The Indie Month That Was
By Michael Lynderey
July 9, 2009
I was surprised to discover, therefore, that Cheri actually did pretty well - fans of this kind of thing must have made the difficult choice of seeing Cheri over Transformers, because the per-screen average for that 76 theater release came in at a respectable $5,338, for a weekend gross of $405,701. The studio did what came naturally and almost doubled the screen count the week after, turning 76 to 140 and that per-screen average to $2,779. That was enough to get the movie over $1.0 million, which shows you that a mix of Pfeiffer, France, and Frears is still worth at least 1/400th the box office of a Transformers sequel.
Under the radar
A few movies are slowly gaining some momentum, down there in the depths of the box office charts. One intriguing new release is Moon, a science fiction film that opened on June 12th to almost universally positive accolades (88% on Rotten Tomatoes isn't anything to sneeze at). Like most sci-fi films that start off with a platform release, this isn't an explosion-filled space action saga; it's a low-budget thriller about a space station employee's bizarre experiences while alone on a lunar base. Also on board are a possibly malfunctioning robot (voiced by Kevin Spacey!) and what appears to be an Evil (?) Twin of the main character. That's no doubt a strange-sounding plot, immediately reminiscent of old-school sci-fi classics like 2001 and Silent Running, and the presence of indie stalwart Sam Rockwell certainly cements Moon's status as a cinematic odd duck. But the film's doing well - a $17,006 per-screen average at its eight slot opening, followed by fair per-screen grosses like $8,541 (at 21 theaters) and $5,587 (at 47). Moon's just around the one million dollar mark, a figure it'll probably double by the end of its run.
That's also the case for Food, Inc., a documentary that sounds like an outdoorsy version of Super Size Me. The film examines the evidently unpleasant nature of food production in the United States, as well as bad eating habits and the alleged misadventures of food companies. Some of those food companies have indeed criticized the film, but movie critics have not, because a whopping 97% of the reviews on RottenTomatoes gave this their stamp of appraisal. Most documentaries don't break out without featuring a "star" (like Michael Moore, Al Gore, or some fuzzy non-talking animals) at the helm, but Food, Inc. has been making a decent amount of headway, getting a $5,651 per-screen average during its second week expansion to 51 theaters, and maintaining a fair $3,000-era average after going up to 75 and then 83 locations. The total so far is at $1.3 million, and the movie will most likely stick around for a few weeks more, even if it doesn't get much wider. I also sense a token Oscar nomination for Best Documentary - after all, there's almost nothing that gets the Academy as excited as movies about food gone bad.