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Arthouse Audit: Barely-Limited 'Babies' Burps Loudest

by Ray Subers

May 10, 2010

Thanks to a huge Mother's Day bump, documentary Babies opened to $2.16 million, which represented the highest-grossing limited opening in over a year and a half. Holdovers City Island, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Secret in Their Eyes continued their decent limited runs, but new release Mother and Child was so-so and Casino Jack and the United States of Money failed to extort much cash from audiences in its debut.

Distributor Focus Features' marketing positioned Babies as a Mother's Day event, and the picture did not disappoint on this front: while Babies fell outside of the Top Ten in its first two days, it experienced a 57 percent increase on Sunday to $1.09 million, which pushed it up to ninth place on the weekend chart. While Babies seems relatively high profile, it only opened at 534 locations, putting it just under the 600 theater threshold separating limited and nationwide releases. Babies's opening is the best for a limited release since documentary Religulous debuted to $3.41 million at 502 theaters in Oct. 2008.

City Island finished in a distant second on the limited chart, down 17 percent to $609,264. After eight weeks, the Anchor Bay comedy has made $2.94 million, or more than double all previous Anchor Bay releases combined. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo nabbed $411,256 at 187 theaters for a solid total of $5.25 million, and it now seems poised to pass Tell No One ($6.18 million) to become distributor Music Box Films' highest grossing release. Finally, The Secret in Their Eyes expanded to 81 locations and was up 14 percent to $384,191. Through its fourth weekend, the Best Foreign Language Oscar winner has accrued $1.57 million.

In its second weekend, Bollywood production Housefull plummeted 62 percent to $247,432. Nicole Holofcener's Please Give, on the other hand, added 21 theaters and doubled last weekend's take with $241,158. Michael Caine crime thriller Harry Brown added 24 theaters, but fell 17 percent to $144,548.

Newcomer Mother and Child, starring Naomi Watts, Annette Bening and Samuel L. Jackson, grossed $43,040 at four theaters for a not-so-promising $10,760 per theater average. Casino Jack and the United States of Money didn't fare as well, opening to $28,234 at nine theaters for a per theater average of $3,137. This may seem weak for the documentary about the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, but it's in line with most political documentaries that don't involve Michael Moore or Al Gore.

Among other new limited releases, the re-issue of Fritz Lang's Metropolis drew $19,978 at two theaters (including $18,354 at New York's Film Forum). Drama Multiple Sarcasms struggled with just $16,025 at 15 theaters. Foreign sequel OSS 117: Lost in Rio found $10,243 at three theaters, while documentary The Oath and drama Happiness Runs each opened in one theater, grossing $5,760 and $2,674, respectively.

Last Arthouse Audit
'City Island' Expands to Lead Limited Releases

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