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Specialty Box Office: ‘Bernie’ Has Biggest Limited Debut Of 2012

Specialty Box Office: 'Bernie' Has Biggest Limited Debut Of 2012

Richard Linklater’s “Bernie” had a fantastic debut this weekend, giving 2012 a new #1 for the best per-theater average for  a limited release. But the news wasn’t quite so good for fellow openers “Sound of My Voice” and “Elles,” both of which underperformed.

Check out the full rundown below, including notable expansions of holdover releases “Marley,” “Darling Companion,” “Bully,” and “Monsieur Lazhar.”

The Debuts:

“Bernie” (Millennium Entertainment)
Starring Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey, Richard Linklater’s dark comedy did great business in its first weekend out. On three screens in New York, Los Angeles and Austin, the film took in $90,438, averaging a stellar $30,146. That’s the best indie debut of 2012, and the best average ever for a Linklater film, topping the $23,039 “A Scanner Darkly” averaged on a notably wider 17 screens (thus making it somewhat incomparable). It’s also by far the best debut for distributor Millennium Entertainment, which finally seems to have a hit on its hands.

“We are extremely excited about the commercial success of Bernie opening to a staggering $90,000,” Millennium Entertainment’s Andy Gruenberg told Indiewire today. “The opening was in NYC LA and Austin and the results almost identical in each theatre. The $30,000 average per screen makes Bernie both the number indie film of the weekend, but also of the number-one limited debut of the year.”

Gruenberg said they plan on an aggressive expansion in the coming weeks, and added a special thanks to their marketing team Brooke Ford and publicity head Vicky Eguia.

“Sound of My Voice” (Fox Searchlight)
Despite very strong reviews and an innovative marketing campaign, Zal Batmanglij’s “Sound of My Voice” stumbled in its first weekend. On five screens, the film — which stars Brit Marling as the leader of a cult — grossed a so-so $40,069, averaging only $8,014. Distributor Fox Searchlight will expand the film in coming weeks, but so far it seems “Sound” will be another underperformer for both Searchlight and Marling, after the release of “Another Earth” last year. That film actually did considerably better in its first weekend, averaging $19,435 from four screens en route to a $1.3 million final gross.

“Elles” (Kino Lorber)
Kino Lorber released the Juliette Binoche-starring “Elles” on 6 screens this weekend and also saw mediocre results. The NC-17 rated French import took in only $26,000 for an average of $4,333.

“Headhunters” (Magnolia)
On four screens in New York and LA, Norwegian import “Headhunters” outperformed both “Sound” and “Elles” with a strong $45,000 gross, averaging $11,250. Directed by Morten Tyldum, the film was a huge hit in its native Norway, having the second best opening weekend in Norwegian history. Magnolia will expand the film in the next few weeks.

For a report on over a dozen holdover releases, including “Marley,” “Monsieur Lazhar,” “Darling Companion,” “Damsels in Distress” and “Bully,” continue to the next page.

The Holdovers:

“Marley” (Magnolia Pictures)
After a stellar debut last weekend, Kevin Macdonald’s Bob Marley doc expanded from 42 to 50 screens in its second weekend and saw its grosses drop off subtantially. But even though it grossed roughly $100,000 less than last weekend, “Marley” still took in a very respectable $160,000 for a $3,200 average. That gave it a new total of $523,856, and it’s likely the film will hit the $1 million mark despite its presence on VOD (where it also debuted last weekend).

“Darling Companion” (Sony Pictures Classics)
Sony Classics expanded Lawrence Kasdan’s first film since 2003 — “Darling Companion” — from four to 17 locations in its second weekend. “Companion” grossed $71,614 as a result — a 79% uptick from last weekend. That made for a $4,213 average and a new total of $126,515. Considering the presence of Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, Dianne Weist and Richard Jenkins, one might have expected some higher numbers. 

“Monsieur Lazhar” (Music Box Films)
The last release among the Academy Award nominees for best foreign language film, Music Box Films took Quebec’s “Monsieur Lazhar” from 33 to 66 screens in its third weekend and saw strong results. Grossing $252,021, the film — which follows an Algerian immigrant who takes over the elementary school classroom of a teacher who has committed suicide — averaged a solid $3,819 and took its total to $613,335. 

The film opened in DC, Chicago, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Dallas, Houston and Seattle this weekend, and saw expansions in existing markets while only seeing a 17% decline in per theater average. Music Box will expand the film significantly in the coming weeks, which should easily see “Lazhar” join “A Separation” and “Footnote” as the third foreign film nominee to cross the $1 million mark. “Lazhar” has already grossed over $3 million at the Canadian box office.

“Woman Thou Art Loosed!: On The 7th Day” (CodeBlack Entertainment)
CodeBlack Entertainment saw another big drop off from Neema Barnette’s “Woman Thou Art Loosed!: On the 7th Day” — which had a huge debut two weekends ago but has not held on very well.  Likely in part due to competition from the similarly African-American #1 studio movie of the weekend, “Think Like a Man,” “7th Day” dropped 54% as it went from 106 to 67 screens.

Starring Blair Underwood and Sharon Leal as a couple whose six-year-old daughter is kidnapped, the film grossed $73,260 — averaging $1,093.  The film has now totalled $1,074,384.

“Damsels in Distress” (Sony Pictures Classics)
Whit Stillman’s first film in almost 15 years, “Damsels in Distress,” expanded from 46 to 57 screens this weekend care of Sony Pictures Classics.   Taking in $92,952, the film dropped 19% in grosses as it averaged $1,631 and took its total to $448,166 after three weekends.

Stillman has only directed four films over the course of his 22-year career, the last being 1998’s “The Last Days of Disco.”  “Disco” eventually totalled $3 million, a number “Damsels” is very unlikely to achieve. 

“We Have a Pope” (Sundance Selects)
Also in its fourth weekend was Sundance Selects’ release of Nanni Moretti’s “We Have a Pope.” Expanding from 18 to 27 screens, the film held on nicely as it took in $64,800 for a $2,400 average (impressively, a higher average than last weekend). The film — which premiered in competition at last year’s Cannes Film Festival — has now taken in $248,800.

“Bully” (The Weinstein Company)
Lee Hirsch’s much-discussed doc “Bully” held steady on 263 screens in its third weekend with a “PG-13” rating.  The film dropped 36% in grosses and took in $330,000 as a result. That made for a so-so $1,255 average as it took its gross so far to $2,126,479. Considering it appears to have peaked the film should end up with a still impressive final gross around $3 million. Notably, it’s already the highest grossing doc of 2012, surpassing “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” this weekend.

“Jiro Dreams of Sushi” (Magnolia)

Speaking of “Sushi”… A look at 85-year-old sushi master Jiro Ono, the film went from 70 to 75 screens in its eigth weekend and took in a fantastic $160,000, essentially on par with last weekend. That made for a $2,133 average and took the film’s total to $1,825,073. A year after it made its North American debut at the Tribeca Film Festival, “Sushi” has turned into a considerable success story.

“The Raid: Redemption” (Sony Pictures Classics)
 Gareth Evans’ much-anticipated Indonesian action flick “The Raid: Redemption” dropped from 548 to 126 in its sixth frame and saw a expectedly huge loss in grosses.  Released by Sony Pictures Classics after acclaimed festival screenings at Toronto and Sundance, the film dropped off 70%, taking in $142,357. That made for a $1,130 average but it still helped give the reported $1.1 million-budgeted “The Raid” an impressive new total of $3,901,563.

“The Deep Blue Sea” (Music Box Films)
Also in its sixth weekend, Terence Davies’ acclaimed Rachel Weisz-starrer went from 46 to 51 screens care of Music Box Films and found respectable numbers as a result. “The Deep Blue Sea” grossed $75,621, averaging $1,521. The film has held on very nicely over its run, with a new total of $875,621. Along with the aforementioned “Monsieur Lazhar,” the film should give Music Box two $1 million grossers so far this year. A notable feat as the distributor has only seen 5 films do that in its history.

“The Kid With a Bike” (Sundance Selects)
Crossing the $1 million mark this weekend was Belgium’s Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, had much better news with their “Kid With a Bike.” Going from 86 to 85 screens in its seventh weekend care of Sundance Selects, the film grossed a strong $127,500 — averaging $1,500. “Kid” has now grossed $1,127,500. It has also well surpassed the $651,941 that “L’Enfant” grossed back in 2006 to become the highest grossing film ever for the Dardenne brothers.

“Footnote” (Sony Pictures Classics)
Another Cannes 2011 alum, Israeli import “Footnote” went from 93 to 101 screens in its eighth weekend.  Sony Classics saw Joseph Cedar’s film drop just 13% as a result, taking in $163,551 and averaging $1,619.  The film has now totalled an impressive $1,564,717.

“Salmon Fishing In The Yemen” (CBS Films)
Lasse Hallstrom’s “Salmon Fishing In The Yemen” went from 446 to 335 screens in weekend #8 and dropped off a reasonable 36% in grosses. Starring Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor, the film grossed $440,000, enough to take its total to $7,790,328.  That makes “Salmon” the top grossing specialty release of 2012 so far.

Peter Knegt is Indiewire’s Senior 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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