Independent Box Office: Joss Whedon’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ a Record-Breaker

Contemporary take on Shakespeare averages $36K on five screens and sets record at NYC's Lincoln Center

"The Avengers” director Joss Whedon‘s update on the Bard’s “Much Ado About Nothing” scored big in its box-office debut for Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate.

The black-and-white contemporary take on Shakespeare's classic opened in five theaters in New York, L..A and San Francisco and took in $183,400 for a very strong $36,680 per-screen average. And it broke the house record at N.Y’s Lincoln Center Film Society Theatre, with a $15,027 gross on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Sundance Selects opened Rick Rowley's documentary "Dirty Wars" in four theaters in New York, L.A. and Washington, D.C., taking in $66,000 for an $16,500 per-screen average.

"Dirty Wars" premiered in the U.S. documentary competition section at the Sundance Film Festival. Rowley’s film follows investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill as he chases down the truth behind America’s covert wars.

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“Joss and his ensemble cast did a mammoth amount of PR, including festival appearances, an appearance at Wonder Con, the talk-show circuit and a plethora of screenings and online interviews,” said Roadside’s co-founder Howard Cohen.

The critics liked it a lot (78 percent positive on Rotten Tomatoes), but the test of its mainstream appeal is yet to come.

“We are expanding within the three markets on June 14 and then opening nationwide on a moderate pattern in the 200-300 screen range on June 21.”

Whedon wrote the screenplay and directed “Much Ado About Nothing,” which stars Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof and Fran Kranz.

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The last version of “Much Ado” to hit the big screen was Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 take, which starred Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves. That one opened to $36,205 on three theaters and went on to take in $22 million domestically.

Fox Searchlight expanded “The East” from four to 41 theaters in its second week, and it brought in $247,000 for a $6,024 average.

Directed by Zal Batmanglij, “The East” stars Brit Marling, who co-wrote with Batmanglij; Ellen Page, and Alexander Skarsgard. The plot follows a former FBI agent (Marling) who infiltrates an anarchist collective but begins to fall in love with one of its leaders (Skarsgard).

CBS Films’ “The Kings of Summer” went from four to 44 locations and grossed an estimated $220,000, a per-screen average of $5,000.

The “A-” CinemaScore it received from opening audiences last week looks to be translating into word-of-mouth as it expands from the coasts. The film played strongly in Dallas, St. Louis, Cleveland, Atlanta, Portland, San Diego and Austin, and its top-grossing theaters was in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts' big-screen debut, known as “Toy’s House” when it played Park City, focuses on three teenage friends (Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso and Moises Arias) who decide to spend their summer building a house in the woods and living off the land. Chris Galletta wrote the screenplay. Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally and Alison Brie co-star.