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iW BOT | Big Wheels Keep Rolling: Wes Anderson’s “Darjeeling Limited,” Ang Lee’s NC-17 Drama “Lust,

iW BOT | Big Wheels Keep Rolling: Wes Anderson's "Darjeeling Limited," Ang Lee's NC-17 Drama "Lust,

A steamrolling weekend gross of $561,628 made Wes Anderson‘s sibling comedy “The Darjeeling Limited” the top release on the iWBOT, which ranks films by per-screen average. “Darjeeling Limited” was also Fox Searchlight‘s best fall comedy, so far outperforming its 2004 comedy “Sideways.” Focus Features shattered the NC-17 rating ceiling further with earnings of $362,608 for “Lust, Caution.” Ang Lee’s World War II era spy drama continued to generate earnings just behind “Darjeeling Limited.” Rounding out the iWBOT Top Five were “Finishing the Game,” “Into the Wild,” and “For The Bible Tells Me So“.

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

Playing nineteen theaters in seven cities, director Wes Anderson’s comedy, “The Darjeeling Limited,” starring Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman as three estranged brothers traveling through India, continued to be the top-performing art-house release with weekend earnings of $561,628. Its per-screen average of $29,559, while a steep 50% drop from its debut weekend, ranked at the top of the iWBOT. “Darjeeling Limited” is ahead of where “Sideways” was in its second week,” said Steve Gilula, Chief Operating Officer Fox Searchlight Pictures. “‘Sideways” was our last big October comedy. We’re very excited about the momentum of this film, which is an alternative comedy for the fall.” Fox Searchlight expands “Darjeeling Limited” to 13 additional cities Friday with a national release by October 26.

“Lust, Caution,” director Ang Lee’s epic adaptation of Eileen Chang‘s story about espionage in World War II Shanghai, continued to break down barriers for NC-17 films. The period drama earned $362,808 from 17 theaters for Focus Features. Its $21,342 per-screen average was right behind “Darjeeling Limited,” further proof of the extraordinary response to Lee’s well-reviewed film. Focus Features will continue to expand “Lust, Caution” throughout October.

The most successful single-screen debut was IFC‘s “Finishing the Game,” director Justin Lin‘s comedy about the search to replace Bruce Lee after his death during the making of his last movie. “Finishing the Game” earned $11,903 at the New York’s IFC Center. For Mark Boxer, VP of Sales and Distribution for IFC Entertainment, “Finishing the Game” proved that strong box office is possible from a modest marketing campaign as long as it’s creative. “The film is being supported principally by a grassroots promotional program and alternative media campaign,” Boxer said. “Finishing the Game” drew from its core audience and helped the IFC Center achieve a solid weekend.” “Finishing the Game” expands to San Francisco Oct. 19 and the top ten markets throughout November.

“Into the Wild,” filmmaker Sean Penn‘s adaptation of the Jon Krakauer novel for Paramount Vantage, earned $1,279,208 from 135 venues. Its third week per-screen average was $9,476, a 50% drop from its previous weekend, which is not that alarming considering the size of its expansion. After three weeks, “Into the Wild’s” cumulative box office has hit just below $2.5 million. With “For The Bible Tells Me So,” director Daniel Karslake‘s documentary about the culture war between evangelicals and the gay community, First Run Features attracted sizable crowds and rounded out the top 5. The ensemble documentary, following five conservative families grappling with gay children, earned $9,438. Its cumulative has reached $18,236.

Desert Bayou,” director Alex LeMay‘s Hurricane Katrina documentary for Cinema Libre Studios, earned $6,976 from an exclusive engagement at New York’s City Cinemas Village East.
The Good Night,” director Jake Paltrow‘s comedy for the Yari Film Group, reached a modest $6,189 per-screen average from two New York venues despite an all-star cast of Gwyneth Paltrow, Penelope Cruz and Danny DeVito.

“Kurt Cobain About A Son,” filmmaker A.J. Schnack‘s artful documentary about the short-lived Nirvana front man for Balcony Releasing, earned $10,749 this weekend at New York’s IFC Center and the Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles. Its per-screen average of $5,375. “These numbers reinforced what we knew all along,” said Connie White, President of Balcony Releasing. “This is a beautiful film that engages art-house regulars and Kurt Cobain fans alike. “I was at the Wednesday night show at the IFC Center and the crowd was half art documentary buffs and half Kurt Cobain fans. I don’t know if they were expecting a typical biography but both groups were energized by AJ Schnack’s meditative film.” “Kurt Cobain About A Son,” featuring never-before-heard interviews with Cobain, expands to Seattle’s Varsity Theatre Friday.

“Kurt Cobain” outperformed director Ami Bar-Lev‘s documentary “My Kid Could Paint That,” about in-the-news child art prodigy Marla Olmstead. “My Kid” earned an estimated $28,285 from seven screens for Sony Pictures Classics. While likely quite disappointing, its $3,286 per-screen average far bettered Sony Classics’ widest release of 2007, “The Jane Austen Book Club,” which earned $1,535,534 from 1,232 screens. Its $1,246 per-screen average was a sharp 75% drop from the previous weekend.

Despite its timely and controversial subject matter, director Tony Kaye‘s abortion rights documentary “Lake of Fire” earned just $2,559 for THINK Film. Its five-day cumulative at New York’s Film Forum reached $3,779; outperforming the $1,544 per-screen average for THINKFilm’s “In the Shadow of the Moon,” a documentary about the Apollo Astronauts. In its fourth weekend, “In the Shadow of the Moon’s” cumulative box office has reached $798,989, below expectations for what was considered an audience-friendly movie. Thanks to near capacity crowds at Chicago’s Music Box Theatre, which came out to watch comedian Jeff Garlin introduce his directing debut, IFC First Take‘s comedy “I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With” earned $21,695. Approximately 75% of the weekend business for “Cheese” originated at the Music Box.

And finally, the self-release success story of 2007 continued to be “Romance & Cigarettes,” actor-turned-filmmaker John Turturro‘s working-class musical starring James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon and Kate Winslet as Queen’s neighbors. “Romance & Cigarettes,” earned $11,630 from New York’s Quad Cinemas and Long Island’s Cinema Arts Centre, a slight dip from the previous weekend. More importantly, Sony Pictures, which acquired “Romance & Cigarettes” from its initial producer, United Artists, recently gave Turturro the approval to release the film in other cities throughout the fall. “This is one of those rare movies that crawl out of a black hole,” said Jeremy Walker, of Jeremy Walker & Associates, the film’s publicist. “It doesn’t happen much anymore. It’s really exciting because it’s all about the audience. No one stood over this movie with a magic wand. The audiences for the movie made it happen.” New releases looking to attain their share of “Romance & Cigarettes”-like success include director Craig Gillespie‘s comedy “Lars and the Real Girl” for MGM and Magnolia PicturesBarbet Schroeder documentary “Terror’s Advocate,” about French attorney Jacques Verges, defender of the world’s most notorious war criminals.

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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