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Box Office: “Inside Job” Continues Doc Surge With Big Debut; “Tamara Drewe” Weak

Box Office: "Inside Job" Continues Doc Surge With Big Debut; "Tamara Drewe" Weak

It was a double-edged sword for Sony Pictures Classics this weekend. Releasing two of the whopping nine new specialty films reporting estimates, the distributor both enjoyed by far the best news of the weekend, as well as perhaps the most disappointing. According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier this afternoon, SPC’s doc “Inside Job” found the highest per-theater-average of any film release – and one of the best doc debuts of the year – while its “Tamara Drewe,” which like “Job” premiered at Cannes, did not fare quite so well.

In “Inside Job,” documentarian Charles Ferguson takes on the 2008 global economic meltdown through research and interviews with major financial insiders, politicians and journalists. The film debuted to glowing reviews and a $42,000 gross on just 2 screens, giving the feature a $21,000 average and suggests it may join the likes of “Waiting For ‘Superman'” and “Catfish” as yet another documentary success story this fall. Its per-theater-average is on par with “Catfish” ($21,271 from 12 screens), as well as earlier doc hits this year “Exit Through The Gift Shop” ($20,770 from 8 screens) and “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” ($24,368 from 7 screens). Though notable is that all those releases had slightly wider screen counts, making their averages a bit more impressive. “Waiting For ‘Superman,'” meanwhile (which continued to impress this week – more on that later), continues to hold the year’s record for top doc debut with a $35,250 average from 4 screens. “Inside Job” will expand in the coming weeks.

“Job”‘s distributor sibling “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, debuted on 4 screens this weekend. Featuring a generally little-known cast including Gemma Arterton, Roger Allam, Bill Camp and Dominic Cooper, the film received mixed reviews and struggled to find an audience. Taking in $19,300 from 4 screens, it averaged a weak $4,825, which doesn’t bode well for the film as it begins its own expansion.

Focus Features opted for a semi-wide release of its debut of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck comedic drama “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” starring Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Roberts and Viola Davis. Mixed reviews probably weren’t helpful, but they also didn’t cause disaster as “Story” managed a reasonable $2,012,000 from 742 screens, averaging $2,712. The $8 million budgeted film had debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival last month.

Other new releases this weekend included a pair of rather high profile films care of The Weinstein Company and Overture, both of which found somewhat decent numbers. The Weinsteins’ – marking the 70th anniversary of John Lennon’s birth – debuted their “Nowhere Boy” on 4 screens. A biopic pic about Lennon’s adolescence (starring Aaron Johnson as Lennon and Anne-Marie Duff and Kristin Scott Thomas as his mother and aunt), Sam Taylor-Wood’s film grossed a respectable $56,100 from 4 screens, averaging $14,025. Meanwhile, Overture brought out John Curran’s “Stone,” the recent Toronto Film Festival debut starring Robert DeNiro and Edward Norton. On 6 screens, the film managed a $73,000 gross for a fair $12,167 average.

The weekend’s other debuts included Julia Bacha’s acclaimed doc “Budrus,” which grossed $8,700 from 1 screen for Balcony Releasing; Anchor Bay’s release of horror flick “I Spit on Your Grave,” which grossed only $33,000 from 12 screens, averaging $2,750; Samuel Goldwyn Films’ “GhettoPhysics: Will the Real Pimps and Hos Please Stand Up?,” which took in just $10,200 from 9 screens for a $1,133 average; and “As Good as Dead,” First Look’s release of the Andie MacDowell-Cary Elwes starrer, which managed $2,100 from a sole screen.

As far as holdovers went, those aforementioned docs “Waiting For ‘Superman'” and “Catfish” continued to show their strength, crossing the $1 million and $2 million marks, respectively.

“Superman” – Davis Guggenheim’s acclaimed doc on the U.S. public school system – went from 34 to 103 screens this weekend and soared to a $635,000 gross, finding a spot in the overall top ten as it averaged a strong $6,165 per screen. The gross also helped take its total to $1,410,000 after 3 weeks, and suggested that its number should only grow exponentially by the time the Paramount Vantage-released “Superman”‘s run is over.

Meanwhile, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s four-week old “Catfish,” which debuted at Sundance earlier this year to considerable buzz and follows filmmaker Ariel 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, went from 136 to 143 screens after last weekend’s much more aggressive expansion. It took in $374,000, giving it a $2,615 average and a new total of $2,216,000.

Finally, holdover news beyond “Catfish” and “Superman” included a trio of three-week old releases. Woody Allen’s “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger,” which went from 29 to 74 screens and jumped 31%. Taking in $282,000, London-set “Stranger,” starring Naomi Watts, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Brolin, Antonio Banderas and Lucy Punch, averaged a respectable (though not spectacular) $3,811 and found a new total of $873,000. Rodrigo Cortés’s “Buried,” released through Lionsgate, went from 33 to 92 screens and saw a 105% rise in grosses, taking in $200,000 for a $2,174 average and a new total of $489,000. Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s “HOWL,” meanwhile, went from 17 to 18 screens and found a 4% drop in grosses, taking in $51,200 for a $2,844 average and a total of $210,000

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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