Box Office: “Kids” Scores Year’s Best Specialty Debut; “Fire” & “Winnebago” Also Strong (UPDATED)

Box Office: "Kids" Scores Year's Best Specialty Debut; "Fire" & "Winnebago" Also Strong (UPDATED)

One of the most anticipated specialty releases of the summer, Lisa Cholodenko’s “The Kids are All Right,” more than lived up to its promise this weekend, by far scoring the best specialty debut of 2010. According to estimates provided by Rentrak earlier this afternoon, the critically acclaimed “Kids” grossed a massive $504,888 from just 7 theaters in 5 markets (New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Chicago and San Francisco), averaging a quite staggering $72,127.

This more than suggests coming weeks of aggressive expansion from the Focus Features acquisition could bring “Kids” a final gross that far exceeds expectations for summer specialty fare. It’s also likely to give summer 2010 its second major crossover hit after last month’s “Cyrus” (which continued to excel this weekend, as noted a bit later on in this story).

“Kids”‘s numbers mark the best per-theater-average of any film released in 2010 (“The Ghost Writer” was the previous topper with just under $45,000 per theater), and the best of any film since last December’s “Up In The Air” (which averaged $78,763 from 15 theaters). More over, it’s an atypically high number for a summer release. If the number stands, it will be the highest per-theater-average ever recorded for a specialty film released in the summer months, and one of the 30 best per-theater-averages ever recorded. Comparably, 2006 summer breakout (and fellow Sundance pick up) “Little Miss Sunshine” averaged $52,999 from 7 screens in 2006 (en route to a $59,891,099 total).

“Kids,” as many people discovered this weekend, details a tempestuous summer in the lives of Nic and Jules (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore), a couple anticipating their daughter Joni’s move to college. Joni (Mia Wasikowska) has just turned 18, and her younger brother Laser (Josh Hutcherson) wants her to make use of her newfound status as a legal adult to seek out the sperm donor to which both of them were born from. Enter Paul (Mark Ruffalo), who immediately hits it off with his newfound biological children and in turn begins to send the family into quite the emotional tailspin.

Its critical acclaim mixed with this early suggestion of box office appeal has certainly made “Kids” one of the year’s first bonafide Oscar contenders.

It was actually quite the weekend all around. Hollywood saw excellent numbers from debuts “Despicable Me” and “Predators”, while two other specialty debuts could have easily found themselves this column’s top story had “Kids” not been around to steal their thunder.

Debuting on an aggressive 110 screens (one of the widest foreign film openings in some time), Music Box Films released Daniel Alfredson’s “The Girl Who Played With Fire,” the second film adapted from the popular book series. Released just 4 months afters its intensely successful predecessor “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” “Fire” (which has already grossed over $50 million overseas) took in a strong $965,488, averaging $8,777. That’s very close to the $9,868 average “Tattoo” found on 34 screens back in March, and more impressive considering the much more substantial screen count.

“If we were to compare these two opening weekends using the same theaters or same zones, ‘The Girl Who Played With Fire’ actually exceeded significantly the screen average of the first installment of the Stieg Larsson trilogy,” Music Box films said in a statement.

Of the 110 screens, 87 are in the United States, while the remainder are in Canada, where Alliance is releasing the film. The final film in the trilogy, ‘The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest’ opens on October 15, 2010. “Dragon Tattoo”‘s total now stands at $9,318,187 in the U.S. only.

Much more truly “indie” festival circuit favorite “Winnebago Man” also had much to celebrate this weekend. Released by Kino International, Ben Steinbauer’s doc grossed $20,168 from 2 New York City screens, including a fantastic $17,368 that came from Landmark’s Sunshine, where Jack Rebney, the subject of the doc, alighted from an actual Winnebago parked in front of the theatre to regale several sold out screenings.

Gary Palmucci, Kino Lorber VP of Theater Distribution, commented that Kino is “very happy with this opening weekend figure but I think it’s important to note that both of these were atypical engagements. With major media exposure for the film still unfolding – including a recent People Magazine piece and Rebney’s appearance next week on the Jay Leno show – ahead of its upcoming expansion to LA, SF, Philadelphia and Boston, we believe the real success story of ‘Winnebago Man’ is still a work in progress.”

Meanwhile, two holdovers crossed the $2 million mark this weekend, a rarity considering one is foreign-language, and the other is a documentary.

In its fourth weekend, Luca Guadagnino’s critical darling “I Am Love” went from 82 to 110 screens and grossed a very strong $550,000, averaging roughly $5,000 per screen and taking its total to $2,050,051 with much more to come. The film, which richly details the refined world of a wealthy Italian family (led by Tilda Swinton, who learned to speak Italian for the role), is quickly becoming a significant success story for distributor Magnolia Pictures.

IFC Films, meanwhile, expanded Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg’s doc “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” to 115 screens in its fifth weekend, resulting in a $276,000 gross and a new total of $2,022,000. “Rivers” chronicles the private dramas of iconic comedian Joan Rivers and becomes only the fourth documentary of the year to cross the $2 million mark (after “Oceans,” “Babies” and “Exit Through The Gift Shop,” the first two of which had semi-wide debuts to benefit from).

Another doc – Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington’s Sundance Grand Jury Prize winning doc “Restrepo” – went from 10 to 25 screens and grossed $101,692 for distributor National Geographic. That gave the film a decent average of $4,068 and a cume of $273,564, giving it a good shot of joining the $1 million club as it continues to expand.

After crossing the $2 million mark earlier in the week, Debra Granik’s Sundance prize winner “Winter’s Bone” had a great fifth weekend. The film, which follows a young woman living in the Ozark Mountains played by Jennifer Lawrence, went from 83 to 106 screens and grossed a strong $506,900. That gave the Roadside Attractions release a $4,782 average and took its total to a stellar $2,562,859.

Taylor Hackford’s critically panned Helen Mirren-starrer “Love Ranch” fell off sharply in its second weekend. The long-delayed film went from 11 to 8 screens and found a unspectacular gross of $18,341, averaging just $2,293. The $25 million budgeted film was released by E1 Entertainment, which primarily distributes movies in Canada, with a reported advertising budget of less than $1 million. Its total now stands at $110,057.

Much better news came care of Fox Searchlight’s “Cyrus.” A significant expansion into the mainstream for brothers Mark and Jay Duplass – whose previous work includes ultra low budget films “The Puffy Chair” and “Baghead” – “Cyrus” expanded from 77 to 200 screens in its fourth weekend and managed a quite impressive gross of $1,375,000, averaging $6,875 and landing it in the overall top ten alongside films playing on 10, 20 or even 50 times the screens. The $7 million budgeted “Cyrus”‘s total now stands at $3,521,075 as Searchlight continues to expand it.

Sony Classics’ recent films Alain Resnais’s “Wild Grass” Jan Kounen’s “Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky” each expanded in their third and fifth weekends. “Grass” went from 6 to 17 screens and grossed $45,055, averaging $2,650 and taking its total to $170,420. “Coco,” meanwhile, went from 43 to 47 screens and grossed $126,010 taking its total to a strong $775,106.

Finally, SPC also saw its long-running “The Secret in Their Eyes” and “Please Give” hit the $5.9 million and $3.6 million marks, respectively. In their 13th and 11th weekends, the films are still impressively pulling in $1,000+ per-theater-averages on 100+ screens.

Peter Knegt is indieWIRE’s 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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