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Box Office: “Hereafter” Finds One Of Year’s Best Limited Debuts

Box Office: "Hereafter" Finds One Of Year's Best Limited Debuts

As “Jackass 3-D” defied all expectations to find the best-ever October box office debut, the limited release market was met with two high profile (and somewhat disappointingly received) films this weekend. And while Warner Brothers launched Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter” to some of the director’s best limited release numbers, Fox Searchlight had a rougher go at it with real-life legal drama “Conviction.”

According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, “Hereafter” – which stars Matt Damon as a man with a special connection to the afterlife – grossed a strong $231,000 from 6 screens, averaging $38,500 per-theater. That’s the sixth best per-theater-average of 2010 so far (following “The Kids Are All Right,” “The Ghost Writer,” “Cyrus,” “The Secret of Kells” and “Greenberg”), and the third best limited debut for Eastwood. His last limited starter, “Gran Torino,” debuted to a $45,287 average from 6 screens back in December, 2008 (en route to a rather stunning final domestic gross of $148,095,302), while his best overall remains 2003’s “Mystic River,” which averaged $49,293 in its debut. That places “Hereafter” behind those films but in front of both “Million Dollar Baby” ($22,494 from 8 screens in 2004) and “Letters From Iwo Jima” (17,819 from 5 screens in 2006). Where the film’s final gross ends up will be largely decided next weekend, when Warner Brothers expands the film to 2,000+ screens. That’s where Eastwood’s last film, “Invictus” (also starring Damon) started out, grossing $8,611,147 from 2,125 screens en route to a disappointing final haul of $37,491,364.

Expectations certainly weren’t quite as high for Tony Goldwyn’s “Conviction,” the true story of Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank), a woman who puts herself through high school, college and, finally, law school to attempt to free her brother (Sam Rockwell) from prison. On 11 screens, the film ended up grossing an estimated $110,000, which put it in line for a weak $10,000 per-theater-average. That doesn’t bode well for the film as it expands in the coming weeks, and unless word-of-mouth surprises, it’s safe to say “Conviction” will end up proving disappointing. It will be the second consecutive discouraging Fox Searchlight-Hilary Swank collaboration, after last October’s “Amelia” managed only $14,245,415 despite a reported $40 million budget. Budgeted at $12.5 million, “Conviction” was obviously a lesser risk, but its unlikely it will see a final gross anywhere near that of “Amelia.”

Also debuting this weekend was IFC Films’ unconventional release of Olivier Assayas’ highly acclaimed “Carlos.” A portrait of the renowned international terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal (played by Édgar Ramírez), the film debuted on The Sundance Channel last week – and then IFC Films released it on two New York screens – one in its original, 5 1/2 hour form (at the IFC Center), and another in a shortened 2 1/2 hour version (at Lincoln Plaza). The result was a decent $18,200 gross, over $10,000 of which came from the 5 1/2 hour “roadshow” version. Considering it only was able to screen 5 times over the Friday-Sunday period, that’s definitely a respectable number for the film.

“It shows that moviegoers are willing to invest their time in this special roadshow presentation,” IFC’s Mark Boxer told indieWIRE today. The word of mouth has been great as have the reviews. We will take the film out to twenty other markets with the Roadshow occurring in most of the markets.”

IFC did something similar back in December 2008 when they released Steven Soderbergh’s four hour “Che” (oddly enough on the same weekend as the debut of Eastwood’s “Gran Torino”). Obviously a much higher-profile film featuring a more marketable director, star, and story (and one benefiting from massive venues like New York’s Ziegfeld Theater), that film averaged $30,535 from two “roadshow” screenings.

Other debuts this weekend included Margarethe von Trotta’s “Vision,” which Zeitgeist released on a single New York screen. The film took in a healthy $12,202, taking its total to $15,010 since opening Wednesday. Also on a single NYC screen was Joao G. Amorim’s grassroots distributed doc “2012: Time For Change,” which is heading for a very respectable $10,000+ gross at Loews Village 7.

The holdover market continued to be a crowded one, with last weekend’s top debut “Inside Job” – the Sony Pictures Classics released economic crisis doc – leading the pack. Expanded from 2 to 10 screens, the Charles Ferguson-directed doc grossed $90,299, averaging a decent $9,030 and taking its total to $153,135.

“Job” is one of many strong-grossing docs currently in release, including Davis Guggenheim’s “Waiting For ‘Superman,'” which continued to excel in its fourth weekend. The Paramount Vantage released film aggressively added 79 screens (bringing its total to 182) and saw a $753,000 gross (a number most docs fail to meet in their final gross). That made for a $4,137 average and a shiny new total of $2,534,000, thus already making it one of the 50 highest grossing documentaries of all time.

Falling off a bit was five-week old doc “Catfish.” Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s film debuted at Sundance earlier this year to considerable buzz and follows Schulman’s brother, Nev, who develops a relationship with an eight year old painter via Facebook leading to a bizarre series of events that suggests deception on the part of Abby’s identity. It went from 143 down to 116 screens and took in another $205,000, averaging $1,767 and bringing its total to a commendable $2,624,000.

Struggling this weekend were a few narrative films, most notably “Tamara Drewe,” which is director Stephen Frears’ take on the newspaper comic strip of the same name (and re-published as a graphic novel) written by Posy Simmonds. Going from 4 to 10 screens for Sony Pictures Classics, the film grossed only $20,500 – averaging $2,050 and finding a meager new total of $50,700.

Expanding more aggressively was The Weinstein Company’s John Lennon biopic “Nowhere Boy,” which went from 4 to 215 screens. Starring Aaron Johnson as Lennon and Anne-Marie Duff and Kristin Scott Thomas as his mother and aunt, Sam Taylor-Wood’s film grossed took in $353,000, averaging an underwhelming $1,642. Its new total stands at $424,000.

Finally, somewhat better news came care of the second weekend of John Curran’s “Stone” and third weekend of Woody Allen’s “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.” “Stone” – released by Overture – grossed $229,000 from 41 screens (up from 6), averaging $5,585 and finding a new total of $342,000. “Stranger,” meanwhile, hit 118 screens (up 44), and grossed $301,000. That brought its total to $1,291,000.

Peter Knegt is indieWIRE’s Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

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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