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.
Landmark 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]