We always like to end our weekend box office reports with a little reminder to “Support your local indie theater, boys and girls,” and with the roster of films hitting art house and repertory cinemas in 2011, it was an especially great time to stray away from the sticky floors and text friendly megaplexes. It should also come as no surprise that the beloved Woody Allen-directed “Midnight In Paris” walked away with the honor of topping the list of the 30 top-grossing indies of the year. With an ensemble featuring accessible stars like Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams, along with a slew of talented actors like Michael Sheen, Tom Hiddleston, Alison Pill and Corey Stoll, Allen’s film was a crossover hit that also appealed to the masses.
It’s also worth noting that Allen’s modern update of “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” is the highest grossing of his career, earning solid return on a film that only cost $17 million to produce, with a gross of $56.3 million. For you numbers hounds, that’s $20 million more than the number two film on the charts, director Alexander Payne’s George Clooney-starring “The Descendants.” Not even Mr. Suave could best Allen in 2011.
Elsewhere on the list are more recent films and awards season contenders like “The Artist” from The Weinstein Company and "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” from Focus Features. While the art house has had its share of financial success in 2011, let’s not forget that this time last year we saw the Darren Aronofsky-directed psychological thriller “Black Swan” top 2010 with $47.8 million, but it would later go on to cross the $100 million mark domestically, a feat that “Midnight In Paris” doesn’t look poised to repeat.
The following is the list of the top 30 grossing indie films in limited release (under 1,000 screens) and by specialty distributors.
1. “Midnight in Paris” (Sony Pictures Classics) - $56,341,186
2. “The Descendants” (Fox Searchlight) - $39,675,000
3.”The Tree of Life” (Fox Searchlight) - $13,303,319
4. “The Conspirator” (Roadside Attractions) - $11,538,204
5. “Jane Eyre” (Focus) - $11,242,660
6. “Win Win" (Fox Searchlight) - $10,179,275
7. “My Week With Marilyn” (The Weinstein Company) - $8,964,000
8. “Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain" (Codeblack) - $7,706,436
9. “Sarah's Key” (The Weinstein Company) - $7,693,187
10. “Cedar Rapids” (Fox Searchlight) - $6,861,102
11. “Beginners” (Focus) - $5,790,894
12. “The Guard” (Sony Pictures Classics) - $5,331,189
13. “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” (Sundance Selects) - $5,256,974
14. “Margin Call” (Roadside Attractions) - $5,195,529
15. “The Artist” (The Weinstein Company) - $5,142,000
16. “Biutiful” (Roadside Attractions) - $5,101,237
17. “Atlas Shrugged, Part I” (Rocky Mountain) - $4,627,375
18. “The Company Men” (The Weinstein Company) - $4,441,272
19. ”Barney's Version” (Sony Pictures Classics) - $4,439,201
20. “The Way” (PDA) - $4,117,802
21. “Buck” (Sundance Selects) - $4,038,912
22. “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” (Focus) - $4,031,000
23. “Of Gods and Men” (Sony Pictures Classics) - $3,954,651
24. “Like Crazy” (Paramount Vantage) - $3,324,718
25. “From Prada To Nada” (Lionsgate) - $3,033,623
26. “The Skin I Live In” (Sony Pictures Classics) - $2,991,663
27. “Martha Marcy May Marlene” (Fox Searchlight) - $2,897,457
28. “Everything Must Go” (Roadside Attractions) - $2,711,643
29. “The Way Back” (Newmarket) - $2,701,859
30. “Melancholia” (Magnolia) - $2,454,418
As for the major film studios, Paramount has walked away with bragging rights for 2011, having grossed a record $5.71 billion worldwide. The studio had 16 new releases, which included top box office performers both domestically and in foreign markets, a list that includes “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” “The Adventures of Tintin,” and “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol,” which is currently running laps around the competition at the holiday box office.
Paramount Pictures Chairman & CEO Brad Grey had a lot to grin about, as he summed up his studio’s success most eloquently in a press release from Paramount: “We produce pictures that aspire to entertain audiences around the world, while at the same time we have sought to find innovative ways to reach movie-goers in this changing entertainment environment,” he stated. “This year our studio reached some key milestones, including the release of three vibrant Paramount franchise pictures and our first original CGI animated film. Our studio had its first ever $1 billion worldwide grossing film in Michael Bay’s hit ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon;’ we successfully re-launched our ‘Mission Impossible’ franchise with Tom Cruise, JJ Abrams and Brad Bird; our latest installment in the ‘Paranormal Activity’ franchise had another $100 million dollar success; our first original animated film ‘Rango,’ from director Gore Verbinski, earned rave reviews and more than $100 million at the domestic box office; and we released global phenomenon ‘Super 8,” directed by JJ Abrams, who will now direct the newest ‘Star Trek’ for 2013. We also benefited from our distribution partnerships with DreamWorks Animation and Marvel and I want to thank them both.”
Things most likely won’t be slowing down in 2012 for Paramount either, with a roster that boasts the Brad Pitt-starring adaptation of Max Brooks’ best-selling novel “World War Z,” “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” another installment in the highly profitable “Paranormal Activity” franchise, and the “Borat” pairing of Sacha Baron Cohen and director Larry Charles will bring audiences “The Dictator.” Regardless of expected quality, these all sound like big earners on paper.
Paramount sits about $100 million ahead of the next studio, Warner Brothers, with WB even releasing a few more than Paramount. We’re guessing bombs like “Green Lantern” didn’t bode well for their cume. Deadline points out that Paramount did a lot more distributing than owning the actual films they released, but when those films have titles like “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “Kung Fu Panda 2,” you really don’t have much to worry about. [IndieWire/Deadline]