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Box Office: “Bill Cunningham,” “Win Win” Give Specialty Market a Winning Weekend (UPDATED)

Box Office: "Bill Cunningham," "Win Win" Give Specialty Market a Winning Weekend (UPDATED)

While the studio box office is going through another somewhat mediocre frame, the specialty market went 2 for 2 this weekend, with Richard Press’s “Bill Cunningham New York” and Tom McCarthy’s “Win Win” both averaging over $30,000. That follows last weekend’s double whammy of “Jane Eyre” and “Kill The Irishman”, giving 2011 its four highest specialty debuts in the past two weekends.

“Bill Cunningham” debuted at New York’s Film Forum this past Wednesday, grossing $8,535 that day alone. That broke the theater’s opening day record (previously held by “Control Room,” which opened to $7,210) and their Wednesday opening record (“Valentino: The Last Emperor,” $5,963). It continued to do fantastic sales throughout the weekend, where it took in a huge $33,744, and brought its five day total to $49,103. That’s the best debut for a documentary since last fall’s “Inside Job,” and a hugely promising start for the Zeitgeist release, which provides a portrait of the titular 80 year old New York Times photographer who has been riding around New York City on his bicycle for 40 years documenting fashion trends on the street by day and New York’s social scene at night.

“We are ecstatic over the numbers from Film Forum,” Zeitgeist’s Nancy Gerstman told indieWIRE. “We have had only wonderful comments from our preview audiences everywhere and we expect that ‘BCNY’ will have a long and successful run in NY and around the country.”

Another big winner this weekend was Tom McCarthy’s “Win Win.” According to estimates, the high school wrestling dramedy, which stars Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan and Bobby Cannavale, grossed $153,615 from 5 theaters in New York and Los Angeles. That made for a $30,723 per-theater-average, topping the debuts of both of McCarthy’s other films – 2008’s “The Visitor” and 2003’s “The Station Agent,” the former of which averaged $21,622 from 4 theaters and the latter $19,261 from 3 screens.

“It’s a great start,” distributor Fox Searchlight told indieWIRE today. “Up 75% Saturday indicates this warm hearted comedy is another ‘Win Win’ for Tom McCarthy… We will open 6 new markets 3/25 adding 18 theatres.”

Also debuting this weekend was National Geographic’s release of Sherry Horman’s “Desert Flower,” which took in $8,039 from 3 screens, averaging a weak $2,680.

“While this opening was of course not as strong as we had anticipated for,” NatGeo said in a statement, “the reaction to the film at word-of-mouth preview screenings have been positive and as such, we are hoping for improved performance going forward.”

In other roll outs, Sony Pictures Classics’ release of Martin Koolhoven’s “Winter in Wartime” fared a bit better, taking in $16,157 from its 3 screens for a $5,386 per-theater-average.

Roadside Attractions opened 2011 Sundance film “The Music Never Stopped” this weekend, and grossed an estimated $88,500 on 32 screens as it opened in NY, LA, San Francisco, Portland and Kansas City. That made for a modest $2,702 per screen average, but Roadside was optimistic thanks to the gross doubling from Friday to Saturday.

“We saw encouraging word-of-mouth happening, especially with the older audience in the suburbs,” Roadside’s Howard Cohen told indieWIRE. “We will expand the film into new markets on April 1 in anticipation of continuing good response.”

Last weekend’s big debuts continued to show significant promise in their sophomore frames. Cary Fukunaga’s adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre” expanded from 4 to 26 theaters in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Phoenix, DC, Dallas, Atlanta, and San Diego. It took in $477,796 for an excellent $18,377 per-theater average (by far the best second weekend of any specialty release this year). “Eyre”‘s total now stands at $730,901, with distributor Focus Features expanding the feature, starring Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell and Judi Dench, considerably next weekend.

“The box office increased by 55% over Friday driven by volume in the new markets and houses,” Focus said in a statement. “Virtually each house had sell-outs during the prime evening shows on Saturday which reflects both the film’s appeal to the core adult arthouse audience and positive word-of-mouth.”

Anchor Bay found great second weekend numbers from Jonathan Hensleigh’s mobster drama “Kill The Irishman,” which surprised many by its $30,000 PTA debut last weekend on 5 screens. Expanding to 21 screens, the film took in $143,700 for a $6,842 average. Starring Ray Stevenson, Christopher Walken and Vincent D’Onofrio, the film will has now totalled $335,698.

Expanding from 5 to 23 theaters was Abbas Kiarostami’s “Certified Copy,” which IFC Films also saw very good second weekend numbers from. “Copy” – an IFC pick up out of last year’s Cannes Film Festival – grossed $124,200, averaging $5,400 and bringing its total to $237,220. Starring Williams Shimell and Juliette Binoche, the film will continue its expansion next weekend.

On 2 screens (up from 1), Screen Media saw Eric Mendelsohn’s “3 Backyards” take in a decent $13,000. Starring Embeth Davidtz, Edie Falco and Elias Koteas, the film averaged $6,500 to take its total to $29,374. Those are not bad numbers considering the film moved to a much smaller venue at the IFC Center and opened at the Cinema Arts Center on Long Island.

Anchor Bay had a steep drop off in per-theater-average for the third weekend of Josh Radnor’s 2010 Sundance alum “happythankyoumoreplease.” The film dropped from 19 to 12 screens and lost 64% of its gross, taking in $18,300 and averaging $1,525. The film’s total now stands at $137,180.

Xavier Beauvois’ “Of Gods and Men,” held on much better in its fourth weekend.The Sony Pictures Classics’ release, which won the Grand Prix at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, grossed $206,557 on 53 U.S. screens (up from 16) over the weekend, averaging $3,897. That gave the film a 10-day total of $535,448 in the U.S. only, and an additional $1,096,994 from Canada (where it’s being released much more aggressively in French Canada through Mongrel Media).

In its fifth weekend, Dereck Joubert’s nature doc “The Last Lions” went from 39 to 46 screens. The National Geographic-distributed film, which follows a journey of a lioness as she battles to protect her cubs, grossed $78,050 for a $1,697 per-theater average. The film’s cume is now $452,300.

Fox Searchlight’s “Cedar Rapids” went from 395 to 462 theaters in its sixth weekend. The Miguel Arteta directed comedy, starring Ed Helms and John C. Reilly, grossed $530,000 (a 42% drop from last weekend, despite the screen adds), averaging $1,147 as it took its new total to $5,483,355. That makes it the first specialty release of 2011 to gross over $5 million in a year that has been dominated by 2010 Oscar-related holdovers.

Finally, Paladin received good numbers from the fifth weekend of the Tom Shadyac “I Am,” a doc in which Shadyac speaks with intellectual and spiritual leaders about what’s wrong with the world and how it can be improved. Shadyac, known best for directing studio films like “Bruce Almighty” and “The Nutty Professor,” saw his “I Am” gross $43,780 from 12 theaters, averaging $3,650. Shadyac has been touring with the film, as noted in indieWIRE‘s profile of the film’s strategy earlier this week. The film takes on Washington next weekend followed by Boston before expanding to further markets.

Peter Knegt is indieWIRE 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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