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iW BOT | It’s An Indie August Rush As “Elegy” and “Bottle Shock” Take Off

iW BOT | It's An Indie August Rush As "Elegy" and "Bottle Shock" Take Off

In the past few years, late summer has become a key month for specialty releases, particularly those that skew older or female audiences. Last year saw both Julie Delpy‘s “2 Days in Paris” and Julian Jarrold‘s “Becoming Jane” become two of 2008’s indie bright spots. Just last weekend, Sony Pictures Classics‘ “Frozen River” got off to a great start. And this weekend, two more examples can be added to that trend, with Isabel Coixet‘s “Elegy” and Randall Miller‘s “Bottle Shock” both opening to great numbers. IDP/Samuel Goldwyn Films‘s “Elegy” grossed a stellar $104,168 from just six screens, while Freestyle Releasing‘s more aggressive 48 locations for “Bottle” brought in a $277,839 gross.

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

“Elegy” Exceeds Expectations

IDP/Samuel Goldwyn,” which released “2 Days in Paris” on this same weekend last year, saw “Elegy” bring in a virtually identically impressive numbers. The film grossed $104,168 from six screens, averaging $17,361, by far the highest average among any film – studio or indie – reporting (“Paris” averaged a three-dollar difference, $17,364 on 10 screens). Michael Silberman,” Head of Distribution of IDP/Samuel Goldwyn, admitted in an interview with indieWIRE that the grosses topped their expectations – but only slightly. “We knew there was going to be strong interest in the film based on the great cast we had that was willing to really work the movie and do all the publicity,” he said. “The exit polls were very strong and it’s striking a core with women and an older audience.”

Silberman was particularly impressed with the Sunday numbers, which were a slight 16% drop from Saturday. “I was really happy with our Sunday performance particularly,” he said. “It was very, very strong in a marketplace where the viewer has a lot to draw their attention to, including the Olympics. The market is getting a lot more crowded these days. In New York, the [Sunday] numbers were virtually the same as Saturday – only a couple hundred dollars less,” Silberman said. “In Los Angeles, our highest gross of the weekend was on Sunday at the Arclight. So it was really gratifying to see that for a lot of people ‘Elegy’ was their number one choice.”

The film will begin an ambitious expansion plan on August 22nd. “This weekend solidified our plans,” Silberman said. “We have a fairly aggressive release plan and were happy to see at this stage we can continue to execute it.” One potential competitor might come from within “Elegy”‘s own drawing power. Adapted from Philip Roth‘s novel, “The Dying Animal,” “Elegy” stars Sir Ben Kingsley and Penelope Cruz. Cruz, who has garnered great notices for “Elegy,” has another well-received performance opening just a few days from now, in the form of Woody Allen‘s anticipated “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” Siberman is optimistic. “I think everyone that is going to write about ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’ and mention Penelope Cruz is also going to mention her performance in ‘Elegy,'” he said. “I think it could help. Initially, when we set our release date, ‘Vicky’ was scheduled for an August 29th release date. The move of that release to us condensed the two films in the minds of press.” Siberman’s goal is to have the film in every major market by Labor Day.

“Bottle” Opens Well

Randall Miller’s “Bottle Shock” debuted in a bold twelve markets this weekend. The film, set amongst the wine industry of 1976 California, was likely aiming for a similar audience as “Elegy,” or more specifically, the exact same audience that made “Sideways” a huge specialty hit four years ago. With a marketing campaign featuring a “Sideways”-similar design concept, the film managed to take in a decent opening number despite a relatively mild critical reception. This is perhaps in part due to aggressive outreach to wine clubs and wine organizations, who Dennis O’Connor,” a former executive at Picturehouse who was hired as a consultant for the film’s release, noted were “out in full force” this weekend.

A scene from Randall Miller’s “Bottle Shock.” Image courtesy of Freestyle Releasing.

On 48 screens, “Bottle” grossed $277,839 from Friday to Sunday. That gave it a promising average of $5,788, and a total of $346,134 since opening on Wednesday. Even more impressive was the 84% increase the film received from Friday to Saturday. “I don’t think I’ve ever worked on a film that went up that much from Friday to Saturday,” said O’Connor in an interview with indieWIRE.

The film is released by Freestyle Releasing, which helps distribute do-it-yourself releases on a “service deal basis.” This sort of essentially self-distributed arrangement meant a significant amount of involvement from director Miller himself, who had raised $10 million to get “Bottle” made. “[Randall Miller] has been involved in every step of the release,” said O’Connor. “To the degree that some filmmakers are hands on, he has been really hands on and really great and really supportive. All weekend long he was doing Q&As all over.” Miller will continue his dedication as the film continues to aggressively expand. “By next weekend we’ll get a better idea as to how many screens we’ll get up to but we’re hoping to be on like 500 or 600 screens by the end of the month,” O’Connor told iW. “We’re going to open in twenty more markets this Friday and then an additional twenty the following Friday so by the 22nd were going to be in all the major markets.” Though, as O’Connor notes, next weekend will be more telling, “Bottle” so far has the potential to be a significant DIY success story.

“River” Keeps Flowing

Courtney Hunt‘s “Frozen River” is waiting to begin its expansion, but remained a formidable player on the iW BOT, which ranks films in terms of per-screen average, placing fourth behind “Elegy” and the debuts of Aaron Rose‘s “Beautiful Losers” and Steven Sebring‘s “Patti Smith: Dream of Life” (for more on “Losers,” “Patti” and other documentary box office developments, including “Man on Wire“‘s expansion, please check out our Dox Office column at Docsider). Remaining on seven screens, the Sony Pictures Classic release grossed $55,522 for a $7,932 average.

Just a 20% drop from last weekend (despite Olympic competition), these numbers bode well for next weekend’s expansion. The film will face some notable competition though, leading into the beginning of Fall and the awards season that “River” is a dark horse to contend in. In addition to The Weinstein Company‘s 700-screen release of “Barcelona,” Overture Films will release “Henry Poole is Here” on 500 screens, and IFC Films will begin rolling out Claude Chabrol‘s “A Girl Cut In Two.”

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 by the end of the day each Monday.

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