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iW BOT | Hot in Theaters: Audiences Sweat It Out for Environmental doc ’11th Hour’; ‘Manda Bala” is

iW BOT | Hot in Theaters: Audiences Sweat It Out for Environmental doc '11th Hour'; 'Manda Bala" is

Weekend earnings of $60,853 shot the environmental documentary “The 11th Hour” to the top of the iW BOT, as well as the top per-screen performer for all Warner Independent films since their 2006 comedy “For Your Consideration.” Thanks to large crowds at New York’s Angelika Film Center, City Lights‘ highly praised, Brazilian-set documentary “Manda Bala” nearly matched “11th Hour” for the number two ranking on the iWBOT, which lists films by per-screen average. Both films out-performed New Yorker‘s “Sunflower.” Chinese director Zhang Yang‘s Cultural Revolution drama tallied a moderate $4,986 per-screen average from New York’s Lincoln Plaza Cinemas. Holdovers “2 Days in Paris,” “Dans Paris” and “Blame it on Fidel,” all Paris-set features, rounded out the iWBOT Top Five.

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

“The 11th Hour,” co-directors Nadia Connors and Leila Connors Petersen‘s powerful, cinematic plea for changing the way mankind interacts with the environment, earned $60,853 from four locations with the Arclight in Los Angeles as its top-performing venue. With an iWBOT-leading per-screen average of 15,213, the Warner Independent release was the leader in ’07 per-screen, summertime documentary debuts behind “Sicko” and “No End In Sight.”

“We expect to make a lot of green on our green picture,” said Steven Friedlander, Executive Vice President for Warner Independent Pictures. While “11th Hour” failed to match the phenomenal 2006 opening of the similarly themed “An Inconvenient Truth” (which had $70,332 per-screen debut), Friedlander said expectations are high for “11th Hour” with the fall, back-to-college season right around the corner.

“The Al Gore film is brilliant but ’11th Hour’ is a different picture,” said Friedlander. “Twelve minutes into the film, climate change isn’t really mentioned again. This film is a call for action that we’re going to handle slowly and wait for the colleges to be back in session.” “The 11th Hour” expands to the top ten markets Friday.

Boosted by rave reviews, City Lights Pictures‘ “Manda Bala” (translated from the Portuguese to “Send A Bullet”) earned $14,030 from its exclusive showing at New York’s Angelika Film Center, good enough for the number two spot on the iWBOT. A fascinating look at increasing violence and political corruption in present-day Brazil, filmmaker Jason Kohn‘s debut film, winner of the 2007 Sundance Film Festival Documentary Grand Jury Prize, out-performed by 35% the per-screen debut of the 2006 Sundance Grand Jury documentary, “God Grew Tired Of Us.” The Kohn documentary also out-performed another City Lights title, the Rosario Dawson thriller “Descent,” which earned $1,589.

“People want to see terrific films of exceptional quality that provoke the senses and the intellect,” said Danny Fisher, City Lights Pictures CEO. “I attended last night’s screening at the Angelika and outside the theater I heard various audience members passionately discussing the film. There is a market for thought-provoking material.” “Manda Bala” holds at the Angelika and expands August 31 to Los Angeles before an Oscar-qualifying, 14 additional markets by November.

Picturehouse‘s video game documentary “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters,” earned $50,300 for a robust per-screen average of $10,060, good enough for the number three spot on the iWBOT. Director Seth Gordon‘s recounting of a contentious battle between ladies man Billy Mitchell and out-of-work dad Steve Wiebe for the record Donkey Kong score was a Slamdance Film Festival purchase for Picturehouse with a dramatization in development. “King of Kong,” the feel-good, flipside to a political doc like “No End In Sight,” flashed its commercial potential via sold-out Aug. 19 shows at the Alamo Drafthouse South in Austin, TX. In addition to introducing the Sunday evening screenings, Wiebe played a refurbished Donkey Kong machine and beat, once again, Mitchell’s recent record-setting score. “King of Kong” expands Friday to additional markets including Washington D.C.

New Yorker’s Cultural Revolution drama “Sunflower,” from director Zhang Yang, opened modestly with a per-screen average of $4,195. Strand Releasing‘s Portuguese-language drama “Love for Sale: Suely in the Sky” fared even poorer with $3,058 at New York’s Film Forum; further proof that among world cinema releases, French-language films are enjoying the best luck with audiences this summer. Another lackluster debut was Peace Arch Entertainment‘s Steve Buscemi comedy “Delirious,” from veteran director Tom DiCillo, which earned #3,806 from five locations.

French actress-turned-filmmaker Julie Delpy‘s relationship comedy “2 Days in Paris” earned $176,086 from twenty locations; a 50% drop in per-screen average from its debut, iWBOT-topping weekend. With a cumulative box office of $443,258 after two weeks, “2 Days in Paris” remained a strong prospect for summer’s top-earning, specialty comedy, playing catch up to IFC Films’ French-language farce “My Best Friend” (cumulative box office $958,626). “2 Days in Paris” will expand to 15 new markets Friday with an additional 60 screens.

The champion among wide, specialty film releases is Miramax‘s “Becoming Jane,” a romance inspired by Jane Austen’s young adulthood. “Jane” reached a $2,475 per-screen average from 1,186 screens, 69 more than “Sicko” at its widest release. While “Jane” has yet to crack the overall top ten, its $9,083,790 cumulative box office bested the domestic take of the Richard Gere drama “The Hoax” to become Miramax’s top-earning 2007 release in only three weeks.

Experiencing a 34% box office drop at nine weeks was “Sicko,” Michael Moore’s healthcare documentary. Down to 159 locations, “Sicko,” financed by The Weinstein Company, with Lionsgate handling US distribution, earned $200,411 for a per-screen average of $1,260, only good enough for the 32nd spot on the iW BOT. While unable to successfully sustain its wide release, “Sicko” continued to put substantial distance between it and the summer’s number two, specialty release, Fox Searchlight‘s “Waitress” and moved closer to the $24 million box office mark of “An Inconvienient Truth.”

Returning to the IWBOT Top Ten, landing at the sixth spot, was was Rialto‘s “Le Doulos,” Jean-Pierre Melville 1962 police thriller in a new 35mm print. “Le Doulos” earned $4,986 at San Francisco’s Castro Theatre; a reinvigorated venue when it comes to classic films.

Steady holdovers included IFC First Take’s “Dans Paris,” a male melodrama set among two brothers and their divorced father. Director Christophe Honore‘s drama earned $6,315 at New York’s IFC Film Center; a slight increase from its debut per-screen average. Koch Lorber‘s “Blame it on Fidel,” director Julie Gavras‘ debut comedy about a young girl with activist parents, also held its audience, earning $11,011 on two screens; good enough for the number five spot on the iWBOT. Rounding out the IWBOT Top Ten was the anti-Iraq War documentary “No End In Sight,” which dropped 35% in per-screen average to $3,267 on 33 screens.

Far less successful was Picturehouse’s “Rocket Science,” director Jeffrey Blitz‘s narrative debut comedy about a shy boy trying to impress a girl. “Rocket Science” plummeted in per-screen average approximately 70% from a debut week average of $9,756 to a far less impressive $2,930.

New entries on the specialty landscape this week include IFC First Take’s hipster comedy “Hannah Takes The Stairs,” THINKFilm‘s Ethan Hawke drama “The Hottest State,” the IFC Films documentary “Deep Water,” the story of amateur yachtsman Donald Crowhurst’s attempt to win a 1969 around-the-world boat race, and the Chris Gorak‘s Sundance ’06 thriller “Right at Your Door,” released by Roadside Attractions. Set against a nuclear explosion in Los Angeles, “Right at Your Door” may be a welcome counterpart to “11th Hour,” a more escapist look at the world in environmental distress.

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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