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The unexpected winners and losers at the indie box office.

The unexpected winners and losers at the indie box office. (photo)

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IndieWIRE‘s Peter Knegt has an eye-opening report on the “specialty” box office from the first half of 2010. The last page, which has a chart of the year’s top 30 specialty grossers, is particularly interesting.

Amongst the more surprising stats: that Anchor Bay’s little discussed but well-reviewed “City Island” is the year’s fifth highest grossing specialty release, ahead of higher profile films like Noah Baumbach’s “Greenberg,” starring Ben Stiller, and Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning’s “The Runaways,” which grossed less money than their other collaboration, “Twilight: Eclipse,” did in the time it took you to read this sentence.

The top earner of the year so far is Roman Polanski’s “The Ghost Writer,” and its $15.5 earnings sound pretty impressive when compared with the rest of this field; it’s more than double the grosses of all but one other specialty release this year (“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” based on the first installment in Stieg Larsson’s widely-read series of novels).

But taking into consideration the fact that it had some heavy duty star-power including Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan, tons of publicity (thanks to Polanski’s ongoing legal battles), and a $45 million budget, according to Box Office Mojo, that accomplishment seems a bit less accomplished.

Maybe most impressive is the number six movie of the year, “The Secret in Their Eyes,” the surprise winner of this year’s Academy Award for best foreign-langauge film. Since the Argentinean romantic thriller’s release about a month after the Oscars, it’s earned $5.3 million and climbing, more than its two more heavily favored and critically acclaimed competitors for that prize — Michael Haneke’s “The White Ribbon” ($2.2 million) and Jacques Audiard’s “A Prophet” ($2 million) — combined. That’s a tribute not just to the film’s quality, but to the power of an Oscar as a marketing tool for arthouse releases.

07012010_ghost1.jpgLandmark Theatres CEO Ted Mundorff tells Knegt that 2010 has outperformed 2009 at their chain 15 out of 17 weeks since the Academy Awards. But the news isn’t all great: there are tons of outstanding independent films near the bottom of this list, if they’re on it at all.

It’s true that it hasn’t been the greatest year for mainstream movies, and this picture I snapped in the subway yesterday afternoon made my blood run cold at the idea that things may get worse before they get better, but as this chart attests, a lot of the people complaining have missed out on “Mother” ($0.5 million), “The Art of the Steal” ($0.5 million) and “Dogtooth” (just $6,686 in its first week of release).

If you don’t feel like having your brain bent this weekend by 2D to 3D conversions and you’d rather not get your plans eclipsed by hordes of squealing teenagers, there are alternatives besides staying home and griping.

[Photos: “City Island,” Anchor Bay Films, 2009; “The Secret in Their Eyes,” Sony Pictures Classics, 2010]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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