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iW BOT | Austen Powerful! “Becoming Jane” Opens Beautifully; “The Ten” More Box-Office Chuckle Than

iW BOT | Austen Powerful! "Becoming Jane" Opens Beautifully; "The Ten" More Box-Office Chuckle Than

Weekend earnings rocketed director Julian Jarrold‘s Jane Austen-in-love drama “Becoming Jane” to the top of the iW BOT, as well as the new per-screen queen for all 2007 Miramax Films limited-release debuts. IFC First Take‘s 1980s Brit youth drama “This Is England” continued to draw audiences in its sophomore week at New York’s IFC Center and its debut at Los Angeles’ Nuart Theatre, reaching the number two spot on the iW BOT, which ranks films by per-screen average. Both films far out-performed THINK Films‘ “The Ten,” director/co-writer David Wain‘s collection of comical stories set to the Ten Commandments, which did not attract large audiences in its attempt at being the first specialty comedy hit of the summer.

The iWBOT is based on per-theater averages reported by Rentrak Theatrical, the complete indieWIRE BOT weekly chart is available here at indieWIRE.com

“Becoming Jane,” British filmmaker Julian Jarrold’s highly inventive retelling of Jane Austen’s young adulthood, earned $972,066 from its debut release on 100 screens. With an iW BOT-leading per-screen average of $9,721, “Becoming Jane” bested Miramax’s previous 2007 limited-release champ, the Richard Gere drama “The Hoax,” by 50%. Its next goal is to best the $7 million cumulative gross for the “The Hoax” as Miramax’s top-earning 2007 release.

“We feel like the marketplace is ripe for this type of romance and we are responding with a robust roll out of 500-plus screens,” says Jason Cassidy, Miramax’s Executive Vice President of Marketing. “Everything seems right about this film. It’s romantic, it’s smart, there’s nothing else like it in the market. Jane Austen is also very popular right now with “The Jane Austen Book Club” movie coming shortly.”

Asked if “Becoming Jane” will become the top specialty film of the summer, Cassidy laughs.
“The summer is still young; it’s only early August but we feel very good about this film. Let’s have this conversation same time next week.”

“Becoming Jane” expands to new markets including Milwaukee and Indianapolis. In a summer where numerous expansions of specialty films failed to meet expectations, Paramount Vantage‘s Angelina Jolie drama “A Mighty Heart” being the best example, Miramax has good reason to expect a bright future from the cuddly “Becoming Jane.”

With a 5% bump in weekend earnings, IFC First Take’s “This Is England” earned $19,000 in its sophomore weekend, playing New York’s IFC Center and LA’s Nuart Theatre. Its $9.500 per-screen average reached the number two spot on the iW BOT. “This Is England” expands Friday to Chicago and San Francisco.

The top exclusive debut was Koch Lorber‘s “Blame it on Fidel,” director Julie Gavras‘ debut comedy about a young girl coping with her activist parents. “Blame it on Fidel” grossed $9,004 from its showings at New York’s Cinema Village. The film outperformed the weekend debut of Kino International’s “Lady Chatterly” but has a long shot in matching the summer’s top French titles, Picturehouse‘s Edith Piaf drama “La Vie En Rose” ($8,662,108 so far in cumulative box office) and IFC’s Daniel Auteuil comedy “My Best Friend” ($620,420 cumulative).

“Blame it on Fidel” outranked THINKFilm’s well-promoted, Ten Commandments-inspired farce “The Ten.” Playing in twenty-five theaters, “The Ten,” boasting well-known cast members Paul Rudd, Winona Ryder and Gretchen Mol, took in $121,374 in weekend earnings. Its disappointing per-screen average of $4,855 was good only for the ninth spot on the iW BOT. In terms of summertime, specialty comedies, “The Ten” fell far below specialty comedy benchmarks, the $52,999 per-screen debut for Fox Searchlight‘s “Little Miss Sunshine” and the $19,444 per-screen mark for Searchlight’s “Napoleon Dynamite.” “The Ten” expands to 40 screens in existing markets before adding ten more cities August 17.

German director Stefan Krohmer‘s family drama “Summer ’04,” which The Cinema Guild opened exclusively at New York’s Film Forum, failed to crack the iW BOT Top Ten. Its debut earnings of $3,856 placed the festival favorite in the 13th spot. More successful was New Yorker‘s “The Willow Tree,” Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi‘s soulful drama about a blind professor who regains his sight. “The Willow Tree” earned $6,048 from its exclusive engagement at New York’s Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

Picturehouse opened “El Cantante,” its biopic of salsa artist Hector Lavoe starring Marc Anthony and his wife Jennifer Lopez, on 541 screens, favoring conventional multiplexes over traditional art-houses. “El Cantante” averaged $5,908 per-screen, good enough for the seventh spot on the iW BOT.

Magnolia Pictures‘ Iraq War documentary “No End in Sight” grossed $44,057 from six locations. Its $7,343 per-screen average was the top holdover on the iW BOT, reaching the fourth spot overall. With cumulative earnings of $93,586, “No End in Sight” is on track to quickly best the $202,928 total earnings of the 2006 Iraq War documentary “Iraq In Fragments.” Magnolia expands the Sundance favorite to additional cities including Chicago, Dallas and Portland, Oregon.

Live-In Maid,” Argentine filmmaker Jorge Gaggero‘s class drama about a Buenos Aires divorcee struggling to retain her luxurious lifestyle, earned $6,248 from its exclusive run at New York’s Quad Cinema, a steep 50% drop from its previous weekend at the Film Forum. With cumulative earnings of $54,931 “Live-in Maid” still remains the summer’s top grossing Spanish-language release in just its third week. Despite its drop in audiences, “Live-In Maid” earned enough for the number five spot on the iW BOT. “Live-In Maid,” the first theatrical release from the five-year-old sales outfit, Film Sales Company, expands Friday to two suburban New York venues.

In its sophomore week at New York’s IFC Center, International Film Circuit‘s Darfur documentary “The Devil Came On Horseback” earned $4,885, a 60% drop from its previous weekend.

Despite a formula closely modeled after Warner Independent‘s 2005 smash documentary “March of the Penguins,” Paramount Vantage family friendly nature film “Arctic Tale” continued to sputter in its second week, earning $51,643 from 28 locations. Its paltry $1,844 per-screen average failed to make the iW BOT Top Twenty.

Fox Searchlight’s expansion of “Sunshine,” director Danny Boyle‘s sci-fi thriller about explorers attempting to re-energize the sun, fared no better, earning $448,386 from 383 theaters. Sony Pictures Classics‘ French-language period drama “Moliere,” meanwhile, dropped slightly more than 50% in per-screen average; earning $32,819 from 32 locations in its second week.

Audience response also dropped over 40% for Focus Features‘ “Talk to Me,” director Kasi Lemmons‘ 1960s’set drama about radio personality Ralph “Petey” Greene (Don Cheadle). “Talk to Me” earned $674,089 from its widest release yet, 187 locations, with a per-screen average of $3,605.

Samuel Goldwyn Films‘ period drama “Goya’s Ghosts,” featuring Stellan Skarsgard, Javier Bardem and Natalie Portman, failed to crack the iW BOT Top Twenty, earning only $74,913 from 44 locations for a disappointing per-screen average of $1,710.

Sicko,” Moore’s healthcare documentary, dropping to 349 locations, earned $503,702 for a per-screen average of $1,443. Its cumulative box office of $22,640,294 easily surpassed the $21.6 million box office of Moore’s 2002 film “Bowling for Columbine.”

New entries on the specialty playing field this week include Samuel Goldwyn and Red Envelope‘s romantic comedy “2 Days In Paris,” featuring Julie Delpy on both sides of the camera. Picturehouse debuts director Jeffrey Blitz‘s coming-of-age comedy “Rocket Science.” Far more serious is Kino International’s documentary “Crossing the Line,” which debuts at New York’s Cinema Village, about an American soldier who defected to North Korea.

Steve Ramos is a Cincinnati based writer.

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.

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