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Box Office: “Capitalism” Hits 2009 High; “Coco” Not Far Behind (UPDATED)

Box Office: "Capitalism" Hits 2009 High; "Coco" Not Far Behind (UPDATED)

According to weekend estimates, Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story”‘s limited debut this weekend has resulted in 2009’s highest per-theater-average. On four screens, the Overture Films released took in a massive $240,000, averaging $60,000. If that estimate holds, it will top March’s “Sunshine Cleaning” – also an Overture release that opened on four screens – which had a PTA of $54,798.

Since opening Wednesday, “Capitalism” has grossed $306,586. Of its four theaters, it found the best numbers at Hollywood’s ArcLight ($42,004 through Saturday, full weekend estimates per theater were not available, but it should land in the neighbourhood of $65,000) and New York’s Angelika ($41,044 through Sat).

Compared to Moore’s recent films, “Capitalism” falls essentially in line the even more limited debut of 2007’s “Sicko,” which grossed $68,969 from its sole screen, while it more than doubled the $26,143 PTA (from a slightly wider 8-theater debut) that 2002’s “Bowling For Columbine” managed. While incomparable due to its wide launch, 2004’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” grossed a stunning $27,558 per its 868 theaters, en route to becoming the highest grossing documentary of all-time.

“Capitalism”‘s real test comes next weekend, when it heads to over 1,000 theaters across North America. But this is a very strong sign heading into that, despite the film’s relatively lukewarm response from critics. Also hopeful was the film’s large increase from Friday’s gross ($62,000) to Saturday’s ($95,000).

“We’re thrilled with this outstanding weekend,” Kyle Davies, EVP of Theatrical Distribution, told indieWIRE. “Breaking the per screen record for the year and the diversity of the audience shows us that we are in good shape for next week’s expansion. We had the bar set pretty high for this and we even beat that! I think people need a Michael Moore movie in times like this – something that makes you laugh and think. It’s the best remedy available for tough times.”

Unfortunately in “Capitalism”‘s shadow was a remarkably impressive debut care of Sony Pictures Classics’ release of Anne Fontaine’s “Coco Before Chanel.” On five screens, the film – starring Audrey Tatou as Coco Chanel – grossed $177,137, finding the fifth best per-theater average of 2009. Its $35,427 PTA puts it behind only “Capitalism,” “Sunshine,” “The Hurt Locker” and “The September Issue.” It also marks the best foreign-language debut in quite some time, eclipsing recent (and also French) benchmarks like “Summer Hours” ($24,742 PTA this past May), “Tell No One” ($21,213 PTA in July 2008) and “La Vie En Rose” ($22,481 in June 2007).

John Krasinski’s “Brief Interviews With Hideous Men” also had a stellar opening weekend. On one New York City screen, the IFC Films release grossed $20,587, a per-theater-average that on a less competitive weekend could have easily topped all films. IFC’s Mark Boxer said the film played to sold out shows all weekend at NYC’s IFC Center, and will open next weekend in Los Angeles.

Other openers included Miramax’s Clive Owen starrer “The Boys Are Back,” which grossed a fair $51,000 from 6 screens, averaging $8,500, and Variance Films’ release of Sundance ’08 alum “Blind Date” – starring Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson – which grossed a weak $3,100 from a sole screen.

-Check out the next page for information about holdover grosses-

A scene from Jane Campion’s “Bright Star.” Image courtesy of Cannes Film Festival.

Among sophomores, Jane Campion’s “Bright Star” expanded from 19 to 130 theaters this weekend. The first from Apparition, the new film distribution outfit from former Picturehouse chief Bob Berney and producer Bill Pohlad, from River Road – “Star” grossed a respectable $682,309 over the weekend, averaging $5,249. That marks a drop in PTA less than 50% despite 500% increase in screens (last weekend’s opening had suggestively been hindered by Rosh Hashanah). Additionally promising was the fact that the film dropped only 20% in its static theaters from last weekend, and increased a strong 69% from Friday to Saturday – the largest increase of any film reporting other than overall chart topper “Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs,” which benefited from being a family film that traditionally sees strong Saturday numbers.

“The expansion of “Bright Star” was very strong,” Berney told indieWIRE this morning. “It’s one of those films that is not a “friday night” movie, but soars on the weekends with strong matinee and early evening business. It’s a very special, somewhat fragile film considering it’s reserved, spare style and deliberate pacing. But the emotional impact and the overall beauty of the film have obviously connected with an audience. The film is demonstrating a good word-of-mouth and playability, along with it’s good reviews and award consideration buzz.”

“Bright Star”‘s total stands at $972,567.

IFC Films had a great second frame from Cédric Klapisch’s “Paris,” which expanded from 6 to 31 screens and held on to an sizable chunk of its per-theater-average. The film – which stars Juliette Binoche – grossed $151,032, averaging $4,872 (down from $7,753 last weekend), and took its cume to $220,322.

The seventh weekend of Davis Guggenheim’s “It Might Get Loud” saw it become the fifth doc to cross the $1 million mark this year. The Sony Pictures Classics release – featuring Jack White, The Edge and Jimmy Page – grossed another $141,000 from 70 screens. Despite only a 8 screen increase, the film rose a fantastic 38% in grosses, and averaged $2,014 – a great number for a film this long in its run.

One of those other million dollar docs – R.J. Cutler’s “The September Issue” – also found great numbers well into its run. In its fifth weekend, the Roadside Attractions released Anna Wintour expose grossed another $371,000 from 143 screens (up 28 from last weekend). The film’s total now stands at $2,502,000 – the second biggest cume for 2009 doc (though “Capitalism: A Love Story” should easily surpass it on the first night of its wide release).

Next weekend should be an interesting one to watch at the specialty box office, with the expansion of “Capitalism,” “Bright Star” and “The Boys are Back,” and the six screen debut of the overwhelming lauded latest film from the Coen Brothers, “A Serious Man.”

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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