattern will grow to 15 markets on Friday, March 20. Cities represented in those markets include San Diego; Phoenix; San Francisco; Seattle; Portland; Denver; Minneapolis; Chicago; Detroit; Washington, D.C; Boston; Philadelphia; Atlanta; Dallas; and Houston. The film will then expand to a minimum of an additional 25 markets on Friday, March 27

In "Sunshine"'s shadow was the rather promising opening weekend of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s “Tokyo Sonata.” The Regent Releasing entry grossed $29,000 from 2 screens for a $14,500 average. The film was #1 at Lincoln Plaza and #2 at IFC Center. The film bows in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle on March 27, in Portland on April 2, in Chicago on April 10 and in other major markets around the country in April and May.

Other openers included IDP/Samuel Goldwyn Films's "Brothers at War," which grossed a mild $35,040 from 7 screens (for a $5,006 average), Capitol Films' "Edge of Love," which grossed $3,614 on a sole screen, and 7-57's first release, "The Cake Eaters" grossed just $16,233 on 9 screens, pulling in a tepid $1,804 per theater.

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 studiogrosses@rentrak.com by the end of the day each Monday.