Indie Cinema 2007: Films That Matter

Specialty and art films were less popular in 2007 than the year before. Among studio specialty arms, total box-office grosses for 2007 were down 4% from 2006, according to Rentrak, even as the overall box office was 5% up.

Fox Searchlight and Focus Features both saw drops in B.O. from last year, although Searchlight finished the year No. 1 in market share.

The top 15 specialty unit and indie distribs, including MGM and the Weinstein Co., posted domestic box office receipts of $1.03 billion, down slightly from the $1.04 billion collected in 2006.

Miramax’s “No Country for Old Men” and Searchlight’s “Juno” became cross-over hits. Focus’ costume drama “Atonement” also did well.

In placing No. 1 in market share among studio specialty units, Searchlight posted total domestic box office of $136.2 million, fueled by “Juno,” “Waitress,” “Notes on a Scandal” and “The Namesake.” Last year, Searchlight made $161.6 million at the domestic B.O.

Miramax registered a 171% increase in box office over 2006, or $125.4 million vs. $46.2 million. The Coen brothers’ “No Country for Old Men” helped, being the highest-grossing specialty film of 2007, with $41.6 million through New Year’s Day.

Miramax’s “The Queen,” released in 2006, grossed $27.5 million in 2007, while Ben Affleck’s “Gone Baby Gone” took $20.3 million.

Miramax edged out Focus for No. 2 in market share among specialty and indie distribs. Focus posted box office of $124.8 million vs. $178.6 million in 2006. Focus’ two highest-grossing titles, “Balls of Fury” ($32.9 million) and “Hot Fuzz” ($23.6 million), weren’t traditional indie fare. And David Cronenberg’s “Eastern Promises” performed below expectations in grossing just over $17 million domestically.

Paramount Vantage came in next in terms of market share, posting receipts of $60.9 million, including Paramount Classics B.O. That’s up from 2006, when Vantage and Classics took $46.9 million. Vantage’s highest grosser of 2007 was Sean Penn’s “Into the Wild,” which made $17 million domestically.

Picturehouse also saw year-to-year gains. Coming in next in market share after Focus, Picturehouse posted total box office of $58.3 million vs. $24 million last year, fueled by “Pan’s Labyrinth,” a 2006 release that made $36.5 million in 2007.

Picturehouse’s highest grosser was “La Vie en rose” ($8.2 million). The just released Spanish horror mystery “The Orphanage,” which has made more than $35 million in Spain, may do well stateside.

Sony Pictures Classics saw a decline from last year, taking $37.8 million in 2007 vs. $59.7 million a year earlier.

Warner Independent posted box office of $15.6 million in 2007 vs. $27.4 million in 2006.

In terms of highest-grossing films, 2007 couldn’t match the numbers enjoyed in each of the previous two years.

Fox Searchlight’s “Little Miss Sunshine” grossed $67.6 million in 2006, while “Brokeback Mountain” grossed $59.5 million that year.

In 2005, Warner Independent’s docu “March of the Penguins” took in $77.4 million domestically, while “Sideways” made $49.7 million in that calendar year.