Box Office: “Gun Hill Road,” “Bellflower” Top Debuts; “Sarah’s Key” Continues To Impress (UPDATED)

Box Office: "Gun Hill Road," "Bellflower" Top Debuts; "Sarah's Key" Continues To Impress (UPDATED)
Box Office: "Gun Hill Road," "Bellflower" Top Debuts; "Sarah's Key" Continues Impress (UPDATED)

Two directorial debuts out of Sundance – Rashaad Ernesto Green’s “Gun Hill Road” and Evan Glodell’s “Bellflower” – led specialty box office debuts this weekend, each taking quite respectable numbers.

According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier today, “Road” – distributed by Motion Film Group – edged out “Bellflower,” taking in $37,800 from 3 screens (Angelika Film Center and AMC Empire 25 in Manhattan and the AMC Bay Plaza Cinemas in the Bronx) for a $12,600 per-theater-average. The film, which follows a man released from prison who comes home to find that his teenage son has come out as a transgender woman, played several sold out shows and the numbers bode well for the film as it expands beyond New York City.

Oscilloscope Laboratories’ release of “Bellflower,” meanwhile, debuted on two screens in New York and LA and grossed $24,000, averaging $12,000. Oscilloscope noted that the film – an “apocalyptic love story for the ‘Mad Max’ generation” – sold out multiple shows and has already booked over 200 theaters. It will reportedly grow to over 500 theaters into September. That’s an aggressive push for the low-budget indie. How “Bellflower” fares as it expands will be telling, but for now it’s off to a good start.

Also opening was Samuel Goldwyn’s release of political thriller “The Whistleblower,” which stars Rachel Weisz. On seven screens in New York and Los Angeles, the film pulled in $58,100 for a reasonable $8,300 per-theater-average. Samuel Goldwyn said the audiences were primarily 35 years-plus and evenly split male and female. They plan to expand to the top 10 markets on August 12.

Raoul Ruiz’s “Mysteries of Lisbon” found very respectable numbers considering its near five-hour running time. On two Manhattan screens (Elinor Bunin Monroe Film Center and IFC Center), the film grossed $11,500 for a $5,750 average. Distributor Music Box Films said that it sold out its 90-seat Friday show at Elinor Bunin (with Joel and Ethan Coen reportedly catching the film). This resulted in it moving to the largest auditorium at 150 seats for the balance of the week.

Among holdovers, Gilles Paquet-Brenner’s “Sarah’s Key” had an excellent third weekend for distributor The Weinstein Company. Expanding from 33 to 64 theaters the French-language film starring Kristin Scott Thomas jumped 45% in grosses to take in $532,409 for a $7,946 average.

That was the best average of any film in release, and took “Sarah’s” total to $1,264,417 after just 17 days. The film stars Scott Thomas as a journalist who finds her life becoming entwined with a young girl whose family was torn apart during the notorious Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup in 1942. If grosses like this continue, it should end up a sizable late summer hit for the Weinsteins.

Also doing very well was Sony Pictures Classics’ release of John Michael McDonagh “The Guard.” The Irish black comedy starring Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle expanded from four to 19 theaters in its second frame and shot up 152% in grosses, taking in $193,971 for a potent $10,209 per-theater-average. The film’s total now stands at $309,144.

Miranda July’s “The Future” also expanded in its second weekend, going from one to 17 theaters. The result was a $85,068 gross and a so-so $5,004 average, taking “The Future”‘s total to $129,623. By comparison, the anticipated second feature from July is not finding quite as impressive numbers as her 2005 debut, “Me and You and Everyone We Know.” That film grossed $77,006 in its second weekend, but from only five theaters. The next few weeks should be telling as to how much success “The Future” holds.

Holding steady at eight screens in its second weekend was Joe Cornish’s acclaimed British science fiction horror film “Attack The Block.” The film, which follows a street gang which have to defend themselves from rowdy alien invaders, dropped 44% as it took in another $78,000, averaging $9,750. The film premiered at SXSW earlier this year and is being released through Screen Gems. Buzz going into the release was high, so perhaps it will pick up steam as it expands. So far, the film’s total stands at $296,090.

Lionsgate found respectable numbers from the second weekend of Lee Tamahori’s “The Devil’s Double,” which went from five to 33 screens and managed a $198,000 gross, averaging $6,000. The film’s total now stands at $341,715.

“El Bulli: Cooking in Progress,” released via Kino Lorber Alive Mind Cinema label, saw a strong second weekend hold at New York’s Film Forum. It grossed an estimated $12,150 over its second weekend, dropping just 5%. The film’s total now stands at $44,173. It will expand to select cities nationwide in the coming months.

Not doing so well was Kevin Macdonald’s “Life in a Day.” A documentary shot by filmmakers all over the world on the 24th of July 2010, the film expanded from 11 to 19 screens in its second frame and grossed just $35,441. That made for a weak average of $1,865 and a new total of $151,833 for distributor National Geographic.

Meanwhile, Mike Cahill’s “Another Earth” expanded from 20 to 55 screens via distributor Fox Searchlight in its third weekend. This weekend, the film took in a $165,000 gross, averaging a mild $3,000 per theater for a new total of $447,221. The film was written by Cahill and Brit Marling, who is also the film’s star and generally regarded as one of 2011’s indie breakouts.

Also in its third weekend was David Robert Mitchell’s “The Myth of the American Sleepover,” which Sundance Selects expanded from two to three screens. The result was a $9,000 gross for the film, which follows four young people as they navigate the suburban wonderland of metro-Detroit on the last weekend of summer. That amounted to a $3,000 average and a new total of just $33,000 after 17 days.

Sundance Selects saw Errol Morris’ “Tabloid’ drop from 37 to 27 theaters in its fourth weekend. After considerable success stories from “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” and “Buck,” the distributor seems to be having less luck with “Tabloid,” though the film is still taking in quite respectable numbers. “Tabloid,” which follows Joyce McKinney, the colorful Midwestern woman convicted of kidnapping her Mormon ex-lover in the U.K. in the late 1970s, grossed $45,900 this weekend, averaging $1,700. The film’s total now stands at $479,000. While it’s unlikely to hit “Buck” or “Cave”-style numbers, it should end up with a respectable final gross.

Speaking of “Buck” and “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” both films continued to find an audience in their 8th and 15th weekends, respectively. Cindy Meehl’s “Buck” went from 113 to 130 screens and managed a strong $108,000 gross. The film, which takes on a living legend in the horse world, Buck Brannaman (inspiration for “The Horse Whisperer”), averaged $1,600 and found a new total gross of $3,326,653.

Werner Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” meanwhile, took in $40,600 from 29 screens. The fact that the film can still manage a $1,000 per-theater-average in its 15th weekend of release ($1,400, to be exact) is a testament to how strong the film’s holding power has been. The film’s total now stands at $5,170,364.

Fox Searchlight’s release of Wayne Wang’s “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” aggressively went to 116 screens (from 91) in its fourth frame. As a result, the film took in $170,000 for a $1,466 average. Searchlight noted that the film “is appealing to an older audience.” Either way, the film’s new total stands at $1,007,539.

In its fifth weekend, Michael Rapaport’s doc “Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest” went from 43 to 38 screens and held on to a decent gross. “Beats” took in $79,541 for a reasonable $2,093 average. That took “Beats,” which documents the inner workings and behind the scenes drama of the Queens hip-hop collective A Tribe Called Quest, to a strong new total of $943,350. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.

Focus Features release of Mike Mills’ “Beginners” dropped from 147 to 126 screens in its 10th weekend of release. The romantic drama, starring Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer and Melanie Laurent, grossed another $177,462 for a $1,408 average, bringing the total to an impressive $5,338,381.

Michael Winterbottom’s “The Trip” went from 56 to 62 theaters in its ninth weekend. The film grossed another $136,400, averaging $2,200 and bringing its total to a very healthy $1,610,028 for IFC Films. That’s quite the upgrade from the $217,277 Winterbottom’s “The Killer Inside Me” took in last year for IFC. It also puts the film in line to match the $2,388,804 IFC scored with British comedy “In The Loop” two years ago.

Finally, Woody Allen’s “Midnight In Paris” continued its momentous run, dropping from 471 to 399 theaters in its 12th weekend but losing just 14% of its grosses. Taking in $991,608, Allen’s 42nd feature averaged a strong $2,485 and took its total to a stunning $48,496,282. The $50 million mark is all but assured for the Sony Classics release by the end of next weekend or so.

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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