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Box Office: “Miral,” “Potiche” Debut As “Cunningham” Leads Another Strong Specialty Frame (UPDATED)

Box Office: "Miral," "Potiche" Debut As "Cunningham" Leads Another Strong Specialty Frame (UPDATED)

Four new specialty films – “Miral,” “Potiche,” “Mia and the Migoo,” and “My Perestroika” – reported box office estimates this morning, each scoring per-theater-averages above $10,000. Alongside a trio of robust holdover films including, “Bill Cunningham, New York,” “Win Win” and “Jane Eyre,” all combined for another strong weekend for the specialty market, in contrast to the studio box office, which continued to slump.

On 7 screens, Francois Ozon “Potiche” had the widest debut. Starring Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu, the 1970s-set French import grossed $85,000 for distributor Music Box Films, averaging $12,143. That’s a considerable step up from Ozon last film, “Hideaway” (Le Refuge), which opened last September to a $2,781 per-theater average. That film, which clearly was at a disadvantage to “Potiche”‘s international star power, ended up totalling $34,525, a number “Potiche” more than doubled already. “Potiche” had a long way to go, though, before topping Ozon best North American numbers. 2003’s “Swimming Pool” grossed $10,130,108.

Julian Schnabel’s “Miral,” which like “Potiche” made its debut at last year’s Venice Film Festival, also hit U.S. theaters this weekend. Released by The Weinstein Company, the tepidly reviewed film managed a $65,000 gross from 4 screens. That made for a decent $16,250 per-theater-average, though it is a far cry from Schnabel’s last narrative release, 2007’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” That film averaged over $25,000 in its first weekend en route to a $6,003,227 final gross. “Miral,” which depicts Hind Husseini and her quest to build an orphanage in Jerusalem in the wake of the establishment of Israel in 1948, is unlikely to match that number during its run, though this is a reasonable debut. Expansion in the coming weeks will be the true test for the film.

The weekend’s top debut averages came from the two least high profile films, Robin Hessman’s doc “My Perestroika” and Jacques-Rémy Girerd’s animated French import, “Mia and the Magoo.” Both opened exclusively at the IFC Center, and both found nearly identical numbers. Distributor International Film Circuit estimated a weekend gross of $17,663 for “Perestroika,” a critically acclaimed alum of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

The gross was, “driven by exceptionally good reviews across the board coupled with a robust grassroots outreach campaign to target audiences,” International Film Circuit’s Wendy Lidell told indieWIRE.

Since debuting on Wednesday, the film has totalled $25,067. A national rollout will occur in the coming weeks.

“Mia and the Migoo,” which is being released by GKIDS, grossed a strong $17,239 this weekend. Created from 500,000 hand-painted frames of animation, the second feature from French animator Girerd. It follows a young heroine, Mia, who goes up against profit-hungry developers, with the future of life on Earth in the balance. A “special preview week,” the film will re-open on Earth Day (April 22nd).

The weekend’s most impressive numbers, though, came from a trio of holdovers. Last weekend’s top debuts, Richard Press’s “Bill Cunningham New York” and Tom McCarthy’s “Win Win,” both continued to show considerable strength in their sophomore frames. The former, which last weekend had the best documentary debut since October’s “Inside Job,” expanded from 1 to 3 screens, grossing a fantastic $67,880 and averaging $22,627. That’s the best second weekend average of 2011 thus far, and bodes well for the Zeitgeist Films release as it continues to expand the feature. The film actually saw a stunning 32% rise at New York’s Film Forum, where it had opened the week prior. The grossed $44,401 there over the weekend, and $16,582 on Saturday alone, breaking their previous Saturday record.

“Cunningham” is 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.

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, rocketed 213% as it expanded from 5 to 23 screens. The film took in $470,804, which made for a $20,470 per-theater-average, tracking it well ahead of McCarthy’s previous efforts, 2008’s “The Visitor” and 2003’s “The Station Agent.”

“It’s Tom McCarthy’s biggest film and word of mouth with the adult audience is terrific,” distributor Fox Searchlight’s Sheila DeLoach told indieWIRE. “We held strong in the opening 5 theatres and sold out many shows in the new regional city openings. Next week we will open 12 additional markets and be playing in 130-140 theatres.”

Also holding on very strong was Cary Fukunaga’s adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre.” The film expanded from 26 to 90 theaters in its third frame and grossed a very strong $982,765. Distributor Focus Features should be quite pleased with the film’s $10,920 per-theater-average and its $1,898,298 total. Heading into further expansion, “Eyre,” which stars Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell and Judi Dench, should easily manage the $5 million milestone.

Anchor Bay found good third weekend numbers from Jonathan Hensleigh’s mobster drama “Kill The Irishman,” expanding from 21 to 40 screens this weekend. Starring Ray Stevenson, Christopher Walken and Vincent D’Onofrio, the film grossed $150,200, averaging $3,663 along the way. The film has now totaled $529,818, with considerable expansion remaining.

Expanding from 23 to 49 theaters was Abbas Kiarostami’s “Certified Copy,” which IFC Films also saw great third weekend numbers from. “Copy” – a pick up out of last year’s Cannes Film Festival – grossed $220,500, averaging $4,500 (just a slight drop from last weekend despite more than doubling the screen count) and bringing its total to $520,000. Starring Williams Shimell and Juliette Binoche, the film will continue its expansion next weekend.

Another French import, Xavier Beauvois’ “Of Gods and Men” also held on very well. The Sony Pictures Classics’ release, which won the Grand Prix at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, grossed $263,443 on 76 U.S. screens (up from 53) over its fifth weekend, averaging $3,466. That gave the film a new total of $888,301 in the U.S. only, and an additional $1,252,929 from Canada (where it’s being released through Mongrel Media and has done very well in Quebec).

Paladin continued its strong run of 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 $46,900 from 15 theaters, averaging $3,127. Shadyac has been touring with the film, as noted in indieWIRE‘s profile of the film’s strategy a few weeks back. The film took on Washington this weekend and will hit Boston next. Its total now stands at $248,844.

Finally, an update with respect to indieWIRE’s take on the “Groupon Effect” and Lionsgate Films’ “The Lincoln Lawyer”: The film had a very strong second frame, falling just 17% as it grossed another $11 million. Groupon had made “Lawyer” tickets available for $6 apiece during a two-day online promotion on March 16th and 17th. More on that here.

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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