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Box Office: “Beats, Rhymes & Life” Scores While “Project Nim” Disappoints (UPDATED)

Box Office: "Beats, Rhymes & Life" Scores While "Project Nim" Disappoints (UPDATED)

Michael Rapaport’s doc “Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest” scored at the indie box office this weekend, grossing an impressive $120,000 from 4 screens. According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, the film averaged $30,000 to become 2011’s top doc debut so far. The Sony Pictures Classics-released film documents the inner workings and behind the scenes drama of the Queens hip hop collective A Tribe Called Quest. It premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.

Another doc that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival – James Marsh’s “Project Nim” – didn’t fare so well. The Roadside Attractions debuted to weak numbers at four locations in New York and Chicago. It took in $25,820, for a less than stellar $6,455 average.

“While we are disappointed that with such unanimous rave reviews we had such a slow start, we’re hopeful for the rollout across the country,” Roadside’s Howard Cohen told indieWIRE. “A positive sign was that the Sunday gross at the Angelika in NY was higher than Saturday, which is an unusual pattern and may indicate people will discover the film more gradually.”

Among holdovers, Cindy Meehl’s “Buck” – held on respectably in a fourth weekend expansion care of Sundance Selects. The film, which takes on a living legend in the horse world, Buck Brannaman (who was the inspiration for “The Horse Whisperer’), went from 131 to 151 screens and grossed $392,600 over the weekend. That made for a $2,600 average and a new total of $1,708,600 making “Buck” one of the highest grossing docs so far this year. It trails another Sundance Selects film – Werner Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” – which took its cume to $4,828,500 this weekend, making it one of the 25 highest grossing docs of all time.

Chris Weitz’s “A Better Life” expanded form 11 to 151 screens in its third weekend, and grossed an estimated $314,000 for a $2,052 per-theater-average. The film’s total now stands at $543,000, and distributor Summit Entertainment noted that it will add another 100 screens next weekend.

A different “Life,” Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life,” went to its biggest screen count yet this weekend, with distributor Fox Searchlight taking it from 218 to 237 theaters. As a result, the Palme d’Or winner grossed another $770,000, dropping a reasonable 28% from last weekend. “Life” averaged $3,249, taking its total to $8,990,761. The film will clearly hit the $10 million mark, and can likely top the $12,712,093 Malick’s “The New World” took in back in 2005.

Also doing well in expansion was Focus Features release of Mike Mills’ “Beginners.” Expanding from 108 to 155 venues, the romantic drama starring Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer and Melanie Laurent grossed $543,472. That made for a $3,506 average and a new total of $3,239,404.

Michael Winterbottom’s “The Trip” went from 40 to 38 theaters this weekend and grossed $129,200. The film, which follows fictionalized versions of actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as they stop at some of the best restaurants and inns in the north of England, averaged a good $3,400 and brought its total to a very strong $975,200 for IFC Films.

Things were not so promising for The Weinstein Company’s “Submarine.” The British coming-of-age comedy dropped from 20 to 19 screens in its sixth weekend, taking in $17,000 for a weak average of $895. That’s a disappointing number for the well-reviewed film, which the Weinsteins picked up out of the Toronto International Film Festival last year. Directed by Richard Ayoade, the film stars newcomer Craig Roberts as Oliver Tate, a boy on a mission to save his parents (Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor) from the dissolution of their marriage and to lose his virginity before he turns 16. The film’s total now stands at $377,975.

Finally, Woody Allen’s “Midnight In Paris” continued its endlessly impressive run for Sony Pictures Classics as it dropped from 858 to 819 screens. Despite the loss of screens, it dropped just 24% in grosses over its 8th weekend, taking in $2,706,235. That made for a fantastic $3,304 average and a new total of $38,650,502 with plenty more to come. indieWIRE profiled the success of the film a few weeks back, and since has become Allen’s highest grossing film since 1986’s “Hannah and Her Sisters.”

Allen’s #1 grosser is “Sisters,” which took in $40,084,041, followed by 1979’s “Manhattan,” which took in $39,946,780. At this point its all but assured that “Paris” will surpass both by next weekend.

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

indieWIRE 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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